Assaults on Facts
An "assault on facts" is different from a false statement. An assault on facts is a deliberate attempt to mislead. A false statement is false, but not necessarily deliberately so.
This page tracks attempts by Trump and his administration not only to spread misinformation, but also to clamp down on the publication of facts and promote a version of reality which they can control.
|2015.07.29||Trump calls attorney Elizabeth Beck a "vicious, horrible person" for recounting a 2011 incident in which he called her "disgusting" for needing to pump breast milk. cnn.com (See also 2016 Campaign, False Statements, Women)|
|2016.10.04||In vice presidential debate, Pence repeatedly declines to defend controversial statements made by Trump, instead dodging or denying that Trump made the statements. npr.org (See also Mike Pence, 2016 Election)|
|2016.11.02||Video is uncovered showing Trump with mob leader he previously denied knowing. yahoo.com (See also 2016 Campaign, False Statements)|
|2016.12.04||Pence tries to defend Trump’s false claim that "millions" voted illegally. washingtonpost.com (See also Mike Pence, False Statements, 2016 Election)|
It's an awkward 3-minute exchange.
|2016.12.26||Newt Gingrich admits Donald Trump doesn't have plan to beat ISIS. independent.co.uk (See also Presidential Transition, ISIS, False Statements)|
|2017.01.20||The Department of the Interior directs the National Park Service to cease use of Twitter after the NPS posted photos showing the small size of the crowd at Trump's inauguration. washingtonpost.com (See also Department of the Interior)|
A shared tweet about crowd sizes apparently made someone at the Interior Department nervous enough to stand down dozens of official Twitter accounts.
|2017.01.21||Official statement by Sean Spicer attacking accurate reporting of inaugural crowds. whitehouse.gov (See also Attempts to Discredit Media, False Statements, Sean Spicer)|
|2017.01.21||Trump brought studio audience with him to CIA. politicususa.com (See also Attempts to Discredit Media)|
|2017.01.21||Trump falsely accuses journalists of inventing a rift between him and spy agencies, and of deliberately understating the size of his inauguration crowd. nytimes.com (See also Attempts to Discredit Media, Feuds)|
Trump: "I have a running war with the media... They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth."
|2017.01.21||Trump reportedly orders the National Park Service director to produce photos proving Trump's claims about the size of his inauguration crowd. washingtonpost.com (See also Unpresidential Behavior, Presidential Activity)|
|2017.01.22||Spicer earns Four Pinocchios for false claims on inauguration crowd size. washingtonpost.com (See also False Statements, Sean Spicer)|
|2017.01.22||Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway says Trump’s team has "alternative facts." washingtonpost.com (See also False Statements, Attempts to Discredit Media)|
When asked why the president uttered a provable falsehood about the size of his inauguration crowd, Conway said the interviewer shouldn't be "so overly dramatic about it."
|2017.01.22||Trump falsely claims rain "stopped immediately" during inauguration speech then "poured" afterward, when it began raining lightly as he started speaking and continued throughout his remarks. nytimes.com|
|2017.01.23||Sean Spicer lies for second straight day about inauguration ratings and statistics. vulture.com (See also False Statements, Sean Spicer)|
Regardless of how Spicer and the Trump administration want to spin the numbers, or play cute with language, all available evidence suggests Trump’s inauguration fell far short of being the historical juggernaut they claim it was.
|2017.01.23||Trump’s press secretary said the federal workforce has seen a "dramatic expansion." It has not. vox.com (See also Jobs, False Statements)|
|2017.01.23||Without evidence, Trump tells lawmakers 3-5 million illegal ballots cost him the popular vote. washingtonpost.com (See also 2016 Election, Unpresidential Behavior, False Statements)|
There is no evidence of widespread illegal voting in the 2016 election.
