Mr. X is a person I admire greatly; however, we have a major difference in politics. Mr. X will frequently ask me at the end of our conversations if I still support Trump. How can I support Trump when he is always lying? My response is generally that Trump is a Big Fish liar who frequently exaggerates but that he does not tell lies of substance. In our most recent conversation, I asked him if he could name a single substantive lie that Trump has made. He could not think of one off his head, but he contacted me later that day to tell me that CNN was running a special that night called “All the President’s Lies”. I agreed to watch the special and I said the following in an email:
This is my prediction and we will see if I am right.
I am predicting that every “lie” will fall in one of the following categories:
The big fish lie. Trump is prone to exaggeration. He will say that this is the biggest crowd ever when it is a large crowd but not the biggest crowd ever.
- Refusal to admit a mistake. Trump never admits a mistake. He will say what he believes to be the truth at the time but he learns that it isn’t.
- Matters of opinion. For example, Trump will say that the wall is well underway. Others call him a liar for that. This, however, is an opinion statement. People’s definitions of what is well underway and vary greatly.
- Trump is actually telling the truth. There have been many instances where Trump has been called a liar when he was right. For example, he was called a liar when he said the Obama administration was spying on his campaign. We now know that they were (Carter Page monitoring). One can debate the phrase spying, but they were definitely monitoring the campaign
I am also predicting that none of the lies will be substantive and on real issues such as Obama’s lie that “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”
I recorded the show. As I watched it I would pause and write down the lies they talked about. I did not have the time or energy to write down the lies they gave a soundbite for but did not talk about.
I classified each of these reported lies with a letter in parentheses that I will discuss later.
Trump said hurricane Dorian might hit Alabama and wouldn’t back down.
The likely explanation is that Trump misread a confusing map. This classifies as Trump refusing to admit a mistake. He had nothing to gain by making this mistake. (r)
Trump said the rain held off during his inauguration speech.
It rained lightly during his speech. He had been expecting heavy rain. This classifies as an exaggeration. Think of a baseball game that is expected to be rained out. Instead, the game is played through a drizzle. Would anybody call the announcer a liar if he said the rain held off? (e)
Trump said his tax cut was the biggest ever and it wasn’t.
Per Pollitifact this was the fourth biggest tax cut in history in inflation-adjusted dollars. I couldn’t find anything on non-inflation adjusted dollars so it might be based on that. I don’t know. The statement is either true on some scale or it is an exaggeration. (s/e)
Trump said climate change is a hoax.
This is a matter of opinion. Some climate change claims are undoubtedly true and others are undoubtedly false. Trump believes what he is saying. He might be wrong, but it isn’t a lie. (o)
Trump said we have the cleanest air.
CNN says this isn’t true because we have more carbon dioxide, but Trump never said that was the basis for a statement. I am presuming he saw something, somewhere, on some scale that said this. This is either true on some scale or an exaggeration. (s/e)
Trump lied saying the whistle-blower was inaccurate.
The whistle-blower was inaccurate. For example, the complaint accuses the president of requesting that Zelensky “locate and turn over servers used by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and examined by the U.S. cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike.” That was not in the transcript. It is clearly false. There are many other similar inaccuracies. Trump spoke the truth here. (t)
Trump lied when he said he was perfect on phone call with the Ukrainian president Zelensky.
That is a matter of opinion. Trump is not the only one who said he did nothing wrong. (o)
Trump says he will always protect pre-existing conditions.
The Republican health care bill that lost by one vote protected pre-existing conditions. There are no serious Republican proposals to reverse the protection on pre-existing conditions. This is the kind of statement that needs to be considered true until it isn’t. When someone gets married and promises “till death do us part” it has to be considered true up until the point the person files for divorce. (t)
Trump says he is a deal-maker but he doesn’t make deals.
This is absurd. The Canada/Mexico trade deal is just one of many examples. They cited Trump saying he would make an immigration deal but he didn’t. Trump offered many items which Democrats have been clamoring for such as amnesty for dreamers in exchange for the wall, but the Democrats wouldn’t budge on the wall. They also cited Trump “blowing up deals”. Trump has stated many times and written in his book “The Art of the Deal” that it is critical in deal making that you are willing to walk away if you can’t get a good deal. (t)
Trump says that China pays for the tariffs.
