Lies, Damned Lies, and Donald J. Trump
3:02 PM, MAR 09, 2016 | By MICHAEL WARREN
Donald Trump began his post-primary press conference in Jupiter, Florida, Tuesday evening by castigating the “$38 million dollars worth of horrible lies” against him by his political opponents over the last week. But in true Trump form, the GOP frontrunner delivered a litany of lies, falsehoods, and misleading statements of his own. Oh, and that $38 million figure Trump cited? It’s made up.
Mitt Romney’s speech last week blasting Trump for his underwhelming business record seems to have gotten under the candidate’s skin, and so Trump spent much of his Tuesday-night appearance boasting about his successes. Over at Mashable, Jonathan Ellis documents how much of what Trump said was simply wrong.
Trump Steaks? A defunct brand since 2007 that sold poorly in the first place, which explains why the meat being hawked at Trump National Golf Club as the real deal was actually from a local, non-Trump-affiliated butcher. Trump Water? Standard bottled water with the Donald’s branding. Trump Magazine? The actual publication closed down years ago, and the magazine Trump waved around at his press conference is actually a “glorified brochure” for Trump’s resort properties. Trump Airlines? Trump claims he sold it in a “great deal,” but the Wall Street Journal showed his attempt in 1989 to transform Eastern Airlines’s shuttle business into a luxury airline failed because it carried a “high debt load” and “eventually defaulted.”
Trump Vodka? Trump dismissed Romney’s criticism by ignoring it and talking instead about Trump Winery. To be fair, Trump Winery is a real, operating venture, but that’s as far as the truth goes. Trump claimed to own the winery in Charlottesville, Virginia, “100 percent”, but in fact Trump’s son Eric is the actual owner and neither Trump himself nor his organization have no ownership or management role. And the winery isn’t next to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, as he claimed Tuesday—that’s in Washington, D.C. He was probably thinking of Jefferson’s home in Charlottesville, Monticello, on which the memorial was modeled. And none of this addressed Trump Vodka, which is indeed defunct.
The truth is Ellis just scratched the surface of Trump’s lies and misleading statements Tuesday. Many of them were small or insignificant. Trump claimed New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who has endorsed him, was “around here somewhere.” But spokesman for the governor told the Asbury Park Press that Christie was elsewhere in Florida Tuesday and not attending the Trump event in Jupiter. Trump also said House speaker Paul Ryan “called me” earlier in the week, but the Wisconsin Republican’s office confirmed to THE WEEKLY STANDARD that Ryan’s phone call came after Trump’s campaign first reached out to the speaker.
Others gave more inaccurate assessments of Trump’s professional success. Trump described his Riverside South housing development on Manhattan as “one of the most successful projects in all of real estate.” That’s hard to believe. A recent New York Times article instead characterized Riverside South as a “low point” in Trump’s New York real-estate career. The development, which stretches from 72nd Street to 59th Street along the Hudson River, “encountered ferocious opposition from neighborhood groups and city planners,” the Times reported. “Saddled with debt, Mr. Trump in 1994 was forced to bring in outside investors and eventually lost control over the project, though he says he made money on it.”
Some of Trump’s untruths were much bigger and consequential, like one that bolsters his oft-repeated but dubious claim that he will be able to beat Hillary Clinton in a general election with ease. “Polls are showing that I beat her, and some of the polls are showing that I beat her very easily,” he said.
Why then, does the Real Clear Politics average of polls asking about a general-election match-up between the two give Clinton a five-point lead? Of the 48 polls asking about a Trump-Clinton race since May, just 5 show Trump beating her, never by more than 5 percentage points. The most recent of those, a USA Today/Suffolk poll from mid-February, gave Trump a two-point advantage over Clinton. But five of the latest polls show Clinton ahead of Trump, including a brand-new survey from NBC and the Wall Street Journal that gives the former secretary of state a 13-point lead.
Sometimes, Trump just got facts wrong. He said the United States has a trade deficit with China of $500 billion a year. But for 2015, the deficit—that is, the difference between our imports and exports to and from China—was just under $366 billion. That’s the highest deficit to date, and it’s a figure that’s been growing for years, but it’s not $500 billion. Trump made a similar claim that the deficit with Japan is “over $100 billion,” but again, in 2015, it was closer to $68 billion.
The list goes on. Trump argued “nobody’s more conservative than me on health care”—this from the guy who praised the single-payer systems in Canada and Scotland and has cast himself as different from other Republicans on the issue because he, unlike them, does not want to see “people dying in the streets.”
If we can give Trump any credit for self-awareness when it comes to his lying, it’s that in one moment Tuesday, he corrected himself immediately. Ted Cruz “never beats me!” he said. Then, in the same breath, Trump added, “Meaning he rarely beats me.”
It’s a start.