Any consequences? Post cites Trump’s 3,001 false or misleading claims while in office

“Truth or Consequences” was the name of one of longest-running shows in U.S. history, starting as a radio program in 1940, then migrating to television where it thrived for decades and survived with few interruptions until 1978. It made one more brief comeback in the ’80s.

(A town in New Mexico, originally named Hot Springs, renamed itself “Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, in order to win a visit from the host and have the game broadcast from there occasionally.)

But forget about the show; it’s the title I want to celebrate. It’s a reminder of a time when it was believed (or at least preached) that if you strayed from telling the truth, you would suffer consequences. 

Perhaps politicians were exempted from that rule. An old joke (“How can you tell when a politician is lying? Answer: Their lips move …”) suggests that a certain cynicism existed. But the Trump experience has established a new low in public expectations. Trump lies, constantly and without making any serious effort to deny or dispute the obvious contrary evidence to many of his tweets and statements.

The fact that he became president and retains a roughly 40 percent approval rating (and a much larger approval among evangelical Christians, who claim to respect holy writ) certainly raises the question of whether the Ninth Commandment retains much clout in the 21st century.

It’s true, of course, that the line between truth and falsehood can sometimes be a slippery one, but most of the time, in President Trump’s case, the lies aren’t even slippery. His success, to date, challenges the old belief that if you lie often enough, people eventually stop believing you.

On the other side of the coin, over recent decades a small but growing function of the news media has been to call out falsehoods. I refer to the institution of “fact checking” features, including Politifact, and full-time fact checking staff at some of the major media outlets. I have high esteem for them, certainly including the “Fact Checker” feature of the Washington Post.

The Post’s Fact Checker has followed the utterances of Trump since his candidacy but has also begun keeping score of them and today publishes a new, up-to-date summary. Forgetting about candidate Trump, for the moment, and dealing only with Trumpian statements since Inauguration Day, the Post fact checkers updated the tally of untruths and finds that:

In the 466 days since he took the oath of office, President Trump has made 3,001 false or misleading claims, according to The Fct Checker’s database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president.

That’s an average of nearly 6.5 claims a day.

When we first started this project for the president’s first 100 days, he averaged 4.9 claims a day. Slowly, the average number of claims has been creeping up.

Indeed, since we last updated this tally two months ago, the president has averaged about 9 claims a day.”

This is bad. Very bad. Of course, the president has repeated many of his false or misleading claims multiple times. The full Washington Post Fact Checker team’s overview of the false and misleading claims of the current incumbent is available here

If you want, you can quibble with the Fact Checker methodology or their ruling in a particular instance. But if our standards have fallen so low that we are going to try to excuse anything near this volume of presidential lying, we are in a very bad place.

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Comments (16)

  1. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/01/2018 - 04:33 pm.

    One might say

    that Trump is supported by people who prefer faith over fact.

  2. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/01/2018 - 05:00 pm.

    Consequences to Whom?

    Are there consequences to Trump for lying? Apparently not. His base still adores him, and reacts to any negative information with a defensiveness that makes a cornered badger look like a sloth. He isn’t suffering.

    How about the consequences to the rest of us? I don’t think there is any serious doubt that the Trump presidency has damaged the image of the United States in the eyes of the world (when the President of France is better spoken in English than the President of the United States . . .). There is a void in global leadership now, and it is just a question of who will fill it. It certainly isn’t going to be the Trump administration.

    There are also the consequences to our Republic. The cynic in us expects all politicians to lie to varying degrees. The public, however, has a right to expect that the conduct not be normalized. We shouldn’t shrug it off as the same old thing everyday (“Trump lied, and in other news, the sun appeared to rise in the east this morning.”) The lies are indicative of not just deeper character flaws, but of a willingness to govern based on deceit. Our bland acceptance of that deceit is our own moral failure. Perhaps it is brought on by fatigue, but it is a failure just the same.

    That acceptance is also a failure of the traditional media, who are so bent on proving that they are neutral, or are so determined to maintain access to the powerful, that they are willing to change the national motto from “E Pluribus Unum” to “Sed Utarque Facere (“But Both Sides Do It”).” That is, at worst cynical and at best, weak. Are journalists really so intimidated by a few people asking why you never said anything about Hillary that they will not focus on the person who really is the President of the United States? Does the whining about “another negative Trump story–you’re such a hater” really sting? Or are journalists everywhere too busy contemplating what they honestly would have done if it were Obama lying constantly and so persistently?

    There’s plenty of blame to go around on this one. Unfortunately, the consequences will not be handed out quite so fairly.

  3. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 05/02/2018 - 07:49 am.

    When a proven liar denies “collusion” and “obstruction” despite clear evidence otherwise….

    That where the rubber meets the road, and the “true believers” cover their ears and go”nnaa-naa-naa- I can’t hear yo …”

    One more for the list–Trump wrote his own health evaluation for his doctor/stengrapher during the campaign.

