To hear Donald Trump tell it, there were thousands of Muslims cheering in the streets of New Jersey on the day the World Trade Center towers fell. Oh, and President Obama is welcoming 200,000 Syrian refugees next year. And then there's the fact that black Americans are responsible for most killings of black and white Americans.
All of these statements are false (you can read why here and here and here). But Trump regularly says them, repeats them and retweets them anyway. Most of the time, he doesn't correct himself even after being corrected and chastised in the national media.
And did we mention he's leading the GOP race for the fourth consecutive month? His closest challenger, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, is 10 points behind him.
We get that not every candidate says accurate information 100 percent of the time. But Trump is spreading untruths at an unmatched clip. He has earned more four-Pinocchio ratings for his "whoppers" by the The Washington Post Fact Checker team (four Pinocchios is the highest you can get) than any other candidate so far. In fact, almost every claim the fact checkers have parsed from Trump has been of the four-Pinocchio variety. Trump has even earned his own trend story in The Washington Post for inspiring other candidates to shamelessly fib.
It would seem, quite frankly, that Trump is getting away with repeating falsehood after falsehood on the campaign trail and nobody seems to care — or at least, his still very real contingent of supporters don't. Here are four theories as to why:
Distrust of government is at an all-time high. Just 19 percent of Americans say they feel they can trust their government some or all of the time, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. And conservative Republicans are traditionally more skeptical of government than the rest of America. In a September Washington Post-ABC News poll, 75 percent of Republicans said “most people in politics” can’t be trusted.
Numbers compiled by Pew would seem to bear that out, too. It seems when a Democrat is in the White House, liberals have more trust in government while conservatives have more distrust, and vice versa when it's a Republican in the White House:
Enter Donald Trump, who from almost the moment he got into the race positioned himself as the anti-establishment candidate, endearing himself to conservative voters as the outsider who says it like it is when no one else dares to. And damn the politically correct torpedoes.
Perhaps Trump supporters are giving their guy the benefit of the doubt: Maybe he knows something the government isn't telling us.
Okay, so maybe Obama is only letting in 10,000 Syrian refugees next year instead of 200,000. Trump still has a point, his supporters might argue, that it's feasible some of those so-called refugees could be terrorists.
And maybe there weren't New Jersey residents cheering on 9/11. But there are undoubtedly Muslims in the world — even some right here in America — who want to do America harm and were probably happy on 9/11.
The point is, Trump supporters might know the facts he's throwing out aren't facts. And some potential Trump supporters might even be bothered by the things he's said. But it's possible they've made a calculated decision that Trump gets their general sentiment and the policy right, and really that's what matters.
For conservative Republicans who are angry at the federal government and their party's inability to block President Obama in his final years, it seems there are plenty of other things to like about Trump: He's so rich, he can't be bought. His success will shake up the political establishment. He'd be a good negotiator. For Trump supporters, the list goes on.
Telling a fib or three might not dim their view of their favorite candidate, especially when The Fix's Philip Bump points out that Trump has a lot of other things going for him this election cycle.
A truism of this campaign so far: When the media or other candidates point out Trump's inaccuracies, he only seems to get stronger.
And within conservative circles, Trump wins the battle of public opinion vs. the media. Nearly two-thirds of Americans (64 percent) say the national media has a negative effect on the country, according to Pew Research Center's new survey. In other words, when The Washington Post's Fact Checker says Trump just delivered a whopper, plenty of people are disinclined to believe it is giving Trump a fair shake — no matter how clear the facts on the ground.
Trump does a good job fanning those flames. At rallies, he'll urge people to "boo" publications that have published stories critical of him, and his supporters often chastise the "liberal media" for zeroing in on just one not-quite-accurate comment Trump made at an hour-plus-long rally without reporting the many other things he said.
The media is bent on taking Trump down, and they're not going to let it.
It's November 2015, a year before Election Day. It's more than two months before the first votes are even cast in the Iowa caucuses.
While political pundits like those here at The Fix would say the Iowa caucuses are closer than we think, the rest of the non-politically obsessed nation just isn't thinking about who's up or who's down 10 weeks out.
Millions of Americans think presidential politics — and what Donald Trump says — just isn't relevant to their lives right now. How many people actually know the tale Trump spun about Muslims cheering in New Jersey on 9/11? How many pay enough attention to know that 200,000 Syrian refugees aren't coming our way or even that Trump brandishes this untruth as a fact? Probably less than you think.
Whether that changes — and whether Trump's standing in the race also changes — as they tune in is, well, the question of this election.