Donald Trump – whom we crowned the “King of Whoppers” when he was a long-shot candidate in 2015 – has held true to form during his first 100 days as president of the United States.
In his first hour as president, he painted a dark portrait of a crime-ridden America with a dismal economy. The next day he falsely denied that he had been feuding with the intelligence agencies, which days earlier he had compared to Nazi Germany’s.
He grandly boasted that his inaugural crowd was larger than Obama’s, and said his Electoral College majority was larger than those of any president since Ronald Reagan. Neither claim was close to the truth.
He doubled down on his baseless claim that massive voter fraud gave Hillary Clinton her popular vote plurality last year. Then he made a new and equally groundless claim that President Barack Obama had ordered his phones tapped during the campaign – and called for Congress to investigate, even though he could produce no evidence. He has claimed credit for jobs created (or saved) before he took office, and for getting China to stop currency manipulation that actually stopped years earlier.
And he has adamantly refused to admit error, sometimes piling new falsehoods upon old. When photos showed his inaugural crowd, though respectable, was far smaller than the one for Obama’s 2009 swearing-in, his press secretary recited bogus statistics on subway ridership as evidence that Trump was right. And when those statistics were quickly shown to be incorrect, another aide blithely dubbed the falsehoods as merely “alternative facts” – a phrase that has now entered the language as a euphemism for blatant and unrepentant falsehoods.
Here’s a chronological listing of the whoppers Trump has told during his first 100 days:
- Jan. 20: In his inaugural address, President Trump spoke darkly of “the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives,” and promised: “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.” In fact, the U.S. violent crime rate in 2015 (the most recent full year on record) was less than half what it was at its peak in 1991, and was expected to increase about 3 percent in 2016, based on preliminary reports.
Trump also painted a dismal picture of the economy, saying other countries were “destroying our jobs.” Actually, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics would soon report, the economy had just added 216,000 jobs in January – the 76th consecutive month of employment gains, which was the longest on record to date. That included a gain of 12,000 manufacturing jobs for the month. (Trump would later claim credit for the January gains, even though all of it occurred before he was sworn in.)
- Jan. 21: On his first full day as president, Trump visited Central Intelligence Agency headquarters and claimed that the media – “the most dishonest human beings on Earth” – had “sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community,” which he said wasn’t so.
In fact, Trump had belittled the intelligence community for months and disputed its findings that Russia had meddled in the 2016 presidential election. At one point he tweeted: “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?”
- Jan. 21: In the next breath, Trump claimed the crowd at his inauguration “looked like a million-and-a-half people” and that news organizations lied about the size. His press secretary, Sean Spicer, quickly issued a statement insisting: “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration – period. Both in person and around the globe.” But it was not, as clearly shown in crowd photos of the 2017 and 2009 inaugural events.
Spicer offered false figures: He said more people rode the Washington, D.C., subway on Trump’s Inauguration Day than on Obama’s second inauguration in 2013. Actually, only 193,000 had ridden as of 11 a.m., just before Trump’s speech. Obama’s comparable totals were 513,000 in 2009 and 317,000 in 2013. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway later characterized Spicer’s falsehoods as “alternative facts.”
- Jan. 21: Also at CIA headquarters, Trump said the Islamic State, or ISIS, would not exist if the U.S. “kept the oil when we got out” of Iraq. In fact, ISIS largely has been funded through extortion, robbery, taxes and Syrian oil, according to government reports and terrorism financing experts.
Bogus claim of voter fraud
- Jan. 23: Trump told congressional leaders that the reason he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton was that between 3 million and 5 million votes were cast illegally. Two days later, he tweeted that he would ask for “a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD.” But there was no evidence of any such massive fraud at the time, and none has been produced since. Spicer, pressed to explain what Trump was talking about, said, “I think there’s been studies. … It’s a belief he maintains.”
- Jan. 25: Trump said estimates of those who gained health insurance coverage under Obama’s Affordable Care Act fail to account for the “millions of people” who lost health insurance they liked. Wrong. The total number of people who lack insurance declined by 20 million since the ACA was enacted, according to the National Health Interview Survey. That’s a net figure – taking into account any who might have lost coverage.
Trump referred to the estimated 2.6 million who got cancellation notices in 2013 because their existing plans didn’t provide benefits meeting ACA standards. But research suggests few of those remained without coverage; they were required to get new policies that did meet standards.
