I’ve written – a lot – about how the most enduring legacy of Donald Trump’s presidency, whether it lasts four years or eight years, is his unapologetic assault on facts and the idea of truth. We have simply never had a president who says as many things that aren’t true as Donald Trump. Or a president who, once it’s clear what he’s saying isn’t accurate, takes such pleasure in repeating falsehoods.
Which brings me to The Washington Post Fact Checker’s running count of how many things Trump has said – since being sworn in on January 20, 2017, that are either misleading or totally untrue. And to these two sentences in particular: “As of day 558, he’s made 4,229 Trumpian claims — an increase of 978 in just two months. That’s an overall average of nearly 7.6 claims a day.”
The President of the United States is saying more than seven things that aren’t true a day. SEVEN.
And, what’s more, his tendency toward untruth is actually picking up steam. As WaPo’s Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly note, Trump was averaging less than five false or misleading claims in his first 100 days. (Only five!) But, between June and July Trump is averaging – averaging – 16 falsehoods a day. (As a thought experiment, try to lie – or misrepresent – 16 times tomorrow. I bet you can’t.)
It’s not just the raw numbers either. Trump has ramped up his disdain and dismissiveness of all forms of communication that don’t originate with him. “Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening,” Trump said earlier this month. “Just stick with us, don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news.” On Tuesday, at a campaign rally in Tampa, Florida, Trump said: “You know, polls are fake, just like everything else.”
That message is getting through. According to a CBS News poll released earlier this week, 91% of strong Trump supporters say they trust the President to provide them accurate information while 63% say they trust their family and friends to do the same. Just 11% of them trust the mainstream media to provide accurate information.
The problem here is clear: Lots and lots of Americans are getting their “facts” from a person whose disdain for facts is unparalleled in American political history. And whatever Trump says is being amplified – almost entirely without context or questioning – by Fox News, ensuring that millions and millions of people are living in a universe composed of “alternative facts.”
The Point: This set of facts might depress you. It should. But it should scare you – no matter your political leanings – even more.