|2017.01.24||As part of a broader communications clampdown within the executive branch the White House orders a contract freeze and media blackout at the EPA. fortune.com (See also Environmental Protection Agency)|
|2017.01.24||Efforts to mute federal employees are occurring to varying degrees in the EPA, and departments of the Interior, Transportation, Agriculture and Health and Human services. politico.com (See also First 100 Days, First Amendment, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation, Department of Agriculture, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of the Interior)|
|2017.01.24||Trump Spokesman Sean Spicer reiterated Trump's claim again, with zero evidence that millions of people voted illegally. buzzfeed.com (See also False Statements, 2016 Election, Sean Spicer)|
The president believed millions voted illegally based on "studies" but he did not elaborate on what those studies were.
|2017.01.24||Trump administration orders media blackout at EPA. latimes.com (See also Authoritarianism, Presidential Activity)|
Update on 'Trump signs memorandums to reopen Keystone XL, Dakota pipeline negotiations'
|2017.01.24||Trump administration tells Environmental Protection Agency to cut climate page from website, erasing years of work on climate change. reuters.com (See also Environment, Censorship)|
|2017.01.24||Trump lies to congressional leaders by increasing the estimate of his false claim of illegal votes for Clinton to 5 million. washingtonpost.com (See also First 100 Days)|
|2017.01.24||Trump seeks "major investigation" into claims of widespread voter fraud, which have no basis in fact. washingtonpost.com|
|2017.01.24||Trump tells business leaders he has won environmental awards, when no evidence exists of any such awards. washingtonpost.com (See also Environment)|
|2017.01.24||USA Scientists have been put on lockdown under Trump buzzfeed.com (See also Department of Agriculture)|
"Starting immediately and until further notice" the department's main research division "will not release any public-facing documents," according to an internal memo.
|2017.01.25||A freeze on external communications from the EPA, Depts. of the Interior, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services, is ordered. nytimes.com (See also First 100 Days, Department of Agriculture, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency)|
|2017.01.25||A number of government agencies have gone silent but the National Park Service refuses to be silenced blogs.scientificamerican.com (See also First Amendment, National Parks Service)|
|2017.01.25||Associated Press: Trump mandating EPA scientific studies, data undergo review by political staff before public release. twitter.com (See also Environmental Protection Agency, Censorship)|
|2017.01.25||In a television interview, Trump again repeats lies about crowd sizes, voter "fraud." washingtonpost.com|
|2017.01.25||In response to Trump's hiring freeze and communications blackout, some department's social media accounts have been tweeting out messages at odds with his agenda. pbs.org |
With more than 2 million career employees it is going to be tricky for the White House to plug all the leaks or stop outbursts from concerned government workers.
|2017.01.25||The chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee is asking Americans to trust the information they get from the President over the news produced by the media. cnn.com (See also Censorship, Attempts to Discredit Media)|
Trump has been called out for highlighting falsehoods and conspiracy theories during his political career and has repeatedly attacked the mainstream press as pushing "fake news."
|2017.01.25||Trump’s definition of "voter fraud" appears to include his own daughter and top adviser, who are registered to vote in two states. washingtonpost.com|
|2017.01.26||Capitol Hill Democrats calling for the White House not to gag federal employees after HHS memo on Inauguration Day instructs employees not to communicate about regulatory policy with members of Congress. washingtonpost.com (See also First 100 Days, Censorship, Department of Health and Human Services)|
"The HHS memo, along with others sent in recent days by other agencies, “appear to violate multiple federal laws,” including one that protects federal whistleblowers."
|2017.01.26||Government agency 'gag orders': what we know and what we don't theguardian.com (See also First 100 Days, Free Speech)|
|2017.01.26||Trump falsely claims two people were killed in Chicago during Obama's farewell speech. buzzfeed.com (See also False Statements)|
Chicago Police confirm that there were no fatal shootings on January 10th, the day of Obama's speech.
|2017.01.27||Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, chair of House Science Committee says Trump is the sole reliable source of truth. vox.com (See also First 100 Days, Attempts to Discredit Media)|
|2017.01.27||Scientists offer ways to discern actual from 'alternative' facts to help combat delusions. blogs.scientificamerican.com (See also Attempts to Discredit Media, Fact-Checking Resources)|
Three rules from the scientific method.
