Writes Ben Smith, editor in chief of BuzzFeed, in a NYT op-ed titled "Why BuzzFeed News Published the Dossier."
The term "alternative facts" came not from the press secretary, but from Kellyanne Conway, in a "Meet the Press" interview with Chuck Todd that I described as a 9-round fight, here. Chuck Todd kept asking Conway "why the president asked the White House press secretary to come out in front of the podium for the first time and utter a falsehood?"
And then we get the sound bite of the whole morning, as she attempts, at long last, to refute Todd's idea that it was a "provable falsehood":I scored a big win for Todd in what was Round 3. But in the comments at my post, I got more deeply into the question of what "alternative facts" means:
What-- You're saying it's a falsehood. And they're giving Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that. But the point remains--Todd sees the gem he has caused to come into existence and plucks it out to hold in his hand and admire:
Wait a minute-- Alternative facts?Conway tries to plow on, but he repeats the Conway's terrible phrase:
Alternative facts?... Four of the five facts he uttered were just not true. Look, alternative facts are not facts. They're falsehoods.
In context and read sympathetically, "alternative facts" doesn't mean that there are competing versions of the truth and you can refer to all of them as "facts."
Actually, that wouldn't bother me that much, because it would mean that the word "facts" was being used to mean "assertions of fact." Chuck Todd used the word "litigating," and in litigation there are factual issues, and litigants try to get the "fact-finder" to accept their assertions of fact as the facts. If one litigant states a fact — X is true — the other litigant may say X is not true. It would be awkward but understandable to call X and not-X "alternative facts."
But what I think Conway meant was that there are many different factual issues, and some people choose to forefront one factual issue — such as the size of the crowd at the Inauguration — when there are many other factual issues that could have been selected as the main story. There are "alternatives" in that you don't have to make such a big deal out of that one thing, and you could emphasizes something else. The "alternative facts" were all the other things that Trump did, good things, that would have put him in a good light, and the media is criticized for picking out the fact that diminished Trump.