Donald Trump lies. A lot. He lies about big things, and small things, and things in between. As Matt Lauer can attest, that will pose a particular problem this fall for the debate moderators as they decide whether and when to fact-check in real time a man for whom hyperbole and mendacity are the norm.
To help Monday’s debate moderator Lester Holt out, below is a list of some of the most common lies Trump has told on the stump this past year, which he will likely repeat at the debate, debunked. When Holt asks himself whether and when to fact-check Trump live, let the answers be: yes and always!
Lies Trump Tells About Himself
Lie: He was against the Iraq war from the beginning.
Truth: Reporters have been unable to find—and the Trump camp has been unable to produce—a single example of Trump unequivocally denouncing the war until a year after it began. During a 2002 interview with Howard Stern, however, Trump offered tepid support for the invasion. Asked then whether he backed it, Trump said: “Yeah, I guess so.”
Lie: He cannot release his tax returns while the IRS is auditing him.
Truth: The IRS commissioner himself has said that an audit doesn’t prevent anyone from releasing his or her taxes. In fact, President Richard Nixon once released his returns while being audited. More recently, Trump’s team has awkwardly conceded the real reason he’s not releasing his returns is political—he doesn’t want the scrutiny.
Lie: He gives millions of his own money to charity.
Truth: Trump won’t release his tax returns, so we have no way of knowing for sure how much he’s donated. But if he is actually cutting checks to charity, he’s not doing it via the foundation that he ostensibly created to give away his money. According to public records, Trump has given nothing to the Donald J. Trump Foundation since 2008. The Washington Post, meanwhile, has spent months trying to track down proof of Trump’s recent donations with little to show for it. The paper contacted more than 250 charities with some tie to Trump and found only a single instance of Trump donating his own money between 2008 and this May when he finally made good on a promise to give $1 million to veterans groups.
Lie: There would be no conflicts of interest between his administration and his business empire because he’ll place the latter in a “blind trust” that his adult children would run.
Truth: Such a proposal is by definition not a blind trust. In an actual blind trust, an independent trustee—that is, not someone’s own children—takes over a public official’s portfolio, thereby allowing the official to operate without knowledge of where or how his money is invested in order to avoid it influencing his decisions. And even if Trump did end up setting up an actual blind trust, with an actually independent trustee, Trump would still likely be aware of many of the Trump Organization’s business dealings, given that it makes money by having companies pay for the rights to use the Trump name on buildings and products. Furthermore, he has suggested his adult children—Ivanka, Eric, and Don Jr.—will run his company, but has also floated their names for possible jobs within his administration.
Lie: His for-profit real-estate school received rave reviews from both independent evaluators and students.
Truth: Even the school’s name was a lie. It was never officially licensed as a university and eventually had to change its name to the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative in May 2010, the same year it stopped accepting students, according to one of Trump’s lawyers. Furthermore, the venture received a “D-” rating in 2010 from the Better Business Bureau. Trump also likes to boast that his seminars received a “98-percent approval rating from the people who took the course.” That appears to be a lie as well. One of the class-action lawsuits now pending against the company alleges that those surveys were filled out under pressure from the instructors.
Lie: Trump “finished” the birther conspiracy theory.
Truth: The White House released Obama’s longform birth certificate in the spring of 2011 and yet it wasn’t until this September—more than five years later—that Trump was willing to publicly concede for the first time that Obama was not born in Kenya. In the interim, he continued to sow doubt by claiming that the release he wants credit for was actually forged, and going as far as to suggest that a state employee may have been murdered as part of the cover-up.
Lies Trump Tells About Hillary
Lie: Hillary Clinton “started” the birther conspiracy theory.
Truth: Fact-checkers at the Washington Post, PolitiFact, and Factcheck.org have all looked into the Clinton’s-the-original-birther claim, and found no link between Hillary and the racist rumors. The alleged smoking gun Trump surrogates like to cite was an 2007 strategy memo written by a Clinton adviser that suggested it would be in Hillary’s interest to play up Obama’s multiculturalism in subtle ways. Meanwhile, while there were reports of some of her supporters pushing separate-but-related falsehoods about Obama’s faith, no one has ever uncovered a single example of Clinton publicly questioning that Obama is a natural-born citizen. Furthermore, attempts by Obama’s political rivals to other him did not begin in 2008; they can be traced back at least to Obama’s 2004 campaign for the U.S. Senate, sadly.
