Exaggerated criticism and unsupported charges are nothing new in American presidential politics. All candidates do that to some extent.
But Donald Trump has created a special situation by saying so many things that are flatly untrue and doubling down when challenged. He’s created real problems for the news media because it’s hard to check every claim in real time, a challenge Hillary Clinton may face in Monday’s debate.
Of the three sentences in which Trump acknowledged, after years of questioning, that President Barack Obama was born in the United States, two were flatly false: that Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign started the matter and he ended it.
Most analysts called him on it. But Trump got away more unscathed when he announced a plan to guarantee new mothers paid leave and declared, “My opponent has no child care plan.” Clinton responded with a tweet, calling attention to her own plan unveiled over a year ago, noting, “It’s literally right here.” Many news stories ignored her response.
Clinton has also made misleading or flatly untrue statements, including some about her private email server that were flatly wrong. She recently pledged no U.S. ground troops in Iraq and Syria, though 3,000 U.S. troops are already on the ground — though as advisers and trainers, not combat troops.
But Trump has a big edge in mendacity. Politifact, a nonpartisan news organization that assesses campaign statements on its Truth-O-Meter, lists 47 Trump statements in its least truthful, “(Liar, Liar) Pants on Fire” category, compared with six by Clinton. Its three categories citing varying degrees of falsehood contain 179 Trump statements and 70 Clinton ones. The three categories citing truthful statements show 183 by Clinton and 76 by Trump.
Perhaps Trump’s most repeated falsehood is his claim he always opposed the 2003 Iraq war and the 2011 U.S. military intervention in Libya.
In NBC’s Sept. 7 commander-in-chief forum, Trump said the contrast between Clinton’s vote for military action against Iraq — which she has acknowledged as a mistake — and his opposition was “one of the biggest differences in the race.”
After news accounts questioned his statement, he said, “Despite the media saying, ‘no, yes, no,’ I opposed going in.” But in September 2002, six month before the U.S. invasion, Trump was asked on Howard Stern’s show if he supported an invasion of Iraq and responded: “Yeah, I guess so,” adding, “I wish the first time (meaning the 1991 Persian Gulf War) it was done correctly.” Similarly, in 2011, he said “we should go in” and stop Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
This is just the tip of the Trump iceberg. To see more, check Politifact’s Truth-o-Meter.