The Return Of Donald Trump, Serial Liar

Donald Trump lies about even the most trivial matters, How are we supposed to believe anything else he says?

Once again, President Trump is making claims that aren’t supported by facts about a seemingly trivial matter:

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Thursday boasted, incorrectly, that his State of the Union address drew the highest number of viewers in history. He was off by millions of people.

Mr. Trump’s claim that his address was “the highest number in history,” is wrong because it ranks ninth out of the annual addresses delivered by presidents since 1993.

President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union speech in 2010 beat Mr. Trump’s by about 2 million, with some 48 million viewers.

Even factoring in online streams, Mr. Trump’s address would not outrank Mr. Obama’s. It is impossible to do a conclusive tally, but the White House’s official stream of Mr. Trump’s address on YouTube has drawn roughly 51,000 views while Mr. Obama’s 2010 address has been viewed 524,000times.

But wait, there’s more. According to the Nielsen Company’s ratings, President George W. Bush’s addresses in 2002 and 2003 drew even more viewers than Mr. Trump and Mr. Obama, topping off at 51.8 million and 62.1 million; and President Bill Clinton’s addresses in 1994 and 1998 were viewed by 45.8 million and 53 million people

Mr. Trump’s own joint address to Congress — which takes the place of a traditional State of the Union address in a president’s first year in office — drew a larger audience than his speech this year, at 47.7 million. Factoring in the joint addresses, Mr. Obama’s 2009 joint address drew 52.4 million viewers and Mr. Clinton’s 1993 speech tops the rankings with an audience of 66.9 million television viewers.

Here’s Trump’s Tweet on the subject, which quickly became a subject of ridicule on Twitter:

This isn’t the first example of Trump making false claims about something so trivial, of course. On his very first day in office, both Trump and his former Press Secretary Sean Spicer made the demonstrably false claim that his Inauguration Day crowd was the largest ever, a claim that Spicer recently apologized for playing a role in spreading. Even before he became a candidate and on several occasions after that, for example, Trump claimed that his television shows The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice were massively successful when it came to television ratings. In reality, while The Apprentice was a Top 25 show in its two first seasons, it never came close to being the top-rated show on television.(SourceCelebrity Apprentice, meanwhile, was never a Top 25 show and only made it into the Top 50 in its first season, and both shows declined in their ratings as the years went along. (Source)  Similarly two years ago, Trump claimed that the National Football League had sent him a letter complaining about the fact that two of the planned Presidential debates had been set for nights on which the league had scheduled games. The NFL denied that any such letter had been sent, and Trump never produced a copy of such a letter despite numerous requests from the media. More recently, several Trump golf courses had hung a Time Magazine cover featuring Trump that turned out to be utterly fake.

As The New Times notes, there have been other examples:

In May, Mr. Trump said that when he appeared on the CBS program “The Late Show,” the broadcast had its highest ratings ever. But he was off by a million or so viewers on that, too. The episode that aired when Mr. Trump was a guest in September 2015 was watched by 4.6 million people, whereas the first “Late Show” that Stephen Colbert hosted drew 6.6 million viewers, according to a CNN report.

In late December, Mr. Trump said his “so-called low approval rating” was approximately the same as Mr. Obama’s at the same point in that presidency. Real Clear Politics research, however, shows that Mr. Obama’s average approval rating across major polls was about 10 points higher than Mr. Trump’s in the December of his first year in office.

Just last month, Mr. Trump falsely claimed that his approval rating among black Americans had doubled (it has actually declined). In July, he also tweeted that his 40 percent approval rating, as recorded by an ABC/Washington Post poll, was “not bad” at this point in his presidency. The same poll shows that Mr. Trump’s approval rating at six months was the lowest recorded since World War II.

This behavior has carried itself over to more serious matters, of course, and at one point Trump suggested that he was too busy to tell the truth.

All politicians have engaged in some version of inflating the truth or not providing complete information at some point in their careers, of course, and this has been particularly true of Presidents. This has happened in the past and it will happen in the future. I believe it’s fair to say, though, that we’ve never seen a President who lies quite as easily as Donald Trump, though, not even from Richard Nixon during the height of the Watergate investigation. Whether it is about trivial or serious matters, we have never seen a President and Administration for whom it is so easy to lie about even the most trivial matters, and in many cases, one gets the impression that they actually believe the obvious lies that they’re telling. Additionally, a President who lies or doesn’t tell the complete truth about official matters is, of course, something we all ought to be concerned about regardless of party. There’s obviously something concerning about a President and an Administration that finds it so easy to lie on a regular basis. Furthermore, the fact that the President is compelled to lie even about trivial matters like the size of a television audience raises even more concerns. As I’ve said before, it raises real concerns about his judgment, his morality, and his ability to lead the nation. And, finally, if we can’t believe this President when it comes to something trivial what happens when there is a serious international or domestic crisis that requires Presidential leadership and honesty are essential? How will we know if we’re being told the truth? We’ve never really had to ask these questions about previous Presidents, although perhaps we should have,. Now it’s essential that we do because as I’ve said before, we’re living in the Homer Simpon Presidency:

The difference, of course, is that at least Homer is likable in his own buffoonish way.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    I think the most astounding thing about this is that ~40% of the nation still believes what this man says.

