The Washington Post recently tallied the number of lies President Donald Trump has told since he took office. They came up with an astonishing number. It’s a number that dwarfs the unsurpassed athletic records that American sports fans have had imprinted in their brains since they were kids. Joe Dimaggio’s 56-game hitting streak in baseball. Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 points in a single basketball game. Hitting over .400, or an average of four hits for each ten at-bats, something that hasn’t been done since Ted Williams last did it in 1941.
These are among a handful of improbable athletic feats that have stood for decades. Yet, they pale in comparison with Trump’s lying. The Post, which along with The New York Times has done an excellent job covering this administration and uncovering its lies and deceptions, recently reported the following:
“With just 10 days before he finishes his first year as president, Trump has made 2,001 false or misleading claims in 355 days, according to our database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president. That’s an average of more than 5.6 claims a day. “
Apologists will cite studies that show everyone lies every day. Yes, but Trump’s lies are different: they are not common lies about things such as why you didn’t turn your homework in on time or even that you didn’t have sex with that woman. Who knows and who care how many private lies Trump tells. The lies that Trump tells that count are about big national and international issues. These lies are public, political, partisan and consequential. Has Iran really reneged on the nuclear agreement? Is China a major currency manipulator? These kinds of lies can bring on nuclear and/or trade wars.
With Trump leading the way, right now in the United States the only thing more contagious than this winter’s flu is the epidemic of lies coming from this administration and its allies in Congress and beyond. There is brazen lying, the kind of lies that can be easily contradicted with evidence. There is lying by silence, by omission, by distortion and by dissembling.
Last week, during a meeting with a bipartisan group of members of Congress to discuss immigration, Trump hurled vicious racist slanders against nations like Haiti and El Salvador and the people of the huge continent of Africa. After two Senators, Republican Lindsey Graham and Democrat Richard Durbin, related that Trump had asked why are we getting immigrants from shithole countries like these instead of countries like Norway, the President and his usual apologists went into overdrive.
Trump cast his obscene and bigoted words as merely “tough.” Two Republican Senators tried to sow doubt on what Graham and Durbin had said by giving vague and changing versions of an alternative narrative. The fact that the accounts of these Trump allies were shaky and vague—first they couldn’t recall, then they could—while Durbin and Graham were constant and specific suggests who is lying. And Donald Trump’s decades-long racist track record makes it entirely credible that he said exactly just those things.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who was not there but has seen enough of Trump to know he did make the comments, couldn’t say otherwise with a straight face. Instead, Ryan chose to lie through dissembling. He described Trump’s abhorrent comments as “unfortunate” and “unhelpful.” Unfortunate? Unhelpful? That’s an obvious attempt to take some of the sting out of a brutal comment by making it bland. That’s a real profile in courage. That’s leadership.
With a couple of exceptions, Republicans in Congress acquitted themselves no better, issuing equally pathetic statements or staying silent. Lying by minimizing, lying by omission, lying by dissembling. Different strains of an epidemic of lies.
The epidemic of lies encompasses much more than providing cover stories for Trump’s insane and obscene statements. It runs the whole gamut. Lies about who benefits from the new tax law. Lies about the administration’s legislative accomplishments. Lies about global warming. Lies about virtually everything.
Lies, like viruses, can be lethal. Shortly before Trump’s hateful outburst, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reported that “In Texas, Trump Nominee for U.S. Environment Czar Faked Data to Hide Cancer Risk.”
This is serious stuff. A new study by EWG found that 170 million Americans drink municipal water contaminated by carcinogens like radium and numerous other nasty chemicals. The nominee in question, ”Kathleen Hartnett White, admitted in a 2011 investigation by Houston’s KHOU-TV that if utility tests found radiation levels over the EPA limit, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality would subtract the test’s margin of error to make it appear the water met federal standards. In some cases, this meant that Texans whose tap water posed the extraordinarily elevated lifetime cancer risk of 1 in 400 were not informed of the danger.”
The people who rule us today have evidently turned more than one Biblical injunction on its head.
Thou shall bear false witness.
Thou shall not kill.