- Jan. 25: In an interview with ABC News, Trump clung to his claim of massive voter fraud, and denied that it has been debunked: “No, it hasn’t. Take a look at the Pew reports,” he says. But the report by the Pew Charitable Trusts cited only estimates of the number of people registered to vote who were dead or registered in more than one state, not the number who voted illegally. Told that the Pew report found no evidence of voter fraud, Trump falsely claimed the report “all of a sudden changed” and the author was now “groveling.” It did not, and he did not.
- Jan. 29: Defending the travel ban he signed two days earlier, Trump said, “My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011.” They were not similar. Trump’s order temporarily prohibited entry of visitors from seven predominately Muslim countries and indefinitely banned all refugees from Syria. Trump’s order didn’t cite any specific threat. By contrast, the Obama administration tightened the screening process for refugees from one country after discovering that two Iraqis living in Kentucky had been involved in roadside bombing attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq. Obama did not ban Iraqi refugees, but there were delays in resettling them because of the new screening process.
- Feb. 5: Trump made a baseless claim that so-called sanctuary cities “breed crime.” But university researchers who studied the claim concluded: “We find no statistically discernible difference in violent crime rate, rape, or property crime” among cities that honor federal requests to detain unauthorized immigrants and those that don’t.
‘Dishonest’ press ignores terrorists
- Feb. 6: At a military base in Florida, Trump complained that “radical Islamic” terrorist attacks are “not even being reported” by the “very, very dishonest press.” That’s nonsense. The White House later produced a list of 78 allegedly “underreported” terrorist attacks, which included five that received days of wall-to-wall coverage: the Orlando, Florida, mass shooting that left 49 people dead; the San Bernardino, California, attack that killed 14; the Nov. 13, 2015, attack in Paris that killed more than 130 people; the Bastille Day attack in 2016 in Nice, France, that killed 84 people; and the bombing attacks at an airport and on a subway train in Brussels on March 22, 2016, that killed at least 31 people.
A few on the White House list really did get little to no coverage, but they were in far-flung locations and generally didn’t result in any deaths. Two on the list were not terrorist attacks at all, according to law enforcement officials, but merely involved attackers with Arabic names.
- Feb. 9: Trump falsely accused Democratic Rep. Richard Blumenthal of misrepresenting a private conversation with Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. Blumenthal quoted Gorsuch, who has since been confirmed, as saying the president’s attacks on the judiciary were “disheartening and demoralizing.” Gorsuch’s office confirmed Blumenthal’s account, and former Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who guided Gorsuch as he met with senators, later issued a statement that said the judge made it “very clear” in his meetings with senators that “any criticism” of judicial independence is “disheartening and demoralizing.”
Flynn’s Russia contacts
- Feb. 10: Trump disingenuously said “I don’t know about it” when asked about news reports that his national security adviser,Michael Flynn, had spoken to Russia about sanctions prior to the president’s inauguration. Later, the White House confirmed that Trump in fact had known for weeks that Flynn discussed sanctions with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.
- Feb. 14: Trump said there has been “a tremendous amount of increase” in autism among children. Actually, scientists don’t know whether the increase in reported cases is due to an increase in autism itself, or to a broadening of the disorder’s definition and greater efforts to diagnose it.
- Feb. 15: A day after Flynn resigned, Trump said, “I think he’s been treated very, very unfairly by the media.” But Trump’s press secretary said the president asked Flynn to resign because of Trump’s “eroding level of trust” in him due to Flynn’s “misleading the vice president and others” about his contacts with Russia, all accurately reported by the media.
Biggest win since Reagan
- Feb. 16: At a news conference, Trump falsely claimed his November victory was “the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan.” It wasn’t. Three presidents since Reagan captured a larger share of electoral votes, including Republican President George H.W. Bush.
- Feb. 16: Trump also said at the same news conference that his administration was like “a fine-tuned machine,” singling out for praise the implementation of his travel ban on visitors from seven mostly Muslim countries. “The rollout was perfect,” he said. In fact, the ban was a fiasco, quickly blocked by the courts after it ensnared visa-holding students, business travelers, scientists, tourists, concert musicians and even an Iraqi interpreter working for the Pentagon.
