Donald Trump’s statements about Muslims cheering after 9/11 are just the latest in a long record of false claims. But if Trump is the most recent, maybe most flamboyant, falsifier to enter US politics, he's not the first and won't be the last. OTM takes a look at political lies, including a taxonomy and history of political untruths; a psychological examination of how and why we lie; and whether, at the end of the day, the most damaging lies aren't the ones we tell ourselves about our fellow citizens.
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BOB: From WNYC in New York this is On the Media, I’m Bob Garfield.
BROOKE: And I’m Brooke Gladstone.We’re gathered here today to celebrate a time honored tradition. Well, maybe not celebrate. And maybe not honored. But certainly timely. The political lie.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, the police say that didn't happen and all those rumors have been on the Internet for some time. So did you misspeak yesterday?
TRUMP: It did happen. I saw it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You saw that --
TRUMP: It was on television. I saw it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- with your own eyes?
BROOKE: ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, questioning Donald Trump on the latest of his dubious claims.
TRUMP: George, it did happen.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Police say it didn't happen.
TRUMP: There were people cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down.
BOB: Ah, the political lie. Not new, but somehow more prominent during this election season than ever before. Perhaps because one of the chief falsifiers is so unabashedly unrepentant, much to the frustration of those with the job of challenging him. NBC’s Chuck Todd:
TODD: Mister Trump, if I said, well people have said Mister Trump is not worth 10 billion dollars you would say that’s crazy. You’re running for President of the United States! Your words matter! Truthfulness matters! Fact-based stuff matters, No?
TRUMP: Take it easy Chuck, just play cool.
BROOKE: Donald Trump may be the most flamboyant of this year’s crop of fabricators, but it is a stunningly mendacious election season. And so we decided to begin this week’s show with a taxonomy of political lies…
Let’s start with lies of omission - withholding key facts or context that renders the claim untrue
BROOKE: The president made a promise he knew would be impossible to keep. Obamacare did allow for the continuation of current health plans, but only if they complied with strict rules, many did not. And then there are lies of distortion.
CLINTON: I did not have sexual relations with that woman.
BROOKE: And though I’m sure you could slice and dice these categories ever finer, I’ll end with the lie that has its basis in the feeling it must be true, even when all the evidence shrieks otherwise. That’s clung to, even as it molders in its grave. Like the lie about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Or this immortal formulation from Ronald Reagan:
REAGAN: A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that's true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.