Accuracy in Media

The Washington Post Fact Checker released its list of the biggest Pinocchios of the year this week, and President Trump broke his own record with six of the biggest Pinocchios. He had five in 2016.

The umpire gave a hint at how this might have happened in his introduction to the list.

“Usually, this is an easy task, as we sort through the craziest Four-Pinocchio claims on issues of substance made by members of both parties,” The Fact Checker wrote. “But this is the era of Trump, and nothing is ever easy. If we were not careful, we’d end up with an all-Trump list.

“After all, there has never been a serial exaggerator in recent American politics like the president. He not only consistently makes false claims but also repeats them, even though they have been proved wrong. He always insists he is right, no matter how little evidence he has for his claim or how easily his statement is debunked. Indeed, he doubles down when challenged.”

Democrats, The Fact Checker said, “also make outrageous misstatements, but they are completely shut out of power.

“We tend to focus on statements that have impact–and are made by people in power. Just keeping up with the Trump administration – and the Republicans who run both houses of Congress – has left The Fact Checker struggling to Also keep up with Democratic claims. Divided government is much better for the fact-checking business.”

And with that, he went into the list and started with a “lie” that now seems almost certainly to have been the truth – that President Trump and his people were wiretapped on orders of the Obama administration. The Fact Checker said Trump “decided to base an unfounded claim on sketchy reporting from Breitbart News that misinterpreted a British report,” which also doesn’t seem to be the case.

“The president likes to scream ‘fake news’ and criticize sloppy reporting, yet he has never apologized for this statement, even though there is no evidence to support it.”

But there is a lot of evidence to support it. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, confirmed he had been made aware of surveillance of Trump, just as the president had suggested.

The Fact Checker then turned to Trump’s claim that his was the most watched inauguration ever.

“Under orders from Trump, then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer marched out to the podium and insisted that Trump had much larger crowds at his inauguration than Barack Obama,” the Fact Checker wrote. “Spicer, in his tongue-lashing of reporters, offered little evidence to back up his claims – and what he did say was wrong. His claims were easily disproved by photo and video evidence.”

Only that is not what Spicer said. Spicer said, “this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration – period.” Aerial photos do not disprove this claim because it encompasses people who watched on TV, online and around the world. Even Snopes – run by a former Hillary Clinton staffer – could not rule the claim false, settling for “unproven.”

Next up was President Trump’s claim that “the Russia story is fake news.” Trump denounced the Russia-Russia-Russia hysteria “even though the top U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to undermine Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election and a special prosecutor brought charges against Trump campaign officials and his first national security adviser.”

Those claims are suspect, given what we know now about people such as Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, James Comey, FBI No. 2 Andrew McCabe and former CIA Director John Brennan. Paul Manafort, the campaign official referenced, was indicted for work he did for Democrats before he joined Trump’s campaign, and the former national security adviser, who served all of 18 days, pled guilty to lying to the FBI, not colluding with the Russians.

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