Donald Trump's wacky approach to truth, explained in 7 words

"When I can, I tell the truth...

Posted: Nov 2, 2018 3:23 AM
Updated: Nov 2, 2018 3:23 AM

"When I can, I tell the truth."

That's the President of the United States trying to explain his very casual relationship to truth to ABC News' White House reporter Jon Karl. It's a statement that, like many things Trump says, is unintentionally revealing about what he considers facts and how much commitment he feels to ensure he is speaking the truth when communicating information to the public.

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The reality is this: Trump tells the truth -- defined as an agreed upon fact or facts -- when it works for him. When established facts back up something Trump either innately believes to be true or something he wants to be true for political reasons, he is more than happy to tell the truth. But when the facts don't back up a Trump view or claim, he has zero compunction in creating his own "truth" that works better for his purposes.

Here's his full answer to Karl, which gives you an even better sense of what Trump thinks about truth:

"Well, I try. I do try ... and I always want to tell the truth. When I can, I tell the truth. And sometimes it turns out to be where something happens that's different or there's a change, but I always like to be truthful."

The key to that answer is the seven words I cited above. But the rest is interesting too! Trump wants Karl to know that he does "want to tell the truth" and he gives it the old college "try." But he gives up the game when he seeks to explain why and when he isn't truthful. "Sometimes it turns out to be where something happens that's different or there's a change," Trump tells Karl.

Go back and read that last sentence again. I dare you to figure out what Trump is even trying to say. As best I can tell, he seems to suggest that the facts change sometimes -- and so when he cites facts and they do change, he can't really be held responsible for that, now can he?

That argument is undermined by Trump's track record, as expertly documented by The Washington Post's Fact Checker blog. Yes, the Fact Checker found that Trump said more than 5,000 false or misleading claims in his first 601 days in office -- a rate of more than eight a day. But even more importantly for this, the Fact Checker points out that Trump repeats falsehoods dozens of times -- even after facts repute that claim. For example, Trump has claimed the US economy is the greatest in American history more than 50 times. Trump has said the Russia investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller is a witch hunt or a hoax more than 140 times.

Looking at numbers like those, it's impossible to accept at face value Trump's claim that he does his best to tell the truth but sometimes circumstances just change and what he has said is the truth winds up being something short of that.

What those numbers prove -- or, if you've been paying attention, affirm -- is that Trump is simply telling himself a story about his life, the presidency and the country that, more often than not, doesn't track with established facts. And not only that, but also that Trump doesn't much care whether or not what he is saying is true. He cares that it is believed by his supporters. Their applause, their chants of "Lock her up," their boos when he mentions the so-called "fake news" media -- all of that is the affirmation, in Trump's mind, that what he is doing is right.

Because he needs to be believed -- even when established facts make clear he is lying -- Trump has become increasingly willing to tell his supporters that everything that they are told from anyone other than him is to be dismissed as more fake news.

"Stick with us," he told a VFW crowd in Kansas City back in July. "Don't believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news. ... What you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening."

What you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening.

Think about that statement for a minute. The President of the United States is telling people that their eyes and ears aren't to be trusted. That the only person they should believe -- up to and including themselves -- is him.

Now consider what we know: That Trump has very little concern for whether the things he says are actually, you know, true.

Add it all up and you get this: We have people taking their marching orders from a deeply unreliable source. A source who happens to also be the President of the United States.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 730969

Reported Deaths: 13434
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1000031743
Lake53771970
Allen40668678
St. Joseph35733552
Hamilton35629408
Elkhart28577442
Tippecanoe22402219
Vanderburgh22310397
Porter18776308
Johnson17970379
Hendricks17244315
Clark12985191
Madison12673339
Vigo12449247
LaPorte11928211
Monroe11893170
Delaware10696186
Howard9924216
Kosciusko9410117
Hancock8284141
Bartholomew8070156
Warrick7784155
Floyd7669178
Grant7060174
Wayne7051199
Boone6700101
Morgan6576139
Dubois6156117
Marshall6050111
Dearborn581378
Cass5808105
Henry5720103
Noble561384
Jackson501773
Shelby491996
Lawrence4546120
Harrison435872
Gibson435492
DeKalb428485
Clinton427453
Montgomery424189
Whitley396139
Huntington391980
Steuben387857
Miami381866
Knox371990
Jasper366047
Putnam360760
Wabash354179
Adams341354
Ripley339770
Jefferson330981
White314354
Daviess297399
Wells291581
Decatur285492
Fayette280762
Greene278985
Posey271533
LaGrange266770
Scott266354
Clay260247
Randolph240781
Washington240732
Spencer232131
Jennings230149
Starke216654
Fountain212346
Sullivan211942
Owen200256
Fulton195440
Jay195130
Carroll189320
Orange183654
Perry183037
Rush173425
Vermillion169143
Franklin168135
Tipton162845
Parke146316
Blackford134932
Pike134334
Pulaski116845
Newton107834
Brown102141
Crawford99814
Benton98614
Martin89115
Warren82115
Switzerland7918
Union71010
Ohio56811
Unassigned0416

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1085733

Reported Deaths: 19441
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1261201400
Cuyahoga1124072120
Hamilton801491206
Montgomery515591014
Summit47292946
Lucas42275788
Butler38396584
Stark32412907
Lorain25046481
Warren24313300
Mahoning21629588
Lake20725369
Clermont19803238
Delaware18537133
Licking16436212
Fairfield16230200
Trumbull16082468
Medina15309264
Greene15099244
Clark14017299
Wood13113189
Portage12890203
Allen11675232
Richland11382199
Miami10686217
Wayne8843211
Columbiana8816229
Muskingum8815133
Pickaway8582121
Marion8539135
Tuscarawas8487244
Erie7917154
Hancock6929127
Ross6858155
Ashtabula6830170
Geauga6697148
Scioto6417101
Belmont5920167
Union571048
Lawrence5560102
Jefferson5544151
Huron5439119
Darke5364123
Sandusky5359121
Seneca5290121
Athens520058
Washington5160109
Auglaize491984
Mercer480885
Shelby470093
Knox4495110
Madison436661
Putnam4287100
Fulton423969
Ashland423189
Defiance421097
Crawford3978107
Brown395057
Logan382376
Preble379898
Clinton372963
Ottawa367479
Highland355662
Williams340275
Champaign333458
Guernsey316253
Jackson312652
Perry295350
Morrow285639
Fayette282250
Hardin271464
Henry269366
Coshocton265357
Holmes2611101
Van Wert243763
Adams238552
Pike237734
Gallia235949
Wyandot231555
Hocking215462
Carroll191647
Paulding173340
Meigs144940
Noble133337
Monroe132342
Harrison108537
Morgan108523
Vinton83515
Unassigned02
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