How to Cover the President

The Washington Post keeps a running tally of the president’s lies although they haven’t been all that thorough. For example, checking every statement  of “material fact” he makes at a rally is something new for them.

We’re doing something new: analyzing every factual claim from President Trump’s campaign rally in Montana on Thursday.

According to The Fact Checker’s database, the president had made 3,251 false or misleading claims at the end of May, and his average daily rate was climbing.

This side of Trump really comes alive during campaign rallies, so we wanted to do the math and find out whether the president speaks more fictions or facts in front of his crowds.

We focused only on Trump’s statements of material fact at the Montana rally, avoiding trivialities and opinions. We didn’t double-count statements when the president repeated himself.

According to our analysis, the truth took a beating in Montana. From a grand total of 98 factual statements we identified, 76 percent were false, misleading or unsupported by evidence.

Here’s a breakdown: 45 false or mostly false statements, 25 misleading statements and four unsupported claims. We also counted 24 accurate or mostly accurate statements. False or mostly false statements alone accounted for 46 percent of all claims.

No doubt the president would respond that the fact checkers at the Washington Post are biased purveyors of “fake news.” But that’s another lie. It’s actually a relatively simple thing to check whether an ostensibly true statement has any basis in fact, whether it’s partially true but highly misleading, or it’s largely supportable by the available record and other evidence. This could be as simple as verifying which party controlled Congress in 1998 or as complicated as checking the average annual size of the trade deficit we’re running with the European Union. To give but one example from Trump’s Montana rally, he claimed that he carried the state by 44 points, but a simple Google search will verify that he won 55.6 percent to 35.4 percent, or with a 20.2 percent advantage. That’s less than half the margin he claimed for himself. There’s really no need to tell a lie like that but Trump lies even when the truth would suit him better. With him, deceit is habitual and self-aggrandizement is a compulsion.

The bigfoot corporate media takes a lot of abuse for how they cover Trump, particularly the wall-to-wall coverage they tend to give to his rallies. The fact that he uses this exposure to deceive and gaslight the public is the primary reason why people object to this. The solution is not to simply ignore what the president of the United States is saying. Everything the president says or does is news and must be reported. But, everything a president says also needs to be fact-checked.

With this president, whose every utterance has no better than a 50 percent chance of being true, it’s imperative that he be fact-checked in real time. If that’s not possible, then his speeches and rallies should not be aired in real time. They should be recorded and fact-checked. And if it’s felt necessary to air his statements on television at all, every misleading statement should be flagged and viewers should be provided a link where they can go to satisfy themselves as to the accuracy of his assertions.

That’s how you can responsibly educate the public without aiding and abetting the president’s efforts to deceive.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.