Trump Has Made More Than 18,000 False Claims Since Taking Office. Voters May Have Finally Had Enough.

“He is the only president since World War II who has never once achieved a 50 percent approval rating.”

Stefani Reynolds/Zuma

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

Nine years after award-winning reporter Glenn Kessler became the editor and chief writer of the Washington Post’s “Fact Checker,” “awarding Pinocchios” has entered the vernacular of Washington insiders as a euphemism for “calling out falsehoods.”

Using a sliding scale of one to four Pinocchios, Kessler and the fact-check team made it their job to keep track of how well politicians tell the truth—and how far they stray from it. “We’ve not often used the word ‘lie,'” Kessler said in an interview with Mother Jones‘ Washington, DC, Bureau Chief David Corn on this week’s edition of the Mother Jones Podcast. “Because ‘lie’ means deliberate.” Even so, at last count, the team has awarded more than 18,000 Pinocchios to President Trump for his many, many distortions, false claims, mistruths, and outright lies since the beginning of his term in office. It’s a process that Kessler and his fellow fact-checkers, Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly, detail in their new book, Donald Trump and His Assault on Truth: The President’s Falsehoods, Misleading Claims and Flat-Out Lies

“He has created his own alternative reality,” said Kessler of his experience covering Trump, describing an entrenched psychology of denial, aided and abetted by a right-wing media ecosystem, that goes far beyond mere flubs or petty exaggerations. Kessler describes an all-out attack on the very idea of the truth, with real-world impacts. “Let’s talk about the coronavirus for instance,” Kessler said. “He convinced himself it was not a problem.” 

While it may seem like Trump has gotten away with four years of habitual lying unscathed, Kessler notes that Trump has had notably low approval ratings throughout. His style of governing has failed to appeal to the mainstream, which could cost him the election in 2020. “He is the only president since World War II who has never once achieved a 50 percent approval rating,” Kessler said. “He still might win reelection depending on the vagaries of the electoral college and turnout and things like that, but that is a really amazing thing.”

While the fact-check team has committed to keeping up their database of Pinocchios for the first four years of Trump, Kessler is not sure if he’d sign up for a second term of fact-checking if Trump gets reelected—especially because Trump’s rate of falsehoods have surged from an average rate of six per day during his first year of presidency to 22 now.

“It’s just a terrible time suck,” Kessler complained. “The Post may have to hire a few more people for us to keep it up.”

Listen to David Corn’s interview with Glenn Kessler on the Mother Jones Podcast:

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate