The most dangerous lie: The coronavirus was under control
This was more like a family of lies than a single lie. But each one — the lie that the virus was equivalent to the flu; the lie that the situation was “totally under control”; the lie that the virus was “disappearing” — suggested to Americans that they didn't have to change much about their usual behavior. A year into the crisis, more than 386,000 Americans have died from the virus. We can't precisely say how the crisis would have unfolded differently if Trump had been more truthful. But it's reasonable to venture that his dishonesty led to a significant number of deaths1.
Trump falsely claimed that they “added nearly 600,000 manufacturing jobs.” This would have been an exaggeration even if you stopped the clock in February. (At that point, before the pandemic-related crash in March, nearly 483,000 manufacturing jobs had been added during the Trump presidency.) But now, the claim is flat wrong. As of September, around 164,000 manufacturing jobs had been lost since Trump took office.
Another Trump's false statement is related to Barack Obama and “his statement” that “you'll never produce manufacturing jobs.” That's not what Obama said. At a 2016 town hall event2, Obama did say that some manufacturing jobs went away from the US for good — but he also boasted about how many new ones were being created in the US.
Another category of false claims said by Trump is related to NATO.
He claimed that he was responsible for securing an extra “$130 billion a year” in military spending by other countries. Actually, NATO says the increase is $130 billion total between 2016 and the end of 2020, not $130 billion per year. (NATO does give Trump credit for the increase, but it's worth noting that spending has been rising since 2015, before Trump took office.)
Trump said that before him, NATO members “weren't paying their bills” and “were delinquent.” That's not how NATO works. While the alliance has a target of each member spending 2% of GDP on defense, failing to hit that target doesn't create bills or debts3.
Trump claimed that “Obama used to send them pillows.” This appeared to be Trump's usual reference to Obama's military aid to Ukraine, not about contributions to NATO itself — but it's inaccurate regardless. Obama did decline to send Ukraine lethal aid, but he sent armored Humvees, counter-mortar radar, night vision equipment, drones, and other military supplies.
Trump repeated another of his favorite rally lies, declaring that they have “passed VA Choice.” Obama signed the Choice bill into law in 20144; it was an initiative of two senators Trump has frequently criticized, Bernie Sanders and the late John McCain. What Trump signed was the VA MISSION Act of 2018, which expanded and modified the Choice program.
Trump has made this claim more than 160 times.
The most alarming lie saga: Sharpiegate
In 2019, Trum tweeted that Alabama was one of the states at greater risk from Hurricane Dorian than had been initially forecast. The federal weather office in Birmingham then tweeted that, actually, Alabama would be unaffected by the storm.
Not great, but fixable fast with a simple White House correction. Trump, however, is so congenitally unwilling to admit error that he embarked on an increasingly farcical campaign to prove that his incorrect Alabama tweet was actually correct, eventually showcasing a hurricane map that was crudely altered with a Sharpie.
The slapstick might have been funny had White House officials not leaped into action behind the scenes to try to pressure federal weather experts into saying he was right and they were wrong5. The saga proved that Trump was not some lone liar: he was backed by an entire powerful apparatus willing to fight for his fabrications.
The ugliest smear lie: Rep. Ilhan Omar supports al Qaeda
At a White House event in 2019, Trump grossly distorted a 2013 quote from Rep. Ilhan Omar to try to get his supporters to believe that the Minnesota Democrat had expressed support for the terrorist group al Qaeda6.
Trump went on to deliver additional bigoted attacks against Omar in the following months. But it's hard to imagine a more vile lie for the President to tell about a Muslim official — who had already been getting death threats — than a smear that makes her sound pro-terrorist.
1Sam Baker, “Trump: Coronavirus is “under control””, AXIOS, https://www.axios.com/trump-coronavirus-under-control-5f114a16-9952-428c-bc07-3cfa360b0977.html (accessed 21 March 2021)
2“Questions for President Obama: A Town Hall Special“, PBS, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/questions-for-president-obama-a-town-hall-special (accessed 21 March 2021)
3Glenn Kessler, “Trump’s NATO parade of falsehoods and misstatements“, Thee Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/12/10/trumps-nato-parade-false-facts-misstatements/ (accessed 21 March 2021)
4Cameron Brenchley, “President Obama Signs Bill to Give the VA the Resources It Needs“, The WHITE HOUSE President Barack Obama, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2014/08/07/president-obama-signs-bill-give-va-resources-it-needs (accessed 21 March 2021)
5Christopher Flavelle and Lisa Friedman, “NOAA Officials Feared Firings After Trump’s Hurricane Claims, Inspector General Says“, The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/09/climate/trump-hurricane-dorian-noaa.html (accessed 21 March 2021)
6Daniel Dale and Sarah Westwood, “Fact check: Trump falsely accuses Ilhan Omar of praising al Qaeda“, CNN politics, https://edition.cnn.com/2019/07/15/politics/trump-falsely-accuses-omar-al-qaeda-fact-check/index.html (accessed 21 March 2021)
Author: Imran Polovina