One big reason for the uptick: The uproar over Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s president on July 25 — in which he urged an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden, a potential 2020 election rival — and the ensuing House impeachment inquiry. We’ve added a new category of claims, Ukraine probe, and in just a few weeks it has topped 250 entries.
In fact, Trump earned his fastest Bottomless Pinocchio ever with his repeated false statement that the whistleblower compliant about the call was inaccurate. The report accurately captured the content of Trump’s call and many other details have been confirmed, yet Trump has repeated this Four Pinocchio claim 29 times. (It takes 20 repeats of a Three or Four Pinocchio claim to merit a Bottomless Pinocchio, and there are now 27 entries.)
Almost one-fifth of these claims are about immigration, his signature issue — a percentage that has grown since the government shut down over funding for his promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. In fact, his most repeated claim — 218 times — is that his border wall is being built. Congress balked at funding the concrete barrier he envisioned, so he has tried to pitch bollard fencing and repairs of existing barriers as “a wall.”
False or misleading claims about trade, the economy and the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign each account for about 10 percent of the total. Claims on those subjects are also among his most repeated.
Trump has falsely claimed 204 times that the U.S. economy today is the best in history. He began making this claim in June 2018, and it quickly became one of his favorites. The president can certainly brag about the state of the economy, but he runs into trouble when he repeatedly makes a play for the history books. By just about any important measure, the economy today is not doing as well as it did under Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson or Bill Clinton — or Ulysses S. Grant. Moreover, the economy is beginning to hit the head winds caused by Trump’s trade wars, with the manufacturing sector in an apparent recession.
On 171 occasions, he has claimed the United States has “lost” money on trade deficits. This reflects a basic misunderstanding of economics. Countries do not “lose” money on trade deficits. A trade deficit simply means people in one country are buying more goods from another country than people in the second country are buying from the first country. Trade deficits are also affected by macroeconomic factors, such as currencies, economic growth, and savings and investment rates.
Trump has falsely said 171 times that he passed the biggest tax cut in history. Even before his tax cut was crafted, he promised it would be the biggest in U.S. history — bigger than Ronald Reagan’s in 1981. Reagan’s tax cut amounted to 2.9 percent of the gross domestic product, and none of the proposals under consideration came close to that level. Yet Trump persisted in this fiction even when the tax cut was eventually crafted to be the equivalent of 0.9 percent of GDP, making it the eighth-largest tax cut in 100 years. This continues to be an all-purpose applause line at the president’s rallies.
The president’s constant Twitter barrage also adds to his totals. Nearly 20 percent of the false and misleading statements stemmed from his itchy Twitter finger.
Trump’s penchant for repeating false claims is demonstrated by the fact that the Fact Checker database has recorded more than 350 instances in which he has repeated a variation of the same claim at least three times.
Even as Trump’s fact-free statements proliferate, there is evidence that his approach is failing.
Fewer than 3 in 10 Americans believe many of his most-common false statements, according to a Washington Post Fact Checker poll published in December. Only among a pool of strong Trump approvers — about 1 in 6 adults in the survey — did large majorities accept several, although not all, of his falsehoods as true.
The award-winning database website, created by graphics reporter Leslie Shapiro, has an extremely fast search engine that will quickly locate suspect statements the president has made. We encourage readers to explore it in detail. We recently added a new feature that provides a URL for every claim that is fact-checked, allowing readers to post the link on social media.
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