The Fourth Lie
Mark Twain famously said that there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. I would like to add a fourth lie to that triumvirate, one that I will refer to as “the Trump Lie”. A Trump Lie is when someone asserts something as truth when they have absolutely no idea whether it is true or not, and Donald J. Trump tells one virtually every time he breathes. He therefore deserves and gets the dubious honor of having a brand-new type of lie named after him.
The president is not the only one who makes use of the Trump Lie, of course, but he has clearly refined it to an art-form. I noticed this just prior to the first Trump/Clinton debate, which was moderated by Don Lemon of CNN. A few days before the debate Trump complained that Lemon couldn’t possibly be an impartial debate moderator because Lemon is a registered Democrat. But Don Lemon is actually a registered Republican. (Of course, Trump didn’t then say that Lemon couldn’t be fair to Hillary because he belongs to the GOP). So the Donald was lying when he said that Lemon was a Democrat, right? Not according to Kellyanne Conway. She went on television to say that, in fact, Trump was not lying when he called Lemon a Democrat. Why? Because (and this is coming from Conway, his own spokesperson) when Trump said Lemon was a Democrat, he really didn’t know what party Lemon belonged to. And if he didn’t know, he couldn’t have been lying, right?
Well, no. When Trump said that Don Lemon is a Democrat, he did not qualify it in any way. He did not say “if Don Lemon is a Democrat”, he stated unequivocally that Lemon is a Democrat. So it’s still a lie, but a different kind of lie, a Trump Lie. Even if we concede that Conway was right that if Trump didn’t know that Lemon is a Republican, and that therefore calling him a Democrat was not a knowing statement of an untruth, it’s still a lie because Trump intentionally gave the unqualified impression that he knew Lemon’s political affiliation when he clearly didn’t. When you state something as fact when you really don’t know one way or the other, you’re lying as to the extent of your knowledge. And this is not a one-off, as my British friends would say. Trump does this all the time. He will say anything (and he will say it in an authoritative way) that he thinks advances his argument, even if he has no idea whether it’s true or not. So you see, the lie is in trying to give people the impression that you know something as fact, when in truth you really have no clue. It’s a Trump Lie.
As I said, he does it all the time. During the campaign Trump said that he would repeal Obamacare on Day 1 of his administration, and immediately replace it with something great; something that would be cheaper and better and would cover everybody. Does anybody really believe that when he said that he had previously conducted copious research on the subject so that he knew exactly what such a plan would entail and how it would work? Of course not, especially now that we’ve seen the Republicans’ idea of a so-called health care plan, which Trump supports. But Trump knew it sounded good, so he said it even though he had no idea what an ACA replacement would look like. (Apparently, he also didn’t know that a health care system that covers 320 million people is inherently complicated, but that’s another story). Only Kellyanne Conjob (a low blow to be sure, but also well-earned) would say that’s not lying. On and on it goes. President Obama had his phone wiretapped! Well, he might have. First, make an accusation, then, if you have time, see if it’s actually true. Hey, if he didn’t know for sure when he said it, then he wasn’t lying, right Kellyanne? But he was. They’re called Trump Lies, and it looks like we had better get used to them.