Lie: Clinton wants to abolish the Second Amendment.
Truth: The Trump campaign has never produced a single example of Clinton advocating for the repeal of the Second Amendment. Instead, she says she wants to impose “common-sense” restrictions on who can own a gun.
Lies Trump Tells About Things He’s Said
Lies Trump Tells About the Country
Lie: There could be as few as 3 million or as many as 30 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
Truth: The Department of Homeland Security last estimated the size of the undocumented population at 11.4 million at the start of 2012, down from a peak of 12.2 million five years earlier. As PolitiFact points out, that figure is line with the most recent estimates from the Pew Research Center (11.3 million in 2014), the Center for Migration Studies (10.9 million in 2014), and the Center for Immigrations Studies (11.7 million in 2016). While the government does not know the exact number of undocumented immigrants in the United States, there are no credible estimates that approach either Trump’s high- or low-end numbers.
Lie: Assimilation among American Muslims is nearly "non-existent.”
Truth: The Pew Research Center conducted a major survey on the topic in 2011 and concluded “Muslim Americans appear to be highly assimilated into American society.” Public polling of Muslim Americans likewise suggests that a majority identify strongly with the United States.
The Electoral Process
Lie: The general election debates are “rigged” against him because two overlap with NFL games.
Truth: The Commission on Presidential Debates consulted with both parties before setting the fall schedule for the three presidential debates and the single vice presidential one. Furthermore, the bipartisan panel announced the dates in September of last year, more than four months before this year’s first nominating contest and nearly seven months before the NFL released its schedule for the season. Scheduling conflicts between major sporting events and the general election debates are also neither new—there were two NFL conflicts in 2012 alone—nor easily avoidable, given that the NFL now plays on Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays, while MLB playoff games up to and including the World Series can fall on any day of the week. (Bonus lie: Trump claims the NFL sent him a letter alerting him about the conflict; the NFL says that didn’t happen.)
Lie: The election itself is “rigged” against him.
Truth: Trump’s claim was, in the words of the usually staid Associated Press, an “unprecedented assertion by a modern presidential candidate,” one that could “threaten the tradition of peacefully contested elections and challenge the very essence of a fair democratic process.” Trump has laid the groundwork for only two possible outcomes in the eyes of his most passionate supporters: He wins the presidency, or he has it stolen from him. Meanwhile, his campaign has produced no credible evidence to support the extraordinary claim that the outcome of an election that has yet to happen will be illegitimate.
Lie: The United States is one of the highest taxed nations in the world.
Truth: This is a slightly softer version of his original claim that America is the most taxed nation, though the rewrite still isn’t enough to save it. According to a Pew Research Center report from this year—based on 2014 data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development—Americans’ tax bills are below average among developed nations.
Lie: The true unemployment rate is as high as 42 percent.
Truth: The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest estimate pegs the nation’s unemployment rate at 4.9 percent, roughly where it has been for the past year. That figure does not factor in those Americans who are unemployed but not currently looking for work. BLS, however, offers a second statistic—known as the labor underutilization rate—that in addition to the officially unemployed, also counts part-time workers who would like to be working more and those who want to work but are not currently looking for a job. That figure was 9.7 percent in August.
Lie: The black youth unemployment rate is 59 percent.
Truth: Again, no. According to BLS, the unemployment rate for blacks between 16 and 24 years old was 26.1 percent in August. While Trump has never said where his figure came from, the most likely scenario is that he is relying on a metric that misleadingly factors in those who don’t work and aren’t looking for a job, including high school and college students.
Race and Crime
Lie: Stop and frisk was a sweeping success in New York City.
Truth: It was not.
Lie: Black people love him.
Truth: They do not.
Lie: He is the least racist person you’ve ever met.
Truth: We really hope that’s not the case.