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Donald Trump's top 10 most misleading claims

Linda Qiu
By Linda Qiu October 27, 2016

Donald Trump’s "truthful hyperbole" fueled his rise to the top of the Republican ticket — and a surge of interest in fact-checking.

PolitiFact has been documenting Trump’s statements since 2011, when he was toying with a 2012 White House bid. Since then, we’ve fact-checked more than 300 Trump claims. About 71 percent of them rated Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire. About 14 percent of his statements are Half True, while 4 percent rated True.

Trump’s inaccuracies are diverse. They include conspiracy theories, attacks on critics and opponents, misleading statistics and exaggerations of his own personal record. Here are Trump’s top false statements.

"Of course, there is large-scale voter fraud happening on and before election day."

Pants on Fire! Actual instances of voter fraud — such as voter impersonation, ballot stuffing, and bought votes — are extremely rare, often unintentional and not on a scale large enough to affect a national election.

An investigative reporting project found less than 200 alleged cases of voter impersonation from 2000 to 2011. Many of these never led to charges, while other were acquitted or dismissed. A Loyola Law School study found an even smaller number: 31 credible incidents out of more than 1 billion votes cast from 2000 to 2014.

Put it in another way: More people are struck by lightning or attacked by sharks than are accused of voter fraud.

Says Barack Obama "founded ISIS. I would say the co-founder would be crooked Hillary Clinton."

There’s a credible critique that Obama’s and Clinton’s foreign policy and military decisions helped create a space in which ISIS could operate and expand. But Trump explicitly said he meant Obama and Clinton literally "founded" ISIS. Of course, the founder of ISIS was a terrorist. It is run by terrorist. Obama has said destroying ISIS is his "top priority." Trump’s claim is Pants on Fire.

Ted Cruz’s father, Rafael, "was with Lee Harvey Oswald before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy."

Trump’s claim was borrowed lifted straight from the pages of the National Enquirer. The sole "evidence" for his claim is a grainy photograph that shows Oswald with a man who may bear a resemblance to Rafael Cruz. But facial recognition software and experts told us the image is too degraded to offer much confidence.

At the same time, historians of early 1960s pro-Castro advocacy said they have never seen evidence of Cruz associating with Oswald and consider Trump’s claim implausible and best and ridiculous at worst. We rated it Pants on Fire.

"Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy."

There is no evidence to support this theory. Clinton supporters circulated the rumor in the last days of the 2008 Democratic primary and after Clinton had conceded to Obama. But the record does not show Clinton or her campaign ever promoted the birther theory, let alone starting it.

We rated Trump’s claim False in September 2015 and False again in September 2016, when he repeated it.

The unemployment rate may be as high as "42 percent"

Getting a percentage that high requires counting as unemployed students, senior citizens, stay-at-home parents, job-training participants and the disabled. The highest credible measure we could come up was 16.4 percent, about a third of Trump’s figure. We rated his claim Pants on Fire.

The number of illegal immigrants in the United States is "30 million, it could be 34 million"

Experts repeatedly told us Trump’s figures are not plausible. Every credible estimate we found from independent researchers to the Department of Homeland security pins the number at around 11 million with a margin of error of 1 million — about a third of what Trump claimed. Pants on Fire.

"The Mexican government …they send the bad ones over."

We found 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.

Trump received two Pants on Fires for repeating this claim.

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

This flies in the face of all the evidence we could find: a couple of news articles that described rumors of celebrations that were either debunked or unproven. If thousands and thousands of people were celebrating the attacks on American soil, many people beyond Trump would remember it and there would be video or visual evidence.

Trump’s claim defies basic logic. We rated it Pants on Fire.

Says after Clinton helped a man accused of raping a 12-year-old, "she's seen laughing on two separate occasions, laughing at the girl who was raped."

In interviews recorded in the 1980s, Clinton recalled her work as a young legal aid lawyer in Arkansas defending an accused rapist. In an audio recording, now available on YouTube, she does respond with amusement at her recollections of the oddities of the case involving the behavior of the prosecution and the judge. At no point does she laugh at the victim. We rate his claim False.

"I was totally against the war in Iraq."

This is an oft-repeated claim from Trump and it is False. While he came to oppose the Iraq war when it became difficult, he was more accepting of military action early on. Less than three months before the invasion, Trump said the president should be more focused on the economy, but he didn’t speak against launching an attack. And in 2002, asked if America should go to war, he said, "I guess so."

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Donald Trump's top 10 most misleading claims