The facts be­hind Trump’s many false­hoods

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Dana Mil­bank

— Don­ald Trump’s long­tor­tured re­la­tion­ship with the truth is near­ing a point of to­tal es­trange­ment.

The Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee tweeted over the week­end that ri­val Hil­lary Clin­ton and her fel­low Democrats “are try­ing to rig the de­bates” by sched­ul­ing them dur­ing NFL games. (In fact, the bi­par­ti­san de­bate com­mis­sion, in­de­pen­dent of par­ties and can­di­dates, an­nounced the dates on Sept. 23, 2015.)

He fur­ther al­leged that “I got a let­ter from the NFL say­ing, ‘This is ridicu­lous.’” (The Na­tional Foot­ball League says it sent no such let­ter.)

In an epic in­ter­view with ABC News’ Ge­orge Stephanopou­los, Trump de­clared that Rus­sia’s Vladimir Putin “is not go­ing to go into Ukraine.” (Rus­sia has been in Ukraine since 2014.)

Trump fur­ther as­serted that “I have no re­la­tion­ship with Putin,” “I never met him” and “I have never spo­ken to him on the phone.” (In 2013, he said that “I do have a re­la­tion­ship” with Putin, and in 2014 he said, “I spoke in­di­rectly and di­rectly with Pres­i­dent Putin, who could not have been nicer.”)

Trump al­leged that “Hil­lary’s script writ­ers” wrote the Demo­cratic con­ven­tion speech given by the fa­ther of a Mus­lim Amer­i­can sol­dier who was killed in Iraq (the fa­ther, Khizr Khan, spoke with­out notes) and sug­gested that the sol­dier’s mother “wasn’t al­lowed” to talk be­cause she’s Mus­lim (she says she was too up­set).

Asked to re­spond to Khan’s charge that Trump has “sac­ri­ficed noth­ing,” Trump cited his work on New York’s Viet­nam memo­rial in the 1980s.

(A con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous re­port in The Wash­ing­ton Post said Trump at­tended only two or three of the 20 memo­rial com­mis­sion meet­ings, ac­com­pa­nied to one by a re­porter pro­fil­ing him.)

It was a bravura per­for­mance — but hardly unique. If you want to know whether some­thing Trump says is true, flip a coin. Even this method over­states his hon­esty.

Cer­tainly, Clin­ton tells whop­pers, too. But Glenn Kessler, The Post’s Fact Checker, tells me that in his six years on the beat, “there’s no com­par­i­son” be­tween Trump and other politi­cians. Kessler says politi­cians’ state­ments get his worst rat­ing — four Pinoc­chios — 15 per­cent to 20 per­cent of the time. Clin­ton is about 15 per­cent. Trump is 63 per­cent to 65 per­cent.

Poli­ti­Fact, sim­i­larly, rated Clin­ton

WASH­ING­TON

state­ments false 28 per­cent of the time (in­clud­ing 2 per­cent rat­ing “pants on fire,” the worst rat­ing), while rat­ing 70 per­cent of Trump state­ments false (in­clud­ing 17 per­cent “pants on fire”).

Jour­nal­ists hes­i­tate to call these false­hoods “lies” be­cause it’s hard to know whether ig­no­rance or mal­ice is to blame. But in Trump’s case, there’s a third pos­si­bil­ity that is par­tic­u­larly alarm­ing: He may not be able to tell fact from fic­tion.

“Ly­ing is sec­ond na­ture to him,” Tony Schwartz, Trump’s ghost­writer for “The Art of the Deal,” told the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer in an ar­ti­cle pub­lished last month. “More than any­one else I have ever met, Trump has the abil­ity to con­vince him­self that what­ever he is say­ing at any given mo­ment is true, or sort of true, or at least ought to be true.”

He man­u­fac­tur­ers false­hoods by the hun­dreds: that Mus­lims cel­e­brated in New Jer­sey when the Twin Tow­ers col­lapsed, that a U.S. gen­eral ex­e­cuted Mus­lim pris­on­ers with bul­lets dipped in pig blood, that im­mi­gra­tion is at a record high, that U.S. taxes are the high­est in the world and that the un­em­ploy­ment rate could be 42 per­cent.

There isn’t space to men­tion most of Trump’s whop­pers, so let’s take a sim­ple cat­e­gory: those in which Trump de­bunks him­self. He claimed that he never promised to raise $6 mil­lion for vet­er­ans, that he wanted to keep his fundrais­ing for vet­er­ans quiet, that he never of­fered to pay le­gal fees for sup­port­ers who hit pro­test­ers, that he didn’t call Marco Ru­bio “Mark Zucker­berg’s per­sonal sen­a­tor”), that he doesn’t “know any­thing about David Duke,” that he “never mocked” a dis­abled re­porter, that he op­posed the Iraq in­va­sion “loud and strong” from the start and that he didn’t sup­port the at­tack on Libya.

In each case, video, au­dio and writ­ten ev­i­dence proves oth­er­wise. So, too, do the facts re­fute his denials that he called John McCain a “loser,” ob­jected to Fox News host Megyn Kelly as a de­bate mod­er­a­tor and used a vul­gar word to de­scribe Ted Cruz at a cam­paign rally.

In each case, Trump surely could have known that a sim­ple in­ter­net search would prove him a liar. This sug­gests that he may not think he’s ly­ing — and that he sees truth not as an ab­so­lute but as the last thing to come out of his mouth.

Dana Mil­bank is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Con­tact him at danamil­bank@wash­post.com.

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