President López Obrador said that verifying the truth of a tweet he highlighted last week doesn’t fall within his remit after a journalist challenged him on it at Wednesday morning’s press conference.
On August 5, the president referred to an insulting tweet allegedly made last October by Electoral Tribunal Judge Reyes Rodríguez, which read: “Hopefully that old asshole [the president] in the National Palace dies.”
The president had used the tweet to support his argument for reforming the Electoral Tribunal and the National Electoral Institute.
“It is degrading … I mention it because there is a crisis in the institution,” López Obrador said after the tribunal removed its president last week and named Rodríguez in his place.
“It turns out that the president they chose insulted me on one occasion. I mention it to demonstrate the characteristics of the people who occupy these very important positions.”
About an hour later, Rodríguez denied on Twitter that he had written the tweet, claiming it was a set-up to discredit him. He had filed a complaint with federal prosecutors soon after, he said.
On Wednesday morning, the president rejected that it was for him to ascertain whether the tweet was real despite the fact that he had used the information to attack the reputation of a judge. A journalist asked: “Was the tweet false, or was it not false? Has it been investigated whether or not it was false?”
“That’s not up to me,” he replied, before criticizing opponents and linking the issue to “conservative hypocrisy.”
“What I believe is that the conservatives are hypocrites, the doctrine of the conservative is a hypocrisy,” and accused them of avoiding responsibility for their actions: “[they say] ‘it wasn’t me, it wasn’t me.’”
He intensified his critique, branding his opponents disingenuous criminals. “They can go to Mass on Sundays and beat their chests and confess, they take communion, and they go out to lie and steal, and they come back on Sunday to confess and to take communion.”
The journalist insisted once more for clarification on whether the tweet was false.
In response, the president implied that the tweet was real, and added to his list of criticisms. “They’re capable of that [the tweet] and more. Conservative thinking is very authoritarian and very hypocritical; they are, to be clear, classist, they are racist, they discriminate and they are very corrupt. Their true god is money,” he said.
Truth in the media has been a hot topic at the morning press conferences, particularly since the president added a new feature to address false claims directed at his administration. The “who’s who in the lies of the week” feature was introduced on June 30, and has taken place each Wednesday since.
The feature has been criticized by journalists, some of whom have used their right of reply at the conference to combat claims made against their reporting. On at least one occasion, an article was featured and discredited as a lie, but the presenter failed to isolate any single falsehood.
The common response to any alleged untruth is simply to declare it was a lie without providing any evidence to support the claim.
With reports from El Universal