Trump's embrace of 'fake news' takes an embarrassing turn

Image: U.S. President-elect Donald Trump talks to members of the media at Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump talks to members of the media at Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., December 21, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Donald Trump boasted a few months ago that "nobody" has been on the cover of Time magazine more than him. He made a similar claim, for reasons that still aren't clear, at CIA headquarters two months earlier. The assertion isn't even close to being true -- Richard Nixon holds the record -- but the president just keeps repeating it anyway.

It's possible, however, that Trump actually believes he set the record because he counts fictional Time magazine covers that feature his face. The latest gem from the Washington Post's David Fahrenthold ran yesterday:

The framed copy of Time magazine was hung up in at least five of President Trump's clubs, from South Florida to Scotland. Filling the entire cover was a photo of Donald Trump."Donald Trump: The 'Apprentice' is a television smash!" the big headline said. Above the Time nameplate, there was another headline in all caps: "TRUMP IS HITTING ON ALL FRONTS ... EVEN TV!"This cover -- dated March 1, 2009 -- looks like an impressive memento from Trump's pre-presidential career. To club members eating lunch, or golfers waiting for a pro-shop purchase, it seemed to be a signal that Trump had always been a man who mattered. Even when he was just a reality TV star, Trump was the kind of star who got a cover story in Time.

It is, however, a fake. It's not clear who made the bogus cover, or whether Trump realized it's a fake or not, but a spokesperson for the company that publishes the magazine confirmed it's not real. That cover didn't exist on that or any other date.

I vaguely recall going to a bar mitzvah many years ago in which something very similar to this was a party attraction: kids, aged 12 to 14, could take turns having their picture taken, and the image would be superimposed onto a magazine cover with some kind of headline. It made for a cute little keepsake kids could take home after the event.

It never occurred to me that a grown man would frame such a picture, present it as real, and hang it in multiple public venues.

To be sure, when making a list of Donald Trump's many offenses, this barely registers on the outrage scale. But the irony is so overwhelming, it's almost hard to believe: one of Trump's favorite phrases, repeated in tic-like fashion, is "fake news." On Twitter, he's used the phrase six times -- since yesterday morning.

And yet, now we're confronted with evidence of Trump touting fake news in a rather literal way.