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Calling out Trump’s lies

Donald Trump held a press conference about veterans’ charities on Tuesday.JASON SZENES/EPA

How can you tell when Donald Trump is lying?

His lips are moving.

This is an old joke about politicians. But forever more it should be used to refer exclusively to Trump, who in an occupation already known for obfuscation and truth-shading, is setting a new standard for dishonesty.

It is usually frowned upon for journalists to call a politician a liar. Political journalists and columnists have all kinds of euphemisms for how we talk about dishonest politicians. But with Trump, the media should not sugarcoat it. Indeed, they can’t.

Take, for example, Trump’s press conference in Manhattan on Tuesday: a tour de force performance of misleading and untruthful statements mixed in with a heavy dose of press bashing and self-serving arguments.


He called the presser in large measure to answer media criticism that he has failed to give away the $6 million he claimed to have raised in January for veterans groups.

He began by reading off the names of all the groups to whom he’d donated the money. But then he told the assembled scribes, “I don’t think it’s anyone’s business if I send money to the veterans.” He said such donations should be private, as if he had not publicly promised to give $1 million of his own money to these groups and his campaign has been saying for months that he had already given the money away — even though he hadn’t. Not until a Washington Post reporter began investigating the claim did Trump pony up the dough.

Trump also repeatedly said he didn’t want to get “credit” for his charitable donations to veterans, even though he hosted a public fundraiser to raise the money, brags incessantly about his support for veterans, held a press conference Tuesday to detail the groups to whom he’s given money and for how much, and complained repeatedly that the media haven’t praised him enough for his generosity. According to Trump, the media have made him “look bad,’’ merely by asking him questions about the donations he claims to have made.


What is perhaps ever more surreal is that one week ago he denied he’d ever claimed raising $6 million for veterans; now he wants the media to dedicate hosannas to him for giving it away.

But of course, Trump doesn’t just contradict himself on a regular basis; he contradicts himself mid-sentence.

He talked about the Republican Party undergoing a “healing moment” and unifying around his candidacy . . . only moments before he called the 2012 Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, a “fool.” Last week, of course he traveled to New Mexico and bashed the state’s Republican governor, Susana Martinez, for not endorsing him, while also calling Romney a “choker’’ and “stupid.”

On Tuesday, he also called himself a man of principle and then quickly pivoted to a prolonged harangue against Gonzalo Curiel, the judge in his Trump University fraud lawsuit, as well as a key witness in the case. This is now the second time in the past few days that Trump has publicly attacked the judge. Last week, he launched a tirade against Curiel and claimed that the judge is “Mexican’’ and thus biased against him (Curiel was born in Indiana).

Indeed, when Trump wasn’t saying things that would cause the Politifact “Pants on Fire” meter to commit hari-kari, he bashed the assembled media as fundamentally “dishonest,” called one reporter for ABC News a “sleaze” and another for NBC “no beauty.”


For Trump, the only honest reporter is one who reports the news exactly as Trump wants at that exact moment. In fact, maybe the only truthful thing that Trump said at the press conference was his pledge that, if elected president, he will “continue to attack the press.”

How can one reasonably report on Trump’s public statements without pointing out that the truth for him is a moving target? A few weeks ago ago, The Washington Post published a story that showed Trump had regularly posed as a public relations executive named John Barron or John Miller. That morning, Trump went on the “Today’’ show and blatantly denied the charge, even though he’s previously admitted that it’s true.

Last year, we marveled at Trump’s statements that he saw video of American Muslims celebrating the fall of the World Trade Center. When it was pointed out that this could not be true since no such video exists, Trump continued to make the false claim.

He’s not misspeaking, he’s not exaggerating, and a dishonest press is not misquoting him. Donald Trump is a liar — plain and simple.

Michael A Cohen’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.