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The 10 biggest falsehoods from the year of Trump

Lauren Carroll
By Lauren Carroll June 16, 2016

One year ago today, Donald Trump descended a gilded escalator into a historic presidential campaign.

We called his announcement speech "a rambling bit of political theater" and fact-checked five statements from his remarks. We rated the claims Mostly False, False, False, False and Pants on Fire.

At the time, Trump’s candidacy was seen by many as a publicity stunt. Today he sits as the presumptive GOP nominee.

What hasn’t changed is that Trump continues to make inaccurate statements, and we have spent the past year trying to keep up.

We’ve fact-checked Trump about 160 times. We have rated 76 percent of those statements Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire. (See his entire PolitiFact file, which updates as we post new fact-checks.) As we noted when we awarded Trump our 2015 Lie of the Year award for his portfolio of misstatements, no other politician has as many statements rated so far down the dial. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

Here are 10 of the most significant falsehoods that Trump has made during the past year.

Pants on Fire: "The Mexican government forces many bad people into our country."

Setting aside the question of whether Mexicans who have come to the United States are "bad" or not, there is no evidence of any Mexican policy that pushes people out of Mexico and into the United States. As has been the case for decades, a combination of economic and family factors accounts for most of the migration from Mexico to the United States.


Pants on Fire: The number of illegal immigrants in the United States is "30 million, it could be 34 million."  

Researchers put the number of illegal immigrants at about 11 or 12 million, with the flow of illegal immigrants at a 40-year low. We also rated part of a Trump ad Pants on Fire because it purported to show Mexicans swarming over the border. But the video footage is actually the Moroccan border. 

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False: Mexico can afford to build a wall because the country's trade deficit with America is billions of dollars.

The trade deficit is about $50 billion. Estimates to build a wall vary widely, though the ones we found were smaller than the trade deficit. However, the trade deficit has nothing to do with whether the Mexican government could afford to write the United States a check to build the wall. 

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Pants on Fire: "I watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering" as the World Trade Center collapsed.

If thousands of people were celebrating the attacks on American soil, many people besides Trump would remember it. And in the 21st century, there would be video or visual evidence. Even as recently as this month, Trump has continued to say he’s right, pushing evidence that does not actually support his claim

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False: "I was totally against the war in Iraq, saying for many years that it would destabilize the Middle East."

If Trump saw regional destabilization on the horizon, he kept it under wraps. The record shows at best some early reservations that evolved into opposition about a year after the war began. When radio host Howard Stern asked Trump if he supported the invasion about six months before the war began Trump said, "Yeah, I guess so."  

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False: There is "no system to vet" refugees from the Middle East.

There are concerns about information gaps, but a system does exist and has existed since 1980. It involves multiple federal intelligence and security agencies, as well as the United Nations. Refugee vetting typically takes one to two years and includes numerous rounds of security checks. 

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Pants on Fire: The unemployment rate may be as high as "42 percent."

Getting a percentage that high requires believing that being a full-time student, a senior citizen, a stay-at-home parent, a job-training participant, or having a disability is no excuse for not holding down a full-time job. The highest alternative unemployment-rate measure we could come up with that had any credibility was 16.4 percent.


False: "We're the highest taxed nation in the world."

We fact-checked this claim three times, and it’s still wrong. Data from 2014, the most recent year available, shows that the United States wasn’t the most highly taxed by the typical metrics and actually places near the bottom or around the middle of the pack. 

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Pants on Fire: "Crime is rising."

If you look at overall violent and property crimes, he is flat wrong. Crime rates have been falling almost without fail for roughly a quarter-century. We also rated Pants on Fire an image Trump tweeted because it contained several incorrect crime statistics, including that black people kill 81 percent of white homicide victims. Actually, whites kill 82 percent of white homicide victims. 

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Pants on Fire: Ted Cruz’s father "was with Lee Harvey Oswald" before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

The sole "evidence" for this claim is a grainy photograph that shows Oswald with a man who may bear a resemblance to the Texas senator’s father, Rafael Cruz. But experts said the image is too degraded to offer much confidence. At the same time, multiple experts about the world of early 1960s pro-Castro advocacy said Trump’s claim is implausible at best and ridiculous at worst. 

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And finally, Trump has oversold his personal successes, receiving False ratings for saying his winery is the largest on the East Coast, that his book Art of the Deal is the best-selling business book of all time, and that the beleaguered Trump University received an A grade from the Better Business Bureau.

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The 10 biggest falsehoods from the year of Trump