What fact-checkers say about Trump citing Obama’s 2011 action on Iraqis

President Trump continues to lie regularly. I don’t claim to know whether he does it on purpose or has some kind of psychological condition that gets in the way of respecting factual accuracy. I said in a recent post that all scribblers like me can do is to “try not to get tired of pointing out the lies.”

That can’t be the only job of journalism in the Trump era. He is creating, at a rapid pace, policies and actions that should be assessed and discussed as to their wisdom, efficacy, fairness, etc., not just as to the factual accuracy or inaccuracy of what he says about them.

The main issue about Trump’s weekend executive order restricting the ability of certain foreign noncitizens to come to the U.S., for a visit or to work toward citizenship or green cards, etc., is not about the factual accuracy of his statements about it. The main issue is the wisdom and humanity of it, about which plenty of smarter people than me have opined over the past 48 hours.

So, for the sake of simply maintaining my goal of not getting tired of pointing out the lies, I will just pass along the work of several fact-checking agencies in the last couple of days, most of whom examined Trump’s statement, in defense of his new policy, that, what he did was “similar to what President Barack Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months.” 

Everyone who examined it found fault with this comparison and that he was exaggerating the similarity of the two cases.

Here’s Factcheck.org.

Here’s the Associated Press (via Salon).

Here’s Politifact, which rated the comparison “Mostly False.”

Here’s the Washington Post Fact-Checker, which gave Trump’s statement three Pinocchios.

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Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/31/2017 - 03:51 pm.

    It’s not important

    …that journalists assumed to be hostile to a Trump presidency believe that what he’s saying is accurate. What’s important to Mr. Trump is that HE believes what he’s saying is accurate, as do his many supporters, for whom facts are as secondary as they are to the President. As is usually the case with demagogues and their disciples, perception is reality.

  2. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 01/31/2017 - 04:09 pm.

    I’m Very Sorry to Say

    I’ve reached the point where,…

    if someone from the Trump administration is speaking,…

    I’m convinced that he or she is lying.

    They just don’t do things any other way.

    But thanks, Eric for continuing to help us realize when and how and about what!

    The details of those lies are vitally important,…

    because policies that will massively and negatively affect all of our lives,…

    are built on those lies.

    “First they came for the Muslims,…”

    should be the headline on every newspaper this week.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/01/2017 - 09:55 am.

      Lies Matter

      “America’s enemies feared it for dealing in facts while they offered disinformation and conspiracy theories. All that changes when the White House embraces the notion of ‘alternative facts.’”

      Husain Haqqani, former Ambassador from Pakistan.

  3. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 01/31/2017 - 08:18 pm.

    Other comparisons

    I’ve seen other comparisons between President Trump’s Executive Order and President Bill Clinton’s 1995 speech in which he announced a crackdown on “illegal immigrants” and also a comparison between trump’s action and President Jimmy Carter’s EO on immigration vis-a-vis Iran and maybe Syria and some other countries.

    Someone on social media posted a comment from a Boston College history professor suggesting this EO might be a “shock event” designed to create chaos and confusion to camouflage some other sleight of hand. Possibly so. Many actions which catch people off-guard and by surprise are going to be searched if not attributed to some sinister and dark forces for ulterior purposes. 9/11 comes to mind.

    I’m inclined to ignore how the Trump spin-meisters want to portray the President’s intentions or comparisons to other Presidents. Or how Trump wants everyone to think of it. He apparently blames the chaos caused by this EO on computer glitches and “Senator Schumer’s tears.” The EO must speak for itself. Whatever merits the EO has, it’s condemned by its completely incompetent, thoughtless and heartless implementation which has created a mass of needless chaos and unnecessacy hardships for thousands if not millions of people.

  4. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 01/31/2017 - 09:32 pm.


    I will analyze just the first one – Factcheck.org. It says that Trump, saying “My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months,” distorts the facts.

    First, Trump didn’t say that his policy is “the same,” just that it is “similar,” which already theoretically makes it impossible to say that he distorts the facts (similarity, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder). Trump banned refugees temporally and so did Obama but Obama banned from one country while Trump from all and that does make what Trump did “similar” to what Obama did. Of course, FactCheck goes into details that Obama’s ban was based on two Iraqis caught lying about their past in Iraq. However, it is logical to say that Trump’s ban is based on many people in Europe actually having done bad things – don’t smart people learn from mistakes of others?

    Please note that I am not evaluating Trump’s action; I am evaluating evaluation of Trump’s actions and it is clear that those evaluations are biased. Just for comparison, has anyone ever rated all statements that Trump is against immigrants false because Trump was actually against illegal immigrants?

  5. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 02/01/2017 - 08:35 am.

    As Mr. Gutman so ably demonstrates, there will always be those who point out the “weasel words” that make the hide the nature of the deed and defend the indefensible based on infinite analysis of while ignoring the effect of action.

    I look back at a recent column by a professor on the MInnpost site that proclaimed the robustness of the American system, but as I stated there and re-state now–the system of protections and process all depend on an unstated agreement of all of the systems actors as to how things should be done. Once that is gone, and Congress enables the new order, it all becomes unstable and where we end up is unknown.

    And that is how a “dumpster fire” expands into a “Reichstag fire”.

    • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 02/01/2017 - 07:13 pm.

      Sure, there are always those weasel words, such as “be” (remember Bill Clinton?) but I can’t see how it is possible to ignore the difference between “same” and “similar.” I hope you are not trying to say that the media and Democrats are fair to Trump, are you? As I pointed out, “illegal immigrants” are “abbreviated” to just “immigrants” and “all people from 7 countries” are combined into “Muslims.”

  6. Submitted by Nathan Roisen on 02/01/2017 - 08:55 am.

    Clearly the reason for Trump to cite actions taken by Obama, and his surrgoates to cite actions taken by Clinton or all the way back to Carter, is to cause further division and chaos. It doesn’t matter if there is any factual similarity in intent or execution between Trump’s action and the others he cites.

    What does matter is his supporters are given a reason to think of the backlash and protest caused by the EO as deeply hypocritical. This accelerates division and mistrust between the two sides. The Trump administration thrives on division and mistrust, because it insulates their actions from scrutiny by their own supporters.

    The last thing the Trump admin wants is a supporter thinking “Wait, why are we not allowing MIT students and Army translators into the country?”

    Much better to have them saying, “Those big city elites are a bunch of goddamn hypocrites. Where were they when their sainted OBAMA did the same damn thing?”

  7. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 02/01/2017 - 05:45 pm.

    Eric’s idea of prefacing a news article or an opinion piece on Trump’s statements and actions with a reference first to how fact checkers have analyzed his words against the truth, is a good one!

    It shows that by now, nobody believes Trump, or Kellyanne Conway, or Spicer (that poor press secretary who has to defend Trump’s ineptitude and misstatements every day). Video clips show them lying for Trump, and show Trump lying and contradicting himself (give the man 24 hours and he’ll say something almost opposite what he said yesterday–YOU try to be an international ally faced with that kind of behavior! I mean, Britain’s Prime Minister visited Trump and came away thinking that he had assured her of his support for NATO.)

    That way, all news articles begin with a brief summary of the veracity level of Trump’s statements that will ensue. Puts everyone on guard, as we should be. It provides a factual context for what probably will be “alternative facts,” or a Trumpian fantasy world.

    And when Trump and Kellyanne and Spicer all use the word “ban,” we’re talking a ban! They are underlying that “banning” is what they intend with that Executive Order And when Trump tries to throw an Obama “similarity” into the discussion, he’s trying to make people believe tha what he, Trump, is doing is the SAME thing, so Not To Worry.

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