Giving the Lie to the Media’s Whopper Spotters

People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election.
                                                      — Otto von Bismarck

Is Donald Trump the most prolific liar and egregious character ever to have entered politics? You’d have to think so judging by the press, which has shouted from the rooftops that Trump lied at least 30 times during the presidential debate.

On ABC Insiders last Sunday, Mark Kenny agreed that there had been lies on both sides but opined that Trump’s had been deliberate lies whereas Biden’s were merely mistakes. From an Agence France Press article published in The Australian:

On “one side of the screen, you have integrity, the other side you have dishonesty,” she [Pelosi] said, echoing a number of party figures attempting to shift the focus from what they say was Biden’s unfortunate performance to the barrage of lies that came from Donald Trump during the debate.

Greg Sheridan in Tuesday’s paper:

I have reluctantly come to the conclusion therefore that the Democrats are worse than Trump in trashing norms and institutions.

Why reluctantly, Greg? You are a conservative.  Did you want a man – a man whose presidency (as opposed to his personality) you have consistently rated, on balance, as successful – to be worse than the Democrats who trumped up the Russiagate hoax before Trump even took office?  And why did it take you so long?  The evidence has been before your eyes for years now.

From The Australian editorial on Monday July 1:

Assessments by The Wall Street Journal have highlighted blatant untruths told by Mr Trump during the debate. His claim that Vladimir Putin would not have invaded Ukraine if the US had a different president, for example, was dubious.

Is this, supposedly dubious (I would call it, at worst, speculative) claim – the best example, ‘from a barrage of lies’, of a ‘blatant untruth’, that the Australian’s editor could extract from the WSJ assessment? Not being a subscriber I could not find the WSJ assessment but I did find one from USA Today that reckons they both told some porkies.  Here is a summary of them, my comments interposed:

Biden claim: We lowered the cost of an insulin shot from $400 to $15

“We brought down the price of prescription drugs, which is a major issue for many people, to $15 for – for an insulin shot, as opposed to $400.”

This is false.

The Inflation Reduction Act that Biden signed into law in August 2022 capped the out-of-pocket cost of insulin at $35 a month for all seniors on Medicare, according to the White House. Several pharmaceutical companies, including Eli Lilly, followed suit and limited the monthly cost of the drug to $35 per month as well. But there is no evidence Biden limited the cost of insulin beyond this.

So, an exaggeration on Biden’s part.  A bit of gilding the lily. Typical of most politicians.

Biden claim: He is endorsed by Border Patrol agents

“The border patrolmen endorsed me, endorsed my position.”

This is partly false.

The National Border Patrol Council – the labor union that represents more than 18,000 U.S. Border Patrol agents – posted to X, formerly Twitter, minutes after Biden made the claim and said, “To be clear, we never have and never will endorse Biden.”

But the union, which endorsed Trump in 2020, supported the proposed bipartisan border agreement that Biden backed and Trump opposed, NBC News reported in February.

So, a long bow on Biden’s part.  A bit of etc etc …

Biden claim: Illegal border crossings dropped 40% after his June directive

“I’ve changed (the law) in a way that now you’re in a situation where there are 40% fewer people coming across the border illegally.”

Biden took executive action on June 4 that authorized the U.S. to turn away migrants who enter the country illegally when crossing levels are high. The policy is triggered anytime unlawful crossings hit an average of 2,500 people a day in a given week.

In remarks posted on June 26, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said Border Patrol encounters along the US-Mexico border had dropped by over 40% since Biden took action.

However, immigration experts have cautioned that it’s difficult to point to any one reason for a drop in crossings at the border, PolitiFact noted in its fact check on this claim.

Whatever the truth of the 40% figure, the fact is that Biden’s policy encourages illegal migration. He just doesn’t want it to be too obvious.

Trump claim: Everybody wanted Roe v. Wade overturned

“I put three great Supreme Court justices on the court, and they happened to vote in favor of killing Roe v. Wade and moving it back to the states. This is something that everybody wanted.”

This is not an accurate summary of public opinion on the question. Numerous polls show most Americans were not in favor of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade in June 2022.

So, an exaggeration on Trump’s part.  A bit of etc etc …

Biden claim: Historians voted Trump ‘worst’ president in history

“(Trump) was the worst in all of American history. … He can argue (the historians) are wrong, but that’s what they voted.”

Biden was presumably referring to the 2024 Presidential Greatness Project Expert Survey, which is a joint project from University of Houston professor Brandon Rottinghaus and Coastal Carolina University professor Justin Vaughn.

The survey respondents in late 2023 voted Trump the lowest in “overall presidential greatness,” behind James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson and Franklin Pierce. Abraham Lincoln was rated highest. Joe Biden ranked at No. 14.

