Trump repeatedly took credit for events or business decisions that happened before he took the oath of office
Washington: One year after taking oath of office, President Donald Trump has made 2,140 false or misleading claims, according to The Fact Checker’s database that analyses, categorises and tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president. That’s an average of nearly 5.9 claims a day.
We started this project as part of our coverage of the president’s first 100 days, largely because we could not possibly keep up with the pace and volume of the president’s misstatements. Readers demanded we keep it going for another year. The database has proved so useful — and even sparked the interest of academicians — that we now plan to keep it going for the rest of Trump’s presidency.
We’ve kept a running list of every false or misleading statement made by Trump. We also catalogued the president’s many flip-flops, since those earn Upside-Down Pinocchios if a politician shifts position on an issue without acknowledging he or she did so.
While the president is known to make outrageous claims on Twitter — and that was certainly a major source of his falsehoods — he made most of his false statements in unscripted remarks before reporters. Prepared speeches and interviews were other key sources of false claims. That’s because the president relies on talking points or assertions that he had made in the past — and continued to make, even though they had been fact-checked as wrong.
This makes Trump somewhat unique among politicians. Many will drop a false claim after it has been deemed false. But Trump just repeats the same claim over and over, perhaps believing that repetition will make it ring truer.
By our count, there were only 56 days — or about 15 per cent of the time — on which we recorded no claims. These were often days when the president golfed.
But there were also 12 days in which Trump made more than 30 claims. These were often days when he held campaign-style rallies, riffing without much of a script. On July 25, when he held a rally in Youngstown, Ohio, we recorded 52 claims. On Nov. 29, when he spoke in St. Louis, we counted 49 claims. On Dec. 8, he touted Senate hopeful Roy Moore at a rally in Pensacola, Florida, and that yielded another 44 claims.
There’s a pattern about Trump’s exaggerations. Often he inflates the impact of his own actions — or he denigrates people or programs he dislikes. This dynamic is represented in the near-tie for Trump’s most repeated claims. Both of these claims date from the start of Trump’s presidency and to a large extent have faded as talking points.
From his earliest days as president, Trump repeatedly took credit for events or business decisions that happened before he took the oath of office — or had even been elected. Sixty-two 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.
Among other deals, Trump took credit for a $1 billion (Dh3.67 billion) investment by Fiat Chrysler (which the company said was due to talks with unions in 2015), a $1 billion General Motors investment (also in the works for some time), 10,000 jobs added by Walmart (announced in 2016), 10,000 jobs created by Intel (announced originally in 2011), 1 million planned jobs by Chinese e-company Alibaba (a plan outlined in 2015) and a $25 billion investment by Charter Communications (in the works since 2015). Trump also touted a big investment by Japanese company SoftBank — which announced its investment fund three weeks before the US elections, when Trump faced a narrow path to victory.
Obviously, now that he’s been president for a year, there should be less of a need for Trump to point to deals that predated his presidency.
Trump has also repeatedly asserted (61 times) that the Affordable Care Act was failing or on the edge of disaster or in serious trouble. But the Congressional Budget Office has said that the Obamacare exchanges, despite well-documented issues, is not imploding and is expected to remain stable for the foreseeable future. Indeed, healthy enrolment for the coming year has surprised health-care experts.
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 — were near the top of the list.
Trump 57 times repeated the falsehood about having the biggest tax cut in US history, 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.
Trump also made many misleading claims about the investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election, claiming 44 times a variation of the statement that it was a hoax perpetuated by Democrats. The CIA, the FBI and the National Security Agency had announced that they had “high confidence” that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a campaign to influence the election, with a clear preference for Trump. Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor, was appointed by Trump’s Justice Department, and the congressional committees investigating the matter are headed by Republicans.
Considering that he has been president for a year, we continue to be surprised to see that the president still does not speak correctly about trade deficits and trade policy. On 35 occasions, Trump managed to inflate the US trade deficits with Mexico, South Korea and Canada, or falsely claim the United States had no trade surpluses with any nation — even though the United States has one with its neighbour to the north.
We also track the president’s flip-flops on our list, as 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 50 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. Eleven other times, Trump claimed credit for good African-American unemployment numbers, which had plummeted during President Barack Obama’s term.
An astonishing 95 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 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, which is less influenced by individual stocks than the Dow Jones Industrial Average, it’s clear US stocks haven’t rallied as robustly as some foreign equivalents. The percentage gain in the S&P 500 during Obama’s first year tops Trump’s numbers — though any president bragging about stock market performance soon finds out it’s a fool’s game. (The percentage gain under Trump ranks fifth in the first years of presidential terms.)
Twice in the past year, the president has publicly said he doesn’t like getting Pinocchios. Given the president’s track record in his first year, there is certainly room for improvement.