  2. Kylopod says:

    This lie about the viewership for his SOTU address is actually a perfect example of what Harry Frankfurt calls “bullsh!t.” I’m sure Trump doesn’t know the numbers for the previous addresses. He isn’t actively contradicting something he knows to be true, he just couldn’t care less whether his statement is true or not—it’s literally of no concern to him. Once again, for those who haven’t read it, the Vox piece from 2016 is an absolute must-read for approaching the question of whether Trump knowingly lies or not:

  3. al-Ameda says:

    Trump throws sh** against the wall, and by the time someone has busted him on the bullsh** he has moved on to throwing more sh** against the wall. It’s almost a perpetual motion system.

  4. MarkedMan says:

    You know, there is a former acquaintance of mine who reminds me of Trump to a T. He could be entertaining and even helpful at times but within 5 minutes of meeting him I was thinking “Anything that is coming out of this guys mouth could be total BS.” He had all these business deals (and he really did have some kind of a business). It was the greatest. The best. They won awards.He had all these plans! Amazing plans! He knew all these people! They were amazing. They would be willing to fund him. And me! He had been to all these places! His mysterious disappearance was because he was out traveling the country drumming up new markets for his business! And like Trump, his life was a total mess caused by his lack of morality. Terrible husband (that marriage didn’t last long). Terrible father (although, unlike Trump, I think he really loves his kids). It kind of makes me wonder – are these kinds of liars destined to leave behind broken families?

  5. Facebones says:

    “Return of Donald Trump, Serial Liar” implies that he once stopped.

  6. Kathy says:

    I plain don’t believe any claims the Orange Clown makes.

    The reason most of his followers believe him, is that he tells them lies they want to be true. In particular such things as diminish anyone not in their camp.

  7. CSK says:


    That’s an excellent article. I’d read it before, but it’s always worth a re-read.

    It’s obviously of no concern to Trump that he lies as reflexively as he breathes. What is of concern to him is that he always portray himself as the biggest and the greatest: “I have the best brain…I have the best words…the women love me…the blacks love me…the Mexicans love me…I’ve slept with the top women in the world.”

    He’s a loser, and he’s spent his entire life trying hide from the fact.

  8. CSK says:

    Trump’s rating when he claimed that 40% was “not bad” was actually 36%. He turned 36% into “almost 40%,” which it is not by any stretch of the imagination.

  9. Kylopod says:

    @CSK: One of his most bizarre use of superlatives concerns his denial of bigotry. He has repeatedly told reporters about how he was the “least racist” person they’d ever met. He also told a Jewish reporter he was the “least anti-Semitic” person he’d met, and shortly after the release of the Access Hollywood tapes he made the memorable claim “Nobody has more respect for women than I do.”

    Trump is hardly the first bigot to engage in emphatic denial of the slightest hint of prejudice. The usual formula is you say something like “I haven’t got a racist bone in my body.” But I don’t believe I’ve ever heard anyone else treat non-bigotry like it’s a contest, rather than a bare minimum of what we ordinarily expect of any civilized person.

    Nixon infamously said “I am not a crook.” In Trump’s mouth that would come out as something like “I am the most honest, law-abiding citizen you’ve ever encountered in your entire life.”

  10. dmhlt says:

    The one silver-lining is that IF Mueller can get him under oath, perjury will be a slam dunk!

  11. Teve tory says:

    Republicans in Pennsylvania have announced that they’re just going to ignore the gerrymandering court decision. If Republicans as a whole just decide to start ignoring not just every Norm but every law we could be in real trouble.

  12. CSK says:


    Again, this is part of his pathological need to be seen as “the best” at whatever it is. Of course he wouldn’t claim merely that he didn’t have a racist/anti-Semitic/misogynistic/anti-black bone in his body. No, no, no. He has to be the least racist/anti-Semitic/misogynistic/anti-black person who ever walked the planet. It’s the only time he uses the word “least” in connection with himself–and only in the context of painting himself as the best.

    And, by the way, what’s the deal with his bizarre affection for the definite article? Why is it always: “The women love me. The blacks love me…”

    Can’t he just say “women love me”? “Blacks love me”? “Mexicans love me”? I mean, we all know it’s horsesh!t, but it would sound a little less weird.

  13. Jake says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    It’s amazing how stupid you are.

  14. Jake says:

    Cognitive dissonance. You haters are wrong.

