On Wednesday, the White House conceded that the fawning phone calls Trump claimed to have gotten from officials from the Boy Scouts and the president of Mexico never happened. Officials confirmed Trump's stories weren't true, yet they absolutely refused to label them as flat-out lies.
In fact, according to White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, calling Trump's stories of the calls "lies" is a "bold accusation." During Wednesday's press briefing, she said:
I wouldn’t say it was a lie — that’s a pretty bold accusation. The conversations took place, they just simply didn’t take place over a phone call, they happened in person.
As the New York Times reported, both the Boy Scouts' top leaders and President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico denied making the calls to Trump. However, Sanders said that the sentiments of those stories still had some truth to them because "they happened in person" instead of over the phone as Trump previously said.
While the leader of the Boy Scouts said he didn't really call Trump (as Trump had claimed in leaked transcripts from an interview with the Wall Street Journal), Sanders said that "multiple members of the Boy Scouts leadership" complimented his controversial speech in West Virginia.
As for Nieto, Trump told the story of the call at a cabinet meeting on Monday, according to the Times. He said:
Even the president of Mexico called me. They said their southern border — very few people are coming because they know they’re not going to get through our border, which is the ultimate compliment.
While Nieto said he didn't actually call to praise his actions at the border, Sanders said that the two presidents did still have a talk about border issues at a meeting in Hamburg, Germany.
While Sanders' explanations weave around the allegations that Trump was playing fast and loose with the truth, many of Trump's critics took these incidents as additional strikes against the president's credibility.
Trump's relationship with the truth has been considered a bit fraught throughout his brief political career — his team giving birth to the term "alternative facts" in the process. Most recently, his alleged embellishment of the truth was investigated through the search for his elusive friend "Jim" (who doesn't like Paris anymore but used to like Paris) who also may not really exist. It's also been well-documented that a favorite rhetorical device of Trump's is to cite "many people" (or even a publicist with his voice) who agree with him or support his various moves.
While these two calls did not take place the way the president said they did, for some reason, the word "lie" still doesn't seem to be sticking to him.