Question: How many ways can the media describe President Trump's assertion Monday that widespread voter fraud cost him the popular vote in November's election?

Answer: At least 10.

Here is a list of words and phrases used in headlines to characterize a claim that Trump has made before and repeated during a meeting with members of Congress:

  • lie
  • debunked
  • without evidence
  • bogus
  • unsupported
  • unsubstantiated
  • unconfirmed
  • false
  • wrongly
  • ___

The blank represents headlines that basically just stated what Trump said, without judging the veracity of his charge. A few (unsurprising) examples:

  • Fox News: Trump tells Congressional leaders 3-5 million 'illegals' cost him popular vote
  • Las Vegas Review-Journal: Trump insists voter fraud cost him popular vote
  • Newsmax: Report: Trump still saying voter fraud robbed him of popular vote

Whether and how to push back when Trump says something untrue is an ongoing question for news outlets. Use of the word "lie," in particular, is up for debate because it asserts the president didn't just relay inaccurate information, but that he intended to deceive.

The New York Times has been among the boldest on this front — and was again on Tuesday, calling out Trump for a "lie" on page one. New York magazine also accused the president of lying about voter fraud.

  • New York Times: Trump repeats lie about popular vote in meeting with lawmakers
  • New York magazine: Trump repeats lie that millions voted illegally in meeting with congressional leaders

Times executive editor Dean Baquet told NPR in September that " 'lie' is not a word that newspapers use comfortably" but said it is appropriate and accurate when Trump says something that already has been shown to be false, such as when he maintained for years that former president Barack Obama might not have been born in the United States, despite proof to the contrary.

Some Times journalists have criticized other outlets for, in their view, not confronting Trump strongly enough.

Leonhardt's tweet about "timidity" referred to the Wall Street Journal's headline on a story about Trump's latest voter fraud claim. The Journal's was one of many that included a word other than "lie."

  • Wall Street Journal: Donald Trump repeats unsupported claim that voter fraud skewed election tally
  • Washington Post: Without evidence, Trump tells lawmakers 3 million to 5 million illegal ballots cost him the popular vote
  • Politico: Trump repeats debunked voter fraud claim at meeting with Hill leaders
  • ABC News: Trump repeats unsubstantiated claim about voter fraud during election
  • CNN: Trump talks replacing Obamacare, reiterates unsubstantiated voter fraud claims
  • USA Today: Trump revives false claim that illegal ballots cost him popular vote
  • Slate: Trump, again, falsely claims he lost the popular vote because of millions of fraudulent votes
  • New York Daily News: President Trump still pushing unconfirmed claims that voter fraud cost him the popular vote
  • Business Insider: Trump repeats debunked claim that voter fraud caused him to lose popular vote to Hillary Clinton
  • New York Post: Donald Trump brings up bogus voter fraud claims — again
  • Associated Press: Trump wrongly blames fraud for loss of popular vote

Journal editor in chief Gerard Baker said on NBC's "Meet the Press" this month that his newspaper would "be careful about using the word 'lie.' " He elaborated in an editorial a few days later.

"If we are to use the term 'lie' in our reporting, then we have to be confident about the subject's state of knowledge and his moral intent," Baker wrote. "I can see circumstances where we might. I'm reluctant to use the term, not implacably against it."

We can infer, then, that Baker is not confident that Trump knew his voter fraud claim was false and or that the president intended to be deceptive. Baker, through the Journal's headline, allowed for the possibility that Trump actually believed what he said.

Perhaps that was generous, but most major news outlets did the same thing by picking a word other than "lie."