I miss the days when presidential press conferences were stodgy and boring and nobody watched them except policy wonks. Instead, Trump administration press conferences have become fascinating, thrilling, and often shocking, none of which are words that should be ascribed to the highest level of government's exchanges with the free press. The crown jewel of these headline-making press conferences was Donald Trump's press conference on Thursday, a performance so astonishing that CNN called it "a stunning moment in modern political history."
The press conference was ostensibly held so that the president could announce his new nomination for Secretary of Labor after his first selection, Andrew Puzder, withdrew from consideration. Trump's new pick is Alexander Acosta, a Florida International University's law school dean who previously served on the National Labor Relations Board. Acosta did not attend the announcement.
However, during the conference, Trump was primarily focused on attacking and insulting the media for its coverage of his campaign and his presidency. Everyone likes him, he claim. The polls — not those lying media polls, but the ones he cherry-picked himself — everybody loves him! His presidency is a roaring success, and everybody but the media agrees.
"The level of dishonesty is out of control," he said. Trump is right about that, but it isn't media dishonesty that's the issue — it's his own.
The president's insecurity, in this conference and elsewhere, is as shining and obvious as the gold gilding on his Trump Tower penthouse. He appear unable to believe negative things about himself, so he simply refuses to.
Below are some examples of the most egregiously untrue things he said during the press conference, from making up statistics about electoral victories to rejecting a news story while agreeing with all the facts it contains. It may wound Trump's thin skin to read critical coverage, but if that's really the case, he shouldn't have run for president.
1"Jobs Are Pouring Out of This Country"
This one's particularly strange because Trump seemingly contradicted himself. Before lamenting that "jobs are pouring out of this country," he was bragging about all the plants and factories moving back into the United States, and insisting that improvements in the stock market would translate into more jobs.
At any rate, jobs are not pouring out of the country; the U.S. economy added 227,000 jobs last month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unemployment, after reaching highs of 10 percent after the recession, plummeted to 4.8 percent under Obama, a nine-year low.
2"It Was the Biggest Electoral College Win Since Ronald Reagan"
Not even a little bit. Trump earned 306 electoral votes and received 304. This is demonstrably less than Obama earned in 2012 (332) or 2008 (365), or than George H.W. Bush (426). In fact, Trump's tiny victory was among the smallest since Nixon.
An NBC reporter questioned him about this obviously false information. "I was given that information," he said. "Actually, I've seen that information around. But it was a very substantial victory, do you agree with that?" Which brings me to the next lie on our list:
3"But It Was a Very Substantial Victory, Do You Agree With That?"
Losing the popular vote by nearly three million votes is not a "substantial" victory by any metric whatsoever, unless Trump meant that it was a substantial victory for his opponent.
4"I Think We're Setting a Record, Or Close to a Record, in the Time of Approval for a Cabinet."
Trump said this while complaining about the amount of time the Senate has taken to confirm his Cabinet nominees. That extra time seems reasonable, considering the immense opposition to certain picks like Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education and Jeff Sessions for Attorney General. (Both, for the record, have already been confirmed.)
Trump's complaints are also untrue.
According to ABC News, "Trump has more unconfirmed Cabinet nominees at the four-week mark than any another other President in history. But, here's a point of reference: President Obama’s cabinet was not complete until April 28, 2009, when his pick for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, was confirmed."
5"You [The Media] Have a Lower Approval Rate Than Congress. I Think That's Right."
It isn't. For that matter, why is the president guessing about statistics like these while making a public speech?
While many Americans do not trust either institution, fact-checking website PolitiFact reports that the news media's net approval is negative 18 percent, compared to negative 44 percent for Congress.
6"Drugs Are Becoming Cheaper Than Candy Bars"
On the surface, this sounds good — who wouldn't want to live in a country where pharmaceuticals could be acquired cheaply? But in context, Trump was talking about narcotics, apparently referring to illegal drugs like cocaine, marijuana, and heroin as part of a promise to crack down on cartels.
The cost of these illegal drugs is declining, but nowhere near that kind of dangerously low price: according to RehabCenter.net, the price of a single dose of cocaine is $100; crystal meth is $80, and even marijuana is as high as $15. That would have to be one expensive candy bar.
Using inaccurate figures about this problem is significant because it contributes to public misunderstanding of the real issues at stake; while drug abuse is certainly a problem with which many Americans struggle, ordering law enforcement to crack down on drug use has already been proven to be an incredibly ineffective solution to this problem.
7"We Had a Very Smooth Rollout of the Travel Ban"
It's hard to think of a new policy that was rolled out more thoughtlessly.
Even within his own party, Republican lawmakers were reportedly livid that they were not consulted or warned about the impending passage of the controversial ban. The Department of Homeland Security was not asked to conduct a legal review of any drafts of the ban. Accordingly, it was met with almost immediate uproar and criticism from cities all across the country. Airports were flooded with protesters and lawyers working pro bono. The ban drew widespread condemnation from leaders around the world, including the United Kingdom, France, and Germany many of America's most important allies.
"The global confusion that has since erupted is the story of a White House that rushed to enact, with little regard for basic governing, a core campaign promise that Mr. Trump made to his most fervent supporters," reported the New York Times. The disastrous rollout of Trump's travel ban is many things, but "smooth" is not among them.
8"The Leaks Are Absolutely Real. The News is Fake Because So Much of the News is Fake."
Trump was responding to a question asking whether anyone on his campaign had contact with the Russians, something the New York Times reported earlier this week, citing information leaked by "current and former American officials." This is particularly significant in the wake of the departure of Michael Flynn, who reportedly misled top White House officials about a conversation he had with the Russian ambassador prior to Trump's inauguration.
Trump answered the question by affirming that the leaks were real (by extension, one would assume, affirming that the information reported by the New York Times was real), only to then argue that the news was fake anyway.
9"We Had Hillary Clinton Give Russia 20 Percent of the Uranium in Our Country"
Nope. Trump has made this claim in the past, but time has not made it more true.
The event he seems to be alluding to is this: according to Politifact, between 2009 and 2013, Russia purchased a controlling stake in Uranium One, a Toronto-based company that also owned "mines, mills, and tracts of land ... equal to about 20 percent of U.S. uranium production capacity." That's production capacity, not actual produced uranium. Politifact also suggested that since Russia doesn't even have a license to export uranium outside of the U.S., its purchase was likely motivated by the desire to access Uranium One's assets in nearby Kazakhstan.
Perhaps most importantly, as Secretary of State, Clinton didn't even have the power to approve or reject the deal. That power solely belongs to the president.
10"We Got 306 [Electoral Votes] Because People Came Out and Voted Like They've Never Seen Before So That's The Way It Goes."
Neither of the two "facts" in this sentence are true. Trump didn't actually get 306 electoral votes. He got 304, since two electors refused to vote for him. If that seems like nitpicking, consider the other part of the sentence, which implies, as Trump often does, that he is somehow representative of a massive, majority movement.
This isn't true, either. Voter turnout in the 2016 election was at a 20-year low. Just over half of eligible voters in the United States cast a ballot for any candidate. Even looking at the raw numbers of votes — which could reasonably be expected to increase each year since population has — Trump's candidacy did not motivate people to go to the polls like never before. In his own election, Clinton won millions more votes than he did.