KARACHI: Ever since Trump has come to power in the US, one of the most oft-repeated phrases that I’ve heard is ‘fake news’. This term, frequently a subject of his public addresses, refers to the accusations and claims that the media makes without adequate evidence. However, according to an article that The Washington Post just published to recount Trump’s presidency so far, at the six-month mark, the president’s tally stands at 836 false or misleading claims. That’s an average of 4.6 claims a day, not far off his first 100-day pace.
Interestingly, The Washington Post created an interactive database to help readers quickly search a claim after they hear it, because there’s a good chance he has said it before. But the database also shows how repetitive Trump’s claims are. Many politicians will drop a false claim after it has been deemed false. But Trump just repeats the same claim over and over. Trump’s most repeated claim, uttered 44 times, was some variation of the statement that the Affordable Care Act is dying and “essentially dead.” But the Congressional Budget Office has said that the Obamacare exchanges, despite well-documented issues, are not imploding and are expected to remain stable for the foreseeable future. If anything, actions taken by the Trump administration have spawned uncertainty. Trump also has a disturbing habit of taking credit for events or business decisions that happened before he took the oath of office — or had even been elected.
When the president was a real estate developer, there was little consequence for repeated exaggeration or hyperbole because few people kept track. But now that he’s president, Trump may find that the ‘art of the deal’ often requires close attention to the facts, especially if he wants to persuade lawmakers to take tough votes.
I hope Pakistani newspapers may learn from The Washington Post, and similarly keep a database of our next prime minister’s words. As a public, we are also victims to countless false claims from our politicians, with no one to tell us what is right or wrong. This database is an excellent initiative for a newspaper.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2017.