President Donald Trump is the most fact-challenged politician The Fact Checker has ever encountered. He earned 59 Four-Pinocchio ratings during his campaign as president. Since then, he’s earned 16 more Four-Pinocchio ratings.
But those numbers obscure the fact that the pace and volume of the president’s misstatements means we cannot possibly keep up. The president’s speeches and interviews are so chock full of false and misleading claims that The Fact Checker often must resort to roundups that offer a brief summary of the facts that the president has gotten wrong.
We also cataloged the president’s many flip-flops, since those earn Upside-Down Pinocchios if a politician shifts position on an issue without acknowledging he or she did so.
So here are the numbers for the president’s first 100 days:
488: The number of false or misleading claims made by the president. That’s an average of 4.9 claims a day.
10: Number of days without a single false claim. (On six of those days, the president golfed at a Trump property.)
4: Number of days with 20 or more false claims. (Feb. 16, Feb. 28, March 20 and April 21.) He made 19 false claims on April 29, his 100th day, though we did not include his interview with “Face the Nation,” since that aired April 30.
While the president is known to make outrageous claims on Twitter — and that was certainly a major source of his falsehoods — he made most of his false statements in unscripted remarks before reporters. (Interviews were another major source of false claims.) That’s because the president would rely on talking points or assertions that he had made in the past — and continued to make, even though they had been fact-checked as wrong.
This makes Trump somewhat unique among politicians. Many will drop a false claim after it has been deemed false. But Trump just repeats the same claim over and over.
In particular, the president repeatedly took credit for events or business decisions that happened before he took the oath of office — or had even been elected.
He gave himself credit for the January jobs report — 216,000 jobs — even though the data were collected the week of Jan. 12, before he became president. (In other words, the gain in jobs took place from Dec. 12 to Jan. 12.)
Among other deals, Trump took credit for $1 billion investment by Fiat Chrysler, which the company said was due to talks with unions in 2015, $1 billion General Motors investment (also in the works for some time), 10,000 jobs added by Walmart (announced in October), 10,000 jobs created by Intel (announced originally in 2011), 1 million planned jobs by Chinese e-company Alibaba (a plan outlined in 2015), and a $25 billion investment by Charter Communications (in the works since 2015). Trump also touted a big investment by Japanese company SoftBank — which announced its investment fund three weeks before the U.S. elections, when Trump faced a narrow path to victory.
On at least 15 occasions, Trump boasted that he had personally negotiated a cut between $600 million and $725 million off an order for Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. But Lockheed had already planned the cost reductions, saying in December that the next batch of 90 planes would cost six to seven percent less per plane than the previous order. (This was well before any meeting that Trump had with the company’s chief executive.) The Air Force’s budget had already accounted for the cut in price — and the price is expected to keep dropping.
Another Trump favorite was claiming — seven times — that the United States had spent $6 trillion on wars in “the Middle East.” He usually utters this figure to note the money would have been better spent in the United States. But Trump is lumping together the wars in Iraq (in the Middle East) and Afghanistan (in South Asia), which together cost about $1.6 trillion from 2001 to 2014. He is also adding in estimates of future spending, such as interest on the debt and veterans’ care for the next three decades.
Trump has also repeatedly asserted (17 times) that the Affordable Care Act was failing or on the edge of disaster or in serious trouble. But the Congressional Budget Office has said that the Obamacare exchanges, despite well-documented issues, is not imploding and is expected to remain stable for the foreseeable future. Trump, as he did during the campaign, also cherry-picked numbers about premium increases to make the increases sound worse than reality.
Trump repeatedly also blamed the North American Free Trade Agreement — “the worst trade deal ever made by any country” — for resulting in the loss of one-third of U.S. manufacturing jobs. He also claimed that the entry of China into the World Trade Organization led to the closure of as many as 70,000 factories.
But the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service in 2017 concluded the “net overall effect of NAFTA on the U.S. economy appears to have been relatively modest, primarily because trade with Canada and Mexico accounts for a small percentage of U.S. GDP.” Meanwhile, manufacturing jobs in the United States have been adversely affected by many factors, especially changing consumer tastes and technology. Drawing a connection between China’s entry in the WTO and factory losses is a stretch, especially because the Great Recession played a big role in factory closings.
Judging from Trump’s repeated false claims, one would think that he is not a regular reader. But on March 21, Trump remarked that the news media was too judgmental about his statements. “If it’s off by 100th of a percent, it’s like I end up getting Pinocchios,” he said.
That’s a start. Hope springs eternal.