Yes, we all know Donald Trump disdains losers and embraces winning and winners. And it turns out, he truly excels in one competition. It’s one most others would shun. Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s intrepid Fact Checker, awards him the dubious honor of holding the most “Four Pinocchios” of any politician.
Now first a word about Kessler. I’ve written highly critically about him in the past for engaging in cherry picking, nitpicking, and even his choice of expert sources, breezily writing off liberal think tank Economic Policy Institute, while citing right-wing, Koch brothers-supported sources such as the Cato Institute and Mercatus, both of which were set up specifically to provide research for libertarian policies, not to provide independent mainstream scholarship. But in this case, Kessler does a good job of comparing Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton.
He points out, fairly I think, that Clinton is no different from most other politicians when it comes to honesty. She is, as Kessler states, a longtime career politician. But he quite fairly places her trustworthiness in the context of other public figures. Yes, she sometimes misspeaks, bends truth, and states claims that prove false. She makes errors. Just as her colleagues on both sides of the aisle and as public speakers from all occupations do. Humans are prone to memory failures, errors, and mistakes. We all are fallible. And politics is a field fraught with half-truths and false claims made and retracted in the heat of campaigns. And with promises that cannot be kept no matter how good one’s intentions when they are made.
In that context, Hillary falls in the middle of the pack. Despite long public scrutiny and often-unfair accusations of her, she actually is about as truthful and has about as much integrity as most other politicians. She falls in the middle of the pack, for good or ill.
What Kessler does not do, however, is engage in false equivalence this time. He makes it clear that Trump has a far higher number of “Four Pinnochios” (outright lies) than Clinton. Here is Kessler’s breakdown:
Trump (52 rated claims)
Four Pinocchios: 33 (63 percent)
Three Pinocchios: 11 (21 percent)
Two Pinocchios: 5 (10 percent)
One Pinocchio: 1 (2 percent)
Geppetto Checkmark: 2 (4 percent).
Clinton (36 rated claims)
Four Pinocchios: 5 (14 percent)
Three Pinocchios: 13 (36 percent)
Two Pinocchios: 11 (30.5 percent)
One Pinocchio: 2 (5.5 percent)
Geppetto Checkmark: 5 (14 percent)
Kessler takes time to carefully explain his rationale, his methods, and his data. He says that he does not rate every fact that is checked but mostly responds to reader requests. As he explains, the reason so many more of Trump’s claims are rated is because Trump has made so many public appearances, often speaks off the cuff, and makes statements that are “provocative and controversial,” according to Kessler. Clinton, on the other hand, has given fewer informal interviews, sticks mostly to prepared remarks, and rarely goes off message.
As Kessler also pointed out:
Clinton is a professional politician, with a large staff that will readily respond to fact-checking questions. Often, Clinton’s staff can quickly provide documentation that backs up, or at least explains, the facts and figures that she cites. By contrast, Trump’s small staff rarely responds to fact-checking inquiries and never provides an explanation for his statements.
Trump is also the rare politician who will repeat false claims, over and over, even after they have been debunked by fact-checking organizations. Most politicians will simply stop repeating a claim after receiving Four Pinocchios, our worst rating.
In other words, Trump’s campaign does not respond to fact-checking requests, and rather than retracting or even quietly just dropping false claims, Trump and his surrogates often double down and repeat them over and over again knowing full well they are false. In other words, Trump has a disrespect for facts and truth that is unparalleled even in politics. And that makes him a winner of sorts, the winner of the most “Pinocchios” in this race. I guess you could say The Dishonest Donald is the winningest liar in the contest.