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.
|2017.10.27||Donald Trump said publicly that all of the 16 women who have claimed that he sexually harassed them are lying, and this is "fake news," but there are corroborators. washingtonpost.com (See also Women, False Statements)|
|2017.10.31||Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, stripped a half-dozen scientists and academics of advisory positions Tuesday and issued new rules barring anyone who receives E.P.A. grant money from serving on panels that counsel the agency on scientific decisions. nytimes.com (See also Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt)|
|2017.11.03||Directly contradicting much of the Trump administration’s position on climate change, 13 federal agencies unveiled an exhaustive scientific report that says humans are the dominant cause of the global temperature rise that has created the warmest period in the history of civilization. nytimes.com (See also Climate Change, Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, Rick Perry)|
|2017.11.14||In the past 35 days, Trump has averaged an astonishing nine false claims a day, adding to his total of 1,628 claims in 298 days, or an average of 5.5 claims a day, putting him on track to reach 2,000 by the end of his first year in office. washingtonpost.com (See also False Statements, Fact-Checking Resources, Unpresidential Behavior)|
|2017.11.15||The truth about Trump’s bizarre claim that Obama ‘never got to land’ in the Philippines. washingtonpost.com (See also False Statements, Unpresidential Behavior)|
|2017.11.25||Donald Trump now says that it wasn't him on the Access Hollywood Tape where he boasted about sexually assaulting women. nymag.com (See also False Statements, Misogyny, Women)|
Narrator: It was.
|2017.12.01||The EPA appears close to unveiling its program to question mainstream research on global warming and climate science, referred to as a "red team" exercise. eenews.net (See also Climate Change, Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt)|
|2017.12.10||Trump falsely stated that black home ownership has hit a record high under his stewardship, and made the dubious claim that he set Canada’s prime minister straight on the state of trade between the two countries, among many other false statements at a rally in Pensacola, Florida. apnews.com (See also False Statements, Black Americans, Unpresidential Behavior)|
|2017.12.11||Donald Trump is taking credit for killing hundreds of regulations that were already dead in the first place. bloomberg.com (See also False Statements, Unpresidential Behavior)|
|2017.12.12||Donald Trump made three provably false statements in a single tweet. cnn.com (See also False Statements, Russia, Women, Legal Issues, Misogyny, Fact-Checking Resources)|
|2017.12.14||Donald Trump’s supporters asked us to compare his lies to the number of lies from Obama and other presidents - we did. nytimes.com (See also False Statements, Fact-Checking Resources)|
|2017.12.14||FCC commissioners employed dubious information and curious logic before voting to repeal net neutrality rules. wired.com (See also Assaults on Civil Liberties, Net Neutrality)|
Here are the six most misleading claims.
|2017.12.15||Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke brought the leader of a California park to his office last month to reprimand him for climate change-related tweets the park had sent via Twitter. thehill.com (See also Climate Change, Environment, Ryan Zinke, Department of the Interior)|
|2017.12.15||The Trump administration is prohibiting officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases — including “fetus” and “transgender” — in official documents being prepared for next year’s budget. washingtonpost.com (See also Assaults on Civil Liberties, Fascism)|
Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden terms with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden terms are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”
|2017.12.22||More than 700 people have left the Environmental Protection Agency since President Trump took office, a wave of departures including more than 200 scientists, an additional 96 environmental protection specialists, most of whom will not be replaced. nytimes.com (See also Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, Assaults on Government)|
|2018.01.10||Climate information has been condensed or excised from the websites of at least six federal agencies under the first year of the Trump administration. buzzfeed.com (See also Climate Change, Environment, Assaults on Government, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Interior, Scott Pruitt, Ryan Zinke)|
|2018.01.10||With just 10 days before he finishes his first year as president, Trump has made 2,001 false or misleading claims in 355 days - an average of more than 5.6 claims a day. washingtonpost.com (See also Fact-Checking Resources, False Statements, Unpresidential Behavior)|
|2018.01.29||Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, disregarding Justice Department warnings that their actions would be “extraordinarily reckless,” voted Monday evening to release a contentious secret memorandum said to accuse the department and the F.B.I. of misusing their authority to obtain a secret surveillance order on a former Trump campaign associate, throwing fuel on an already fiery partisan conflict over the investigations into Russia’s brazen meddling in the 2016 presidential election. nytimes.com (See also Unprecedented Actions, Nationalism, Trump Relationship with Russia, 2016 Campaign)|
|2018.01.30||2018 State of the Union Fact-Check nytimes.com (See also Fact-Checking Resources)|
|2018.02.01||Donald Trump incorrectly tweeted that more people watched him deliver the State of the Union than at any point in history, with a viewership of 45.6 million. buzzfeed.com (See also False Statements)|
Two million more people watched President Barack Obama deliver the same speech in 2010.
|2018.03.02||In the 406 days since he took the oath of office, Donald Trump has made 2,436 false or misleading claims, according to The Fact Checker’s database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president. washingtonpost.com (See also Fact-Checking Resources, False Statements)|
That's an average of six lies each and every day.
|2018.03.07||Sinclair Broadcasting is making local anchors deliver a new “journalistic responsibility message” bashing the media for “fake stories”— echoing Donald Trump’s “fake news” complaints. money.cnn.com (See also Assaults on Civil Liberties, Corruption, Attempts to Discredit Media)|
The conservative media company currently owns the most local TV stations nationwide, and is trying to acquire even more.
|2018.03.09||John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, has killed an effort by Scott Pruitt, the head of the EPA to stage public debates questioning the validity of climate change science, thwarting a plan that had intrigued President Trump even as it set off alarm bells among his top advisers. nytimes.com (See also Climate Change, Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, John Kelly)|
|2018.03.26||A proposed policy would bar the E.P.A. from considering research that doesn't release its raw data for review, a move that would severely restrict the research available to it when writing environmental regulations, barring them from using some of the most consequential research of recent decades, such as studies linking air pollution to premature deaths or work that measures human exposure to pesticides. nytimes.com (See also Scott Pruitt, Assaults on Government, Environmental Protection Agency, Environment)|
These fields of research are often private because they require personal health information for thousands of individuals, who typically agree to participate only if the details of their lives are kept confidential.
|2018.03.28||The Environmental Protection Agency sent staffers eight approved climate change talking points, encouraging staffers to highlight a lack of evidence that ties humans to climate change. thehill.com (See also False Statements, Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, Climate Change)|
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.