Can Trump Tell The Truth?

Amanda Newby

Opinions Editor

 

Donald Trump: resented by some, revered by others, known by all. With such a fast-paced political climate today, it takes extra effort to be a candidate that separates from the pack. Donald Trump has definitely made an art form out of staying relevant.

With all the campaigning and speaking required for his position, it can take a while for the average citizen to sort through what he’s saying. To supply this demand, websites like Politifact and FactCheck have been gaining readers. Both sites claim to be unbiased, but is that true?

Trump himself has raised this question many times, claiming that various sources treat their coverage of him unfairly, including organizations he’s engaged with before. In a tweet on September 23, 2015, he said, “.@FoxNews has been treating me very unfairly & I have therefore decided that I won’t be doing any more Fox shows for the foreseeable future.”

In a lecture given at Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle Hall on July 12, 2016, Josh Gillin of Politifact said they might have a Trump bias.

“We try to find statements from Trump that are flat-out accurate.”

On Politifact, two percent of the statements from Trump that they’ve examined have been rated True, which is their highest level of truth. His “Pants On Fire” (their lowest rating) statements make up 19 percent. His biggest percentage of statements have been rated False, one level below Pants On Fire.

Even with organizations seeking out completely accurate statements from candidates, Trump seems to elude them. So, the real question seems to be: Can Trump tell the truth?

I believe that Donald Trump is a smart man who knows how to get people’s attention. Evading questions and changing the subject is stereotypical of politicians and is a tried and true tactic. I believe that Trump understands that tried and true tactics don’t lead to innovation, though. People remember the confident and the outrageous.

He said it best in page 58 of his book The Art of the Deal, “I play to people’s fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole.”

I think that he can tell the truth, but making accurate statements about politics isn’t always the most important tactic as a politician. Jeb Bush’s highest percentage (30 percent) on Politifact is in the Mostly True (one step below True) category, and yet he dropped his campaign.

I don’t believe that Trump is concerned with the accuracy of his statements, but how people will respond to them. He uses fanciful language that people want to get behind. Even when talking about negative things (i.e. his comments about Mexico “sending people that have lots of problems” in his June 16 presidential announcement speech) he frames it as protecting the American people, and the American way of life at its core.

Is there a bias against Trump, or are his comments purposefully polarizing? I believe the latter, and I believe he has people exactly where he wants them.

This story won the Opinions Section contest at the High School Journalism Institute at Indiana University.

Screen grab from YouTube

Screen grab from YouTube

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