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At a Monday rally, President Trump made comments about a caravan of Central American migrants that had fact-checkers on the alert. Since the president took office, they’ve identified 2,915 claims that cannot be verified by the truth. Daniel Dale, Washington bureau chief of the Toronto Star, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss Trump’s increasing rate of dishonesty and how the press should report on it.
President Trump's comments about that immigrant caravan during a rally last night in Houston were seized upon by fact-checkers, including at the Toronto Star newspaper.
They have tracked over 2,900 claims the president has made since he took office almost two years ago that cannot be borne out by facts. That is more than four false claims a day on average.
Daniel Dale is the Washington bureau chief for The Toronto Star, and he joins me now.
Thank you for being here.
Daniel Dale, you cover the White House closely. And I know there's been attention paid to what the president says, remarks that cannot be borne out by facts since he took office. But you have observed this is more of this taking place now.
Yes. We have quantified it.
And so, in 2017, he averaged 2.9 false claims per day. As of now, it's 4.5 false claims per day. So, it's more than five per day in 2018. And it's escalated even further as we have gotten closer to the midterms.
So, every successive month, June, July, August, and September, set a new record for the president's false claims. So over time, he's getting more dishonest.
Amna started out her interview just now asking about the president's contention that there are people of Middle Eastern descent in that migrant caravan.
We heard the reporter Alan Gomez say there is no evidence of that, but there are other comments the president has made about immigration. For example, he's talked about Democrats paying to get that migrant caravan started, Democrats in the United States. He's made this statement. Is there any evidence of this?
And I'm comfortable calling that a lie. There is simply no validity. There is no basis for that whatsoever.
And I should say we at the "NewsHour" talk about inaccurate statements, false statements. You're comfortable using the word lie. Why?
Because I think that's the only accurate word for some of the claims he makes.
I also sometimes describe his claims as false claims. Sometimes, we don't know if he's confused, if he's made an innocent error, but, in other cases, it's clear that he simply fabricated something.
For example, he claimed at one point that the head of the Boy Scouts had called him and said that his speech to the Boy Scouts was the best speech ever given the Boy Scout Jamboree. The Boy Scouts told me, no one ever spoke to him, no one ever called him, no one ever said that.
And so in a case like that, I think, in our — in our regular lives, I think the word we would use is lie. So, I think we as journalists should use it in our articles as well.
Another couple of comments the president's made about immigration, he's spoken just — I think just last night again about — he said legal immigrants in California are voting in the — in this upcoming midterm election in California.
Is there evidence that this is going on in early voting in California?
No, there is no evidence for this. And this is a claim that the president has made about — about elections in general. And it's something he said since his own election, that, despite what everyone says, what every expert says, illegal immigrants are voting en masse. He simply knows this.
And, again, this, in my view, is a lie. There's no evidence for it whatsoever.
Another — another comment the president made at a rally — this was at a rally in Nevada on Saturday. He spoke about what he termed anti-immigrant or anti-immigration riots happening in California.
I want to play for the audience what he said on Saturday.
President Donald Trump:
I don't think we like sanctuary cities up here.
By the way, a lot of people in California don't want them either. They're rioting now. They want to get out of their sanctuary cities.
You know, there's a big turn being made, folks. A lot of these sanctuary cities you have been hearing about in California and other places, but California, they want to get out. They're demanding they be released from sanctuary cities.
But, as far as we know, Daniel Dale, there is no evidence of this; is that right?
There is not.
And this one to me was especially strange, because he is talking about people on his own side of the issue. He's not saying left-wingers are rioting. He's saying people like him who oppose sanctuary cities are rioting. They are not.
I spoke to a Republican mayor of one of these anti-sanctuary-city cities in California. And his argument was that the president wasn't speaking literally, that, by rioting, he meant simple opposition.
But I don't think that was what the president was conveying.
You cover the White House very closely. You talk to people in the administration.
Do you get a sense that there's a plan behind this, a strategy of some sort to — when the president makes these kinds of statements?
Well, I think he knows they will be covered, often quite uncritically, that he can get headlines, in not only right-wing media, but in mainstream media, simply repeating the assertion.
And whether or not it is true, it allows him to drive the subject of the coverage as we approach the midterms. So even if we're debunking on television his claims about the caravan, for example, probably, on television, we're also showing images of people in the caravan.
And so we're not talking about health care. We're not talking about any other thing, the Mueller investigation, anything else that the president doesn't want us to talk about. We're on immigration. That's his subject.
So you're saying, in a way, this is what the president wants. He wants the press to be talking about this and examining these claims.
I think it's a mix of him knowing that many people won't examine it, that many people will believe him, because they don't trust the mainstream media. And then also it's a no-lose, because even if we are examining it, then he still gets coverage on the subject that he desires.
I should say that you — The Toronto Star does keep this — keeps track, has been for many months keeping track of the president's statements. There are other news organizations doing that.
Did you have any idea when you were assigned to cover the Trump White House that you would be doing something like this?
So, I started this in September 2016, two months before the election, because he was just being so incessantly dishonest then as well, that I thought that there needed to be a way to focus attention on this, separate from the day-to-day news coverage that I was doing.
And then, like many people, I erroneously thought that Hillary Clinton would win the election, and that I would be freed from this task. Of course, the president surprised many of us and won.
And I thought his dishonesty continues to be a central feature of his rhetoric. And so, therefore, I had to continue as long as he's in office.
Daniel Dale, who is the Washington bureau chief of The Toronto Star, thank you very much.
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