Donald Trump lies. We know that. He lies in the morning, he lies in the afternoon, he lies in the evening and at night. He even gets up in the middle of the night to tweet, and that tweet almost always turns out to be a lie. A lie is produced each time his lips move. And this astonishing, serial, non-stop, 24/7, pathological lying is not just weird, pathetic, and immoral, it’s a danger to democracy. Because Trump, in classic autocrat fashion, wants us to just accept that the only truth we need worry our little heads about is the truth that comes straight from his mouth. Daniel Dale, the Toronto Star’s Washington correspondent, joins Mehdi Hasan to discuss Trump’s top ten lies and his totalitarian obsession with controlling what his supporters in particular define as true or false — and why this is all matters.
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Mehdi Hasan: Hi, this is Mehdi Hasan. Before we begin, I want to take a moment to invite you to become a member of Deconstructed and The Intercept.
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Now, time for the show.
Daniel Dale: I think the U.S. media is heavily complicit in amplifying his lies in that way, in allowing him air-time to lie unfettered, and again to not treat the lying as an important story that needs to be told.
MH: I’m Mehdi Hasan, welcome to Deconstructed. Now that the midterms are over and Donald Trump isn’t doing any more of those insane campaign rallies, you might have thought we’d get a break from his incessant lying about pretty much everything.
Amy Goodman: President Trump blamed Republican losses in the midterm elections on voter fraud.
MH: No such luck. In fact, the President of the United States has lied almost every day since those elections. That probably doesn’t surprise you very much, but it should. After nearly two years of this routine, we’ve kind of lost our national capacity to be shocked by brazen presidential mendacity.
Well, today on the show I want to try and help us get back that shock factor. Because the lying matters. It really does. My guest is the brilliant, the one and only Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star who literally monitors Trump’s lies for a living.
DD: Through 2017, it was 2.9 false claims per day. During the run-up to the midterms, during the month and a half leading up to it, it was 26 per day.
MH: He and I are going to count down what we consider to be the most egregious, despicable, or just downright weird falsehoods that have ever left the Commander-in-Chief’s lips. Today on Deconstructed: Donald Trump’s top 10 lies and why they matter.
Zerlina Maxwell: Donald Trump is someone who lies constantly about little things and big things.
Trevor Noah: Trump lies about things we can see: the size of his crowds, the margin of his victory.
Steve Schmidt: Trump lied 6,000 times this year.
News Anchor: Trump lies once every three minutes, 15 seconds.
Stephen Colbert: On the plus side, you can use Trump’s lies to tell if your microwave popcorn is done.
Seth Meyers: Trump lied, got laughed at, and then lied about getting laughed at, and then Fox News lied about Trump’s lie about how we got laughed at for lying.
MH: Donald Trump lies. We know that. He lies in the morning. He lies in the afternoon. He lies in the evening and at night. He even gets up in the middle of the night to tweet, and that tweet almost always turns out to be a lie.
There’s an old line about politicians. How do you know if they’re lying? Their lips are moving. Well, that literally applies in the case of President Trump. His lips move, and a lie is produced. In fact, there has never been a president, a U.S. politician, I would argue, who is so utterly unwilling, incapable of, allergic to telling the truth.
He lies about things big and small. He lies about things in front of our eyes. He lies about people, places, policies, and this astonishing, serial, non-stop, 24/7, pathological lying is not just weird. It’s not just pathetic. It’s not just immoral. It’s a danger to democracy because Trump in classic autocrat fashion wants us to just accept that the only truth we need to worry our little heads about is the so-called truth that comes straight from his mouth.
Donald Trump: Just remember what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.
MH: And so, today’s show is going to explore Trump’s lies, his war on truth, and why it matters so much. And I couldn’t possibly ask for a better guest to discuss all this then Daniel Dale, Washington DC bureau chief for the Toronto Star. Daniel’s become kind of famous as the journalist who not only fact checks in real time on Twitter everything Trump says live at his rallies or in his TV interviews, but he also keeps a running tally of all Donald Trump’s false claims since coming to office.
Honestly, I don’t know how he does it but I do want to try and find out today. And also, let’s have a bit of fun. I also want to compare what I think Donald Trump’s top five lies are with what Daniel thinks his top five lies are. Of course, there are so many thousands, literally thousands, to choose from. So, we’re going to have a kind of Trump lie-off. Daniel Dale, thanks for joining me on Deconstructed.