This is debatable. In situations where if China passed the prices onto American consumers it would make them uncompetitive then China has had to absorb the costs. In less competitive situations the cost is passed onto the American consumers. I don’t know how much fits in one category. If most business is competitive, then this is an exaggeration. If not, I would call it an actual lie.
The report also showed business people who were hurting from the tariffs. Trump never has said that nobody in America is hurt by the tariffs so this is all irrelevant to determining if this is a lie. (e/l)
Trump says we send 500 billion to China
CNN said that this is a lie because the trade deficit with China in goods was only 400 billion. In 2018 we imported 540 billion from China and exported 120 billion. Trump didn’t say the trade deficit was 500 billion. He said we sent 500 billion. The statement is true. (s)
Trump didn’t believe economic reports when Obama was president, but he believes them now when he is president.
There are two good explanations for this. First, we all tend to believe reports that match what we have previously believed and tend to doubt reports that do not match our beliefs. Second, he may have higher confidence in his appointees who supervise the reports than he had in Obama’s appointees. In any case, believing or not believing something is not a lie. (o)
Trump is lying when he says we aren’t heading into a recession.
Recent economic reports have all been outstanding. Some economists point to statistics that say the great economy will continue for a long time. Other economists point to different statistics that say the economy is slowing. Once again, he might be wrong, but it isn’t a lie to believe the economists with the more glowing predictions. (o)
Trump is lying when he says we defeated ISIS.
ISIS used to control territory the size of Ohio. Now they control no territory. It is a fair statement to say that we defeated them. This doesn’t mean that there will never be another ISIS inspired terrorist attack. We can say that we defeated the Nazis in World War II, even there are still Nazis in the world. The statement is true. (t)
Trump lies in foreign policy when he only presents his side of an issue such as when he proclaimed the Turkish-Syrian cease fire.
Since when have politicians been obligated to present the other side of an issue? How many Democrats are presenting the arguments against impeaching Trump? Since CNN didn’t say that what he did say isn’t true, but that he omitted some things, I have to classify this as true. (t)
Trump lies when he says Iran didn’t break the nuclear agreement.
Iran flaunted its breaking of the agreement. Saying they didn’t break it at all is absurd. Trump is definitely speaking the truth here. (t)
Trump lies when he says Joe Biden was corrupt in Ukraine.
CNN says Trump is promoting a conspiracy theory. There are clear facts here. Hunter Biden was paid over a million dollars by the energy company Burisma to be on their board despite having no experience with Ukraine or energy. A prosecutor was investigating Burisma. Joe Biden boasted on tape that he told Ukraine that if they didn’t fire the prosecutor they wouldn’t get one billion dollars in loan guarantees. With all of these known facts, this sure looks like Trump is either telling the truth or at the very least expressing a reasonable opinion. (t/o)
Trump lies when he says there is fake news.
One could write an almost infinite list of news stories printed by the mainstream media, especially CNN, that were proven to be false. Of this entire Trump-related list, every single instance was a false story to make Trump look worse. There has not been a fake news story by the mainstream media to make Trump look better. Saying there is fake news is most definitely not a lie. (t)
I have categorized my analysis of the reported lies below. Many of these I could not decide or did not have enough information to definitively classify, so I gave two classifications. Each of these gets a half tally.
Exaggeration (e) – 2½
Trump exaggerated. This is what I call the “Big Fish” lie. A fisherman catches a ten inch fish and tells everybody it was two feet.
- Trump said the rain held off during his inauguration speech.
- Trump said his tax cut was the biggest ever and it wasn’t. (½)
- Trump said we have the cleanest air. (½)
- Trump says that China pays for the tariffs. (½)
Lie (l) – ½
This is an out-and-out lie.
- Trump says that China pays for the tariffs. (½)
Opinion (o) 4½
A statement of opinion is not a truth or a lie assuming the person is giving his or her honest opinion.
- Trump said climate change is a hoax.
- Trump lied when he said he was perfect on phone call with the Ukrainian president Zelensky.
- Trump didn’t believe economic reports when Obama was president, but he believes them now when he is president.
- Trump is lying when he says we aren’t heading into a recession.
Refusal to admit a mistake (r) – 1
I would classify this as an out-and-out lie if it is about something important. When it is about something unimportant, it is just plain stubbornness.
- Trump said hurricane Dorian might hit Alabama and wouldn’t back down.
