The Washington Post’s Fact-Checker blog has been keeping a strict count of President Donald Trump’s many misstatements, untruths and outright lies. And, over the weekend at a rally in Michigan, Trump hit a(nother) milestone: He topped 3,000 untrue or misleading statements in 466 days in office.
That means that, on average, Trump says 6.5 things that aren’t true a day. Every. Single. Day. (Trump is actually picking up the pace when it comes to not telling the truth; he has averaged nine untruths or misleading statements a day over the past two months, according to the Post’s count.)
The problem with Trump’s penchant for prevarication is that it’s hard to contextualize it. We’ve never had a president with such a casual relationship to the truth. We have no count of how many lies Barack Obama or George W. Bush told per day because, well, they weren’t as committed to saying and then repeating falsehoods as Trump quite clearly is.
In an attempt to put some context on just how often Trump lies, I looked up a few other things we do (or are supposed to do) a certain numbers of times per day.
The closest corollary I found is urination. Yes, peeing. Scientists and health experts say you should go between six and seven times a day. Think of it this way: Every time you go to the bathroom, Donald Trump is saying something that is either a stretch of the truth or a complete break with the truth. Every time.
Here’s another way to think about it: You are supposed to drink eight glasses (of eight-ounce) water per day. Most of us don’t make it all the way to eight. So, lets say you drink six glasses. Every time you finish off that last drop of water in your glass, the President of the United States has said something that isn’t true.
It’s remarkable. The sheer rate of Trump’s untruth-telling is staggering. It is unprecedented. And, it is very, very hard to stop.
Fired FBI Director James Comey, in a town hall late last month with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, described the challenge of rebutting all of Trump’s false claims nicely.
“(Trump’s) style of conversation was a series of assertions about great things he had done. The challenge I found was that they wash over you like a wave and even if you disagree, the waves keep coming. But that is the style, it’s ‘I’m great, I’m great, I’m great.’”
Comey’s point is that if you were going to try to correct every exaggeration, distortion or falsehood that came out of Trump’s mouth, you would have to interrupt him on a near-constant basis.
That challenge is amplified if, like me and my friends at the Post’s Fact Checker site, you are a member of the media. Trump has spent reams of rhetoric attacking the media’s credibility that many people – especially who voted for and/or still support the President – believe 100%.
So, saying that he isn’t telling the truth – and he isn’t – won’t have any effect on how these people perceive him. In fact, the more the media fact-checks Trump, the more his supporters believe him. It’s through-the-looking-glass stuff.
Regardess. Truth matters. Facts matter. And the next time you go to the bathroom today, remember that Donald Trump has just said something that isn’t entirely (or even mostly) true.