Why Do We Let Trump Get Away With Lying?

In a presidency known for its unpredictability, lies coming from the White House often feel like the only stable thing to rely on.

It seems like we are becoming numb to the cycle of falsehoods and resulting backlash. But this numbness puts us at risk of allowing the president’s lies to become the new normal.

Lots of presidents lie. For instance, former President Bill Clinton famously lied about his extramarital affair. Although lying is perceived to go hand in hand with politics, the frequency of Donald Trump’s lies is exceptional.

The Washington Post tracks Trump’s lies and found that since taking office, the president has made over 10,000 false or misleading claims.

Furthermore, The New York Times compared Trump’s lies to those from former President Barack Obama when he was in office. It used conservative guidelines, only counting demonstrably and substantially false statements. And it found Obama told an average of two lies per year while Trump told 124.

This is not exactly surprising. Trump’s presidency began with his administration lying about the audience size at his inauguration — a pointless falsehood that seems to have been perpetuated only to serve Trump’s ego. The truth is it’s difficult to measure the exact size of the audience. But photos, public transportation ridership and crowd counting experts have found the Trump administration’s statements unfounded.

Trump inauguration crowd

Credit: National Park Service

In defense of then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s claim about the crowd size, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said he was using “alternative facts.” This phrase caught fire in the media — not only due to its absurdity, but because it is, quite simply, an oxymoron. Facts are set-in-stone realities, not something to be manipulated for political points.

The rejection of facts is an overarching theme in the Trump presidency — whether something is discounted as “fake news,” “alternative facts” or most recently “a slip of the tongue.”

This dismissal of objective reality is incredibly dangerous, especially when it is coming from the highest office in the country. “Fake news” has become a common refrain among Trump and his supporters in response to media stories unfavorable to the White House. The Trump administration has even denounced media reports as “fake news” in public, knowing they were accurate, according to The New York Times.

In our current political climate, it often seems the truth is secondary to our personal beliefs and that our beliefs are no longer informed by facts. This phenomenon has been coined “post-truth,” a term that became so popular in our vernacular during the rise of Trump that it was awarded Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year in 2016.

Not only do Trump’s lies embolden his base, but they impact public policy. For instance, Trump has made a variety of comments on climate change — from famously saying climate change was a Chinese hoax in 2012 (he later claimed it was a joke) to saying scientists are motivated by a political agenda. During Trump’s presidency, the United States has withdrawn from the Paris climate agreement and has scrubbed information about climate change from certain U.S. government websites.

“Trump’s refusal to admit the truth of widely accepted facts corrodes political discourse and is consistent with the practice of many authoritarian leaders,” political scholar James Pfiffner writes for Brookings. “The assertion of the power to define reality is destructive of democratic governance, in part because many people believe him and are not amenable to contrary evidence.”

Trump’s lies are clearly dangerous, but they often do not receive the condemnation they deserve.

Media outlets and politicians have to grapple with how to respond to the lies. On one hand, it is vital that Trump is held accountable for his statements and that the spread of misinformation is stopped. Yet, during a presidency that is infamous for its frequent lies, we do not want to get caught up in constantly discussing Trump.

2020 Democratic presidential candidates need to walk a tightrope — both appearing tough on Trump and addressing issues that average Americans are concerned about, such as health care and job creation. If they focus too much on Trump’s lies, they may turn off potential swing voters. But if they do not address the issue enough, they may anger the liberal base.

Trump’s lies don’t appear to be ceasing anytime soon. Often, the answer seems to be to laugh them off and fail to give Trump airtime to spread his message. But if we succumb to this, we risk creating a world where the lies become normal. The problem is clear. The solution? Not so much.

Photo credit: Ed-Ni-Photo/Getty Images

165 comments

Paul B
Paul B1 months ago

Also, Jews have lived in this area for centuries, even before the Palestinians, or at least as long. Just because the Palestinians don't like the jews in the region doesn't give them the right to claim it as their own, and only their own. Given the disrespect of Muslims against Christians and Jews throughout the region, I would ave to agree that the area is under better protection for all from Israel than it would be under muslim rule. For that reason IMO, it is best the way it is.

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Paul B
Paul B1 months ago

Annabel,
I've been out of town and very busy at work so it has taken me a while to respond.
I have done a little more research on the topic of Israel, Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.
I admit that Hamas is not a s much a terrorist group as they are fighting for their rights to the Gaza and lands once held by the palestinians. Hezbollah, though is a bit more terrorist in nature, being funded by Shia Iran and protected by Syria and Lebanon. It was and has been Iran leaders who have consistently called the elimination of ISrael and any US presence in the region. Many reports have shown Iran's sponsorship of terrorism.... to deny that is not right.
IMHO, given the number of times Israel has tried to strike peace, without ceding the lands they took after the war in 1967? so I don't particularly blame them for their stance on who owns the land. Three times they have tried to seriously reach compromise, but Hamas was unwilling to compromise.
I didn't have enough time to further research the seizure of lands in the area, but given that Israel is the rightful owner of the area, I don't see a problem. as for Jeruselem, that is home to all religions, Jews, Christians and Muslims, all have rights in the area. IMO, Israel has given a lot of rights to each of these groups to secure and protect these holy sites. Also, Jews have lived in this area for centuries, even before the Palestinians, or at least as long. Just because the Palestinians do

