Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM’s weekly program “The Dean Obeidallah Show,” a columnist for The Daily Beast and editor of the politics blog The Dean’s Report. Follow him on Twitter: @TheDeansreport. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
Dean Obeidallah: Fact checkers routinely disprove Trump's claims, but he's still seen as honest by a majority of Republicans
Trump stands by his claim about thousands Muslims celebrating 9/11 in New Jersey but can't provide any proof
“I can’t prove it, but I can say it.” These words uttered by Stephen Colbert while still hosting “The Colbert Report” sum up Donald Trump’s campaign for president.
You really have to feel sorry for the political fact checkers this year. They must be working around the clock thanks to Trump.
Let’s briefly highlight some of the recent examples of Trump being “factually challenged.” Last week he claimed that “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey were “cheering as that building was coming down” on 9/11.
That claim has been rebutted by local elected officials, including Republicans, as well as by members of law enforcement. Plus no video footage of the cheering crowds can be located.
Trump’s defense of this claim on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” was to repeat it and even shift the burden of proof off him and place it on his critics by commenting, “Why wouldn’t it have taken place?”
“I have a very good memory, Chuck,” he told NBC’s Chuck Todd. “I’ll tell you, I have a very good memory. I saw it somewhere on television many years ago, and I never forgot it – and it was on television, too.”
And a few days earlier, Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski gave us an equally incredible defense, claiming that the media had in essence conspired to hide the footage. (It’s almost like a “Saturday Night Live” sketch come to life.)
Then we have Trump’s baseless claim, that he even repeated Sunday on “Meet the Press,” that President Barack Obama wants to bring 200,000 Syrian refugees to America.
However, Trump’s number of 200,000 is simply made up. Obama has asked to allow in 10,000 refugees, as the nonpartisan Factcheck.org has noted. Just as false is Trump’s claim that Syrian refugees are mostly men, as Politifact.com determined.
And the list of lies goes on. Trump’s assertion that the Obama administration is pushing Syrian refugees to states with Republican governors has been deemed a “pants on fire” falsehood.
So has Trump’s claim that the Trans-Pacific Partnership “was designed for China to come in, as they always do, through the back door and totally take advantage of everyone.”
Just so it’s clear, I’m far from the only one using the term “lie” to describe Trump’s statements. And I’m not just talking the so-called liberal media. There are articles in business publications such as The Fiscal Times titled, “Donald Trump’s 8 (Most Recent) Blatant Lies.” Fortune magazine even recently ran an article, “What Should the Media Do When Donald Trump Blatantly Lies?”
And over the weekend, the conservative TV host and former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough called out Trump’s new claim that, “Everybody admits worldwide the Muslims were absolutely going wild [after 9/11].”
Scarborough, a man who has stated that he “personally” likes Trump, fired off numerous tweets with media links that reported on Muslim leaders worldwide from Turkey to Jordan to Kuwait denouncing the 9/11 attacks. Scarborough even noted that Iran held a 60,000-person minute of silence in Tehran for Americans killed on 9/11.
Now a politician not telling the truth isn’t breaking news. But the Trump campaign is like an extended version of the Comedy Central show, “Drunk History” where people make up facts surrounding historical events for laughs. Or at the very least Trump has become the living embodiment of Stephen Colbert’s idea of “truthiness.” (Truthiness, per the Urban Dictionary, is defined as “the quality of stating concepts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than the facts.”)
What is really shocking is that a poll last month found that 33% of Americans still think Trump is “honest and trustworthy.” (Trump is viewed as the least trustworthy of the 2016 presidential candidates, but Hillary Clinton isn’t too far behind.)
Who are these people who still believe Trump is honest? And can I talk to them about some beachfront property in Nebraska I’m looking to unload?
Look I get it. Republicans who support Trump either don’t see his comments as lies or are so angry at the mainstream media they don’t trust its fact checking or simply don’t care. In fact, a recent poll found that 60% of Republicans find Trump to be honest and trustworthy.
For those voters, exposing Trump’s statements as lies may not matter. If Trump were to win the GOP nomination, would independent voters be as heedless of the truth?
And if Trump wins the White House, maybe the apocryphal George Washington statement, “I cannot tell a lie” can be updated to “If I repeat it enough, it’s not a lie.”