DD: Thank you for having me on.
MH: Daniel, let me start with the obvious question. How did you end up taking on this role? You’re not an American journalist. You’re a Canadian journalist based in D.C. for the Toronto Star. How did you become the great Documenter-in-Chief of the Commander-in-Chief’s many, many, many, many, many, many lies?
DD: There are many. It started during the campaign. It was September 2016 and he had a day where he was especially dishonest even for himself.
DD: And it struck me that this kind of avalanche of dishonesty was a central story of his candidacy, independent of any of the policy issues or whatever else was going on. The lying was a story and I was frustrated that in my view, it wasn’t being treated as such. What would happen was that individual reporters would fact-check him periodically on Twitter, you know, say during a speech but then if you were to watch the news at night, or read the article online, or in the next day’s paper, there would be no mention that you know, Trump made 20 false claims in a day –
MH: And that in itself is a story.
DD: – Yeah, that’s a huge thing. And so, I thought you know, the way to convey this to just make a kind of an informal list. Just you know, here are the 15 things that he got wrong today. And the response was so huge. People were so appreciative of this. At least, a certain segment of the electorate and it just kept going.
MH: And it’s not just you. It’s the Washington Post which also keeps a kind of running list of the Trump lies. How much time – you’re not the Washington Post. You’re Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star on your own here in D.C. How much time do you have to devote to fact checking his every utterance? Are you up all night doing this stuff?
DD: Well, I do it mostly on “my own time.” It’s not my beat. I’m not a full-time fact-checker. And so, I do it –
MH: You still have to file pieces on the news.
DD: – I have to file pieces. Yeah, I’m writing about what’s going on in America, what’s going on here in Washington. So, I do a lot of it on weekends, unfortunately. At first, at the beginning of his presidency, you know, he was averaging for a while, through 2017, it was it was 2.9 false claims per day. And so, that’s 21 a week. That’s not a huge amount of time to fact-check. But now in 2018, he’s averaging nine per day. During the run-up to the midterms during the month and a half leading up to it, it was 26 per day.
MH: Is that just because he’s talking more? Like he’s going to rallies, doing more rallies or is it because he’s decided “I’m going to tell more untruths because there’s more to cover up?”
DD: It’s both and I’ve actually looked at this statistically rigorously, and so a large part of it is that he’s talking more. When I checked there was a .73 correlation between the number of words he uttered and the number of false claims he made. So that’s a that’s a strong correlation. But what I also found that what I started calling his “dishonesty density” had increased. So, the number of false claims per word spoken has also –
MH: So, I love this idea. It’s not just that he’s a liar. We know he’s a liar. He’s been a liar since the 1980s when he was ringing up gossip columns and spreading nonsense about his wealth, but it’s the idea that even in office, even in the last year or two of watching him as president the – what did you call it? The “dishonesty density” has gone up.
DD: It’s gotten worse, for sure.
MH: Wow, that could be the title of his memoir. We’re recording this the week of Thanksgiving. As of this week, how many lies has he told since becoming the President of the United States?
DD: So as of Sunday November 11th, which is my last online update, it’s 3,749 false claims as President. Another update for last week, which has not been posted yet has at least another 50 more and we’ve had more even today. So, it’s above you know, it’s around 3,800.
MH: Okay, so 3,800 lies and false statements. We don’t have time to go through all of them today. But what we’re going to do, what I thought would be interesting, and fun, and important because I do want to kind of break this down. This is not you know, it’s not a laughing matter. I mean we do laugh but this is serious –
MH: – That he is a serial liar. It has consequences in the real world. I thought you and I could pick our list of top 5 lies and there’s so many to choose from – 3,700-odd lies. We’re picking, what less than .2 percent, .1 percent? My maths is not very good. So, we’re going to do your fie, my five. So, with a fake drumroll, Daniel Dale, you go. At number five, what lie do you have from Donald Trump?
DD: So, at a campaign rally in Nevada late in the campaign, he repeated something that he had said the day before but this time not as a joke.
DT: They want to open your borders, let people in illegally, and then, they want to pay for those people for healthcare, for education. They want to give them cars. They want to give them driver’s licenses. I said, I said last night “What kind of car will they supply them? Will it be a Rolls-Royce?
