He’s done it on Twitter. He’s done it in the White House driveway. And he’s done it in a speech to a business group.
President Trump — a man already known for trafficking in mistruths and even outright lies — has been outdoing even himself with falsehoods in recent days, repeating and amplifying bogus claims on several of the most pressing controversies facing his presidency.
Since Saturday, Trump has tweeted false or misleading information at least seven times on the topic of immigration and at least six times on a Justice Department inspector general report into the FBI’s handling of its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server. That’s more than a dozen obfuscations on just two central topics — a figure that does not include falsehoods on other issues, whether in tweets or public remarks.
The false claims come as the president — emboldened by fewer disciplinarians inside the West Wing — indulges in frequent Twitter screeds. A Washington Post analysis found that in June, Trump has been tweeting at the fastest rate of his presidency so far, an average of 11.3 messages per day.
Inside the White House, aides and advisers say they believe the media is unwilling to give Trump a fair shot and is knee-jerk ready to accuse him of lying, even in cases where the facts support his point.
The president often seeks to paint a self-serving and self-affirming alternate reality for himself and his supporters. Disparaging the “fake news” media, Trump offers his own filter through which to view the world — offering a competing reality on issues including relationships forged (or broken) at the Group of Seven summit in Canada, the success of the Singapore summit with the North Koreans, and his administration’s “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration.
“It’s extraordinary how he is completely indifferent to truth. There’s just no relationship between his statements — anything he utters — and the actual truth of the matter,” said Thomas Murray, president emeritus of the Hastings Center, the founding institution in the field of bioethics. “As far as I can tell, the best way to understand anything he says is what will best serve his interests in the moment. It’s irrespective to any version of the truth.”
According to an analysis by The Post’s Fact Checker through the end of May, Trump had made 3,251 false or misleading claims in 497 days — an average of 6.5 such claims per day of his presidency.
And within the past week, Trump seems to have ramped up both the volume and the intensity of his false statements on two of the most prominent topics currently facing his administration: the hard-line immigration policy that has led to the separation of thousands of children from their parents — which Trump erroneously blames on others — and the 500-page inspector general report that he claims, incorrectly, exonerates him in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Bella DePaulo, a psychology researcher at the University of California at Santa Barbara, said Trump’s use of repetition is a particularly effective technique for convincing his supporters of the veracity of his false claims, in part because most people have a “truth bias,” or an initial inclination to accept what others say as true.
“When liars repeat the same lie over and over again, they can get even more of an advantage, at least among those who want to believe them or are not all that motivated either way,” DePaulo said in an email. “So when people hear the same lies over and over again — especially when they want to believe those lies — a kind of new reality can be created. What they’ve heard starts to seem like it’s just obvious, and not something that needs to be questioned.”