|2017.01.29||White house releases statement on Trump aides defending his immigrations ban, his barrage of executive orders, complaining about the lack of cabinet confirmations, and attacking media coverage on Sunday shows whitehouse.gov (See also First 100 Days, Muslim Immigration Ban, Attempts to Discredit Media)|
|2017.01.30||A man who President Donald Trump has promoted as an authority on voter fraud was registered to vote in 3 states during the 2016 presidential election. apnews.com (See also First 100 Days, Voter Fraud)|
|2017.01.30||Experts, including former chief statistician of the US and outgoing head of Bureau of Labor Statistics, fear Trump White House will manipulate figures to fit narrative theguardian.com (See also First 100 Days)|
|2017.01.30||The White House just cited the Quebec mosque attack to justify Trump’s policies even though his policies target Muslims and the accused killer is NOT Muslim. thestar.com (See also First 100 Days, Muslim Immigration Ban)|
|2017.01.30||Trump likes to cite a very small figure to minimize the impact of his travel ban. But that's highly misleading, 90,000 people are affected by it. washingtonpost.com (See also First 100 Days, Muslim Immigration Ban, Immigration)|
|2017.01.31||Trump administration refuses to put officials on air on CNN. politico.com (See also First 100 Days, Attempts to Discredit Media)|
A CNN reporter, speaking on background, was more blunt: The White House is trying to punish the network and force down its ratings.
|2017.02.01||"Trump: "If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view - NO FEDERAL FUNDS?" twitter.com (See also Education, Fascism, Censorship)|
Trump threatens University of California at Berkeley for allowing anti-Breitbart demonstration.
|2017.02.01||March for Science set for Earth Day scientificamerican.com (See also Envionment)|
A rally backing evidence-based policies is planned for April 22 in Washington, D.C., with supporting events around the country.
|2017.02.02||Kellyanne Conway defends Muslim ban by citing a nonexistent "Bowling Green massacre" supposedly carried out by Iraqi refugees. washingtonpost.com (See also False Statements, Muslim Immigration Ban, Immigrants, Iraq)|
|2017.02.02||Trump threatens to cut off federal funding to UC Berkeley after campus protests result in cancellation of speech by Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos. twitter.com (See also Authoritarianism, First 100 Days)|
|2017.02.02||Trump’s senior adviser, Kellyanne Conway, blames Iraqi refugees for fictional 'Bowling Green massacre' that never happened to justify Trump’s travel ban. theguardian.com (See also First 100 Days, Muslim Immigration Ban)|
|2017.02.03||In the wake of Trump's lack of communication with Congress or government agencies about his immigration ban open government advocates are concerned Trump officials will block flow of information to public despite campaign promises for accountability and disclosure. npr.org (See also Attempts to Discredit Media)|
|2017.02.03||The Pentagon said this video shows a raid in Yemen was successful. It's a decade old. buzzfeed.com (See also Yemen, Administration Errors)|
The video was initially heralded as proof that the raid in Yemen, in which a US military operator was killed along with several civilians, was a success.
|2017.02.03||Town Of Newtown, CT, calls on Trump to sever ties with Sandy Hook truther Alex Jones. mediamatters.org |
The Los Angeles Times reported parents of victims of the Sandy Hook shooting believe Donald Trump is “nurturing the culture of exaggeration and paranoia” that leads conspiracy theorists to harass them.
|2017.02.03||Trump administration falsely claims that Obama planned Special Ops raid in Yemen that killed Yemeni civilians and a Navy SEAL. washingtonpost.com (See also Yemen)|
|2017.02.03||Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said Thursday that the media is encouraging a mob mentality and mob violence with what she described as "disrespectful" coverage of Trump and his aides. cnn.com (See also Attempts to Discredit Media)|
|2017.02.03||Trump falsely claims protestors are paid "professional anarchists." nymag.com (See also Assaults on Civil Liberties, Attempts to Discredit Media, First 100 Days)|
|2017.02.03||Trump's White House, unlike any other, has crossed the threshold into a space where facts appear to mean nothing and it will take years to gauge the impact of having a habitual liar as President. newyorker.com (See also Attempts to Discredit Media)|
"When words like “science” and “progress” become unmoored from their meaning, the effects are incalculable. And let’s not kid ourselves: those words today are under assault with a ferocity we have not seen for hundreds of years."