MH: So, Daniel are you telling me that Donald Trump is wrong that the Democrats don’t plan to give immigrants free cars?
DD: I am indeed, Mehdi, telling you that.
MH: That’s a difficult fact-check that one.
DD: Yes, and what was interesting to me about this was that the day before he was at a rally in Arizona and he said this as a clear joke. He said, “You know, they want to give them healthcare. They want to give them education. Next thing you know, they’ll want to give them cars.” And then the subsequent day he comes and turns it into a statement of fact. So, I think it –
MH: So, he road-tests his lies. See what works.
MH: I mean, this is important question. There’s a big debate about can you call him a liar? Because you know, the Wall Street Journal editor Jared Baker told his staff, “You shouldn’t use the L-word because we don’t know what his intent is and of course, to be a liar you have to intentionally mislead someone” which is an absurdly high bar, I would argue. Because you would never be able to call anyone anything because we can’t see into anyone’s heart. But I do wonder about him. How much of it is, okay, that’s a deliberate lie. I’m going to mislead these people? How much of it is a just he gets carried away with no filter, no real – you know, just “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, yesterday I was joking. Today I’m going to say it as fact.”
DD: I think he does get carried away, but I still think that’s a lie, you know, if someone at the bar –
MH: Well, he knows it when he said it –
MH: – That they’re not planning to give a Rolls-Royce to undocumented immigrants.
DD: Right, so in cases where there’s absolutely no factual basis for something and he says it anyway, I think I’m comfortable calling it a lie.
MH: As am I. Okay, that was your number five. This is my number five, rather recent one from this past Sunday. FOX News Sunday got an interview with Donald Trump – shock, horror, Fox got an interview with Donald Trump. Bet you’ve never seen a Donald Trump interview on Fox News before. But it was Chris Wallace one of the half-decent interviewers on Fox and he had this exchange with the president:
DT: I think we’ve wasted enough time on this witch hunt and the answer is probably, we’re finished.
Chris Wallace: What are the odds? 1 in 100?
DT: I don’t do odds. I gave very –
CW: You ran a casino, sir.
DT: You’re right and very successfully, actually.
MH: So that clip had a lot of pickup because it was a funny line from Chris Wallace where he said “You ran a casino,” but for me what stood out was the following line where he can’t help himself. That’s the thing about Donald Trump. He tells lies where he doesn’t need to tell lies. So, if I ran four casinos – the Trump Taj Mahal which filed for bankruptcy in 1991, Trump’s Castle and Trump Plaza Casinos, which filed for bankruptcy in 1992, Trump’s Hotels and Casinos Resorts in 1994 filed for bankruptcy and Trump Entertainment Resorts which filed for bankruptcy in 2009.
If I ran four different casino chains, which had declared bankruptcy and someone mentioned it during an interview, the last thing I’d want to do is dwell on them. I’d want to change the subject. Trump is so brazen. He just says “Yeah, I ran them successfully.”
MH: Is that because he thinks “I’m going to get away with it?”
DD: I think so. I think so and –
MH: Because Wallace didn’t pick up on it.
DD: Right, so he knows that this clip for whatever reason will be broadcast widely and he’ll reframe the perception of what happened with those casinos.
MH: Yeah, so the haters might say, “Oh, yes, great joke by Chris Wallace.” But his fans would say “And he ran this casino successfully.” Facts don’t matter, or do they?
Let’s have your number four. What do you have at number four in your top five list?
DD: So, this is one where so often, he takes actual good news, finds it insufficient and turns it into dishonest news.
MH: Okay, let’s have a listen. It’s a press conference.
DT: U.S. Steel is building eight or nine plants. They’re expanding plants.
MH: Eight or nine plants, Daniel. How many have we seen built so far or open?
DD: We’ve seen U.S. Steel open or build no new plants. We have seen them invest into existing plants since Trump imposed his tariffs, which you know, there are arguments that the tariffs are harmful in other ways, but that’s a good news story for Trump. He can say “Look, this big company made major investments in two plants.”
MH: He can’t help himself.
DD: He can’t help himself. So, first he said they’re building 6 plants. He said “They called me up. The CEO called me up. And said six new plants” Then he made it seven then he made the eight. In this case, he made it eight or nine. And so, it’s this eternal escalation where the truth and even the exaggeration is never sufficient for him.
