By Steven Keehner
Since the 2016 General Election, Oyster Bay High School has become a divided place, with many disagreements about President Trump and various political issues. Because of this, I’ve avoided discussing these topics for the most part; however, one recent tweet has inspired me to enter this war zone of opinions: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” No, this tweet was not from an edgy teenager trying to impress internet strangers. This tweet was from the edgy 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, trying to impress internet strangers.
I could spend an entire article dissecting President Trump's tweets, but that doesn’t serve enough justice to who he really is. You can think whatever you want about Donald Trump. You may believe he is sexist, racist, fascist, or all of the above. These notions can be debated. But one undeniable truth about the President, and, ironically, it’s that he doesn’t tell the truth; Donald Trump is a liar. Whether it’s coming from his mouth or the mouths of his increasingly suspicious looking staff, the majority of statements being made are skewed to help Trump’s fragile ego, or they are outright lies. The media are not the enemy of the American public; I believe Donald Trump is the real threat. Allow me to show you why.
For the record, I’d like to point out that I agree with some of Donald’s Trump's ideas; I do want more jobs to come to Americans, and I do want a President who is always working for us. However, Trump has shown so far that he is unable to keep these promises for a variety of reasons.
A good starting point would be to explain just how much of what Donald Trump says are lies. PolitiFact, a Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking organization, goes through statements made by politicians in the United States from the left and right of the American “political spectrum.” They evaluate statements and then rate them from “True,” “Mostly True,” “Half True,” “Mostly False,” “False,” and “Pants on Fire (aka outright lies).” When looking at Donald Trump’s profile, you’ll find that only 4% (15) of the over 300 statements that have been checked so far are considered true. This is compared to former POTUS Barack Obama’s rating of 21%. In fact, when looking at the total% of statements that were on the “false” side of the scorecard, it shows that 70% of Trump's statements were more or less not true at all. Again, this is compared to Obama’s rating of 33%. While I’m not particularly fond of Barack Obama, it is evident that there is a huge difference between Trump and his predecessor. Now that you know how much of what he says is false, let’s look at some of his lies in greater detail.
What fascinates me about Trump’s compulsive lying is how trivial the things he lies about are. For example, his inauguration. He claimed that the crowd at his inauguration “looked like a million, a million and a half people,” and that it “went all the way back to the Washington Monument”. If you have eyes, and you watched the ceremony, this was not the case. What I found annoying was the following statement he made after the inauguration: “It’s a lie,” proclaiming, “We caught [the media]. We caught them in a beauty.” To this day I’m not exactly sure what the media has to do with the fact that the size of his inauguration crowd wasn’t that big, but what’s even more blatantly outrageous is what he later said: “God looked down and, and he said we’re not going to let it rain on your speech… The truth is it stopped immediately.” Except that this wasn’t the truth at all as it clearly rained throughout his populist-esque speech; perhaps it was “God” giving a different message.
Besides lying about his inauguration, he’s already backtracked on some of his campaign “promises,” whether it was his promise to be “very restrained” from Twitter, or his promise to avoid vacations. "I would not be a president who took vacations. I would not be a president that takes time off.” As mentioned on CNN, Trump has already taken 13 golf outings, one of which cost taxpayers around three million dollars according to The Washington Post.
Trump’s massive ego also plays a huge role in how much lying he does to the American public. One may look at the election against Hillary Clinton as an example; Trump claimed “illegal immigrants” cost him the popular vote. “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” Trump falsely boasted. According to New21, there have been 56 cases of voter fraud from 2001 to 2011, so Trump’s glorified idea that three million illegal immigrants all voted for Hillary while not getting caught is ridiculous. Trump also claimed that he won the Electoral College vote by a landslide. "We had a massive landslide victory, as you know, in the Electoral College." In a chart made by Politifact, which ranked all Electoral College results, the 2016 General Election ranked 46th out of 58 elections, ranking him closer to the bottom of all time as opposed to the top, contrary to what he is saying.
