According to Washington Post, former president of the United States of America Donald Trump made false claims about just about everything, big and small, so the Fact Checker database provides a window into his obsessions (and the news cycle) at the time. When he felt under siege or in trouble, he responded by trying to craft an alternative reality for his supporters — and to viciously attack his foes. Nearly half of the false claims were communicated at his campaign rallies or via his now-suspended Twitter account.
Claims about immigration spiked just before the 2018 midterm elections, as Trump unsuccessfully tried to keep the House of Representatives in GOP hands with exaggerated claims about “caravans” of undocumented immigrants approaching the border. Then in late 2019 he responded to the uproar over a phone call in which he urged Ukraine’s president to announce an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden with more than 1,000 false and misleading claims on the issue in just four months.
False and misleading claims about the coronavirus pandemic emerged in 2020, so that by year’s end he had made more than 2,500 coronavirus-related claims — more than all of his trade claims over four years, even though trade has been one of the animating features of his presidency. Trump touted phony metrics to claim he successfully defeated the virus, pitched ineffective “cures” and constantly attacked former president Barack Obama for alleged failures, such as leaving a “bare cupboard” of ventilators (there were almost 17,000) and bungling the response to the swine flu pandemic in 2009-2010 (the response was considered a success).
In October, Trump was largely quiet for six days as he recovered from his own bout with covid-19. But even so, he made nearly 4,000 false or misleading claims that month, an average of 150 a day on the days he was not ill.
In speech after speech, he laid the groundwork for challenging the election, making baseless claims of potential election fraud, while attacking Biden as a mental incompetent — and a “grimy, sleazy and corrupt career politician” — who could not possibly emerge as the victor.
“It’s going to be a fraud,” Trump told Sean Hannity of Fox News a month before voters went to the polls. “This is a terrible thing that’s happening to our country.”
After his election defeat, Trump spoke or tweeted about little except to offer lies about a stolen election, even as he or his supporters lost more than 60 court cases as judges repeatedly rejected his claims as bogus. After Nov. 3, he made more than 800 false or misleading claims about election fraud, including 76 times offering some variation of “rigged election.”
At his Jan. 6 speech at the Ellipse, in which he incited the attack on the Capitol, Trump made 107 false or misleading claims, almost all about the election.
The aftermath of what Biden and other Democrats now call the “big lie” hovers over Washington as both parties figure out whether there can be a return to a shared set of facts undergirding national debate, or whether one of the major political parties will remain captive to the sorts of conspiracy theories that marked so many of Trump’s final year of claims.
The events of Trump’s final weeks demonstrated the extent to which his alternate reality became woven into the fabric of the Republican Party, with the majority of GOP lawmakers voting against certifying Biden’s victory even after the pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol.
One hallmark of Trump’s fibs was his willingness to constantly repeat the same claims, no matter how often they had been debunked. One-fifth of his nearly 2,500 claims about the economy was the same falsehood — that he was responsible for creating the greatest economy in U.S. history. After the coronavirus outbreak tanked the economy, he amped up the rhetoric to say he had created the greatest economy in world history. Neither claim is true; under just about every metric, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson and Bill Clinton had more robust economies during their presidencies. Even before the pandemic, Trump’s economy was already faltering because of his trade wars, with the manufacturing sector in a technical recession.
Nearly 300 times Trump falsely said that he passed the biggest tax cut in history. Even before his tax cut was crafted, he promised that it would be the biggest in U.S. history — bigger than President Ronald Reagan’s in 1981. Reagan’s tax cut amounted to 2.9 percent of the gross domestic product, and none of the proposals under consideration came close to that level. Yet Trump persisted in this fiction even when the tax cut was eventually crafted to be the equivalent of 0.9 percent of the gross domestic product, making it the eighth-largest tax cut in 100 years.
Trump’s penchant for repeating false claims is demonstrated by the fact that the Fact Checker database has recorded about 750 instances in which he has repeated a variation of the same claim at least three times.
The Fact Checker also tracked Three- or Four-Pinocchio claims that Trump has said at least 20 times, earning him a Bottomless Pinocchio. Trump completed his term with 56 of those entries, including three — about the “rigged election,” allegations that Dominion voting machines changed votes and the falsehood that GOP poll watchers were denied access to vote-counting — that only emerged in the final months of his presidency.
The Bottomless Pinocchio list gives a rough approximation of the types of major falsehoods Trump said during his presidency. Roughly 25 percent exaggerated about his accomplishments, and 15 percent misled about his policies. Another 15 percent dissembled about the Russia investigation or the probe into the Ukraine phone call. Roughly 10 percent each were fibs made out of whole cloth, attacks on people he considered foes, falsehoods about the coronavirus, phony claims about the election, or false statements about Biden and his proposals.