MH: And it’s very specific lie. It’s not just a general in passing, “It was a few plants.” And then you go “Was it three or four?” He also says that the guy called him up. They made an announcement, he says.
MH: Which is fact-checkable. You go to U.S. Steel and they say “We didn’t make an announcement.”
MH: So, he just literally pulled it out of his backside. Okay, that was your number four. This is my number four. This is from earlier this year on Air Force One, Donald Trump taking questions from reporters.
Reporter: Mr. President, do you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?
DT: No, no.
Reporter: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?
DT: I don’t know, no.
MH: So, that was Donald Trump speaking to reporters on Air Force One about the hush money that was paid to Stormy Daniels, the adult film star, who says she had an affair with Donald Trump. Trump was asked at the time “Where did the money from Michael Cohen, his former personal lawyer, come from? Do know where he got the money to make that payment?” the reporter asks and Trump says “No, I don’t know.” Within a matter of weeks, Rudy Giuliani, his current lawyer, admitted that it was Donald Trump who provided the cash and Trump himself later admitted in a Fox News interview, and on Twitter that he did pay the money.
Daniel what I find interesting about that clip, if you watch it, on Air Force One, we talk about the rambling stuff. You know the “Oh, is it six or seven steel mills? Oh, is it free cars for immigrants?” There is a different type of lie that Trump tells. The more cold-blooded, strategic lie which is clearly – if you watch him on the plane, the reporter asked the question. He knows he provided the money to Michael Cohen at that point. We don’t know. The world doesn’t know. Now whether he thinks he’s going to get caught or not, you see he does a classic eyes dart to one side. “No, I have no idea.” That’s a different type of lie, I would argue.
DD: It is a different type of lie. And to me that’s something that – it’s no more excusable. But that’s a more traditional, politician lie.
MH: Politician lie. Get caught, just deny it.
DD: Exactly. And so, this is the kind of thing that when people say “All politicians lie.” This is the kind of case where I say “Well yeah, this is the kind of thing that others would do.” Not that that makes it okay.
MH: No, it doesn’t but it just shows that if you wanted to have a charitable interpretation where you said, “Well, he’s just a kind of mad, rambling, old man with dementia, or out of his mind and just saying crazy stuff that comes into his head.” No, he has a calculating, strategic side.
DD: Absolutely and I think especially in the run-up to the campaign, in the run-up to the midterm election, during the height of the campaign season, a lot of the lies were so clearly strategic. Many of them were even written into speeches. This wasn’t the old man rambling.
MH: Yeah, sometimes he goes off his speech and says mad stuff.
MH: But this time, you know, the White House is complicit in all of this stuff. The officials, the speech writers et cetera. Okay, so that was my number four. What’s your number three on the list?
DD: So, this is one where he looks people in the eye, he looks at his supporters and he tells them about something he says is going on in the room that is not actually happening.
DT: That’s so funny. Look back there. The live red lights they’re turning those suckers off fast. They’re turning those lights off fast. Like CNN, CNN does not want its falling viewership to watch what I’m saying tonight, I can tell you. Not only does – Oh boy, those cameras are going off. Oh, wow. Why don’t you just fold them up and take them home?
MH: So that is a different kind of lie to the one we just discussed. I do believe he just did that spur of the moment. He thought “I’m going to rile up the crowd against those horrible reporters at the back.” I remember watching that at home and thinking “This is bizarre. He’s telling his gullible, cultish base that they are not being seen on CNN. I’m watching it right now.”
DD: Yes, CNN was broadcasting that. He said this kind of thing about cameras being turned off because they don’t like what he’s saying –
MH: The red light.
DD: – Yes, it’s always the red lights. At least five times during his presidency and more before his presidency during the campaign. And to me, it shows the contempt he has for the intelligence of his audience because he’s pointing to something in the room –
MH: – And they know too because presumably they got friends and family at home are watching the rally they went to. They’ll go home and watch clips of themselves. But they don’t care.
MH: That is part of the problem. They don’t care. And also, the irony of saying CNN does not want you to watch what I’m saying. It’s CNN who gave him the unrivaled platform during the presidential campaign. Jeff Zucker, head of CNN has admitted, has expressed a minor regret that “Yeah, we kind of got that wrong in letting him just unchallenged run his rallies live on air.”
