It’s the first weekend of Joe Biden’s presidency, which surely means a lot of things to many people, but to me, it means I don’t have to spend my weekend shift waiting to write about President Donald Trump’s latest, inevitable lie.
At Mother Jones, we’ve corrected countless Trump falsehoods over the past four years, from his bull about the stock market and hooey about global warming to disinformation about the legitimacy of the election and bunkum about the coronavirus pandemic. It was exhausting. And numbing.
The public’s apathy and despair towards Trump’s lies, researchers point out, were by design: The attacks mirrored a Russian propaganda technique known as the “firehose of falsehood,” which is exactly what it sounds like—relentless, rapid, bogus information. As Mother Jones‘ Mark Follman wrote in October, “Trump is using the autocrat’s playbook. Vladimir Putin’s, to be specific.”
Now the Washington Post‘s Fact Checker team has finished its final catalog of the extent of the former president’s efforts to mislead and misinform us. According to its tally, Trump made more than 30,000 “false or misleading” claims during his presidency. Half of those lies were told during his last year in office, according to the Post‘s database:
This astonishing jump in falsehoods is the story of Trump’s tumultuous reign. By the end of his term, Trump had accumulated 30,573 untruths during his presidency—averaging about 21 erroneous claims a day.
What is especially striking is how the tsunami of untruths kept rising the longer he served as president and became increasingly unmoored from the truth.
Trump averaged about six claims a day in his first year as president, 16 claims day in his second year, 22 claims day in this third year—and 39 claims a day in his final year. Put another way, it took him 27 months to reach 10,000 claims and an additional 14 months to reach 20,000. He then exceeded the 30,000 mark less than five months later.
Here’s a chart of the exponential growth of Trump’s cumulative “untruths”:
Due to the incredible volume of falsehoods, the project was a massive undertaking. “It’s just a terrible time suck,” Glenn Kessler, the editor and chief writer of the Fact Checker team, told the Mother Jones Podcast in June. If Trump were to win a second term, Kessler said at the time, “The Post may have to hire a few more people for us to keep it up.” I’m all for hiring more journalists, but in this case, I’m glad some of my colleagues were spared this fate.