With six months left on his first term in office, President Donald Trump has said more than 20,000 things that aren’t true, according to the Washington Post’s Fact Checker team.
Which is stunning – a mountain of exaggerations, half-truths and outright falsehoods constructed by the President as he seeks to invalidate the very notion of facts and truth.
But, the breadth of Trump’s commitment to mistruth isn’t even the most incredible – or scary – part of the Post’s new report. That honor goes to this:
“The notion that Trump would exceed 20,000 claims before he finished his term appeared ludicrous when The Fact Checker started this project during the president’s first 100 days in office. In that time, Trump averaged fewer than five claims a day, which would have added up to about 7,000 claims in a four-year presidential term. But the tsunami of untruths just keeps looming larger and larger.”
As the Post notes, it took Trump 827 days to get to 10,000 “false and misleading claims.” He got to 20,000 in just 440 days, meaning that between over that 14-month period, the President of the United States said 23 things a day that weren’t factually accurate.
(Side note: Make sure to check out CNN’s new – and terrific – fact checking page!)
So, consider this: In his first 100 days in office, Trump said, on average, five things that were false or misleading. In his first 827 days in office, he averaged 12 mistruths a day. In the next 440 days – through July 9 – he averaged 23 false or misleading claims a day.
It doesn’t take a mathematician (which is a good thing for me) to conclude that Trump has ratcheted up his misinformation peddling by almost five times since he entered office. He’s not just saying some more things that aren’t true every day. He’s saying lots more things that aren’t true every day.
There are two very important takeaways here:
1) Trump, unlike most politicians, isn’t cowed by fact checks that show he is flat wrong in many of the things he says. Quite the contrary: Trump seems to revel in being cast as a purveyor of falsehoods by the mainstream media, believing it beefs up his credibility with his base.
2) Trump hasn’t adjusted his behavior – or, at least, his very casual relationship with the truth – as the country has faced two hugely serious crises: The coronavirus pandemic and the protests sparked by the May death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis. Again, the opposite is true, as the Post notes: “The coronavirus pandemic has spawned a whole new genre of Trump’s falsehoods. The category in just a few months has reached nearly 1,000 claims, more than his tax claims combined.”
What we have seen over these past few months is that as Trump’s political fortunes have slid – thanks to his botched handling of the pandemic and his tone-deaf response to the Floyd protests – he has retreated more and more into a fact-free fantasy world of his own making. His pace of mistruths has rapidly increased as the actual facts – be it on coronavirus cases, his support among people of color or his tumbling poll numbers – turn more and more against him.
When you consider that we are still 112 days away from the November 3 general election, it’s almost impossible to predict just how many false and misleading things Trump will say before his first term ends. In the words of the famed philosopher Michael Jordan: “The ceiling is the roof.”