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Forbes Editor Warns Against Hiring Press Secretaries From Trump Administration

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Communications officials from the Trump administration might have a hard time finding work after January 20. That's at least what the chief content officer of Forbes is hoping. Citing numerous lies by various press secretaries throughout the Trump administration, Randall Lane wrote a column, warning businesses this way - if you hire any of Trump's communications officials, Forbes will assume that everything your company or firm talks about is a lie. To talk more about this is Randall Lane. He joins us now.

Welcome to the program.

RANDALL LANE: Thanks, Audie.

CORNISH: So was this inspired by the violent sacking of the Capitol last week, or is this something you've been thinking about for a while?

LANE: A little of both. First, to clarify, we were just talking about the four press secretaries, plus Kellyanne Conway - the people who are paid by the American people to talk to the American people, to inform the American people. And looking at Wednesday night, there was no way to look at that and not recognize that that entire day was built on a foundation of lies. The people who were in the Capitol believed what they'd been told about rigged election. And again, that was based on lies. There needs to be a reset, and we need to hold ourselves to an accountability standard where truth and facts matter because that's the path forward for a healthy democracy.

CORNISH: I'm going to reveal some bias here and ask - you know, part of the job of political communications, as I have experienced it, is to spin - that it's rarely straight facts.

LANE: Yes.

CORNISH: What was different about this experience to you?

LANE: Yes. The job of press secretaries sometimes is a lie of omission or it's a spin. But never have we had, in modern history, an administration where up was down, right - you know, blue is yellow. Sean Spicer set the tone from Day 1 when he asked Americans to not believe their eyes when he's saying, this was the largest inauguration in history. And again, that's a trivial fact. But that's also what made it so bad because it established from minute one that there was no standard for what the truth is. And that's what's different.

CORNISH: Here's some of the response from right-wing commentators. For example, on Fox News this morning, Steve Doocy said this about your post.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FOX AND FRIENDS")

STEVE DOOCY: We're going to come after your company, and we are going to essentially give you a corporate colonoscopy to make sure that everything...

AINSLEY EARHARDT: Ow.

DOOCY: ...You are doing is legal. So in other words - and the average company is like, oh, why would I want that? I'm just not going to hire anybody from the Trump administration because I don't want to go through that. That is chilling.

CORNISH: He's arguing to let the businesses decide, that this kind of pressure is inappropriate. What's your response?

LANE: He's half-right, half-wrong. We absolutely should let the businesses decide. And that's - this is the marketplace of ideas. You know, I say this is akin to if we've had four years where all America's meat deliveries had been expired, and then the head of the FDA or whoever is the head of the meat inspection then gets a job at Perdue. You don't think that every supermarket chain is going to double- and triple-check the chicken that comes through? And that's exactly what we're talking about in terms of the facts business, where you have people who had no problem, while they were on the government payroll, telling the governed things that they knew weren't true.

CORNISH: Randall, let me jump in here. I think I need to ask, why now? - because, I mean, you've had companies and you've had media organizations like Forbes who have not been rebuking the Trump administration for the last four years.

LANE: This is not about the Trump administration. This is about right now. We're obviously going through a national reset. We need to set down a marker that facts matter, and we need to tell people that loud and clear. And this is a bipartisan - this is not any one party, and this is not trying to hold the entire administration. This is talking about specifically the people who knew better, who lied - that that is not an acceptable standard. So what we're saying is we have a moment here, a national reckoning, where we can look at this and say, you know what? After four years, this is enough. We need to get back to a standard where we can agree on facts. Whether it's corporations, certainly government, we need to hold all of us accountable to facts.

CORNISH: That's Randall Lane, chief content officer at Forbes.

Thank you for your time.

LANE: Thank you, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.