  15. gVOR08 says:

    I suppose someone has to show the falsity of Trump’s lies, and WAPO has been doing a pretty good job of it. (Although it’s unclear to me if they intend to continue into the second year. Otherwise I don’t see the point to taking on individual lies. Seems to me that as a matter of tactics we’re publicizing all his lies for him and supporting the “fake news”/”elitist” stuff in the view of his base. I’m starting to favor an approach more like, “Look, there’s Trump blowing again, poor dear can’t seem to tell the truth.” If challenged, tell them to do their own Google. They don’t bother with proving anything and it takes us a lot of effort to dig into each new lie.

  16. HarvardLaw92 says:


    LOL, no. Unlike you, I have years of history of actually working with Trump. I’ve seen the man up close and personal. I know him in a way that you never will.

    If Donald Trump told me that water was wet, I’d get independent verification before I believed him. The man lies as a matter of basic functioning, even when he has no reason to, and I have good reason to believe that it’s not even a conscious decision on his part.

    He has lied so often, and so comprehensively, about even the most insignificant things, that I’m convinced that it is a compulsive behavior for him now. It may always have been, but I can only speak to my years of association with him – those years were typified by regular, broad and blatant lying.

    He is what is colloquially known as a pathological liar. He’s incapable of telling the truth even if he wanted to – and I’m fairly certain that he doesn’t.

  17. Teve tory says:

    There’s an old saying that I’ve heard in the south. “That’s the kind of guy who would lie about where he went to lunch.”

  18. Erik says:

    @gVOR08: this is a really important point. Research has demonstrated that repeating a lie, even just as part of debunking it, reenforces the apparent “truth” of the lie. I’m also in favor of talking about him as if we feel sorry for his mental illness. It tends to highlight how pathetic he is without just being tit for tat for his disgusting habit of applying disparaging nicknames to people he doesn’t like. “Poor Donald” works very well.

  19. Jake says:
  20. Jake says:


    Get over yourself.

  21. HarvardLaw92 says:


    LOL, GatewayPundit. Why am I not surprised you’re (yet another) one of those clowns?

    Move along now, little troll. There’s no joy to be found for you here. 🙂

  22. Teve tory says:

    My favorite Trump lie is the golf course plaque about the quote River of blood. Just completely made up horseshit.

  23. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Teve tory:

    Remember that golf game the firm essentially forced us to play with him? The one where he cheated and we subsequently spanked him because of it?

    The guy later lied about his score. In a room full of lawyers.

    Including the three who’d screwed him to the floorboards in that round just a week earlier.

    He’s incapable of telling the truth. About anything

  24. CSK says:


    Jake, come on. The Gateway Pundit? The Gateway Pundit? This is your source of credible information? The GP is a hysterical crackpot blog written by semi-literate paranoiacs, or at least by people who know how to cater to semi-literate hysterical crackpot paranoiacs. They have to retract at least 50% of their “stories.”

    I get it. You used to be a Sarah Palin fanatic. She betrayed you when it became obvious that she and her crew of layabouts, druggies, and lushes weren’t really interested in doing anything but reality tv gigs, spawning multiple children out of wedlock, getting involved in drunken brawls, and repeated domestic violence incidents. So you figured Trump would be your savior

    He’s not. And…he despises you.

  25. Kylopod says:


    And, by the way, what’s the deal with his bizarre affection for the definite article? Why is it always: “The women love me. The blacks love me…”

    The phrase “the blacks” is actually a pretty old practice; it’s almost a stereotypical usage of clueless, racist old white guys. Ron Paul has used the phrase. I’ve personally met some older white guys who talk like that. It has the effect of treating black people (or whichever group) like they all constitute a single entity.

    (There is actually a proper historical usage for the phrase “the Jews,” but it still would sound pretty weird in a modern context.)

  26. CSK says:


    I know. I’m familiar with the proper historical usage of “the Jews,” and I’ve heard “the blacks” used in the context you mention. But Trump uses the definite article all the time to refer to any group. He’s also talked about the great love he has for “the Muslims” and “the Muslim Americans” as well as the great regard “the Muslims” have for him.

    He also talks about “the people,” as in “the people say” or “the people are saying.”

  27. An Interested Party says:

    @Jake: BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!! Citing Monica Crowley as a source!? This Monica Crowley? Yours is the perfect link for a post about a serial liar…

  28. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:


    within 5 minutes of meeting him I was thinking “Anything that is coming out of this guys mouth could be total BS.” He had all these business deals (and he really did have some kind of a business). It was the greatest. The best.

    I didn’t realize that you actually know one of our Trumpies! How,,, ummmm… … … wonderful [yeah, that’ll work] for you.

  29. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:
  30. Kylopod says:

    @CSK: One common denominator in nearly all his boasts is that they concern matters that at some level he must sense he’s vulnerable on. That’s why they sound so laughably unconvincing.