- Feb. 18: Trump cited Sweden as an example of what happens when a country takes in large numbers of refugees. “[Y]ou look at what’s happening last night in Sweden,” Trump said. “Sweden, who would believe this. Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible.” There was no terrorist attack “last night” in Sweden, and there is no evidence of a major crime wave in Sweden. Trump said later he was referring to an appearance he saw on Fox News by a documentary maker whose film on crime in Sweden had been disputed as a distortion by the very Swedish police officers it featured.
- Feb. 24: Trump doubled down on his exaggeration about Sweden. Speaking at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, he said: “The people over there understand I’m right. Take a look at what’s happening in Sweden.”
What was happening? Riots had broken out in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood of Stockholm on Feb. 20, two days after Trump’s original comment about Sweden. The facts remain, crime is still relatively low in Sweden and has generally been declining for decades. Less than 1 percent of the country’s police resources are directed at the refugee situation.
- Feb. 24: At the same CPAC appearance, Trump attacked the news media for using anonymous sources: “They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name.” And yet his own White House staff regularly holds “on background” conversations with reporters with the condition that officials’ names not be used. And Trump himself once tweeted: “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama’s birth certificate is a fraud.”
‘Historic’ increase in pentagon spending
- Feb. 27: Trump exaggerated when he told the nation’s governors that his first budget would include “a historic increase in defense spending.” And the next day, he told a joint session of Congress that he would propose “one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.”
His budget director said Trump’s first proposed budget would contain $603 billion in base defense spending for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 – $52 billion, or 9.4 percent, higher than the current spending level of $551 billion. That’s about the same as the 9.3 percent increase in fiscal year 1991 and smaller than the increases in fiscal years 1980 (13.9 percent), 1981 (24.9 percent), 1982 (20.4 percent), 1983 (12.8 percent) and 1985 (11 percent).
‘Obama was tapping my phones’
- March 4: In a series of four tweets starting at 6:35 a.m., Trump called it a “fact” that “President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!” He compared the alleged surveillance to the criminal acts of “Nixon/Watergate,” and called Obama a “Bad (or sick) guy!”
Trump offered no evidence to support that wild claim, and in the days following none came to light elsewhere. On March 20, FBI Director James Comey told a House investigating committee: “I have no information that supports those tweets and we have looked carefully inside the FBI. The Department of Justice has asked me to assure you that the answer is the same for the Department of Justice and all its components.”
- March 7: Trump wrongly tweeted that “122 vicious prisoners, released by the Obama Administration from Gitmo, have returned to the battlefield.” Actually, it was only nine, as of July 15, 2016. The other 113 were released under President George W. Bush.
- March 8: Defending Trump’s wildly inaccurate comment about released Gitmo prisoners, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer claimed “most of those [released under Bush] were court ordered.” That’s nonsense, too. All but a handful of the 532 released from Guantanamo by the Bush administration were freed without any court order, according to John B. Bellinger III, a former National Security Council legal adviser under Bush.
Claiming credit for Obama’s jobs
- March 15: Trump boasted at a rally that “we’ve already added nearly half a million new jobs” in the first two monthly reports released since he took office. But half those jobs were added under Obama, before Trump took the oath of office on Jan. 20. (The BLS payroll survey measures jobs as of the pay period containing the 12th day of the month.)
- March 15: At the same rally, Trump also noted that he approved the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines and that all “new pipelines must be constructed with American steel.” But only about half of the steel for those projects will come from the U.S., despite Trump’s directive.
False claims about Obamacare
- March 17: Trump said “Obamacare is dead; it’s a dead health care plan.” But that’s GOP wishful thinking with little evidence to support it.
He was repeating a common GOP claim that the ACA is in a “death spiral,” with rising premiums forcing relatively healthy people to drop coverage, leading to even higher premiums to cover an ever-sicker group of beneficiaries. We found the ACA marketplaces are ailing in some states such as Tennessee, but flourishing in others including New York and California. And while some insurers have lost money and are leaving, others see opportunity and are getting in. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and other neutral experts say the ACA marketplaces are probably stable for years to come.
- March 17: Trump said that in Tennessee, “half of the state has no insurance company [offering Obamacare policies] and the other half is gonna lose the insurance company.” Not true. All of the state’s eight insurance rating areas have at least one carrier offering Affordable Care Act policies in 2017, and three of them have two.
