donald trump, lies, washington post, fact check, pinocchio

Trump Lies So Much The Washington Post Had to Invent a New Fact-Checking Category

Meet the "Bottomless Pinocchio."
This article is over 5 years old and may contain outdated information

Recommended Videos

Being a full-time fact-checker of the words coming out of Donald Trump’s mouth and Twitter account sounds like one of the most soul-crushing jobs imaginable.

The Washington Post, which rates false statements on a scale of one to four “Pinocchios” (with a completely true statement being a Gepetto), notes that while all politicians can make uninformed or untrue statements, Trump’s lies and exaggerations are unique in that being called out as wrong does not stop him from continuing to say that same wrong thing over and over and over.

“Trump’s willingness to constantly repeat false claims has posed a unique challenge to fact-checkers,” they write. “Most politicians quickly drop a Four-Pinocchio claim, either out of a duty to be accurate or concern that spreading false information could be politically damaging.”

But, they continue, “Not Trump. The president keeps going long after the facts are clear, in what appears to be a deliberate effort to replace the truth with his own, far more favorable, version of it. He is not merely making gaffes or misstating things, he is purposely injecting false information into the national conversation.”

Trump definitely understands the persuasive power of propaganda. He states lies, which many people know are lies, but they’re things his base wants to be true, things that make him look good and his enemies foolish. And the way that he says them—pithy, all-caps, with alliterative, demeaning nicknames for individuals or blanket insults for the Democratic Party—stick in people’s minds, especially when repeated ad nauseam. Trump is a TV man and as such, he likes a catchphrase. Build the wall, no collusion, biggest tax break in history, etc. etc.

Trump uses this method of deliberate, targeted lies so often, the Post had to invent a whole new category in their fact-checking: the Bottomless Pinocchio.

To earn a bottomless Pinocchio, the statement in question has to have earned a rating of three (“Significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions”) or four (just described as “whoppers”) Pinocchios, and Trump has to have repeated the claim at least 20 times. For a politician to repeat a blatantly false statement that many times, you cannot deny that “they are, in effect, engaging in campaigns of disinformation.”

Here are some of the Bottomless Pinocchios Trump has earned so far and how many times he’s repeated them.

  • His tax cut was the biggest in history. (123 times)
  • Exaggerating the trade deficits. (117 times)
  • The economy has literally never been stronger. (99 times)

  • Democrats colluded with Russia during the 2016 election campaign. (42 times)
  • Mueller has conflicts of interest that make him biased. (30 times)

Over at The Washington Post’s website, they’ve got an interactive list of Trump’s Bottomless Pinocchios and honestly, it’s pretty terrifying to see them all in one place.

(image: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!

The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—

The Mary Sue is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more about our Affiliate Policy
Image of Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.