The second presidential debate Oct. 9 was filled with accusations of lying by both candidates during the ugly 90-minute episode. According to fact-checkers, Donald Trump was the greater liar in the debate.
His lies included denying tape recordings of him supporting the invasion of Iraq and claiming to grope women. He denied his own tweet suggesting voters examine Alicia Machado in a sex tape, and he once again supported Russia when he said there may be no hacking. On the contrary, the U.S. intelligence community states hacking is being conducted by Russia with the approval of senior leadership.
LOOKING BACK over the entire campaign, who is the greater liar? Hillary Clinton publicly said the Benghazi attack on our consulate was caused by a video, while privately she said it was a pre-planned attack. She said there was no material marked classified in her unclassified email server, but FBI Director James Comey said there were three paragraphs that were marked “C,” the abbreviation for confidential, the lowest level of classification. She said she once arrived in Bosnia under sniper fire, but in fact she was required to wear a flak jacket during the C-17’s final approach for fear of sniper fire.
As for Trump, for years he claimed that President Obama was not an American citizen and was born in Kenya. Last year he said he would eliminate the federal debt in eight years. Recently he said that Clinton may be unfaithful to her husband.
There is no truth to any of these statements. He has since stated that Obama is an American citizen after all, but lied again by stating it was Clinton’s 2008 campaign that started the rumor. Regarding the likelihood that she was unfaithful, he just grabbed that accusation out of thin air. It is noteworthy because it was such a personal and disgusting accusation – the kind of statements that Trump makes easily and frequently. Recall what he said about John McCain, the family of fallen soldier Capt. Humayun Khan, Megan Kelly and Alicia Machado.
As far as eliminating the federal debt in eight years, that was such a ridiculous claim it is beyond lying – it was just ignorant. His new plan proposes to add $5 trillion to the debt over 10 years with massive tax cuts for the wealthy. The self-proclaimed “king of debt” knows how to increase it, but not how to fix it.
THESE ARE ONLY a small sampling of lies, but a broader review by fact-check organizations show Trump is the far more prolific liar.
Politifact, a project of the Tampa Bay Times, named Trump’s collective lies the “Lie of the Year” in 2015. Several of the 2015 highlighted lies were: Mexico is not sending their finest, but sending rapists and murderers across the border; Trump saw thousands and thousands of people celebrating after the destruction of the World Trade Center; and blacks are predominantly killing whites. In the last case, he lied by forwarding a false tweet.
The Washington Post’s fact-checker assigned its worst rating, four Pinocchios, to 16 percent of Clinton’s statements and 64 percent of Trump’s. Trump supporters frequently complain that the mainstream media is left-biased, and the stories of Trump’s prolific and pathological lying can be discounted. But most claims are supported by Trump’s own words, and the media’s claims are true. Established news sources are incentivized by market forces to be truthful. If they are not, they lose credibility, circulation, revenue and ultimately profit. Lies are far more likely to come from candidates than the mainstream media.
Trump related his theory of marketing in his 1987 book The Art of the Deal. He said, “People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole.”
The problem is Trump’s hyperbole is predominantly not truthful, and he seems not to know or care when it isn’t. He just says stuff.
When it comes to political lying, Donald Trump is a national champion, and Hillary Clinton is not even in the same league.
(The writer is a retired U.S. Navy officer. He lives and writes in Savannah.)