What’s Unique about Donald Trump’s Lying?

When reminded about the undeniable fact of Donald Trump’s Lying, Trump’s supporters often deflect with “what-aboutism” (What about Hilary? What about other presidents?). They’ll remark that every politician tells lies, as if that excuses any politician for telling lies. But there are marked differences in the lying done by other politicians over the years, and Donald Trump’s lying.

First, Donald Trump’s lying occurs on a daily basis, and it occurs frequently, publicly, and unapologetically. This is documented by fact checkers, including The Washington Post, which, as of December 2018, had recorded an average of 15 lies or misleading statements per day in 2018. On one particular day, Donald Trump’s lying brought the day’s total to 125. As of January 13, 2019, Trump’s documented public lies or misleading statements totaled more than 7,000 since the start of his presidency, according to The Washington Post.

Second, Donald Trump’s lying and exaggerations continue even in the face of contradiction. If direct contradiction doesn’t cause him to dig in even more to steadfastly support one of his own falsehoods, Trump moves on to another topic. Or, he’ll simply deny ever telling the lie, despite video documentation that shows otherwise. Take, for example, the Stormy Daniels saga. Trump is recorded on various occasions contradicting the accounts he gave on earlier occasions.

According to The Atlantic, here are some of the most frequent and notable instances of Donald Trump’s lying, all easily proven false: The separation wall at the U.S.-Mexico border is already being built (false); the Obama administration also separated children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border (false); Trump’s tax cut bill was the largest tax cut in history (Ronald Reagan’s tax cut bill, among others, was larger); other countries owe the United States large sums of money for NATO (false); the Democrats stirred up a “migrant caravan” by offering them health care and food benefits paid for by U.S. taxpayers (false).

Though we have to acknowledge that fact-checking is much easier, faster, and more efficient than it was, say, had we wanted to verify a politician’s story 100 years ago. Nevertheless, reality points to the fact that most people, politicians or otherwise, do not blatantly, publicly, and unashamedly lie with as much frequency as does Donald Trump.

Nevertheless, Trump’s base continues, no matter what, to support him and make excuses for his lies. Is it because he tells them with such confidence? Is it because his base justifies Trump’s Donald Trump’s lying with the belief that others now and in the past have told as many lies as Trump has (and maybe technology is the only reason we’ve been able to fact-check Trump and not others)?

Or perhaps, in some twisted way, Trump’s supporters admire him for his ability to get away with so many lies. “People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular,” said Trump in his book, The Art of the Deal. “I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration—and a very effective form of promotion.”

If we want to believe something – believe in something – we look for evidence that supports what we believe, and we disregard what doesn’t line up. Trump’s supporters filter out anything that doesn’t support their idea of Trump as a shrewd, savvy businessman who has their backs. Indeed, Donald Trump’s lying not only appears not to have hurt how his base perceives him, it may actually help.

Cavuto: Is Trump giving the media very real ammunition? | Fox News

Jake Tapper debunks Trump’s ‘wall of lies’ | CNN [2019-01-08]

Some Still Believe Trump’s Falsehoods

Recent polls indicate a steady decline in the percentage of Americans who believe Donald Trump’s constant flow of falsehoods. (According to The Washington Post’s ongoing tally, Trump made 4,713 false or misleading statements in his first 592 days in office.) The most recent CNN poll conducted by SSRS shows that Trump’s credibility rating is at an all-time low, with only 32 percent of respondents in a random sampling saying that they see Trump as honest and trustworthy—that is, they believe him when he spouts those falsehoods.

The same poll asked respondents to compare Trump with “most other politicians in Washington” on these factors: honesty, intelligence, corruptness, and being “in touch” (presumably with what’s actually going on outside Trump’s own mind). Donald Trump was on the lower end of each of these comparisons. Regarding honesty, 45 percent feel that Trump is less honest than most other Washington politicians. 47 percent view Trump as less intelligent, 41 percent see him as more corrupt, and 47 percent say Trump is less “in touch.” On the other hand, 27 percent say that Trump is more honest, as well as less corrupt, 28 percent say that he is more “in touch,” and 22 percent say that Donald Trump is more intelligent than other politicians in Washington.

So, what about that 32 percent who still see Donald Trump’s falsehoods as truths (27 percent of whom said he is more honest as well as less corrupt than most other Washington politicians)? How is it that, even in the face of blatant falsehoods (also known as lies), even this small percentage of people continue to put their trust in the veracity of what Donald Trump says and does?

A plausible explanation might be what Michael Shermer proposes in his 2011 book, The Believing Brain:

“Simply put, beliefs come first and explanations for beliefs follow. The brain…is a belief engine. Using sensory data that flow in through the senses, the brain naturally begins to look for and find patterns, and then infuses those patterns with meaning, forming beliefs. Once beliefs are formed, the brain begins to look for and find confirmatory evidence in support of those beliefs, accelerating the process of reinforcing them, and round and round the process goes in a positive-feedback loop.”

In other words, once we form a belief, we continue to look for “evidence” that supports that belief. And to reinforce the “truth” of that belief, we reject data that contradicts the validity of that belief.

This could explain why, even when presented with evidence of corruptness and exposure of falsehood, supporters of Donald Trump continue to support him, no matter what. All humans, as a matter of fact, tend to nourish the foundation of their beliefs in this way, rejecting anything that contradicts them.

One would hope, though, that most of us, at least when confronted with evidence of someone’s dishonesty, corruptness, and lack of integrity, might find it logical to change our minds about that person. Trump supporters, however, go one step further in rejecting contradicting evidence. They reject even the notion that Donald Trump’s falsehoods are, in fact, falsehoods. This allows them to pinch off their receptiveness to even obvious, proven facts when those facts contradict what Trump has said, thus stopping even a trickle of truth before it threatens them.

Donald Trump’s supporters ignore his many, many falsehoods because they have perhaps arrived at the point where they are unable to recognize them as such. Or, if they recognize his statements as false or misleading, they easily explain them away. Or, if they can’t, they find a way to simply dismiss them. Trump supporters feel that they have found someone who represents them – who “has their backs,” however far from reality that idea is. So, despite Trump’s (now more than) 4,713 falsehoods, they will do whatever it takes to support their belief in him.

Unraveling President Trump’s top 5 claims | Fact Checker
Washington Post  [2018-09-04]

Despite Scandals, Trump Supporters Remain Committed | VOA News [2018-09-10]