U.S. presidents are rarely 100% truthful. Many presidents have told some pretty controversial lies while in office. And Donald Trump has occasionally bent the truth. But Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, also told at least a few lies of his own. Politifact, a website that fact-checks claims by elected officials, has tracked exactly where each president has stretched the truth. And the publication figured out exactly how bad each president’s lies really were.
Read on to learn about the biggest lies that Donald Trump and Barack Obama have told. And on page 7, you can even discover which of the two presidents has told more lies to the American people.
Barack Obama referred to the U.S. as one of the largest Muslim countries in the world
One of Barack Obama’s most notorious lies occurred in 2009. The former president said, “If you actually took the number of Muslims [sic] Americans, we’d be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world.” Politifact reports that Obama’s comment seemed “meant to emphasize the religious diversity of the United States.” Obama may have also intended to highlight “the importance of understanding between the Western world and followers of Islam.”
Yet Obama’s statement fell flat. Politifact noted at the time that the estimates of the number of Muslims living in America vary greatly. But by the publication’s best estimate, “of the 60 most populous Muslim states, the United States ranks 58th.” So this statement went down in history as one of Obama’s biggest lies.
Next: Donald Trump has also told some lies about how the U.S. relates to other countries in the world.
Donald Trump said the Mexican government forces bad people into our country
One of Donald Trump’s worst lies, according to Politifact, occurred in 2015. Trump stated that “The Mexican government forces many bad people into our country because they’re smart.” The then-presidential-candidate elaborated, “They’re smarter than our leaders, and their negotiators are far better than what we have, to a degree that you wouldn’t believe. They’re forcing people into our country. . . And they are drug dealers and they are criminals of all kinds. We are taking Mexico’s problems.”
Yet immigration experts told Politifact that they’ve found little evidence to support Trump’s claim. Immigrants travel to the United States either to find work or to join their families. Politifact reports, “About the closest support for Trump’s claim that we could find is the argument that the Mexican government’s failure to provide strong economic growth and restrain drug violence has been a factor in convincing people to leave the country and come to the United States.” Trump has told a few lies about immigration, but this probably numbers among the worst.
Next: Barack Obama has told a few lies about his accomplishments in office.
Barack Obama characterized his regulatory review as ‘unprecedented’
Another of Obama’s notorious lies came in 2011. At that point, the president said, “What I have done — and this is unprecedented … is I’ve said to each agency … ‘look at regulations that are already on the books and if they don’t make sense, let’s get rid of them.'” Politifact reports that Obama said his administration was taking a “never-done-before, government-wide look at existing regulations to eliminate ones that don’t make sense.” Yet that claim didn’t quite hold up.
Politifact reported at the time, “We wondered if a systematic review of old regulations was really such an unprecedented effort. And we found it isn’t.” In 1993, for instance, Bill Clinton called for a comprehensive review of regulatory policy. His administration eventually eliminated 16,000 pages of federal regulations. “And one expert tells Politifact, “Whatever it is called, presidents are always reviewing regulations to eliminate ones that impose unnecessary burdens.”
Next: Donald Trump has told a few lies about crime rates in the United States.
Donald Trump said crime is rising
Politifact reports that in 2016, then-presidential-candidate Donald Trump said, “Crime is rising. People are scared. The last thing we need is Hillary Clinton in the White House or an extension of the Obama disaster.” Trump’s assertion that crime is rising stood out — and not in a good way. Politifact reports that the publication’s previous research has repeatedly shown that crime isn’t actually rising. Yet Donald Trump still stretched the truth on the topic.
Politifact looked at FBI data on violent crime, including murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. The data showed that violent crime “has been falling on an almost uninterrupted basis since the early 1990s.” Data on property crime, such as burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft, “showed the same pattern.” One expert told Politifact, “Crime rates are low.” He added, “there is no consistent and reliable indication that things are getting worse.”
Next: Barack Obama told Americans a few lies about their healthcare plans.
Barack Obama said Americans could keep their health care plans if they wanted
Barack Obama faced some major challenges with the troubled rollout of healthcare.gov. At the same time, insurance cancellations started arriving for many Americans. Politifact reports that Obama’s “attempt at explanation has only fanned the flames of controversy over his campaign line, ‘If you like your health care, you can keep it.'” Obama asserted that if Americans had a plan that they liked before the Affordable Care Act became law, “what we said was you can keep it if it hasn’t changed since the law passed.”
Politifact explained, “The way we read that comment — and, judging by the contentious White House press briefing the following day, the way other Washington journalists read it — was that Obama was saying that people had been misreporting the pledge he had made. It wasn’t that he said ‘if you like your plan, you can keep it’ — it was ‘if your plan hasn’t changed since the law passed,’ you can keep it.”
Next: Donald Trump has been caught in a couple of lies about tax cuts.
Donald Trump asserted that no presidents since Reagan have passed tax cuts
Politifact reports that President Donald Trump said in 2017, “You know, for years, they have not been able to get tax cuts — many, many years, since Reagan.” But Politifact reports that according to Treasury Department data, “That’s flat wrong. Under three presidents — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — Congress enacted nine tax bills worth in the tens of billions of dollars in revenue reductions over four years.”
Politifact characterizes Trump’s statement as “ridiculously wrong.” The publication notes that the tax bills that have been enacted by recent presidents “were not obscure pieces of legislation.” Politifact also characterizes Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts as “the signature domestic policy achievements of his presidency.” So this statement probably numbers among Trump’s worst lies.
Next: Has Donald Trump or Barack Obama told more lies to the American people?
So who has told more lies: Barack Obama or Donald Trump?
Both presidents have told lies. But one seems to have told more lies than the other. Politifact reports that 15% of the statements by Donald Trump that it evaluated qualified as “pants on fire” level lies. Conversely, the publication found that just 2% of the Barack Obama statements that it fact-checked qualified as “pants on fire” lies. For both presidents, that’s only the lies that Politifact found were “pants on fire” false, not including statements that were just “false,” even “mostly false,” or only “half true.”
Similarly, The New York Times catalogued the lies told by Barack Obama and Donald Trump. “We applied the same conservative standard to Obama and Trump, counting only demonstrably and substantially false statements,” the Times noted. The result? The Times found that Trump often says “whatever helps him make the case he’s trying to make. In his first 10 months in office, he has told 103 separate untruths, many of them repeatedly. Obama told 18 over his entire eight-year tenure. That’s an average of about two a year for Obama and about 124 a year for Trump.”
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