I’ve been hearing the word ‘debunked’ a lot lately on Capitol Hill.
To Debunk is roughly the opposite of ‘bunk,’ which according to an old dictionary I own (Webster's New Peerless Dictionary & Atlas, circa 1941) is slang for ‘misleading speech’ or 'humbug'. While covering the U.S. Senate one obviously hears his fair share of bunk on a daily basis – but only now does it's photo-negative counterpart arise to assume center stage in the dreary yet at times slapstick, the impeachment of President Trump.
‘Debunked’ is supposed to mean an idea is disproved, but I’ve noticed it’s lost much of its swagger and accuracy lately due to overuse and misapplication. These days it seems to mean denied, or even disputed. If anyone denies something they find objectionable, it’s been ‘debunked’. Sadly, this miss-definition seems to hold sway with many journalists and even members of Congress.
Impeachment Article-1 declares President Trump was motivated by personal, rather than national interest when last July he asked the President of Ukraine to investigate alleged corruption by former Vice President Joe Biden. House Democrats insist it’s ‘indisputable’ that Trump was abusing the power of his office 'for personal gain'. After all, Biden was also a political rival. Personal gain had to be the motive, they insist because the allegations against Biden had been (drum-roll-please) debunked!
Among those who don’t agree is Senator Ted Cruz [R], TX. He says the very fact that the inexperienced Hunter Biden was employed by a notoriously corrupt Ukrainian energy company amounts to prima facie evidence. The kind of proof based on obvious first impressions and assumed to be true until proven otherwise.
This means President Trump was simply following the ‘obvious inference’ when he assumed that the reason the younger Biden got his job with Burisma Holdings—complete with a $1,000,000/year salary — was because his father was the U.S. Vice President.
Yet according to the House impeachment managers and many in the press, even the possibility of Ukrainian misdeeds by the Bidens had been swiftly ‘debunked’. By what standard? A lengthy series of investigative articles by The New York Times? Congressional hearings? A Special Counsel? None of the above.
Biden denied them.
For many in the media, that’s been good enough. Article after article prefaces the allegations with ‘unproven’ or state there’s ‘no evidence’ that Biden was corrupt in his Ukraine dealings.
CNN’s Daniel Dale gushed over Biden’s own denials, observing...“the way he’s told the story, he hasn’t even hinted at the possibility there might be some wrongdoing.” Prescient Dale added, “everything he’s said about it is true as far as we know.” As far as we know!
Senator Lindsey Graham [R], SC says accepting Biden’s denial hardly means the suspicions are ‘debunked’. “By who?,” Graham asked as he chastised reporters this week at the Capitol:
“The fact is that nobody — particularly in your business –- has done much looking at what happened in Ukraine with Hunter Biden.”
Senator Graham is right that more reporting is overdue on the Biden allegations. They are not debunked nor does this ‘fact’ confirm the President’s political motivations ‘beyond dispute,’ as the House impeachment managers claim. Declaring a person guilty ought to be based on their misdeeds, not our misuse of language.
But then again, it’s good to remember that those unafraid to rewrite dictionaries often gain the upper hand in down and dirty debates.