And you now have Carl Bernstein this past weekend saying on CNN that the cable news networks need to think again about just running his stuff uninterrupted. Yes, he’s the president. Yes, what he says matters, but if you’re just running pure misinformation and propaganda unchallenged, uninterrupted, live, what kind of service you doing journalism or democracy?
DD: Absolutely agree. I think that there are certain statements that he makes where there may be a news value that you know, if it’s a statement on an attack, or an incident, or some tragedy, sure, carry it. But when he’s making any kind of political speech and not just a rally, even a so-called policy statement –
MH: He did it in the midterms. He said “I’m going to announce a new policy on asylum and immigration,” didn’t he? And people turned up and it was just a rant about Mexicans and caravans.
DD: Exactly, and so, I think by televising almost anything he says live you’re doing a disservice to the truth.
MH: Okay, well talking of televised lies, here’s a Florida rally. My number three on my top five Trump lies. A Florida rally in February 2017. By the way, I love the idea that he does rallies a month after winning the presidency. Here’s what he said at that rally:
DT: We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany. You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden.
MH: So, Donald Trump there at a rally suggesting that there was a terrorist attack in Sweden the previous night. Breaking news: what happened in Sweden the previous night, last night in Sweden? Nothing happened in Sweden the night before, according to the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet. I have no idea if I’m pronouncing that correctly. The Friday night in question that Trump was referring to was marked by mostly unremarkable news, including an alleged drunk driving incident and an avalanche warning in Sweden. Avalanche warning, but no terrorist attack.
Trump literally just fabricated – I don’t know out of his imagination or whatever, you know, he came prepared with it – a terrorist attack in a European country to again, rile his base.
DD: He did. I think the handling of this statement shows how his lies can work for him. Because he absolutely fabricated this incident and yet his supporters and this ecosystem around him take the little kernel of truth that may be there and make that the news. So, he said, “Well, there was an incident last night but Sweden – “
MH: There have been attacks in Sweden and Germany, yes.
DD: Sweden is having problems handling Muslim refugees.
MH: But why not just say that? That’s what’s so interesting. So, it comes back to the non-strategic Trump versus the strategic one. He could be doing his argument a favor by avoiding these pointless lies. He could still rile them up and make racist claims about Muslim immigrants in Europe and point to real attacks, but he has to go one step further like you said on U.S. Steel.
DD: Yes, yeah, the reality is never sufficient.
MH: Another potential title for his memoir.
DD: Yeah, there’s always an escalation he thinks will better serve his purposes.
MH: Okay, number two lie on your list.
DD: So, this was an interview he did recently with the Wall Street Journal and he had he had spoken about the tariffs that he has imposed and boasted about on numerous occasions. But then a little later in the interview, the Journal said, one of the reporters said, “a lot of people say that tariffs are really the biggest threat to the economy long-term” and Trump responds “We don’t have any tariffs.” And then he continues. So, there’s this whole long exchange, but he says “I didn’t put tariffs. Where do we have tariffs? We don’t have tariffs anywhere. I read that today. We’re worried about the tariffs,” And he says “This is business. This is CEOs who are incompetent and blaming non-existent tariffs.” He goes on to say “Where do we have tariffs? I’m talking tariffs. I’ll use tariffs. I’ve said I was going to put tariffs in European Union cars, but there’s no tariffs right now.”
MH: And this is a print interview with the Journal.
DD: Yeah, the Wall Street Journal of all publications. You know, of all publications –
MH: A business paper that knows what they’re talking about when it comes to these tariffs.
MH: And I think they fact-checked him in the paper and produced a list of something like 250 billion dollars of tariffs that he has brought in. I mean, he’s proudly bragged about a trade war with China that he can win.
MH: But when he’s questioned, is it the sense that he – and I often call Trump a man-child which I feel is an insult to children – but is there a sense that whenever he feels cornered, or semi-cornered, or under pressure that’s another time that he thinks you know what? Again, he could have made the argument that we actually don’t have as many tariffs as you think. He could have said, “You know what? Tariffs aren’t a bad thing. You’re the Wall Street Journal, but I’m with the little guy.” Instead he goes for “there are no tariffs.”
MH: Demonstrably absurd.