|2017.02.04||Trump posts a report falsely claiming Kuwait issued a visa ban on Muslim majority nations to his Facebook page. buzzfeed.com (See also Attempts to Discredit Media, False Statements)|
The report claimed that Kuwait had also issued a visa ban on several Muslim-majority countries after President Trump's immigration order. They didn't.
|2017.02.04||Trump shares fake news article about an immigration ban by Kuwait on his Facebook page. teenvogue.com (See also False Statements, Muslim Immigration Ban, First 100 Days)|
|2017.02.05||Trump claims only 109 people affected by travel ban. politifact.com (See also First 100 Days)|
The actual number is at least 60,000.
|2017.02.05||Trump tweets in an attempt to undermine legal system: "Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!" twitter.com (See also Assaults on Government, Immigrants)|
|2017.02.06||As tech-savvy government efforts like 18F and the USDS take technological strides forward, other parts of the government are abandoning modern technology altogether including the FBI who stops accepting FOIA requests by email. techcrunch.com (See also FBI, Freedom of Information Act, First 100 Days)|
|2017.02.06||Cosmopolitan magazine reveals Kellyanne Conway also complained of fake Bowling Green massacre to them. washingtonpost.com (See also Attempts to Discredit Media)|
|2017.02.06||InfoWars is believed to be behind President Trump’s idea that the media is covering up terrorist attacks. washingtonpost.com (See also Attempts to Discredit Media, First 100 Days, Belief in Conspiracy Theories)|
|2017.02.06||Lawyers defending President Trump's travel ban lost a major battle in court. How did they lose? The judge did not buy slams alternative facts. msnbc.com (See also First 100 Days, Muslim Immigration Ban, Immigration, Muslims)|
|2017.02.06||President Trump is now speculating that the media is covering up terrorist attacks washingtonpost.com (See also Belief in Conspiracy Theories, Attempts to Discredit Media)|
|2017.02.06||Trump accuses media of intentionally covering terrorist attacks. washingtonpost.com (See also Attempts to Discredit Media, False Statements)|
|2017.02.06||Trump spokesman Sean Spicer falsely claims anti-Trump protests are part of a "very paid, Astroturf-type movement." washingtonpost.com (See also Assaults on Civil Liberties, Sean Spicer)|
|2017.02.06||Trump tweets: "Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls..." twitter.com (See also Attempts to Discredit Media, Authoritarianism)|
|2017.02.06||White House press secretary Sean Spicer resurrects repeatedly debunked false claims that people protesting President Donald Trump are actually bankrolled by well-funded progressive organizations to discredit anti-Trump protests. mediamatters.org (See also Attempts to Discredit Media, False Statements, Sean Spicer)|
|2017.02.07||A survey finds one-third of people surveyed don’t know Obamacare and Affordable Care Act are the same thing, especially among groups most likely to be affected by the repeal of the health law. nytimes.com (See also First 100 Days, Affordable Care Act)|
|2017.02.07||According to multiple sources, Trump regrets hiring Spicer as his press secretary and is blaming Priebus. thehill.com (See also First 100 Days, Attempts to Discredit Media, Sean Spicer)|
|2017.02.07||As Trump falsely claims widespread voter fraud, Republican-led committee divides along party lines over independent election commission meant to help states improve voting systems and votes to eliminate them. theguardian.com (See also First 100 Days, Voter Fraud, False Statements, Corruption)|
|2017.02.07||Following Trump’s false claim that the press purposefully fails to report on terror attacks, the list of “underreported" attacks his team releases is entirely devoid of attacks by right-wing extremists and those inspired by the “alt-right.” mediamatters.org (See also First 100 Days)|
