Trump lies pass 10,000. (And his fans don’t care)
President Trump has been described as “the most extravagant, reckless, inexhaustible fibber of our era”, sometimes clocking up 100 false claims in a day. Why is he still so popular?
President Donald Trump is meeting a NATO official in the Oval Office. As cameras click and flash, the president speaks to journalists.
“My father is German. Right? Was German,” he repeats. “And born in a very wonderful place in Germany.”
It seems like a harmless comment, except for the fact that it isn’t true. Frederick Trump was born in the Bronx, New York City, in 1905. This is the third time Trump has repeated the falsehood.
In his 830 days in office, Trump has told made more than 10,000 false or misleading claims. The Washington Post has a team of fact-checkers diligently logging the president’s inaccuracies.
“It takes up a lot of our time just because he is constantly talking,” said Glenn Kessler, who heads the Fact Checker column. “There’s some days where he’s topped more than 100 false or misleading claims.”
In October 2018, just before the mid-term elections, Trump said 1,200 things that were untrue.
There are some recurring favourites. Trump has falsely declared that his government delivered “the biggest tax cuts in the history of our country” 125 times, and that the US economy is now the most successful in history more than 80 times.
Some claims are strange, like Trump’s assertion that windmills cause cancer and that God stopped it raining during his inauguration speech (in fact, it rained through most of the address). But others are more worrying.
In August 2018, almost year after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, an expert report put the death toll at 3,057.
Days later, the president tweeted that “3,000 people did not die” in the storm. Commentators warned that Trump was showing an authoritarian disregard for the truth.
While speaking to a crowd about late-term abortion in Wisconsin last month, Trump claimed that doctors are executing babies after they are born.
Health professionals said that his comments were untrue and risked inciting violence against abortion providers.
And yet, 10,000 falsehoods later, most political observers in Washington expect Trump to be re-elected next year.
Last time around in 2016, one in five people who said they didn’t think Trump was trustworthy voted for him anyway.
How dangerous is Trump’s disregard for the truth? Many fear democracy will suffer in a post-truth world where people only trust those who think the same as them, and where public opinion is swayed by repeated lies over facts.
But is it fair to call Trump a liar? Don’t all politicians bend the truth? Where is the line between spin and falsehood? A Washington Post journalist said that it took longer to fact-check Obama’s false claims because they were cloaked in truth. Is lying any less bad, just because it’s done with more skill?
- Do you think Donald Trump should be re-elected in 2020?
- Is Donald Trump bad for democracy?
- Write down two things about yourself that are true and one that is false. Get into pairs. Your partner must try to guess which is the lie.
- Choose a misleading statement made by Donald Trump and fact-check it. Find out and write down what the truth is and why his statement is incorrect.
Some People Say...
“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”Donald Trump
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- Donald Trump has made false or misleading statements more than 10,000 times since he became president. The statements have been logged and analysed in The Washington Post’s Fact Checker columns. The rate of Trump’s lying is increasing: over the last seven months, he has made false statements at a rate three times higher than in his first 600 days in office.
- What do we not know?
- Exactly where an inaccuracy becomes a lie. Some statistics may be true but, when presented alone without context, they can give a misleading impression. Is being selective with the truth the same as lying? Some of Trump’s falsehoods fall into this category, but others are blatantly false.
- NATO official
- On 3 April, Trump met Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House.
- Mid-term elections
- Elections held mid-way through a presidential term. Trump kept control of the US Senate but lost control of the House of Representatives to his opponents, the Democrats.
- A statement made without evidence to support it.
- He was referring to wind turbines, which are used to generate electricity sustainably. The claim is unfounded.
- When a ruler has complete power and the people in society do not have democratic freedoms.
- See the Forbes article in Become An Expert.