If it seems like Donald Trump is lying more than ever, these days, it turns out the facts back you up on that. The Washington Post‘s Fact Checker team has catalogued its 3,001st false claim from Trump since his inauguration, and report that as time has gone on, his tendency to lie has indeed continued to rise.
When we first started this project for the president’s first 100 days, he averaged 4.9 claims a day. Slowly, the average number of claims has been creeping up.
Indeed, since we last updated this tally two months ago, the president has averaged about 9 claims a day.
Nine false claims a day, just in his public statements. That doesn’t count his private behavior; whatever he yells at his television set in the morning, or the things he tells lawmakers over the phone, or to his staff. It’s pathological. The man either can’t help it or, worse, chooses not to:
Thirteen times in the past five weeks, Trump has claimed his long-promised border wall is already being built, even though Congress denied him the funding and prohibited the use of prototypes he had viewed with great fanfare.
Is it invisible? Is he building it in secret? What will he say, when no reporter anywhere can find this new portion of wall—will he claim that his enemies are hiding it, perhaps under a blanket? These aren’t minor differences of opinion; the man just spouts out flagrant bullshit, made-up numbers, and imaginary history.
The press still appears to be stumped by what to do about this. It is not normal, to be sure, but it is also the antithesis of what we should require of our leaders. Trump openly propagandizes in the manner of authoritarians and dictatorships; he not only dismisses facts that he considers hostile to his government but invents new ones wholesale, attempting to bully the press into accepting them and broadcasting them as their new, pro-himself reality. In the best case, he is delusional or pathological, a man mentally unfit for the office. In the best case. The worst case is just as likely.
Because it is not just Trump, doing this; his White House defends and repeats this behavior. There is a considerable faction of the conservative “movement” that embraces it and insists, angrily, that the press comply. The notion that reality itself is open to interpretation, to be shaped by whichever voice proves the loudest, has moved beyond an anti-science fringe into becoming a considerable sub-movement within Republican politics, one that even top Republican lawmakers refuse to speak out against and one that they themselves use with aplomb, when the need arises.
It is vitally important to democracy that the government not lie. It is essential. Such actions should be considered illegitimate and disqualifying. We have no control over what various rabid partisans or theocrats here or elsewhere choose to believe, but anyone installed into a position of public trust must not lie. And Trump, and his companions, are doing so with abandon, and are doing so with the explicit intent of misleading the public as to the basic facts of the world around them. No, the wall is not being built. No, his tax cut is not the “biggest in history” and there is no reasonable defense of such a claim. His lies about crowd sizes are petty, but indefensible. His lies about basic numerical data from past years are either an Orwellian effort to rewrite history or evidence of illiteracy.
The press is still grappling with the proper response, in large part because they have rewritten their own role in American politics to be something of a roving publicity shop for Washington’s most powerful figures, a means for the powerful to impart their own preferred spin rather than an unpleasant check on such fabrications. But they had better grapple harder, because Trump not only is using rank dishonesty as a core tool of his administration, but that dishonesty is escalating.