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Bill Moyers: ‘Do facts matter anymore? I think they do’


Bill Moyers, the legendary former PBS host and network news commentator, says he fears for the United States “for the first time in my long life.”

Moyers joined me on Sunday’s “Reliable Sources” for a conversation about the looming impeachment hearings and the important role of the broadcast networks.

He covered both the Nixon and Clinton impeachment proceedings, but he says that this time is different.

“A democracy can die of too many lies. And we’re getting close to that terminal moment unless we reverse the obsession with lies that are being fed around the country,” he said, pointedly commenting on President Trump and the president’s allies.

But Moyers also expressed hope.

“Do facts matter anymore? I think they do,” he said. “I think they mattered in the Watergate hearings, in the Clinton hearings, and I think they’ll matter this time, too.”

Moyers said it’s possible that the impeachment hearings will lead some Trump supporters, perhaps 10 percent, to question what they’ve been told.

Perhaps, he said, “they will see it’s not a witch hunt, and they will begin to doubt their master. And they will begin to break off and maybe become a citizen again instead of a partisan.”

Moyers was a White House press secretary for Lyndon Johnson. Then he had an extraordinary career as a journalist and commentator, including multiple programs on PBS.

Moyers and his longtime colleague Michael Winship recently took out a full-page ad in The New York Times calling on PBS to re-broadcast the impeachment hearings in prime time.

PBS rebuffed the idea by saying one of its subchannels, the WORLD channel, will be re-airing the hearings. Moyers said he still believes PBS “has a public service obligation” to make the hearings as accessible as possible, on the main channel, in prime time.

“If you want to get the whole story of Trumpgate, you need to watch the whole hearing,” he said, noting that many Americans will be at work and at school during the testimony, unable to watch in real time.

“This is a moment in American history where the arc of justice will either be bent forward or it will be bent backward,” he said. “So everyone who wants to see it should have the chance to see the whole story.”

Moyers also noted that “you never know what’s going to happen in the hearings.”

“During the Nixon hearings,” Moyers said, “people did not know about the tapes until Alex Butterfield said there is a tape.” He said “I wonder if there isn’t something that might come out in these hearings” that would “blow it all open.”

Even if not, he added, “you have a group of informed people who were inside, civil servants, who are putting the story together piece by piece. That’s very important.” But we don’t know what we don’t know. We don’t know how this is going to end.

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