For next year, Humana has announced it will cease offering ACA policies. Unless another carrier steps in, that would leave 79,000 Tennessee residents in the Knoxville area without ACA coverage. “We are hopeful that a carrier will offer coverage for that area in 2018,” said a spokesman for the state’s Department of Commerce and Insurance.
- March 20: Trump said that “many of our best and brightest are leaving the medical profession entirely because of Obamacare.” Actually, the total number of active physicians has increased nearly 8 percent under the health care law, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Making threats and taking credit
- March 21: Trump boasted that TransCanada Corp. “dropped” a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit against the U.S. after he threatened to “terminate” the company’s Keystone XL pipeline. The company merely suspended its $15 billion claim over Obama’s rejection of the project after Trump invited it to re-submit its request for a permit. The company didn’t drop its claim and discontinue the proceeding until March 24, the day the State Department granted the permit it sought, and two days after Trump’s hollow boast.
- March 22: In an interview with Time magazine’s Michael Scherer, Trump said “new information” from the House intelligence committee chairman proved his tweets about a “Watergate/Nixon”-style scandal were “right.” No, that’s wrong. Rep. Devin Nunes made clear in a CNN interview that the new information he saw (but didn’t share publicly) “doesn’t mean that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower.”
- March 24: Trump claimed that Charter Communications “has just committed to investing $25 billion” and creating 20,000 jobs in the U.S. Actually, the investment and jobs were promised before Trump was elected, as Charter sought approval of its deal to buy Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.
- April 4: Trump distorted the facts about Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill, calling it a $1 trillion “infrastructure bill” that didn’t result in any construction projects. “Nobody ever saw anything being built,” he said. The $840 billion package included tax cuts, extended unemployment benefits, expanded food stamp benefits and an estimated $80 billion in infrastructure projects. Trump himself was well aware at the time that the stimulus was not primarily an infrastructure bill. He praised it in 2009 for having a “combination of both” tax cuts and infrastructure spending, saying “this is what we need.”
Obama’s Syrian ‘weakness’
- April 4: Trump accused Obama of “weakness and irresolution” for failing to act in 2013, when the Syrian regime crossed the “red line” of using chemical weapons. But back then, Trump himself urged Obama to stay out of the conflict. He tweeted more than a dozen times, advising Obama to “forget Syria,” to “NOT attack Syria” and to “stay out of Syria.”
- April 11: Again Trump claimed credit for creating jobs that appeared under Obama. He falsely claimed that his administration has “created over 600,000 jobs already.” But the preliminary number added during February and March was 317,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The 216,000 jobs created in January were all added before Trump took the oath office.
Claiming more undue credit
- April 11: Trump wrongly boasted that Toyota’s $1.3 billion investment in its Georgetown, Kentucky, manufacturing plant would “not have been made if we didn’t win the election.” Toyota spokesman Aaron Fowles told us in an interview that the investment “predates the Trump administration” and had been planned “several years ago.” This was the latest in a string of bogus boasts about car companies bringing back jobs “because of me.” In two cases frequently cited by Trump – Ford and GM – for example, the announced expansion plans were in the works long before Trump was elected, and were largely market-driven decisions that fit a yearslong trend in the industry.
- April 18: In a tweet, Trump blamed the Obama administration’s “weak illegal immigration policies” for allowing “bad MS 13 gangs to form in cities across U.S.” But the MS-13 gang was formed in Los Angeles in the 1980s and had spread throughout the country years before Obama was president.
- April 18: Trump also tweeted that Jon Ossoff, a Democratic candidate in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, “will raise your taxes.” But we could find no evidence of Ossoff proposing any broad-based tax increases, such as an income tax hike.
- April 21: Trump claimed credit for ending China’s currency manipulation. He said in an interview with the Associated Press that manipulation ended “from the time I took office” because China’s leader has “a certain respect” and “knew I would do something.” Actually, economists broadly agree that China has not been holding down the value of its currency since 2014 or 2015. That has been true “over the last three years,” according to a report by Trump’s own Treasury Department.
In 2015 when we dubbed Trump the “King of Whoppers,” we said: “He stands out not only for the sheer number of his factually false claims, but also for his brazen refusals to admit error when proven wrong.” So far, Trump is no different as president.