DD: Yes, I think it is completely situational for him. He thinks about extricating himself from the given moment. “So, how do I get through these 30 seconds with the Wall Street Wall Street Journal? And I’ll deal with the fallout later?”
MH: Fact-checks, pesky fact-checks.
DD: Right, yes, but it was completely unnecessary and it was completely contradictory to what he’d said literally minutes before to the same people.
MH: And again, as he’s talked about the contempt he has for his base. We hear about “Oh, liberal media doesn’t respect the white working class.” Trump’s contempt for his base is astonishing because again, tariffs were supposed to be something that they voted for him for. It was a big selling point, you know, “I’m going to end free trade and globalization. I’m going to bring jobs back. I’m going to punish those people who try and you know, take jobs away from you.” And now he’s confronted by the Murdoch-friendly, big-business-friendly Wall Street Journal, and he doesn’t have the courage of his convictions to say “Who cares what you think? Tariffs are good.”
DD: That’s a good point, yes.
MH: Okay, here’s my number two on my list. This is from the very day he took office, 20th of January, 2017 at the Liberty Ball, Trump started talking about his inauguration speech – and this is not one of the many lies related to his crowd size because he told a fair few lies about those – this is a separate lie:
DT: But I have to say the crowd was unbelievable today, you know. I looked at the rain which just never came. You know, we finished the speech, went inside, it poured, then we came outside, the helicopter scene was an incredible scene, and then amazingly it rained, and then we went out. It’s like God was looking down on us, I will tell you.
MH: Okay, so put aside this image of God looking down on Trump. Were you there at the inauguration, Daniel?
DD: I was watching the speech from the Canadian embassy. So, I was not there.
MH: Okay, and I was watching the speech from home, and those of us who have eyes in our heads saw rain coming down as he started to speak. Rain came down throughout his inaugural address. The drops of rain are visible on his coat and his suit if you go and watch it right now on YouTube. You have people holding ponchos and umbrellas. You have his wife, Melania Trump is standing behind him under an umbrella to protect herself from the rain that only hours later – this is not days later, this is that night – he says didn’t happen. Donald Trump is a man who will lie about the weather.
DD: He is and so, as you said, this is the first moment of his presidency.
MH: It’s a nice one.
DD: Yeah, this might have been the very first one.
MH: It was the night of the ball right after the speech.
MH: Yeah, that evening, and then, he repeated at the CIA the next day that it stopped raining.
DD: Right, and so the lying started literally from the first hour.
MH: Yes, I mean, I just found this one is a fascinating one for me because A) who lies about the weather? But B) it goes to the core – and we can talk about this in a bit – about how Trump uses dishonesty not just to get himself out of situations, as you rightly say, but also as a way almost of kind of demonstrating his power over his base, his followers. That “I can tell you things that you know to be untrue.” You know, “Who are you going to believe – me or your lying eyes?” is that old phrase. Trump is basically saying, “Believe me not your lying eyes. You can see it was raining but I’m telling you it didn’t.”
DD: Absolutely, I agree.
MH: Scary. Okay, what’s your number one? What’s top of your list, the top five of the 3,700 odd lies?
DD: So, this is the example I use when I speak somewhere and they ask me why I use the word lie, and not falsehood, or false claim. So, this is my example. So, Trump gave a speech to the Boy Scout Jamboree, which is usually very apolitical, you know, gives a pep talk to these young people about hard work, public service, but Trump said things like this:
DT: This horrible thing known as Obamacare. That’s really hurting us… What do you think the chances are that this incredible massive crowd, record-setting, is going to be shown on television tonight? That is some crowd. Fake media, fake news… The polls. That’s also fake news. They’re fake polls… By the way, just a question, did President Obama ever come to a Jamboree?
DD: So, the speech was controversial, obviously. He was speaking to children, and many parents, and you know, scout troop leaders – I don’t even know what they’re called – were upset that the President was so political. And so, he said, in explaining himself, he said “No, no, you know, this wasn’t controversial.” He said “I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them and they were very thankful.”
And so, of course, I contacted the Boy Scouts. Usually big organizations, especially ones with which the president is directly involved, I think he officially is the head of the Boy Scouts by law. So, I contacted the Boy Scouts. Usually, they don’t want to respond but they sent me an email saying, I think, they said, you know – on background, not for attribution – no one called him. This did not happen. No one said this to the President. And so, the President made up an entirely fictional story about the Boy Scouts of America. And to me, this shows that there is no –
MH: Nothing he won’t lie about.
