Donald Trump

President Trump has made more than 2,000 false or misleading claims over 355 days

Statistics show that the US president publicly says or writes something false or misleading at a rate of 5.6 times a day

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 January, 2018, 4:07am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 January, 2018, 10:12pm

With just over a week before the end of his first year as president, Trump has already made 2,001 false or misleading claims, according to a Washington Post database that analyses, categorises and tracks every suspect statement he makes.

He broke the 2,000-fib mark on the 355th day since the recording began – an average of more than 5.6 claims a day.

When the paper started the project, which was originally aimed at the president’s first 100 days, he averaged 4.9 claims a day.

At that pace, it appeared unlikely the president would break 2,000 in a year, but the longer Trump has been in the job, the more frequently he touts an assortment of exaggerated, dubious or false claims.

Those who follow the president’s words regularly will know he has a tendency to repeat himself – often. There are now nearly 70 claims that he has repeated three or more times.

Indeed, he crossed the 2,000 threshold during Tuesday’s one-hour immigration discussion with lawmakers by tossing out some of his old favourites about the subject. They included:

“We can build [a border wall with Mexico] in one year and we can build it for much less money than what they’re talking about.”

On the diversity visa lottery that draws in people from countries with low US immigration rates: “what’s in their hand are the worst of the worst but they put people in that they don’t want into a lottery and the United States takes those people.”

“We have tremendous numbers of people and drugs pouring into our country. So in order to secure [the border] we need a wall.”

All of these remarks were wrong.

In fact:

Under no scenario can the wall on the Mexican border be built in just one year. It’s at least a four-year project that could cost US$25 billion.

Individuals apply for the visa system, and must have at least a high school diploma or work in specific industries to be eligible for the programme.

As the term “lottery” implies, applicants are selected via a randomised computer drawing. The selected applicants undergo a background check before entering the country, and some applicants undergo an additional in-depth review if they are considered a security risk.

The wall will have virtually no effect on drugs coming into the country. According to reports by the Drug Enforcement Administration, most drugs are smuggled through legal ports of entry or underground tunnels.

Trump’s claim about drug smuggling and the wall has been repeated 17 times, even though The Washington Post has awarded him Four Pinocchios for the fib.

In just two months, he has falsely described the diversity lottery 12 times. And of course building the wall was a signature issue from the beginning of his presidential campaign, when he consistently lowballed the cost.

But despite the frequency with which he has repeated those outlandish remarks, they are not his most repeated falsehoods.

No, the top spot is taken by a pair of lies that have both been made 61 times. Both of the claims date from the start of Trump’s presidency and to a large extent have faded as talking points.

One of them is some variation of the statement that the Affordable Care Act – known as Obamacare – is dying and “essentially dead.”

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The Congressional Budget Office has said that the Obamacare exchanges, despite well-documented issues, are not imploding and are expected to remain stable for the foreseeable future. Indeed, healthy enrolment for the coming year has surprised health care experts.

Trump used to say this a lot, but he’s quieted down since his efforts to repeal the law flopped.

Trump also repeatedly takes credit for events or business decisions that happened before he took the oath of office – or had even been elected.

Some 61 times, he has touted that he secured business investments and job announcements that had been previously announced and could easily be found with a Google search.

With the successful push in Congress to pass a tax plan, two of Trump’s favourite talking points about taxes – that the tax plan will be the biggest tax cut in US history and that the United States is one of the highest-taxed nations – have rapidly moved up the list.

Trump repeated the falsehood about having the biggest tax cut 55 times, even though Treasury Department data shows it would rank eighth.

And 59 times Trump has claimed that the United States pays the highest corporate taxes (26 times) or that it is one of the highest-taxed nations (33 times).

The latter is false; the former is misleading, as the effective US corporate tax rate (what companies end up paying after deductions and benefits) ends up being lower than the statutory tax rate.

The Washington Post has also tracked the president’s flip-flops, because – it says – “they are so glaring”.

He spent the 2016 campaign telling supporters that the unemployment rate was really 42 per cent and the official statistics were phoney; now, on 47 occasions he has hailed the lowest unemployment rate in 17 years.

It was already very low when he was elected – 4.6 per cent, the lowest in a decade – so his failure to acknowledge that is misleading.

An astonishing 91 times, Trump has celebrated a rise in the stock market – even though in the campaign he repeatedly said it was a “bubble” that was ready to crash as soon as the Federal Reserve started raising interest rates.

Well, the Fed has raised rates four times since the election – and yet the stock market has not plunged as Trump predicted.

It has continued a rise in stock prices that began under President Barack Obama in 2009. Again, Trump has never explained his shift in position on the stock market, making his consistent cheerleading misleading.

Moreover, the US stock market rise in 2017 was not unique and mirrored a global rise in equities. When looking at the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, it’s clear US stocks have not rallied as robustly as their foreign equivalents.

The percentage gain in the S&P 500 during Obama’s first year still tops Trump’s numbers – though any president bragging about stock market performance soon finds out it’s a fool’s game.