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Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bedini2 months ago

Susanne R

PLEASE put your mind at rest about this whole thing! I never thought for a moment that your comments were directed at me! I understood perfectly that you were responding to the other person. Indeed, that you were defending me! And here's something I've noticed about him, that if you ever agree with him, as I have about my ambiguous comment that he responded to, he bows out of the conversation. As he has this time it seems. It looks as if he is wired only to preach his own gospel over and over, never any real dialogue. Telling him you agree with him seems to put him off his stride. Well, I'm used to this by now and don't really expect any different.
(Yes, Brian F., sorry but we are talking about you!)

And thanks for your analysis of arrogance. Words of wisdom! Now it's my turn to 'hurry up' so enough for now, but believe me, Susanne I very much value your contributions to trying to make the world a saner, better place!!!!!!

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Susanne R
Susanne R2 months ago

Annabel B. - (Continued...)

All I can tell you is that no ill-will or insult was directed at you. I used the words "Repeating things a million times or more doesn't make them right. It just gets people very annoyed to the point that they stop paying attention. I know that for a fact." I said that because the person of whom I speak attacks me every time I post a comment. I was angry that he attacked you. I, for whatever reason, thought he used your words (I should have known better because his words are always the same.). I don't know what else to say. If you choose to be angry at me, I can only hope that time will change your mind.. But please know that I would never say anything to hurt you. That's the part of this whole sad story that's eating away at me most.

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Susanne R
Susanne R2 months ago

Annabel B. - You didn't expect me to answer, but there is no reason why I would not because even though I made a terrible mistake, I have always respected you and your comments.

From my perspective, arrogance, in this particular situation, is responding to everyone else's posts by trying to force the same answers on them as though what THEY have to say is the only relevant answer and the other person's genuine thoughts and opinions don't matter. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to a variety of volatile and complex topics. One must read and digest what the other person is saying and respond accordingly. That's where "the Supreme Being who knows all things" came into the equation. I think that same thought every time "the other person" jumps on anything anyone else has to say. I've never thought that about you or anything you've had to say. I have the utmost respect for intelligent women who aren't afraid to express themselves even though they risk being subjected to condescending comments..

Arrogance is not even bothering to read what the other person has to say, and still trying to force that same repetitive answer down the other person's throat. Your comments are always well thought out and related specifically to the topic at hand.

I think I know what you're thinking, and I don't blame you for it. I deserve your doubt. I shouldn't have posted anything while my husband was urging me to "hurry up or we'll be late." All I can tell you is that no ill-

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Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bedini2 months ago

Susanne R
I forgot to say Thank you for standing up for me, anyway!

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Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bedini2 months ago

Susanne R

No need to apologise, these things happen. Interesting question though, might be when is 'arrogant' arrogant and when is it not? I don't expect an answer!

Hope you had a happy Mother's Day.

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Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bedini2 months ago

Brian F
You are right. My 'Where does the truth lie? ' question was ambiguous. What I meant it to do was encourage Paul B to do some re-examination of his convictions.. As it was it looked as if I really didn't have an opinion and you had every right to 'preach' if that was the case. Still it would have been good if you had remembered how and where I stand on these issues from past posts. Case closed?

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Brian F
Brian F2 months ago

Annabel B If you had remembered your previous post, where you pointed out how Paul B and me have two opposite views on issues, and you asked "Where does the truth lie", I don't see why you would accuse me of preaching to you. I simply pointed out to you that it is Paul B who is wrong. It looks like you are just making things up.

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Brian F
Brian F2 months ago

SR First of all, Annabel didn't set anyone straight except Paul B. I was responding to Annabel's previous comment where she asked "Where does the truth lie?" between me and Paul B. So I am not preaching to her. I was simply explaining how Paul B was wrong. Now you try to butt into this conversation and act like you are giving me a condescending lecture. As I have stated 10 million times, your problem is that you focus too much on this crook Trump. Yes Trump is a crook and a liar as well as a horrible president, but the Democrats who cheated Bernie Sanders out of his primary, and anointed this Wall Street crook Hillary are equally bad, and caused Trump to win. Obama passed the Iran deal, which was good, but he gave us a horrible Republican healthcare plan instead of Medicare for all. Obama criminalized whistle blowers and imprisoned Manning for 7 years for exposing how the US Army murdered a family in a van in Iraq. Obama killed innocent people with drone attacks and turned 2 wars to 7. Obama bailed out the corrupt banks and took $400,000 as a reward for not prosecuting one banker. Obama also refused to legalize marijuana as did his AG Eric Holder who got a cushy 1 million dollar a year job working for a law firm that defends bankers, as a reward for not prosecuting one banker. Obama was a mascot for Wall Street. Cornel West said this. Cornel West is much more intelligent than you. So Obama was extremely corrupt, and his failed 8 years helped cause this

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