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Thursday, August 9, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Donald Trump loves to beat up the national news media, accusing them of inventing “fake news” stories about him and his presidency.

No matter how much detail and other evidence there is to the contrary in each news story, he dismisses all of it as pure “fakery,” “lies” and that old standby, “a witch hunt.”


Until relatively recently, he insisted that there was not a shred of truth to our intelligence community’s finding that Russia was conducting a massive cyberwar against the United States to influence voters and interfere with our elections to help elect Mr. Trump.

While he grudgingly confessed, after his summit with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, that the Kremlin may be behind it, he still clung tenaciously to the myth that Russia was not the culprit, and it could have been someone else.

Mr. Trump has never publicly condemned Moscow for its U.S. disinformation campaign on the Internet, despite the indictments of 12 Russians implicated in the scheme, and recent reports from Facebook of a “sophisticated disinformation operation on its platform that engaged in divisive messaging ahead of the U.S. midterm elections,” according to The Washington Post.

Facebook, which shut down the false pages on its widely read website, said the disinformation material dealt with topics such as race, fascism and feminism.

A top corporate executive described the cyber attack as an “arms race” to manipulate Americans on a broad range of divisive issues.

One of the most frequently used pages “had links to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), the Kremlin-backed organization of Russian operatives that flooded Facebook with disinformation around the 2016 election, The Post reported last week.

Mr. Trump has had a field day attacking the news media for a broad range of stories that he labeled “fake news” on his Twitter account.

But while Mr. Trump’s “fake news” accusations have drawn a lot of notice, especially among his supporters, his own false or exaggerated claims about himself or his policies haven’t received the attention they deserve.

Mr. Trump, it turns out, is the pre-eminent source for “false news” in Washington, according to The Post’s ace Fact Checker Glenn Kessler.

“As of the end of the 558th day of his presidency, July 31, Mr. Trump had made 4,229 “false or misleading claims” — a jump of 978 in just two months,” Mr. Kessler reported last week.

A large number of Mr. Trump’s claims were flat-out false, and he’s making them at an accelerated rate.

“The president appears especially emboldened to play fast and loose with the truth during campaign rallies, where his strongest supporters flock to hear him,” Mr. Kessler says.

At a rally last week in Tampa, Mr. Kessler counted 35 false or misleading claims.

One of them is Mr. Trump’s assertion that his tax reductions are “the biggest tax cuts in U.S. history,” a claim that Mr. Kessler says he has made 88 times. They aren’t. Not by a long shot.

The tax cuts — which I strongly supported, and said so in my column — could cost $2.2 trillion over 10 years. As a percentage of our gross domestic product, the measure of our entire economy’s output, that would make it the eighth-largest tax cuts since 1918, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Then there is Mr. Trump’s whopper that his long-promised wall is being built right now along the Mexican border. It isn’t. Congress didn’t give him the $25 billion he requested as a down payment. Only fencing is being replaced where needed.

Mr. Trump is telling rallies that U.S. Steel has announced the opening of six steel mills, when in fact the manufacturer has only restarted two blast furnaces. He doesn’t mention an electronics factory that has laid off its workers because of the tariffs he slapped on imports from China.

Mr. Trump often grossly exaggerates his figures. He said the trade deficit with China is $500 billion when it is $375 billion.

“At the Trump rally, the president also repeated his false claim that ‘the most popular person in the history of the Republican Party is Trump.’” Mr. Kessler writes.

While wildly popular among Republicans — 90 percent in some surveys — he runs behind Dwight D. Eisenhower and George W. Bush at this point in their presidencies.

Mr. Trump even suggested that he had a higher approval rating than Abraham Lincoln, when, of course, political polls didn’t exist at that time.

What would Honest Abe say about that?

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.


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