|2017.02.07||Jack Tapper questions Conway sharply about Trump’s false claims politico.com (See also First 100 Days, False Statements, Attempts to Discredit Media)|
|2017.02.07||Trump falsely claims the murder rate is highest in 47 years. cnn.com (See also First 100 Days)|
|2017.02.07||Trump lies to a group of sheriffs about the U.S. murder rate being its highest in 45 to 47 years. It's at the lowest point in 50 years. washingtonpost.com (See also False Statements)|
|2017.02.07||Trump: "I don't know Putin, have no deals in Russia, and the haters are going crazy - yet Obama can make a deal with Iran, #1 in terror, no problem!" twitter.com (See also False Statements, Trump Relationship with Russia, Russia)|
|2017.02.07||WH official, Sebastian Gorka deputy assistant to Trump: We'll say 'fake news' until media realizes attitude of attacking the President is wrong cnn.com (See also First 100 Days, Attempts to Discredit Media, First Amendment)|
|2017.02.08||Press Secretary Sean Spicer cites Atlanta terror attack that never happened. cnn.com (See also First 100 Days, False Statements, Sean Spicer)|
|2017.02.09||Sean Spicer corrected his contention that a terror attack took place in Atlanta, saying he meant Orlando despite having repeated the statement three different times. cnn.com (See also First 100 Days, False Statements, Sean Spicer)|
|2017.02.10||Trump quotes legal blog out of context to argue travel ban ruling is "a disgraceful decision." politico.com (See also First 100 Days, Assaults on Government, Muslim Immigration Ban, Muslims)|
|2017.02.11||Trump says refugees are flooding U.S. nytimes.com (See also First 100 Days, Immigration, Muslim Immigration Ban)|
|2017.02.12||Policy advisor Stephen Miller advances false claims about voter fraud and says White House will fight for Muslim immigration ban. washingtonpost.com (See also False Statements, First 100 Days, Muslim Immigration Ban, Voter Fraud, Stephen Miller)|
|2017.02.14||No non-citizens voted in voter fraud case cited by White House Trump’s deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. theguardian.com (See also False Statements, First 100 Days, Voter Fraud)|
|2017.02.18||CNN host Don Lemon abruptly ends his show Friday night after a commentator continues to call a story they were discussing "fake news" while defending Trump. thehill.com (See also Attempts to Discredit Media)|
|2017.02.18||Trump cites non-existent terrorist attack ‘last night in Sweden’ to justify Muslim ban at Florida rally rawstory.com (See also First 100 Days, False Statements)|
|2017.02.18||Trump delivers misstatements and exaggerations to enthusiastic believers in first rally of his 2020 campaign. nytimes.com (See also Fascism, Nationalism, Attempts to Discredit Media)|
|2017.02.19||Statisticians worry that Trump will doctor the economic data coming from the administration itself. bloomberg.com (See also Economy, First 100 Days)|
|2017.02.20||Trump tweets false information about immigration problems in Sweden, baffling Swedish leaders and diplomats: "The FAKE NEWS media is trying to say that large scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully. NOT!" twitter.com (See also Attempts to Discredit Media)|
|2017.02.20||Trump’s embrace of discredited theories linking vaccines to autism has energized the anti-vaccine movement, threatening one of the most successful medical innovations of modern times. washingtonpost.com (See also Health Care, First 100 Days)|
The state has politically powerful opposition to immunization, despite the medical evidence.
|2017.02.21||The Washington Post finds that Trump has averaged four falsehoods or misleading statements every day of his presidency so far. washingtonpost.com (See also First 100 Days)|
The president's odd relationship with facts continues.
