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Washington Post fact checker talks about Trump and the truth

Glenn Kessler on "The Takeout"
Glenn Kessler on "The Takeout" 47:52

Glenn Kessler, the chief writer for the "Fact Checker" feature of the Washington Post, says that "every president lies," but President Trump is unique in the sheer scale and number of his falsehoods.

"Every president lies," Kessler said in an interview with CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Major Garrett for this week's episode of "The Takeout" podcast. "What is unique about Trump is that he misleads and says false things and lies about just about everything on a regular basis."

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Highlights from this week's episode with Glenn Kessler:

  • Why President Trump is different from other presidents: "What is unique about Trump is that he misleads and says false things and lies about just about everything on a regular basis."
  • Trump's motivations for making false or misleading claims: "I actually thinks he often believes what he's saying, even if it's completely contradictory to what he's said the day before."
  • Why Trump supporters stick with the president despite his propensity for making untrue claims: "Part of Trump's secret sauce for being elected in 2016 was he said things that a lot of his core supporters already believed to be true, but previous candidates wouldn't say it because they actually knew they weren't true."

Kessler and two other members of the Post's fact checking team, Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly, are the authors of the recent book "Donald Trump and His Assault on Truth." Kessler, Rizzo and Kelly found that Mr. Trump spoke or tweeted over 16,000 false or misleading claims in his first three years in office.

Kessler is hesitant to characterize all of Mr. Trump's falsehoods as "lies" because calling a statement a lie "means you have to get into someone's head" and guess at the motivation.

"I actually thinks he often believes what he's saying, even if it's completely contradictory to what he's said the day before," Kessler said.

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Garrett noted that some Trump supporters argue that the president's false or misleading statements are not as damaging as those of previous presidents. Kessler said that the case could be made that Mr. Trump's lies were damaging, particularly as they related to the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"One could make a case that more people have passed away from the virus because the United States was unprepared," Kessler said.

Kessler acknowledges that people on both sides of the aisle often objected to the Post's fact checking.

"I fully admit that not everyone will buy our analysis, or they will look at it through a partisan lens," Kessler said. However, he also noted that sometimes Trump supporters recognize what the president is saying is false, but they don't care.

"Part of Trump's secret sauce for being elected in 2016 was he said things that a lot of his core supporters already believed to be true, but previous candidates wouldn't say it because they actually knew they weren't true," Kessler said, citing the example of Mr. Trump's assertion that "millions" of illegal immigrants were pouring into the country. Even if it wasn't actually true, it felt true to supporters, and that ultimately mattered more, Kessler noted.

Kessler also said that Democrats were just as quick to get annoyed with the Post's fact checkers as Republicans when he rated a statement from a Democratic politician as false.

For more of Major's conversation with Kessler, download "The Takeout" podcast on Art19, iTunesGooglePlaySpotify and Stitcher. New episodes are available every Friday morning. Also, you can watch "The Takeout" on CBSN Friday at 5pm, 9pm, and 12am ET and Saturday at 1pm, 9pm, and 12am ET. For a full archive of "The Takeout" episodes, visit www.takeoutpodcast.com. And you can listen to "The Takeout" on select CBS News Radio affiliates (check your local listings).  

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