Education Reform

Donald Trump: America’s Liar-in-Chief

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The Washington Post fact-checkers have kept a meticulous record of Donald Trump’s lies, and there were so many of them that it became a nearly full-time job. Every time he spoke at a rally, the lies came tumbling out. Trump made more than 30,000 false or misleading statements, nearly half of them in his last year in office. The biggest lie, of course, was his claim that he won the election, which was denied to him because of massive voter fraud. His lawyers never produced evidence of voter fraud in any court, and they lost 60 court cases, appearing before judges appointed by both Republicans and Democrats. The U.S. Supreme Court twice refused to accept the Trump campaign’s claims of voter fraud; not even the three Justices appointed by Trump–Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett– supported his claims. It is easy to claim “fraud” on television, but actual courts expect evidence, and Trump’s lawyers never had any evidence.

Glenn Kessler, the lead fact-checker, wrote about Trump’s lies:

He overstated the “carnage” he was inheriting, then later exaggerated his “massive” crowd and claimed, despite clear evidence to the contrary, that it had not rained during his address. He repeated the rain claim the next day, along with the fabricated notion that he held the “all-time record” for appearing on the cover of Time magazine.

And so it went, day after day, week after week, claim after claim, from the most mundane of topics to the most pressing issues.

Over time, Trump unleashed his falsehoods with increasing frequency and ferocity, often by the scores in a single campaign speech or tweetstorm. What began as a relative trickle of misrepresentations, including 10 on his first day and five on the second, built into a torrent through Trump’s final days as he frenetically spread wild theories that the coronavirus pandemic would disappear “like a miracle” and that the presidential election had been stolen — the claim that inspired Trump supporters to attack Congress on Jan. 6 and prompted his second impeachment.

The final tally of Trump’s presidency: 30,573 false or misleading claims — with nearly half coming in his final year.

Read and search the full database of Trump’s false or misleading claims

For more than 10 years, The Fact Checker has assessed the accuracy of claims made by politicians in both parties, and that practice will continue. But Trump, with his unusually flagrant disregard for facts, posed a new challenge, as so many of his claims did not merit full-fledged fact checks. What started as a weekly feature — “What Trump got wrong on Twitter this week” — turned into a project for Trump’s first 100 days.  Then, in response to reader requests, the Trump database was maintained for four years, despite the increasing burden of keeping it up.

The database became an untruth tracker for the ages, widely cited around the world as a measuring stick of Trump’s presidency — and as of noon Wednesday it was officially retired…

An assessment of the Fact Checker database shows the dramatic escalation in the rate of Trump’s dishonesty over time. Trump averaged about six claims a day in his first year as president, 16 claims day in his second year, 22 claims day in his third year — and 39 claims a day in his final year. Put another way, it took him 27 months to reach 10,000 claims and another 14 months to reach 20,000. He then exceeded the 30,000 mark less than five months later.

Scroll a visual timeline of the false claims Trump made during his time in office

Trump made false claims about just about everything, big and small, so the Fact Checker database provides a window into his obsessions (and the news cycle) at the time. When he felt under siege or in trouble, he responded by trying to craft an alternative reality for his supporters — and to viciously attack his foes. Nearly half of the false claims were communicated at his campaign rallies or via his now-suspended Twitter account...

After his election defeat, Trump spoke or tweeted about little except to offer lies about a stolen election, even as he or his supporters lost more than 60 court cases as judges repeatedly rejected his claims as bogus. After Nov. 3, he made more than 800 false or misleading claims about election fraud, including 76 times offering some variation of “rigged election.”

At his Jan. 6 speech at the Ellipse, in which he incited the attack on the Capitol, Trump made 107 false or misleading claims, almost all about the election.

The aftermath of what Biden and other Democrats now call the “big lie” hovers over Washington as both parties figure out whether there can be a return to a shared set of facts undergirding national debate, or whether one of the major political parties will remain captive to the sorts of conspiracy theories that marked so many of Trump’s final year of claims.

Our democracy is in deep trouble when we can’t agree on basic facts about the world around us.

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