Out of 525 respondents invited to participate, the survey received 154 usable responses, yielding a 29% response rate.

So, an exaggeration on Biden’s part.  A bit of etc etc …

Trump claim: I brought in National Guard during 2020 Minnesota unrest

“If I didn’t bring in the National Guard, that city (Minneapolis) would have been destroyed.”

It was Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, who activated the state’s National Guard to respond to unrest following the death of George Floyd, according to a press release issued by Walz’s office on May 28, 2020.

CNN reporter Daniel Dale also looked into the claim back in 2020, detailing the timeline of events provided to the network by Walz’s press secretary, Teddy Tschann. In a statement to CNN, Tschann said Walz activated the National Guard at the request of the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul, before the governor spoke with the White House.

The fact that Walz spoke to the White House at around the same time, could mean that Trump genuinely believes he was instrumental in the deployment.

Biden claim: Trump praised Hitler, saying he did ‘some good things’

“This is a guy who says Hitler has done some good things”

Biden’s quote of Trump is a reference to comments the former president allegedly made while talking with his White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly, in 2018 during a trip to Paris, according to excerpts from an upcoming book by Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender.

Trump later denied that he made the comments and denied that the conversation took place. Liz Harrington, a Trump spokesperson, told CNN the claim is “totally false.”

“President Trump never said this,” Harrington said. “It is made up fake news, probably by a general who was incompetent and was fired.”

Kelly has made numerous claims about Trump disrespecting veterans, POWs and KIA soldiers.  Apart from a crack at John McCain not being a war hero because he was captured, which did happen and was made in the context of the 2016 primaries when McCain was equally scathing of Trump, these are hearsay by one disgruntled former staffer and sound inherently unlikely.

Trump claim: Record ‘approval rating’ from VA

“I had the highest approval rating in the history of the VA.”

This is both false and a mischaracterization of what the quarterly customer experience surveys from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs measure. The Veteran Signals surveys track the proportion of servicemembers who express having trust in the VA. It’s not a presidential approval rating.

So, an exaggeration on Trump’s part.  A bit of etc etc …

Trump claim: More illicit drugs coming into US under Biden

“The number of drugs coming across our border now is the largest we’ve ever had by far.”

This is false. When measured by weight, drug seizures are trending down.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Border Patrol and Office of Field Operations seized nearly 549,000 pounds of illicit drugs in 2023, according to federal data. That’s down 16% from 2022, when 656,000 pounds of substances were confiscated. More than 900,000 pounds were seized in 2021, according to federal data.

Fentanyl seizures were up, however, with the 27,000 pounds in 2023 accounting for nearly twice the 14,700 pounds confiscated in 2022.

It is difficult to get accurate figures for drug seizures during Trump’s term – in 2017 it was 670,000 lbs and in 2018 it was 500,000 lbs.  Numbers apparently trended up during the Covid years.  But, regardless of seizures, it is likely that, with illegal immigration at record numbers, many of whom are not even detected, drug importation will also have increased to record numbers.  A speculative claim on Trump’s part.  Not a lie.

Trump claim: Biden indicted me because I’m his political opponent

“He [Biden] indicted me because I’m his opponent.”

This is false. Trump was indicted and convicted in New York for falsifying business records related to a $130,000 hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election. But there is no evidence Biden or his administration had anything to do with these charges.

We don’t know what covert support the White House gave to these political prosecutions, but it certainly did not denounce them. Therefore, it is undeniable that Biden is complicit in this blatant attack on democracy.  This is just Trump’s way of emphasizing that point. 

Trump claim: Food prices have ‘doubled and tripled and quadrupled’ under Biden

“You look at the cost of food where it’s doubled and tripled and quadrupled.”

The cost of food has gone up under Biden, but not to the extent Trump claimed. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s all-food consumer price index shows food prices rose by 25% from 2019 to 2023.

So, an exaggeration on Trump’s part. 

Trump claim: No sex with porn star

“I didn’t have sex with a porn star.”

This is disputed.

This misses the point that Trump made this statement in response to Biden saying,  ‘And think of all the civil penalties you have. How many billions of dollars do you owe in civil penalties for molesting a woman in public, for doing a whole range of things, of having sex with a porn star on the night — and while your wife was pregnant?’

Regardless of whether or not he slept with her, Trump was not found guilty of having sex with a porn star.

Trump claim: Biden called African=Americans ‘super predators’

“He did a crime bill. 1994. Where you called them super predators. African Americans. Super predators. And they’ve never forgotten it. They’ve never forgotten it.”

While Biden once warned of “predators” in 1993 while advocating for a 1994 crime bill he sponsored as a senator, he never referred to African Americans as “super predators.” Rather, it was then-first lady Hillary Clinton who linked that term to the 1994 crime bill, as USA TODAY previously reported.

