As the threats to free speech wage on, a law professor has suggested that lying by the President should be made an impeachable offense. However, the truth can be subjective, especially on controversial topics such as COVID-19, which has scientific arguments so contradicting.
According to Catherine Ross, a law professor at George Washington University, former President Donald Trump “has highlighted for us why lies in the public arena are so dangerous and also why the president's lies are so much more dangerous and significant.”
Speaking at the Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy virtual event, Ross added that a president's lies are much more dangerous “because of what they can do to society, democracy, and health.”
Ross is promoting an upcoming book exploring impeaching presidents for lying. She began writing the book, “A Right to Lie?” before Trump became president. She decided to rewrite the book to include Trump.
Like many who once supported free speech and have begun to backtrack on what is and isn't allowed, Ross outlines a procedure Congress could follow to prevent a president from telling the public dangerous lies. She recommends the creation of an honesty standard for presidents. The standard would define the kinds of lies that would be allowed, such as those that are meant to protect the public.
Should a president tell lies that violate the standard set by Congress, they expose themselves to impeachment and even prosecution. But before it goes as far as impeachment, Ross recommends giving the president an opportunity to retract the lies.
Ross gave an example of a president lying by mentioning Trump calling the pandemic a “hoax” and there was no need for measures such as social distancing and masks.
“To do so long after the supply chain improved, scientific data clarified how the virus spread and how important masks were for all of us,” Ross said. She added that, “Trump's lies were amplified and exponentially influential in undermining public health.”
In countries that have tried to ban lies and “misinformation,” it has mostly been used for political censorship.