    … Trump composed it himself. “He dictated that whole letter. I didn’t write that letter,” Bornstein said. “I just made it up as I went along.”…

    And another lie with consequences…. “but I didn’t say Israel”

    ……The US obtained this intelligence from Israel. What is now known to the general public is that Israel had succeeded in placing a listening device in an ISIS safe house deep in Syria, at great risk, and was listening in on everything ISIS was planning from that location. Trump revealed this intelligence to Kislyak and Lavarov during that infamous Oval Office meeting in which he also bragged about firing James Comey the day before. His revelation essentially blew the intelligence operation; the listening device the Israelis had placed went dead shortly after…..

  4. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 05/02/2018 - 09:44 am.

    Truth is Good!

    If any polling organization, no matter where they may lie on the political spectrum, were to poll these two questions:

    1. On a scale of 1 to 10 rank the importance of truthful representation of the facts in political discourse with 1 being of no importance and 10 of utmost importance.

    2. On a scale of 1 to 10 rank the need for consequences when facts are distorted or misrepresented in political discourse with 1 being no consequences and 10 severe consequences.

    I believe you would hard pressed to query any 2 other questions that would find higher agreement on the positive side.

    Liberals would declaim Trump distortions and lies.

    Conservatives would cite the rampages of “fake news”

    Both would agree on the need for truth and consequences for departure from it.

    And yet our “truth in public discourse” watchdogs put us at all time lows on adherence to the truth.

    How can this be? Simply because we all have our own sources for the truth and they face little pressure to confront inaccuracies or alternatives to what they declare as the truth. “I read this in the Huffington Post” is equivalent to “Powerline reported that…”.

    Our system has devolved to the point where Daniel Patrick Moynahan could not be more wrong:

    “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”

  5. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/02/2018 - 10:10 am.

    I would say yes, there have been consequences.

    It depends on what kind of consequences you looking for. For some reason a lot of people keep thinking that Trump voters will change their minds in some kind of mass movement, but that was never a realistic consequence, so I wouldn’t measure his consequences that way. For a variety of weird reasons 30% or so of our fellow Americans can be expected to stick with him for a variety of reasons.

    The real consequence has been his failure to enact most or any of his (or Republican) policy initiatives in any durable way. When step back from all the noise you see that there just isn’t a lot of substance there, and he’s headed for a huge defeat next November. His chances of getting re-elected are practically nil, and THAT’s if he manages to stay in office for a full term. Meanwhile he’s the kiss of death to anyone who works him or get associated with him.

    I still think there’s a 50-50 chance that he’ll resign before his term is over, specially if Democrats take back the House or Senate, or both.

  6. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 05/02/2018 - 11:58 am.

    Nobody’s looking here at perhaps the biggest consequence to date of Trump’s acknowledged inability to tell the truth, and his increasing tendency to make things up out of thin air: His lawyers are desperately trying to keep Trump from having to answer questions from the Special Counsel.

    If Trump lies to Mueller’s team, he will have committed a federal felony.

    Voluntarily or under subpoena, Trump will be faced with other people’s sworn testimony to Mueller’s team, and he won’t know beforehand what Gates or Manafort or Flynn or Bannon or Jared Kushner or that young Swedish lawyer (who’e serving prison time right now) have said or on what they’ve provided documents. Trump will lie because that’s what he does. And Mueller’s team already knows the answers to the questions they will put to Trump, so he is in a real bind of real consequences.

    That’s a consequence his lawyers see, even if Trump can’t be bothered even to read the actual 49 Mueller questions Trump’s own lawyers leaked to the press (we have to remember: Mueller’s team, which doesn’t leak anyway, didn’t write those questions down; it was one of Trump’s ownb lawyers who did that and then had them printed up–our President misstates even that!!).

    Trump will not got to jail for those lies, of course; he’s a reigning President. But he will be shamed publicly. Maybe even the cowardly Republicans in Congress will be shamed, as well, and maybe they will impeach him. Especially if the majority in America gets out to vote this fall and elects a Democratic Congress.

    • Submitted by Steve Roth on 05/04/2018 - 11:43 am.

      Will it even matter, though?

      For Trump, shaming publicly won’t matter, and scarily, for 30% of America, that won’t matter either. More worrisome is that the GOP, particularly the House have practically announced their intentions to not bother with even trying to protect the republic – they’ve abdicated their oversight responsibilities. They have no shame, either, and at this point, are as bad as Trump’s supporters in having any ability to look at facts and change their minds and do their jobs.Like actually impeach him.

      It’s no wonder the lies keep increasing: desperate men do desperate things, particularly when the tactics work.

  7. Submitted by David LaPorte on 05/02/2018 - 02:02 pm.

    Who are the believers?

    “His success, to date, challenges the old belief that if you lie often enough, people eventually stop believing you.”

    Just a few lies were enough for most of us. Trump DID lose the popular vote (despite claims of millions of illegal voters.)

    But for his base, Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Minister of Propaganda from 1933 to 1945, had a different take. “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself. It becomes the truth.” Goebbels was one of the world’s foremost experts in manipulation.