So, not Biden, but a prominent Democrat did say it.  Given all the verballing Trump has been subjected to, he might be excused this slip.

Trump claim: Unprecedented numbers of murders by immigrants under Biden

“People are coming in and they’re killing our citizens at a level that we’ve never seen.”

While Trump has made a version of this claim before, there is no data that points to a wave of homicides being led by people living illegally in the U.S.

A review of 2024 crime data by NBC News suggests the opposite might be true. Overall crime levels have fallen in cities where a Texas program has transported migrants from the border, the network reported in February.

Crime is down year over year in Philadelphia, Chicago, Denver, New York and Los Angeles, according to the report. Washington experienced an increase, but officials do not attribute that spike to migrants, NBC News reported.

Research suggests immigrants actually commit fewer crimes than people born in the US.

I always give great credence to ‘research that suggests’ something.  And ‘overall crime levels have fallen in cities where a Texas program has transported migrants from the border’ might be indicative that there is, indeed, a problem.

Trump claim: The US southern border is the most dangerous place in the world

“We have a border that’s the most dangerous place anywhere in the world”

This is false. While deaths, disappearances and violence do occur at the U.S. southern border, there is no evidence to suggest it is the most dangerous place in the world.

Yep, OK.  This is obviously a bit of political hyperbole.

Trump claim: Corporate tax cut from 39% to 21%

“The corporate tax was cut down to 21% from 39% plus beyond that.”

Trump was off with one of his numbers. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 did lower the corporate tax rate to 21%. But it started at 35%, not the 39% that Trump claimed.

Being off by four points is an example of a ‘blatant lie’!  How can Trump live with himself?

Biden claim: Trump told Americans to inject bleach to treat COVID-19

“He said it’s not that serious, just inject a little bleach in your arm, you’ll be all right.”

Biden is referring to comments Trump made during a press conference early in the pandemic when he suggested disinfectants might be a possible treatment for COVID-19. But he overstates what Trump said.

‘Overstates’?  Trump did not say this or anything like it.  Biden’s claim is a flat out, lie.

Biden claim: No American troops died anywhere in the world during his presidency

“The truth is, I’m the only president this century that doesn’t have any – this decade – that doesn’t have any troops dying anywhere in the world, like (former President Donald Trump) did.”

Biden’s comment came following a reference to hostilities in Afghanistan during Trump’s term in office. But the notion that no troops have died in the world during Biden’s time in office is wrong.

Thirteen U.S. service members were killed in a suicide bombing attack near the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul in August 2021, when Biden was president, as thousands tried to flee the Taliban’s takeover of the country, USA TODAY previously reported.

Among the deaths were 11 Marines, one Navy hospital corpsman and one Army soldier.

More recently, three U.S. Army Reserve soldiers were killed in January at a base in Jordan in what was described as a drone attack by Iran-backed militants.

The ‘notion is wrong’?  What is a notion?  Is that just a polite way of saying that Biden (a) made a mistake or (b) lied? Trump’s essential point is that during his presidency no new US overseas military deployments were initiated and that he ordered the withdrawal from Afghanistan.  So, Trump can claim that no American troops died as a result of decisions he made.  Not so with Biden, who totally screwed up the withdrawal from Afghanistan — and then had the cheek to claim it as a massive achievement.

Most of the above examples, particularly Trump’s, are little more than instances of typical politician’s bluster and hyperbole.  Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen puts both Trump and Biden to shame when it comes to retailing mangled facts and flat-out lies

This forthcoming election is too important for one of the two protagonists to be elevated into a new class of liar – one that that ‘we’ve never seen before’, as Trump is wont to say.  How sad that conservative opinionistas allow themselves to be suckered into that narrative.

8 thoughts on “Giving the Lie to the Media’s Whopper Spotters

  • Tony Thomas says:

    Peter, a “lie” you would agree is when a person makes a serious claim knowing it is false. This does not cover errors, exaggerations, etc.
    Somehow commentaries on the debate don’t seem to nail Biden on two egregious lies: that Trump said there were “good people” among the Nazis at Charleston (check the transcript at Charleston), and that he called US troops “suckers and losers” at Normandy. From memory, I recall there were a couple of dozen present, of whom all but one signed stat decs or similar that Trump never made the comment. It’s obvious to me that in Biden’s debate prepping, the facts were known but Biden’s accusations became prominent in the debate regardless. If Biden wasn’t lying, he was being grossly defamatory and/or incompetent.

    • Peter OBrien says:

      Yes Tony, if you leave aside the exaggerations and errors, the lies which really matter are those that Biden directed towards Trump’s character. I did not cover the Charleston lie because the USA Today article did not mention it. My point was not so much to highlight Biden’s lies as it was to put Trump’s putative lies into context.