DD: – There’s nothing he won’t lie about.
MH: Nothing precious or sacred.
DD: There’s nothing sacred, the Boy Scouts.
MH: Also, again, it’s a demonstrable falsehood. It’s not a gray area. It’s not what do you mean? You know, he often says “many people say”, right, to get himself out of a corner. His classic go-to is “My friend says, many people say, my friend Johnny,” invents random people. In this one, he could have just said that’s not true. I met many people afterwards who said it was a great speech. He goes to a very specific, disprovable lie that “I got a call from the Boy Scouts.” And you can check, as you did and they said “We didn’t make the call.” I think Sarah Sanders later admitted there was no call as well, the press secretary.
DD: She did. I think she said that there was no call but you know, people approached him personally.
MH: He didn’t use that formula.
DD: He didn’t.
MH: So, it comes back to the question of, is this an evil genius who is trying to see what he can get away with, and doesn’t care, and thinks “You know what? I can manipulate my base and my audience in such a way that I can get away with anything?” Or is just a guy who cannot control his lying mouth?
DD: I think we’re too quick to say that he is a master liar. I mean, this is a President who eked out a victory against another unpopular presidential candidate, who just got walloped in the midterm election, who in the polls is seen as dishonest consistently by two-thirds of the population. And so, his laws are not working with everyone.
MH: That’s true.
DD: He has proven effective at convincing a small percentage of the population that he is honest, or in convincing an additional small percentage that the lies don’t matter. But I don’t think that he is deceiving people to the extent that some liberals, left-wingers sometimes fret that he is.
MH: Okay, I’m going to come back to that point in a moment. But let me just end my list. That was your top five. You ended with the Boy Scout phone call. I’m going to end with a slightly more serious one. This is another recent lie of his. He said on Twitter during the midterm campaign 22nd of October: “Sadly, it looks like Mexico’s police and military are unable to stop the caravan heading to the southern border of the United States. Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in.”
Now, the lie is not the caravan lie because there’s lots of lies mixed into here. You know, the idea that the caravan was about to enter the United States was a lie. He stopped talking about the caravan. The lie was about this line about unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in. Put aside the racism in that, the conflation of Middle Easterners with terrorists, and just deal with the fact. Are there any unknown Middle Easterners in that caravan? Does Trump know? This is what he said in the White House days later.
DT: They could very well be.
Jim Acosta: But there’s no proof?
DT: There’s no proof of anything. There’s no proof of anything, but they could very well be.
MH: So, when he’s challenged by Jim Acosta, who has since had the big row over his press pass, CNN correspondent, when he’s challenged the White House over that controversial tweet, he doesn’t say “Yes, I have intelligence agencies telling me, Jim. You have to trust me.” Instead again, he basically says “I don’t give a damn about the truth. Nothing can be proven. It could be true. It might not be true.” It’s astonishing.
DD: Yes, and that I think that that sentence is a perfect encapsulation of his attitude toward –
MH: There’s no proof of anything.
DD: – Right, there’s no –
MH: Therefore, I can say whatever I want.
DD: – Yes, there’s no objective reality. It’s my reality –
MH: There’s no objective reality. That is a very, very scary implication. How much is the U.S. media complicit in Trump’s serial dishonesty? Because until very recently, you had media organizations unwilling to even say the L-word. Now, a few of them are gingerly heading in that direction saying this is a lie. Anderson Cooper occasionally on CNN will say it. The New York Times would occasionally say it in a headline. But even now you see The New York Times, and ABC News, and others just putting up tweets with Trump’s falsehoods with no fact-check and just running it. Even now, even two years in.
MH: It’s so frustrating.
DD: It’s so frustrating because to me, you know, the media has so many systemic difficult issues about everything, but this one is so easy to fix, and it’s not being fixed. I think the U.S. media is heavily complicit in amplifying his lies in that way, in allowing him air-time to lie unfettered, and again to not treat the lying as an important story that needs to be told over, and over. I think it’s one of the most important things about his presidency.
