Fact-Checkers Can’t Keep Up With Trump’s Lies

In this Trump era, we really should give a shout-out to the people who have the overwhelming job of trying to fact-check what the president says. Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, who do that job for the Washington Post, just admitted that they can’t keep up with the president’s lies.

President Trump is the most fact-challenged politician that The Fact Checker has ever encountered. He earned 59 Four-Pinocchio ratings during his campaign as president. Since then, he’s earned 16 more Four-Pinocchio ratings.

But those numbers obscure the fact that the pace and volume of the president’s misstatements means that we cannot possibly keep up. The president’s speeches and interviews are so chock full of false and misleading claims that The Fact Checker often must resort to roundups that offer a brief summary of the facts that the president has gotten wrong.

To mark the first 100 days of the most “fact-challenged politician,” they took a moment to count up the lies. Even I was surprised at the volume.

488: The number of false or misleading claims made by the president. That’s an average of 4.9 claims a day.
10: Number of days without a single false claim. (On six of those days, the president golfed at a Trump property.)
4: Number of days with 20 or more false claims. (Feb. 16, Feb. 28, March 20 and April 21.) He made 19 false claims on April 29, his 100th day, though we did not include his interview with “Face the Nation,” since that aired April 30.

The average of almost five lies a day is pretty astounding. But on four days, Trump managed to tell 20 of them in a matter of 24 hours. And those are just the lies that wound up on the public record.

There is something in this analysis that should make journalists sit up and take notice.

While the president is known to make outrageous claims on Twitter — and that was certainly a major source of his falsehoods — he made most of his false statements in unscripted remarks before reporters. (Interviews were another major source of false claims.)

That part doesn’t surprise me. Anyone who has read the transcript of interviews he’s done with reporters recognizes that they are often filled with more lies than truth. When the journalist conducting the interview fails to challenge him on his lies, they subtly validate the claims Trump makes in their reporting.

Take a look at what happens when one reporter doesn’t even go so far as to challenge a lie, but merely asks Trump to clearly state his assertion (which happens to be a lie).

Yes, more of this please!

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.