True with the statistic of choice (s) – 2
This is a category that I had not thought of at the start. There are often many different ways of measuring things. A statement can be true with one form of measurement and false with a different measure. For example, you read an article that says “Avengers: Endgame” is the top grossing movie of all time and you tell this to others. It is the top grossing movie worldwide, but Avatar is still the top grossing movie in the United States. The top grossing movie adjusted for inflation is Gone With the Wind. Someone might point to these two movies and say your statement is a lie. It isn’t a lie. It relies on a different statistic than the accusers are using.
- Trump said his tax cut was the biggest ever and it wasn’t. (½)
- Trump said we have the cleanest air. (½)
- Trump says we send 500 billion to China.
True (t) – 7½
I believe that these Trump statements that CNN said are lies are actually true. Now let’s say you read this and say I am wrong. None of the statements are true. If you are right and I am wrong, that doesn’t make me a liar. Conversely, if I am right and you are wrong, that doesn’t make you a liar. It is only a lie if you say something that you know is not true or you display a “reckless disregard for the truth”. If you believe something to be true that isn’t true, then you aren’t lying, you are just wrong. I not only believe that all of these statements are true, I think that Trump also believes they are all true. Ergo, Trump is not lying.
- Trump lied saying the whistleblower was inaccurate.
- Trump says he will always protect pre-existing conditions.
- Trump says he is a deal-maker but he doesn’t make deals.
- Trump lies in foreign policy when he only presents his side of an issue such as when he proclaimed the Turkish-Syrian cease fire.
- Trump is lying when he says we defeated ISIS.
- Trump lies when he says Iran didn’t break the nuclear agreement.
- Trump lies when he says Joe Biden was corrupt in Ukraine. (½)
- Trump lies when he says there is fake news.
Before presenting my concluding thoughts on President Trump, I need to digress for a moment. At the beginning of the “All the President’s Lies” special, the anchor said that all presidents lie at some point. He gave as an example President Obama’s “If you like your plan you can keep your plan; if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor” promise that he repeated many times while trying to sell Obamacare. I was surprised that CNN actually admitted that this was a lie.
Now why am I saying this was a lie? Why don’t I say that at the time he believed it was true but he ended up being wrong? Here is why. Jonathan Gruber, MIT economist and principle architect of Obamacare boasted on video that they knew it was a lie, but if they didn’t say this Obamacare never would have passed. This was not just a lie. It was a monumental lie. Whether you think Obamacare is wonderful or terrible, if not for this lie Obamacare never would have become law.
Now let’s put this in context. CNN could choose anything that Donald Trump ever said that they thought was a lie for this special. Since this was obviously meant to be a slam at Trump, we have to assume they found the most egregious lies they could find. Let’s assume now that I am totally wrong in my analysis and that everything CNN says is a lie actually is a lie. None of these is a fraction as monumental as Obama’s lies.
I don’t think anybody can say that the rain on inauguration day makes the slightest bit of difference. One could say, however, that climate change, Chinese tariffs, and the Iranian agreement are all monumental issues. The reason I say that they aren’t important though is that Trump’s statement doesn’t change anything. These are all in areas that Trump has 100% authority. His statements may seek to make his policy look better, but he can do what he wants to do here either way. You may think his policies are wrong, but his statements basically have no impact.
So I would argue that in this whole list of heinous lies CNN presents, he did not make any lies that change anything.
Also I don’t see any lies that are total fabrications such as Hilary Clinton telling the story about how when she arrived in Bosnia she was met with gunfire when later video emerged to show that she was actually met with flowers. I also don’t see slanderous lies such as Adam Schiff claiming that he had proof that Trump colluded with the Russians, which we now know he didn’t have. I don’t see any self–serving lies such as Elizabeth Warren claiming for years that she was part Native-American to advance her career.
In my categorization of “lies”, I would consider three of the categories a lie at any level: lies, exaggerations, and refusal to admit a mistake. Of the eighteen “lies” that CNN presented, I awarded only four points in these categories. Only one of these, his statements about China paying all the tariff, is more than trivial. The other fourteen were either statements of opinion or they were true and not a lie at any level. The “lies” that I believe Trump is guilty of are basically nothing compared to the lies told by Democrats that the mainstream media typically choose to ignore.
In short, viewing this special did not change my opinion. I still say that Trump is a “Big Fish“ exaggerator. He refuses to admit a mistake. He can be a bully. I still wish he wouldn’t tweet so much. Trump, however, is not the liar that CNN and all of the Trump haters claim.