Fact checkers at The Washington Post have been doing yeoman’s work in keeping track of just how many false and misleading statements President Donald Trump has made over the course of his still-young presidency. To the surprise of absolutely no one, Geppetto has been keeping very busy:
The Post keeps up a handy database of all those Pinocchios, and by its tally Trump averages a superhuman 6.5 false or misleading claims every day. Keeping that pace steady over a four-year term would put the president just under 10,000 whoppers. Imagine having the opportunity—nay, the privilege—to be wrong so often!
Still, there’s reason to believe that Trump will sail by that hall-of-fame-worthy milestone more easily than his early numbers might suggest, as the Post’s Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo, and Meg Kelly wrote in a blog today:
When we first started this project for the president’s first 100 days, he averaged 4.9 claims a day. But the average number of claims per day keeps climbing as the president nears the 500-day mark of his presidency.
In the month of May, the president made about eight claims a day — including an astonishing 35 claims in his rally in Nashville on May 29.
Trump is, in short, really hitting his stride in not knowing what he talks about. There will be no sophomore slump for this slugger.
What’s also interesting about his daily output is that the semantic spat over how to describe it somehow, someway, continues. Is Trump a pathological liar? Or does he simply not care about learning anything before pressing the loudest megaphone in the world to his lips? Choose your own adventure!
The reason why this performative debate continues is that the national political press considers every utterance of the president to be newsworthy by default. Tim Miller, a GOP operative and Trump critic who writes for Crooked Media, used another sports analogy to frame how this amounts to friendlier-than-necessary coverage:
Trump is employing a strategy that might be familiar to coaches of inferior middle school basketball teams: Foul your opponents on every play, because, by human nature, referees are not equipped to blow the whistle on every play for fear of seeming biased. They are going to let some plays go by.
Holding Trump accountable for his 3,251 false or misleading claims (and counting) would require putting big, flashing lights around everything he says from now on. You might argue that people who follow politics honestly have already done this subconsciously—that they’ve built in a sort of Trump discount on truthiness. But if that’s true, it should be the defining story of this president—not what he says on any given day.