Trump Just Showed Us We Should Always Assume He Is Lying... Again
Donald Trump is a prolific liar. That’s neither an opinion nor a criticism, but a statement of scientific fact. In the midst of the presidential campaign, Politico analyzed a few hours of Trump’s speeches and found he lied once every five minutes on average. PolitiFact gave Trump its Lie of the Year Award for 2015, and has since determined that only 15 percent of Trump’s words are true or even mostly true. Toronto Star journalist Daniel Dale, who fact-checked Trump for 33 days and found he told as many as 25 lies in a 24-hour period (excluding debates, when he crammed up to 34 lies into 90 minutes), wrote that Trump “lies strategically. He lies pointlessly. He lies about important things and meaningless things. Above all, he lies frequently.” Trump lies so effortlessly and consistently that the Washington Post created a plug-in that, lacking the human tendency to grow fatigued, fact-checks Trump’s lie-filled tweets in real time.
With that track record, every single statement released by Trump or one of his many spokespeople, all paid liars, should be presumed a lie in need of fact-checking. The media’s default position should be that everything expelled by the Trump machine, via the mouth of Trump, his Twitter feed or his flacks' talking heads, is an untruth that should be accompanied by a disclaimer.
But the press, which gave Trump’s campaign $3 billion in free ad space, is still taking the president-elect at his word. Trump, who hasn’t given a real press conference since July, took credit for saving thousands of jobs at Sprint when he spoke briefly to the press outside his Mar-a-Lago resort on Wednesday.
“Because of what’s happening and the spirit and the hope, I was just called by the head people at Sprint and they’re going to be bringing 5,000 jobs back to the United States,” Trump stated, according to Bloomberg. “I just spoke with the head person. He said because of me they’re doing 5,000 jobs in this country.”
Engadget reporter Timothy J. Seppala notes that Sprint followed up Trump’s statement with a press release claiming the company is “excited to work with President-Elect Trump and his administration to do our part to drive economic growth and create jobs in the U.S.”
As you should absolutely expect, Trump was lying. Seppala found that way back in October, Sprint’s parent company, SoftBank, announced that “the company was sinking $100 billion into a tech-investment fund.” Reports of the new hires were being touted as long ago as April 2015. In other words, Trump had no hand in generating the jobs at Sprint that he took credit for on Wednesday. The company had already publicly boasted about its creation months ago.
Seppala pressed onward until he was able to confirm the truth from an involved party.
When I reached out to a Sprint spokeswoman asking if the announcement was a direct result of working with Trump or part of a pre-existing deal, she copy and pasted the press release I'd sent along with my first email. I responded saying I already had the press release and asked again if this was a direct result of working with Trump or part of a pre-existing deal in place. I tagged Sprint in a tweet about the situation, and it wasn't until after that started getting retweeted that the spokesperson responded.
"This is part of the 50,000 jobs that [SoftBank CEO] Masa previously announced," she said. "This total will be a combination of newly created jobs and bringing some existing jobs back to the U.S."
There’s more, per Politico:
Trump also announced that OneWeb would be hiring 3,000 people in the United States. But SoftBank earlier this month reached a deal with OneWeb to provide the upstart company $1.2 billion in funding, and OneWeb's widely publicized Dec. 19 announcement had included a commitment to “create nearly 3,000 new engineering, manufacturing and supporting jobs in the U.S. over the next four years,” according to a news release at the time.
All this is troubling for a number of reasons. Even for a politician, Trump’s tendency toward easily refutable lies seems nearly unprecedented. This is the third time in recent memory that he has lied to make it seem like he’s delivering on campaign promises about jobs. Earlier this month, Trump attacked a union leader who called out his lies about saving jobs at air-conditioner manufacturer Carrier, and weeks before that Trump was caught lying about his role in keeping Ford jobs stateside. We should see those lies coming by now, or at least recognize them as lies, because lying is all Trump is capable of doing.
That’s why it’s so troubling that the media reported Trump’s lie as truth. BoingBoing points to Oliver Willis’ blog, where he chronicled the major news agencies that “repeated [Trump’s] absolute lie in their headlines.” The list includes CNN, New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post and Reuters, among others.
As journalist Dan Gillmor noted on Twitter, in a year in which fake news was treated as the cause of everything from Trump’s sure-to-be-horrific presidency to the end of Western civilization as we know it, it’s a particularly disturbing media moment. After equating the unquestioned press reiteration of Trump lies with “propaganda,” Gillmor accused the press of engaging in the very thing it has accused various bad actors of since the election.
“When journalists knowingly publish lies they're publishing fake news,” Gillmor wrote. “When they can't be bothered to check, it's false news.” In the case of Trump, if the media ever expects to avoid either, it’s critical that the starting point for every PEOTUS quote begin with a reality check.
We’re in for a lot more of this, though we’ve already endured plenty, and certainly enough to know better. People who valued white supremacy over truth put a man in the Oval Office who has shown us countless times who he is: someone willing to lie and obfuscate at every opportunity as long as he looks good in the end. (Sprint’s complicity in spreading Trump’s lie means we should be skeptical even when he seems to have an alibi.)
The people who voted for Trump don’t care if he’s telling the truth, but the rest of us should. Authoritarians are bad at the truth, and capitalize on complacency and confusion. The demagogue in our midst is counting on us growing so accustomed to the atmosphere of lies that we breathe them in like air without noting its choking toxicity. The best strategy for the media, and for all of us, is to regard every Trump statement as a lie waiting to be disproved.