MH: And I think slowly, I hope, people are waking up to it. Funny, you’re a Canadian. I’m a Brit and we’re sitting here in D.C. saying “What is going on with the U.S. media?” It’s a real problem and Trump is a product of that. He knows it. He’s talked about how he can suck all the oxygen out of the room and he brags about it.
And there is this weird paradox whereby the media is more anti-this president in terms of the ongoing war between the two sides than any previous president. On the other hand, without the media, he wouldn’t be president today.
DD: Yes, and I think one other point I’d like to make is I think there’s this strange kind of deference to the president that we especially see in interviews with him. And you had a viral clip where you interviewed, you know, a Trump adviser and just peppered him with important valid questions about Trump’s lying.
MH: He said during the campaign that there’s six to seven steel facilities that are going to be opened up. There are none. U.S. Steel has not announced any facilities. Why did he say they’ve announced new facilities? That’s a lie, isn’t it?
Steven Rogers: No, it isn’t because there are a lot of companies opening up. There are steel facilities that are going to be opening up or I think they actually want –
MH: No, no, sorry, Steven. That’s not what he said.
DD: And Trump is almost never, like maybe, never at all, challenged, you know, with the lack of deference that I think he is –
MH: And not just a lack of deference, but everyone seems to have a very short memory. He’s not challenged on the lies from the previous interview, right? So, I think Erik Wemple of the Washington Post made this point that the next interview with Trump – and this was a few weeks ago and there’s been several since – should just be going through all his lies which is what I did in that clip with Trump supporter Steven Rogers. I just said “Okay, you keep saying it’s all fake news, liberal media. Let’s just go through the lie one after another.” And because he has a sense of reality, Steve Rogers, that Donald Trump doesn’t have, he was able to go “Alright fine, that’s not true – “
MH: – When you put them on the spot. Okay, last question, prediction time on the current rate of trump lies, how many lies total do you think he’ll have told as President, roughly, by the time we get to the next election in 2020, two years from now?
DD: Oh my gosh, so we have to do math.
MH: Dishonest density.
DD: Okay, so wait, so, he’s at about –
MH: 3,749, right?
DD: – Yeah, so he’s about ten per day right now. So, let’s say the seven per day we have, what two years?
MH: Two years, about 700 days.
DD: Until the election. So, we have 7 times –
MH: 5,000 more lies.
DD: Yeah so maybe, he’ll –
MH: But, then there’s going to be a presidential election campaign and according to you, he ramps them up when the campaign starts.
DD: I think it is very likely that we’ll get to 8,000. It’s possible we get to 10,000.
MH: We could see a 10,000-lie presidency. That is Donald Trump’s legacy to the United States of America. I can only hope and pray that when the next election does come around the U.S. media has found some way to try and fact check him in real time and show less deference to his brazen dishonesty.
Daniel Dale, keep up the great work. Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re doing the Lord’s work, in many ways, when the Lord is not looking down on Trump’s rain-free inauguration. Thank you so much for joining me on Deconstructed.
DD: Thank you so much.
MH: That was Daniel Dale, Washington bureau chief for the Toronto Star and the great chronicler of lies in this age of Trump. We owe him a great debt. And, look, I know it’s hard, I know it’s mentally and even emotionally exhausting, but we cannot allow ourselves to become used to Trump’s brazen and shameless lies, to become inured to them, bored of them, un-shocked by them. This Trumpian dishonesty, is yes, partly situational, as Daniel pointed, but it’s also deeply political, it’s totalitarian in its approach to truth and falsehood, to facts and figures, to reality itself. The damage being done to democracy, to public confidence in institutions, to the free press is immense. These lies matter. Never forget that. Never let them go unchallenged.
MH: That’s our show.
Deconstructed is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept, and is distributed by Panoply. Our producer is Zach Young. Dina Sayedahmed is our production assistant. The show was mixed by Bryan Pugh. Leital Molad is our executive producer. Our theme music was composed by Bart Warshaw. Betsy Reed is The Intercept’s editor in chief.
And I’m Mehdi Hasan. You can follow me on Twitter @mehdirhasan. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to the show so you can hear it every week. Go to theintercept.com/deconstructed to subscribe from your podcast platform of choice, iPhone, Android, whatever. If you’re subscribed already, please do leave us a rating or review – it helps new people find the show. And if you want to give us feedback, email us at [email protected]. Thanks so much!
Happy Thanksgiving, see you next week.