    • Brian Boru says:

      I agree with your definition of a lie Tony. I would include in that a statement in a partisan media that a person has lied when the journalist making that claim knows it doesn’t comply with that definition.
      What a poor state of affairs it is when the potential leaders of the free? world can’t be trusted to be truthful. How much worse though when the media that purports to be a news source is also dishonest.

  • Ceres says:

    Greg Sheridan “I have reluctantly come to the conclusion therefore that the Democrats are worse than Trump in trashing norms and institutions.”

    I gave up on Greg Sheridan ages ago with his TDS. What rock has Sheridan been living under to only now ‘reluctantly’ recognise the demolition job the Democrats have been undertaking on America? Happy to hear what the norms and institutions are that Trump apparently trashed, but need specifics before I will take Sheridan or anyone else, seriously. So many vague accusations, Trump cops but his worse sins seem to me to be engaging in hyperbole, and brashness at times.

  • BalancedObservation says:

    Great work Peter O’Brien.
    It wouldn’t matter if Donald Trump were lying or not, he’d make a much better president than Joe Biden.
    Trump at least has the ability to string a few sentences coherently together. And he can actually find his own way off a stage. If you can’t do those simple things you have absolutely no business being a candidate for president and certainly not actually being the president.
    And Trump did a good job as president. Republican voters thought so.
    I’m not going to enter into a tit for tat competition over who’s lying or not. I already believe from stacks of evidence that Trump is one of the most politically honest candidates you’d ever hope to get in America or anywhere.
    He’s honest to a fault. One of Trump’s main problems with the mainstream media is that he’s too open, direct and straight forward about what he actually believes. He says what he really thinks.

    That’s eagerly exploited by the mainstream media. Like the totally dishonest and widespread deliberate misrepresentation of Trump’s “bloodbath” comment. He was referring to the impact of his opponent’s policies on the auto industry if Biden were re-elected. I actually saw him say it on YouTube. If I knew that, the media had to know that. Or could find out.
    You wouldn’t have a clue what many politicians actually believe – and more to the point – how it will affect what decisions they make behind closed doors.
    But you know what Trump will do when elected. He did what he’d promised to do last time. And would be likely to do what he promised to do again.
    According to the respected Pew research organisation Trump’s the second most popular US president among Relublican voters – second only to Ronald Reagan who’s arguably Republican royalty. That would not be the case if Trump did not do as he promised.
    And you hardly ever hear this fact of course among the leftwing mainstream media but even among more conservative mainstream media.
    Look as for The Australian articles – they represent the best you’re ever likely to get in the mainstream media which is in any way fair to conservatives. Greg Sheridan is getting better lately. I find him ok.
    But the moderation of comments made at the Australia is something else. I know from very long experience that fair comments well within their guidelines are manipulated and censored – at times outrageously. It’s making me question my subscription again. I don’t like paying $40 per month to have my reasonable comments censored and manipulated.
    It’s not the Australian management. The comments are not manipulated and censored to be inline with editorial opinion. It’s usually quite the opposite.
    It’s my guess it’s recent journalism course graduates doing their own thing, following their own biases. And there’s little or no quality control over what they do. It must be costing The Australian more in moderation of comments. Manipulating and censoring like they do would take a lot more time than simply fair, objective moderation. But hey manipulating and censoring is what passes quite often for journalism these days.

    • Peter OBrien says:

      “That’s eagerly exploited by the mainstream media. Like the totally dishonest and widespread deliberate misrepresentation of Trump’s “bloodbath” comment.”

      in fact Biden did advert briefly to this lie but the moment passed over quickly.

  • Peter OBrien says:

    “He’s honest to a fault. One of Trump’s main problems with the mainstream media is that he’s too open, direct and straight forward about what he actually believes. He says what he really thinks.”

    That’s a great point BO. I wish I had thought to include it my piece.

    • BalancedObservation says:

      Thanks Peter.
      Yours was a great article. It’s an example of why I value Quadrant. Why we all should.
      They’re the sorts of comments which might be manipulated or censored in our left and right mainstream media. Not because they breach guidelines but because they’re too effective.
      By manipulated I mean placed in pending for many hours until nearly all interest in the article has gone. While it’s in pending many other comments are published which were submitted well after it.
      The pending manipulation hasn’t happened to me in our mainstream left media. It only happens in the right mainstream media we all know well. Nearly every comment I make is censored in the left mainstream media . I simply never hear about them again. So I’ve given up with the left media.
      The pending manipulation happens nearly every single day in our right mainstream media. Interestingly in all the years I’ve been posting to the Wall Street Journal I don’t recall ever having a single comment censored or manipulated.

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