    The site TV Tropes identifies a category called “Suspiciously Specific Denial.” That’s a comedy trope where a character denies something so specific that it comes off sounding more like a confession–like a guy who gets pulled over by a cop, whom he assures will not find a dead body in the trunk. Even though the cop just wanted to notify him about a busted tail light.

    People actually do this in real life, albeit usually more subtly than in the movies. One famous example is O.J. Simpson’s withdrawn book If I Did It.

    In any case, Trump does this all the time, and he’s scarcely less obvious about it than a comedy character. For example, here’s a tweet of his from December:

    “Another false story, this time in the Failing @nytimes, that I watch 4-8 hours of television a day – Wrong! Also, I seldom, if ever, watch CNN or MSNBC, both of which I consider Fake News. I never watch Don Lemon, who I once called the ‘dumbest man on television!’ Bad Reporting.”

    How could he call a man he supposedly never watches the “dumbest man on television”?

    And that’s how it is with his boasts. Whenever he’s criticized for something, he has this pathological need to claim the absolute opposite extreme is true, no matter how absurd it sounds. Call him a racist? He’s the least racist person in the entire world, and “the blacks” love him. Point out that he lost the popular vote and only narrowly carried the electoral college? He only lost the popular vote because of illegal aliens voting, and he scored “one of the biggest electoral college victories in history.”

    I second HL92’s comment about how if Trump said water is wet, you’d want to get independent verification. It’s not just that Trump lies, it’s that he has this compulsion to take the things on which he’s most vulnerable and just loudly deny them out of existence, as if his denial constitutes some kind of magical incantation. So whenever you hear him insisting he’s the absolute greatest in something, it’s a safe bet it’s an area where in reality he’s extremely lacking, even if you knew nothing else about it. It’s one of his biggest tells.

  31. Moosebreath says:

    As Gore Vidal said about Nixon:

    “It is quite extraordinary. He will even tell a lie when it is not convenient to. That is the sign of a great artist.”

  32. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    And what may be the ultimate Donald Trump tribute song (at least for the title…)

  33. Teve tory says:

    @CSK: it’s always a great idea to get your information from a site run by the guy who pops up if you Google “the stupidest man on the internet”

    (For newbies if you google that phrase you get jim hoft, the guy who runs Gateway pundit.))

  34. Teve tory says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker: yeah even Orrin hatch’s people said that’s not what hatch said.

    Trump doesn’t even try to tell good lies, because maybe on some level he knows he doesn’t have to, give him the followers he has.

  35. KM says:


    But Trump uses the definite article all the time to refer to any group.

    While there’s definitely a psychological component to it (he uses “the” to create a monolithic entity that he can make assumptions about) I think another piece people keep forgetting is Trump’s from NY and that comes with some linguistic quirks. While there are dialect specific quirks, one of the more noticeable commonalities are things like posessification and using superfluous “the” on objects – it’s the “the 90” or Thruway that runs through NY State, not I-90. Notice he not only adds “the” in front of everything but many things are unnecessarily plural or have a possessive attached. Of course, this leads back to the the point others are discussing, namely that Trump treats people like objects. His dialect just makes it easier to spot.

  36. al-Ameda says:


    Cognitive dissonance. You haters are wrong.

    Where is the cognitive dissonance here?
    Trump is, for the most part, appalling. He routinely, and constantly presents himself as such, and
    he does so proudly. Many here at OTB freely acknowledge that he’s is as appalling as he seems to be. So, again, where is the cognitive dissonance?

  37. Kylopod says:


    I think another piece people keep forgetting is Trump’s from NY and that comes with some linguistic quirks.

    Are there any other famous New Yorkers who talk like this? (I live in NYC and have family members who come from there, and I’ve never noticed what you mention–though I should mention that there are differences in New York speech depending on age, ethnicity, class, and so on.) I have my doubts Uncle Bernie has ever referred to “the blacks”

  38. KM says:

    @Kylopod :

    That’s the kicker: it’s not NYC but upstate that does that mostly. He doesn’t even sound like he’s from NYC – listen to his accent and try to guess what borough he’s from. You can’t because he sounds like he’s from CNY or WNY – near Albany, Buffalo, Syracuse or maybe even Jersey instead. Rural NY is in his voice, not Manhattan.

    Trump’s so fake he can’t even pass for being from the City, let alone from the upper circles of it. If he wasn’t so firmly entrenched in the seediness of NYC from the old days, you’d never know just by listening to him.

  39. CSK says:


    I was going to make the same comment as Kylopod. I’ve never heard that locution in any of the boroughs. It strikes me as almost the way a toddler would speak, along with “I have the best words.” I don’t know any people over age two from anywhere who speak the way Trump does.