|2017.02.22||Air Force can’t account for $1 billion in savings that Trump says he’s negotiated for the program to develop, purchase, and operate two new Boeing Co. jets to serve as Air Force One. bloomberg.com (See also First 100 Days)|
|2017.02.22||Russian officials contradict Trump's claim that his campaign team had no contact with Russia by admitting they had been in contact with members of his staff. independent.co.uk (See also First 100 Days, Trump, Russia, Russian Meddling in Election, False Statements)|
|2017.02.24||Wealthy conservative family that helped finance Trump's election is part owner of misogynist, anti-Semitic, far-right-wing Breitbart News empire. washingtonpost.com (See also Racism, Misogyny)|
|2017.02.25||Trump administration claims 109 people were detained in the first 26 hours after Muslim immigration ban was enacted, when 746 people were actually detained. nytimes.com (See also Immigrants, Executive Orders, Muslim Immigration Ban, Muslims)|
|2017.02.28||President Trump suggests recent spate of anti-Semitic bomb threats and cemetery vandalism could be politically coordinated attacks to “make people look bad” coming from within the Jewish community. nytimes.com (See also Jewish Americans)|
|2017.02.28||Trump claims Obama is helping to organize protests against his presidency, despite lack of evidence. washingtonpost.com (See also First 100 Days)|
In an interview with Fox News Channel, Trump says, “I think he is behind it. I also think it’s politics. That’s the way it is.”
|2017.03.02||Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, is being pressed to explain omissions in congressional testimony at his confirmation hearing regarding his use of a personal email account for official business as Oklahoma state attorney general. washingtonpost.com (See also Scott Pruitt, Environmental Protection Agency)|
|2017.03.04||Citing no evidence, Trump writes series of tweets accusing Obama of wiretapping him before the election. washingtonpost.com (See also Unpresidential Behavior, First 100 Days)|
President Trump used Twitter to accuse his predecessor of orchestrating a plot to tap the phones at his Trump Tower headquarters last fall in the run-up to the election.
|2017.03.04||Keystone pipeline won't use U.S. steel despite Trump pledge. bigstory.ap.org (See also Keystone XL Pipeline, First 100 Days)|
|2017.03.05||Trump demands congressional inquiry into his unsubstantiated claim that Obama had his phones tapped to investigate Russia’s meddling in the election. nytimes.com (See also Unpresidential Behavior, Russian Meddling in Election)|
|2017.03.06||Trump plagiarizes from Exxon press release to claim credit for 2013 jobs investment. politicususa.com (See also Plagiarism, Economy, First 100 Days)|
|2017.03.07||Trump incorrectly blames Obama for releasing Guantanamo prisoners who U.S. intelligence agencies say returned to the battlefield. miamiherald.com (See also Unpresidential Behavior, First 100 Days)|
President Donald Trump broke his White House silence on the topic of Guantánamo Tuesday, incorrectly blaming Barack Obama not George W. Bush for the release of more than 100 captives who U.S. intellig…
|2017.03.10||From jobs reports to missile batteries, Trump team repackages old news and declares victory, taking credit for accomplishments of Obama administration. washingtonpost.com (See also First 100 Days)|
From jobs reports to missile batteries, the White House repackages old news and declares victory
|2017.03.10||In his first 50 days in office, Donald Trump has made 219 false or misleading statements. washingtonpost.com (See also False Statements, First 100 Days)|
Throughout President Trump’s first 100 days, the Fact Checker team will be tracking false and misleading claims made by the president since Jan. 20.
|2017.03.13||Spicer says Trump still believes millions of illegal immigrants voted in the election. talkingpointsmemo.com (See also First 100 Days, Sean Spicer, Belief in Conspiracy Theories)|
|2017.03.14||White House press secretary says Trump is ‘confident’ that the Justice Department will find evidence to back up his wiretapping claim. washingtonpost.com (See also First 100 Days)|
Trump didn't literally mean that his wires were tapped, but the White House believes he will be “vindicated” by an investigation.
|2017.03.16||Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate say there is no evidence of Trump's wiretap claim. reuters.com (See also First 100 Days)|
The leaders of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee issued a bipartisan statement on Thursday rejecting President Donald Trump's assertion that the Obama administration tapped his phones during the …
|2017.03.20||As House Intelligence Committee investigates possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer claims Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort—who's been paid millions by Russia—played a "limited role" in the campaign. cnn.com (See also Russia, Russian Meddling in Election, Sean Spicer)|
|2017.03.22||Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, secretly worked to benefit Russia in U.S. relations, contradicting Trump's claim Manafort had never worked for official Russian government interests. startribune.com (See also Paul Manafort, Russia, Russian Meddling in Election)|
|2017.04.18||The Trump administration makes misleading statements about an 'armada' heading to North Korea. washingtonpost.com (See also First 100 Days, Foreign Policy, North Korea)|
The saga of the USS Carl Vinson.