Between the allegations of Trump not releasing his Tax Returns or the new reports from NBC that he may be back tracking from his campaign promise of not accepting a paycheck for being POTUS, Trump has a very interesting way of being able to maneuver around his promises while still having a large supporting base that will eat up anything he serves them.
I understand that one may feel that I’m nitpicking by honing in on specific lies, or that some may think he’s changed since becoming President, but that is not true, as seen by one of his most recent (at the time of this being written) Tweet: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” While I could point out the massive irony of a far-right President calling out anyone for McCarthyism, it is more important to realize that: A) He is making a massive claim on Twitter of all places, B) He has no evidence to support what he’s proclaiming as of now, and C) No one in Trump’s staff has any idea where he got that idea from, and this has been clear from what various staff has said. Just look at what Kellyanne Conway said: “He’s the president of the United States,” she explained. “He has information and intelligence that the rest of us do not. And that’s the way it should be for presidents.” Sean Spicer responded to her quote by stating, “I can’t specifically respond to you in terms of what she was referring to, whether she was referring to the exact nature of this charge or whether generally speaking he is given information.” Speaking of Trump’s cabinet, let’s look at how they’re contributing to the problem.
I think a great place to start would be to talk about Sean Spicer, the White House Press Secretary. I consider him to be the fuel to Trump’s fire; he consistently lies while calling out the media for lying. An example of this idea is when he defended Trump’s “illegal immigrant voter fraud” claim. "There's one (study) that came out of Pew in 2008 that showed 14 percent of people who voted were noncitizens." This claim was marked as “False” by Politifact. “Spicer is both conflating and misquoting two studies: A 2012 Pew report about outdated voter rolls and a 2014 Old Dominion University study that found 6 percent of noncitizens surveyed voted in 2008. The Old Dominion University study has been widely criticized for its methodology. No study has found the statistic Spicer cites. If 14 percent of all voters in 2008 were noncitizens, that would have to mean that more than 80 percent of America’s noncitizen population voted. Spicer’s claim is False.” While Spicer has showed many instances of lying, I would like to go back to Kellyanne Conway, who I believe is by far the most well-known member of Trump’s cabinet.
Conway is a woman who has gone as far as to make up a FALSE terrorist attack to push her agenda. Conway stated, "Two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized, and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre. It didn't get covered." As mentioned, this never happened, and while I will give Conway credit for admitting that she was wrong about this shortly after her comment was made, for someone working directly with the POTUS, this is unacceptable.
Steve Bannon is another interesting person who must be mentioned. Before starting his political career alongside Donald Trump, he was the Executive Chair of Breitbart, which is considered to be the platform for the “Alt-Right.” It has also hosted a plethora of “fake news” stories, ironically enough. What’s interesting about Breitbart is that it’s where Donald Trump got the “wiretapping” claim from. Steve Bannon himself scares me more than Trump. "The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while," Steve Bannon said during a rare interview with The New York Times recently. "I want you to quote this," Bannon told The Times. "The media here is the opposition party. They don't understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States." What makes this quote more concerning is that Bannon is Trump’s right hand man as of now.
The free press is one of the few things that can hold politicians who believe they are above regular citizens in place, at least to a degree. But by having the President of the United States and his cabinet consistently mock and insult the media, not only a threat to the media companies themselves, but to American Democracy entirely. When we see stories about the President banning CNN, The New York Times, POLITICO, and even one of the most neutral media outlets out there, the BBC, from attending a briefing with Sean Spicer and allowing more Trump-friendly outlets to stay, it should make people extremely concerned. While these may seem like rather small issues, we all, as caring citizens, need to make sure that not only are we holding Trump and his cabinet accountable for their words, but we also need to ensure that our media, regardless of how you view anything, acts as a check to anyone who wants to undermine the American public. To quote George Orwell, “In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”