How do You Want your Lies?

How do you want your lies … overt or covert … obvious or suspected? To say that the Presidential candidates of our two major political parties are unpopular is understatement.  PolitiFact has caught each of them using spin, hyperbole, and outright lies. PolitiFact checks the veracity of political statements and assigns one of six ratings … True, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False, False, and Pants on Fire (i.e., outrageous lie). This article focuses on the last three categories.

As of Sunday, October 3rd, 2016, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have a combined 245 statements that were classified as Mostly False, False, or Pants on Fire. The count is not exclusively limited to statements related to the 2016 Presidential Election Campaign. Hillary’s oldest evaluated statement is from 2007. Donald’s oldest evaluated statement is from 2011. This does not mean that Hillary has been lying longer than Donald. Between 2007 and 2011, Donald was probably lying about something other than politics. In fact, 172 of those 245 statements (70.2%) are Donald’s. You may have noticed that Donald talks and tweets enough for three normal people.

Here’s the breakdown of lies and categories for each candidate:

Donald Trump

Mostly False …. 48
False ………….. 96
Pants on Fire … 28
Total ………… 172

Hillary Clinton

Mostly False ….. 40
False …………… 27
Pants on Fire …. ..6
Total …………… 73

As you can see, the candidates have about the same number of statements that have a tiny grain of truth. Relative to their respective falsehood totals, Hillary appears to be about twice as skilled at adding a tiny bit of truth to her lies. On the other hand, Donald is about 1.5 times better at making straight-up, bare-faced lies and almost twice as good at making outrageous, totally baseless lies.

Donald says things that don’t even make sense. For example:

“Our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape they’ve ever been in before. Ever. Ever. Ever.”

Ever? Ever? Ever? Perhaps Donald’s knowledge of history is sufficiently deficient that he’s never heard of slavery or “Jim Crow” laws.

During the first Presidential debate, Donald said:

“No wonder you’ve been fighting ISIS your entire adult life.”

Let’s see how that works. Hillary was born on October 26, 1947. She would have been 21 years old … an adult … on October 26, 1968. ISIS (or ISIL or Daesh) had its origins in a group called Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, founded in 1999. How did Hillary fight ISIS for 31 years before it existed. Donald’s statement is not just hyperbole. It’s either an indication of a total disregard for the truth (i.e., a lie) or an indication of mental instability.

Donald’s association with the “Birther” conspiracy is well-known. Indeed, he seems to have a fondness for unsupportable accusations.

Hillary is no paragon of truth either. Her mode of lying is more subtle. Her approach is half-truthsfeigned ignorance, memory lapses, and secrecy. Often, Hillary is too much the lawyer. When questioned, she is careful to answer precisely what was asked … definitely no more and, if possible, a tiny bit less. She is almost as bad as Donald when it comes to denying earlier positions. I have no problem with reversing one’s earlier opinions … a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds … but, don’t pretend that you never held the opposite view.

Neither Donald nor Hillary is free of “flip-flops” … in both the long and short terms.

Politicians … even Presidents … sometimes say really stupid things. Hillary’s “basket of deplorables” is high on the list. She apologized for saying that half of Donald’s supporters are deplorable, but that’s not enough. None of Donald’s supporters are deplorable. Their ideas are deplorable.

This clip is from “The Daily Show“. Only Trevor Noah (the host) and Jordan Klepper (the interviewer) are part of the show. The piece was certainly edited to select only those with interesting ideas. Those being interviewed are real Trump supporters.

Regular followers of this site are familiar with my graphs of PolitiFact’s Truth-o-Meter ratings. This one is based on ratings of statements made by Hillary and Donald between the end of the two weeks of party national conventions through Wednesday, October 12, 2016.


Both candidates are equal on half-truths. Donald is way ahead on falsehoods and bare-faced lies (Pants on Fire). “But wait!”, you say. “Between talking and tweeting, Donald produced twice as many statements. Of course, he’ll have more instances of most ratings.”

In fact, the graph above reflects 2.33 as many statements by Donald as by Hillary. For the graph below, I’ve normalized the counts to eliminate the difference between the total numbers of statements per candidate.


As you can see, the adjustment shows that the discrepancy is even worse than we thought. Donald’s false statements are equal to Hillary’s true statements … and vice versa. His “pants on fire” statements are equal to Hillary’s mostly true statements. Hillary is the clear winner in half-truths by a ratio of 2.2 to 1.

There’s a name for someone who uses a lot of half-truths. That name is Politician. The name for someone who lies 2.6 times as often as he tells the truth is, at best, Immature Narcissist and, at worst, Pathological Liar.

I’ll take the politician’s covert lies.

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