Fact Checker: Trump Under the Microscope
The media has consistently called Donald Trump one of the most dishonest presidents in modern American history. But is he really the shameless liar the media claims he is, or are his statements being misinterpreted by a biased industry and public?
According to Politifact, Trump lies about 70 percent of the time, with the majority of his statements rated between mostly false and pants on fire. By comparison, Politifact determined Hillary Clinton lies about 27 percent of time, while 49 percent of her statements are rated “mostly true” or “true,” and the remainder are rated “half-true.”
On the other hand, Politifact itself could be a biased liberal institution, right?
Let’s take a look at a selection of controversial statements said since Donald Trump’s inauguration. Is the president really a serial liar, or is the media misunderstanding him on purpose?
1. Did California have millions of illegal voters?
President Trump lost the popular election by 3 million votes. A vast majority of those votes came from California. Since then, the president and the state have been at odds.
One of his most commonly repeated claims has been that California has millions of undocumented immigrants casting votes, as well as residents voting multiple times. Therefore, according to the president, he actually won the popular vote.
The problem is there is no evidence that this is the case. This is perhaps a prime example of what the president’s administration has called “alternative facts” in the past.
Supporters claim he’s telling the truth.
“The Leftist media has weaponized idiocy. Doesn’t matter what you debunk or lay down with facts…they’ve taught the weakest of our population that everything on the news is real and that everything Trump does is bad. They will not unlearn this so long as fake news dominates,” tweeted Mindy Robinson in response to Trump’s claim that Google lied about the popular vote to favor Clinton.
Republicans have repeated this claim in a few times since Trump first said it. One right-wing twitter account claimed that Obama lied about his election as well, nabbing a whopping 5.7 million illegal votes.
Trump has cited a court case settlement from California, where L.A. county officials agreed to remove inactive registrants. However, the case did not mention voter fraud or illegal voting in any way. In this case, it’s difficult to tell whether Donald Trump’s a liar or unable to interpret legal cases.
Either way, there’s no proof at all of illegal voting in California or anywhere else.
2. Was Alabama in the path of Hurricane Dorian?
Most of the southern east coast was panicking when Hurricane Dorian was heading its way. No one knew if the powerful storm, hovering between Category 4 and 5, would hit them directly. President Trump claimed that along with Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, Alabama too should prepare for a potential devastating impact.
The problem? Virtually all meteorologists agreed Alabama was definitely not in the line of fire.
Of all the lies Trump has told (according to Democrats), this one would be the most baffling. Everyone could all see the actual models, and it was clear they didn’t include Alabama. In a press conference about the storm, the president (or someone in his office) drew a black circle around Alabama, manually including it in the forecasts.
It wasn’t particularly subtle or well-done, but there it was for the whole nation to see.
Defenders of the president pointed out that meteorologists are often wrong. “You will never please them. I was afraid it would cross Florida into the Gulf. It has happened before. There were so many different scenarios given,” one user replied on Twitter.
In the president’s defense, some very early models did in fact show that Alabama could be in the line of fire. Unfortunately, by the time he was tweeting about the threat to Alabama, the models had already been updated.
So the issue wasn’t that Trump lied per se, but that he could working with outdated information.
But in that case, why did he dig in so hard when the theory could be easily disproved? Why did someone draw around Alabama with a permanent marker, not even bothering to make the image convincing? It’s hard to tell.
3. Are Americans safe from the trade war with China?
One of the most controversial political “lies” Trump has told since taking office has revolved around the trade war with China. Throughout the trade war, Trump imposed more and more tariffs on Chinese goods imported into the U.S.
Each time Trump imposed new tariffs on China, he claimed that it was a tax on the Chinese. “It’s really paid — ultimately, it’s paid for by — largely, by China. And businesses will pour back into our country,” he said on May 9.
The problem is that’s not quite true. The tariffs are imposed by suppliers. In some cases, the suppliers will shoulder some of the cost of tariffs themselves in order to keep American buyers happy. In others, consumers on this side of the world are watching prices rise.
President Trump’s justification is that Americans don’t have to pay the tariffs if they simply purchase products made elsewhere. However, there’s a reason Americans import billions of dollars worth of Chinese goods each year — in many cases, there is no “elsewhere” to purchase them from.
The actual government of China is paying no money at all to the U.S. government, but there’s no way that tariffs are actually a tax the U.S. is imposing on the Chinese government.
The president suggested that tariffs collected “from China” helped provide U.S. farm workers with $16 billion in aid. But that’s not quite accurate either.
The money is coming from the U.S. Treasury. On this point, however, supporters have a line of defense. Money earned from tariffs goes into the Treasury, and money from the Treasury did go to farmers. Therefore, it may not have been as direct as Trump claimed, but there is an argument to be made that tariffs are helping provide funding for aid to farmers.
Would Trump pass a lie detector test for this particular issue? Hard to say. It’s possible he sincerely believes the logic holds up, even though it doesn’t appear to.