Trump's administration regularly shades the truth or tells outright lies. During the election, only 4 percent of what he said was in all respects true, according to Politifact, and 70 percent was false. Trump lied more than any other presidential candidate. The pattern has continued since Inauguration Day, when he claimed the rain stopped just as he began his speech (it did not), and when he and his spokesman Sean Spicer exaggerated the size of the crowd at the ceremony.
In addition to exaggerating the size of the crowd, Trump and Spicer also claimed the media misreported the facts.
This demonstrates two different kinds of lies. The first misrepresents facts. Sometimes these misrepresentations are unintentional. Sometimes they aren't. The second is an attempt to erase facts. Both types of lies are of concern, but the attempt to rewrite history is of particular concern. Rewriting history meets the definition of propaganda: "information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view."
Authoritarian governments in the past have done this regularly; there are many examples of photographs that have been doctored to remove controversial figures, for example.
It is an authoritarian move to undermine the work of the independent news media, who are known as "the fourth estate" because they cover all three branches of government and are charged to do so fairly and accurately, and have systems in place to correct errors when those are discovered. It's an advantage for an authoritarian leader to do this, because then citizens do not have confidence in anything and are more easily cowed and manipulated. Trump regularly tweets about "fake news" from reputable sources such as CNN and The New York Times. These sources are not fake news, and can generally be relied on for accurate coverage of national and international news.
The Wall Street Journal: Trump's falsehoods are eroding trust at home and abroad.
In the March 21, 2017 edition, the conservative newspaper highlights the costs of Trump's habitual deceit.
If President Trump announces that North Korea launched a missile that landed within 100 miles of Hawaii, would most Americans believe him? Would the rest of the world? We’re not sure, which speaks to the damage that Mr. Trump is doing to his Presidency with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods.
The latest example is Mr. Trump’s refusal to back off his Saturday morning tweet of three weeks ago that he had “found out that [Barack] Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory” on Election Day. He has offered no evidence for his claim, and a parade of intelligence officials, senior Republicans and Democrats have since said they have seen no such evidence.
Yet the President clings to his assertion like a drunk to an empty gin bottle, rolling out his press spokesman to make more dubious claims. Sean Spicer—who doesn’t deserve this treatment—was dispatched last week to repeat an assertion by a Fox News commentator that perhaps the Obama Administration had subcontracted the wiretap to British intelligence.
Margaret Sullivan—The Washington Post
In the Feb. 14 2017, she identifies a pattern of Trump praising subordinates for lying to the public:
“Congratulations Stephen Miller — on representing me this morning on the various Sunday morning shows. Great job!” went the Trump tweet (bringing to mind the presidential praise after Hurricane Katrina to the hapless Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown: “You’re doing a heckuva job, Brownie”).
What had Miller done to deserve the presidential attaboy? Well, among other things, the 31-year-old White House wunderkind had:
●Repeated, forcefully and with great conviction, evidence-free claims that there is widespread voter fraud in the United States. (Simply: There isn’t.)
●Insisted that the federal courts had no legitimate role in Trump’s executive order on immigration.
●Argued that there can be no questioning of the executive order from the judicial branch.
Michael Slater–The New Yorker
In the Feb. 3, 2017, edition of The New Yorker Slater opines on the potential damage of Trump:
Eventually, the President’s daily policy outrages, his caustic insults, and his childish Twitter rants will fade into history. But it will take years to gauge the impact of having a habitual liar as President. When words like “science” and “progress” become unmoored from their meaning, the effects are incalculable. And let’s not kid ourselves: those words today are under assault with a ferocity we have not seen for hundreds of years.
