The Toronto Star’s daily tally of Donald Trump’s lies has become a phenomenon in recent weeks. It adds something new to the fact-checking routine we’d all become accustomed to, in which one or two Trump lies were singled out for fact-checking but others were let slide. Daniel Dale, who is responsible for the tally, has given Politico a fascinating account of how he came to the project. The poor guy used to cover two prolific liars in Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his brother Doug, and started keeping a tally of their lies. When he was reassigned to U.S. politics and encountered, in Trump, his “third once-in-a-lifetime liar,” he decided to repeat the tactic. Here’s why he thinks it’s a worthwhile project:
My first day making a Trump lie list, September 15, I counted 12 false claims. Among them: Trump falsely claimed again to have opposed the Iraq War, falsely claimed that Clinton’s campaign invented the phrase “alt-right,” falsely described his rocky visit to a church in Flint, Michigan, falsely claimed his poll numbers with black voters were skyrocketing and falsely claimed Hispanic poverty has worsened under the Obama administration.
Reporters noted some of this on Twitter. But the fact-checking largely stayed confined to personal social media accounts, out of articles and cable segments and corporate feeds seen by many more people. These are some of the headlines Trump got that day: “Donald Trump reveals more details of his tax plan.” “Donald Trump releases one-page summary of medical records.” “Donald Trump: The Fed Is Very Political.”
That is perfectly understandable. All of the above is real news. Other than the Iraq lie, which was already old news by then, none of his false claims was, in itself, tremendously significant.
But I think they added up to something crucial. All together, one of the day’s most important news items was really this: “Candidate makes up a whole bunch of things in rapid succession for no particular reason.” It went largely untold.
As Dale acknowledges, it’s not likely to change any minds, due to “the limited power of truth to reach people who are sure they already know it.” But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth having reality on the record when it comes to the campaign to be president of the United States.
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