Fact Checker: Here’s everything Donald Trump got factually wrong in his first week as president

The following article was is a newsletter from the Washington Post January 27, 2017:

Here’s everything Donald Trump got factually wrong in his first week as president.

It’s been a whirlwind of a week at The Fact Checker. As regular readers know, candidate Donald Trump had difficulty with facts — and we learned this week that President Trump does, too.

It started with Trump’s inauguration speech; we fact-checked eight errors and exaggerations. Then, every day in his first week, Trump either said or tweeted something that was factually inaccurate or exaggerated. We issued several Four-Pinocchio ratings this week to the new president.

Below are some factual lowlights of Trump’s first seven days as president — including claims exaggerating his inauguration crowd size and false claims about widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election. For more, read our round-up of 24 claims from Presidet Trump’s first seven days.

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“They say I had the biggest crowd in the history of inaugural speeches. … We had the biggest audience in the history of inaugural speeches.”

Crowd estimates are difficult, but attendance for Trump’s speech appears to be at least 80 percent smaller than Obama’s 2009 swearing-in, 70 percent smaller than Lyndon B. Johnson’s inauguration and 60 percent smaller than Obama’s second inauguration in 2013. In terms of TV viewership, Trump ranks fifth, far behind Ronald Reagan. Even online estimates don’t boost him to “biggest audience.”

“I’m a very big person when it comes to the environment. I have received awards on the environment.”

There is little evidence that Trump received awards for the environment. The White House pointed us to a self-published book by Trump’s former environmental consultant. The only award mentioned in that book was from New Jersey Audubon — but the group denied it ever gave an award to Trump, the Trump National club in Bedminster or any of its employees. This statement earned Four Pinocchios.

“NAFTA has been a terrible deal, a total disaster for the United States from its inception, costing us as much as $60 billion a year with Mexico alone in trade deficits.”

The trade-deficit number is close to correct, but Trump apparently does not understand the meaning of “trade deficit.” He often suggests this money could be used to pay for his planned wall along the southern border. But that’s nonsensical. A trade deficit only means that people in one country are buying more goods from another country than people in the second country are buying from the first country. No money passes from government to government.

“Between 3 million and 5 million illegal votes caused me to lose the popular vote.”

This is a fantasy, worthy of Four Pinocchios. Trump is obsessed with how he lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, and so he keeps making this claim even though there is no evidence to support it.

Trump and his staff continues to cite a 2012 Pew research study in an attempt to back up claims about widespread voter fraud. But the study did not address voter fraud –as we’ve covered here, here, here, here and here.

“Then he’s groveling again. You know I always talk about the reporters that grovel when they want to write something that you want to hear but not necessarily millions of people want to hear or have to hear.”

Trump attacked the author of a 2012 Pew Center on the States report for saying his report did not back up Trump’s claims of voter fraud. Trump suggested the researcher had changed his tune, but when the report was issued the author repeatedly explained it did not reflect voter fraud. This claim earned Four Pinocchios.

“This is on the Keystone pipeline. … A lot of jobs, 28,000 jobs. Great construction jobs.”

In contrast to Obama, who always played down the number of jobs that would be created by the Keystone XL pipeline, Trump inflated the numbers. The project would create part-year work in four states for 10,400 workers, the State Department determined. That added up to a total of 3,900 annual construction jobs. About 12,000 other annual jobs would stem from direct spending on the project. So that adds up to 16,000, most of which are not construction jobs. This statement earned Three Pinocchios.


Abortion-rights advocates’ questionable claim about Trump’s ‘global gag rule’ policy

In one of his first acts as president, Trump reinstated a Reagan-era policy that bans U.S. aid to international health groups that promote and perform abortions with non-U.S. money. Abortion-rights advocates oppose this policy and call it the “global gag rule,” because it limits international health care organizations that receive U.S. aid from discussing abortion in counseling sessions.

Abortion-rights advocates claimed that the policy kills funding for any group that “even mentions abortion.” That sounded drastic, so we dug into it — and found it’s too early to come to that conclusion.

Past iterations of the policy allowed some discussion of abortion in certain circumstances. For example, if a woman’s pregnancy resulted from rape or incest, or is endangering her life, groups that receive U.S. aid can make referrals for abortions. If a woman has asks where she can obtain a safe and legal abortion, groups that receive U.S. aid can answer her question.

But Trump’s version of the policy isn’t even written yet — and until then, it’s pure conjecture to say how the policy will apply. We issued a Verdict Pending rating, and will update this rating once the regulation is written and entered into the Federal Register.

We’re always looking for suggestions. If you hear something fact-checkable, fill out this form, e-mail us or tweet us: @myhlee@GlennKesslerWP or using #FactCheckThis. Read about our rating scale here, and sign up here for our weekly Fact Checker newsletter. 

Scroll down for this week’s Pinocchio roundup.

— Michelle Ye Hee Lee