The United States is now a country with dozens of unofficial government “resistance” Twitter accounts. There is one for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, another for the Environmental Protection Agency, and others for the National Park Service, the Peace Corps, and the Customs Agency. Last week, in what the account describes as an effort to present “actual facts, instead of alternative facts,’’ they were joined by the nation’s most important public-health agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There are horrific lies of omission: last week, the White House released a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day that pointedly declined to refer to Jews, because others were killed, too. And there are denials of truth that are impossible to categorize: the President met with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., an anti-vaccine zealot with a history of falsehoods, and talked to him about possibly forming a commission on vaccine safety. (After Kennedy said he’d actually been asked to lead such a commission, provoking dismay, the Trump team said that no decision had yet been made.) Then there are lies so ludicrous that it is hard (though essential) to take them seriously: according to Trump, the United States has just gone through the most devastating instance of voter fraud in the nation’s history. And, in his telling, every one of the millions of illegal votes happened to be cast for his opponent.
Sam Waterson–The Washington Post
Waterson examines the scope and impact of Trump's unending stream of lies on Jan. 30, 2017:
By the frequency of his lying, Trump has revealed a truth we have avoided confronting: Like partisanship, regular and habitual lying is an existential threat to us, to our institutions, our memories, our understanding of now and of the future, to the great American democratic experiment, and to the planet. It blurs the truth, subverts trust, interferes with thought, and destroys clarity. It drives us to distraction.
It’s impossible to overstate what is at stake.
Lawrence Douglas–The Guardian
In his Feb. 7, 2017, op-ed Douglas examined the nature of Trump's lying as attacks on another level of magnitude:
These institutions – the university, the judiciary and the free press – subject the statements of politicians to truth-testing. In this way, citizens can make informed choices at the polls. Without these institutions – and, just as crucially, without belief in their integrity – democratic self-governance would be impossible.
That is why it is significant that after storefront windows in downtown Berkeley were smashed by non-student rioters, Trump threatened to withdraw federal funds from the University of California, Berkeley, for practicing “violence on innocent people with a different point of view”.
After US district court judge James Robart, a stalwart Republican jurist appointed by George W Bush, issued a nationwide stay on the president’s travel ban, Trump attacked Robart as a “so-called judge”, and encouraged his supporters to “blame him [Robart] and the court system” if “something bad happens”.
And in response to reports of a testy phone call with the Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, Trump insisted the conversation had been “very civil” and dismissed claims to the contrary as “FAKE NEWS” that the “media lied about”.
These are not ordinary lies. These are meta-lies, second-order lies, lies about the very institutions vouchsafed with testing and examining the truthfulness of political statements.
This reckless disregard of reality reveals an unusual quality to Trump’s lying. Other presidents lied to deceive their opponents. Not so Trump. Trump does not even make the pretense of trying to hoodwink his opponents. Instead, he deceives his supporters. By lying about the neutrality and integrity of our truth-defending institutions, he consolidates his power by depriving his supporters of tools that might authorize an informed, critical assessment of his performance.
Jennifer Rubin–The Washington Post
In her Feb. 7, 2017, opinion piece, Rubin opines that if Trump doesn't stop lying Americans will start to think he is delusional:
Trump’s unprecedented degree of out-and-out lying to the American people about things large (a conspiracy to cover up terrorist attacks) and small (crowd size) — especially stated in the presence of the intelligence community (as he did at CIA headquarters the day after his disappointing inauguration turnout) and the military — raises the legitimate concern that we cannot rely on the president’s words or assume his perceptions are accurate.
Margaret Sullivan–The Washington Post
From The Washington Post's media columnist Margaret Sullivan:
Anyone — citizen or journalist — who is surprised by false claims from the new inhabitant of the Oval Office hasn’t been paying attention. That was reinforced when Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway told “Meet the Press” Sunday that Spicer had been providing “alternative facts” to what the media had reported, making it clear we’ve gone full Orwell.
Official words do matter, but they shouldn’t be what news organizations pay most attention to, as they try to present the truth about a new administration.
White House press briefings are “access journalism,” in which official statements — achieved by closeness to the source — are taken at face value and breathlessly reported as news. And that is over. Dead.