WASHINGTON ― Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) delivered a parting message to Capitol Hill reporters on Tuesday during what was likely his last press conference before his retirement after five terms in the Senate.
“I have abiding faith in the work that you do, and right now, your work is more important than ever,” Reid told reporters during his weekly press stakeout. “What happened in the election, there is great efforts to have fake news and to have tweets determine what happens with news of the day. You have an extremely difficult responsibility now, and it’s more important than ever.”
The debate over so-called fake news has only increased after an election won by a candidate with a particular disregard for the truth. Even during the transition process, for example, President-elect Donald Trump has continued to make false claims that “millions” of ballots were illegally cast in California.
Over the weekend, police in Washington D.C. detained an armed man at a local pizza shop who was incensed by an online conspiracy theory that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and campaign chairman John Podesta ran a child sex trafficking ring in the back of the restaurant. There is no evidence to support the theory, but it quickly spread through fake news sites and Reddit.
Of course, Reid himself has also made some dubious claims. In 2012, he accused then-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney of not having paid any taxes in the last decade. The former Massachusetts governor later released his tax returns for 2010 and 2011, showing that he had indeed paid taxes for those years.
During the press conference on Tuesday, Reid said that journalists had a responsibility to keep those in power honest in the coming months.
“I think taking tough questions from journalists is part of the job, and I wish you all the very best ― recognizing that your burden at this stage of America is extremely heavy,” he said. “I wish you the very best in doing what you can to help our great country.”
Laura Barron-Lopez contributed reporting.