    This is particularly true when people WANT to believe the lies, as seems to be the case with Trump supporters.

  8. Submitted by Mike martin on 05/02/2018 - 09:25 pm.

    why only fact check Trump?

    Obviously if you only fact-checked one person or one party you’re going to be accused of partisanship. Until the Post is as vigorous in fact-checking Schumer Sanders Hilary etc independents will ignore the Post. Only people who think Democrats are always right and Republicans are always wrong will pay attention to the Post fact-checking. Of course this includes most of minnpost readers and writers.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/04/2018 - 08:37 am.

      Again with moral bankruptcy

      The dishonesty others cannot sanction individual dishonesty. We actually fact check most public figures, all these fact-check organizations pre-date Trumps presidency, and the 2016 election, the Post routinely fact checked Obama. The fact is that Trump lies on a phenomenal scale. But even if we didn’t fact check ANYONE else, Trump’s is still lying, and pointing to someone else you think is also lying does not and can not change that fact. Anyone who responds to Trumps dishonesty by pointing some other dishonest person is telling us they have a broken moral compass. And no, immoral claims about someone else’s honesty don’t illustrate hypocrisy or provide context, they just attempt obscure dishonesty.

  9. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 05/03/2018 - 10:39 am.

    Ask any…

    Ask any Republican in January of 2016 if character and integrity are proven over a lifetime of performance or a campaign season of words?

    Next ask the importance of character and integrity in the candidate they would support for President?

    And finally ask that over a lifetime of performance examples do they believe the FBI led Robert Mueller and Jim Comey have shown character and integrity far beyond that of Donald Trump?

    And the January 2016 answers were:

    Character and integrity are earned over a lifetime of performance and are an essential trait of any GOP candidate for President and the FBI and its’ leaders are exemplary in character and integrity.

    Would a Trumpian please update these answers to May 2018? Thanks!

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/03/2018 - 04:23 pm.

      Trumpian Answer

      I’m far from being a Trumpian, but I think I can give a reasonable approximation of the answer one might give to your question:

      “What about Schumer, Sanders, Hilary, etc? Why aren’t you all over them?”

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/04/2018 - 08:49 am.


        Your question assumes equivalent levels of dishonesty, and that’s NOT a valid a priori assumption. Since Trump is the POTUS in the room, it makes sense that he gets the most scrutiny.

        Furthermore unless you’re claiming that Clinton, Shumer, and Sanders have no critics, you carry the burden of proof if you’re claiming that Trump hasn’t earned his reputation as liar.

        I’ve always been quite critical of Clinton for instance, and I’ve pointed out many times that she was the most distrusted and disliked candidate the Democrats ever put on a presidential ballot, that’s an historical fact. Right or wrong one thing NO ONE can say about Hillary Clinton is that her faults, real or imagined, have been overlooked or ignored. Nor has Sanders’s escaped criticism, and Schumer is facing serious challenges as well.

        No matter who gives us the Trumpian answer… we will find that it is without merit.

      • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 05/04/2018 - 10:01 am.

        Off a cliff…

        In this instance I am not in (the usual) what about Trump mode. I am in the what about Republican voters mode. They are abandoning almost all of their long held, foundational beliefs to jump on a train that is seemingly headed full speed off a cliff. I am amazed at how few look out the box car door and choose to jump now to a rough but safe landing instead of riding to the final crash. Will the number of early jumpers ramp up anytime soon? The cliff is likely the Mueller report. I’m thinking we’ll see a lot of jumpers between the edge of the cliff and the hard bottom below it. Good luck with that.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/05/2018 - 08:11 am.

          The truth about Republicans…

          ” They are abandoning almost all of their long held, foundational beliefs …”

          The dirty little secret of many Republicans and Christians is that they actually don’t have durable foundatinal beliefs. They just have what Neitzche called a strong “will to power”. This was Ayn Rand’s primary impulse as well, although she claimed it was her idea. Basically it’s the difference between actually having a moral system, an using the pretense of a moral system to attack those over whom you want to exercise power. When you really drill into Republican morality you always find that’s it bereft of sustainable values. Beyond the impulse to tell everyone how to live their lives there’s no moral “there” there.

          What’s always been disappointing is the American “liberal” and or Democratic response to this ongoing display of sociopathic tendencies; instead of exposing it’s obvious vacuity, centrism pretends it’s this is a legitimate moral system. So the illusion of foundational beliefs is maintained and toxic mentalities are treated as if they could be moral agents. So Trump isn’t really changing Republicans, they’re just being who they’ve always been.

  10. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 05/04/2018 - 08:54 am.

    Your Answer

    To para-phrase Col. Nathan R. Jessep, , because they “can’t handle the truth!” How can these folks look anyone in the eye and say wow, were we bamboozled, we were complete idiots to support this con-artist. They have dug such deep and pathetic holes they have no way out where they can save any dignity, so, just keep doubling down, like addictive gamblers, thinking they got to win one of these times. Besides, its all politics and politicians always lie, just ask “T”!

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