New York Times Lies about Trump Lies

By Andy May

The New York Times published a list of Trump’s “lies,” told during the period January 21 through November 2017, on December 14, 2017 here. It contains 106 unique Trump statements. I’ve classified these statements, in as objective a way as possible, but obviously many of these judgements are subjective and others might classify them differently. To help others review my work, I prepared a spreadsheet database that can be downloaded here. The database contains the date, the “lie,” an explanation, one or two sources for more information and context, the category for the “lie,” an explanation for the category, the New York Times (NYT) category, and an explanation for the NYT category. Table 1 is an example table entry and Table 2 describes the categories.

Date Trump “lie” Discussion Source 1 Source 2 Trump Category Trump Explanation NYT Category NYT Explanation
2/6/2017 “And the previous administration allowed it to happen because we shouldn’t have been in Iraq, but we shouldn’t have gotten out the way we got out. It created a vacuum, ISIS was formed.” Trump’s opinion is shared by many, including Jeb Bush and Ben Carson. Npr.org 0 An opinion shared by many 5 Data and reporting from 2015 show this is a very valid opinion, a clear NYT lie.

Table 1. The first column is the date, the second is the supposed lie from the New York Times list, the third is the discussion and context, the fourth is a reference, the fifth can be a second reference (blank in this entry), the sixth is the Trump category (zero means Trump is telling the truth), the seventh is the explanation for the Trump category, the eighth is the category for the New York Times claim the statement is a lie (5 means the NYT claim is a lie) and the last column is the explanation for the NYT category.

Figure 1. Source: John Pritchett and Vlad Tarko, the University of Chicago.

The example in Table 1 is a case where the New York Times claimed Trump lied, when he didn’t in my opinion and in the opinion of many others including Jeb Bush and Ben Carson. Legitimate differences of opinion are not lies, especially when supported by data. I show this example because 35 of the 106 NYT accusations of Trump “lies” fall in this category, it is the largest of the six groups listed in Table 2. This is also a perfect example of something very common in the New York Times list, what I call a “manufactured lie.” The New York Times will search for some aspect or view point of a statement that is contradicted by a fact, usually unrelated to the meaning of the statement and often a stretch of logic, then based on that unrelated fact call the statement a lie. In this case, the New York Times says ISIS was formed, from a group with another name, that was created in 2004. Therefore, they say Obama’s pull-out was unrelated to the creation of ISIS. This is obvious nonsense, the ISIS that we were fighting, until Trump squashed it, rose to power only after Obama’s pull-out, regardless of its origins. I refer the interested reader to the database where there are 35 excellent examples of this type of New York Times lie.

The sources provided in the database are the sources I found the most informative, they are not the only sources I checked. I do not necessarily agree with their conclusions but thought they contained the necessary documentation to show that Trump did or did not lie and to classify the statement. Often the source the New York Times references is one of the sources listed, do not expect all the listed sources to be sympathetic to Trump.

Categories used for the New York Times list of Trump’s lies and misleading statements
Categories Name Definition
0 True, perhaps with minor mistake or inaccuracy True or getting minor numbers or dates wrong, but the gist is right.
1 Misleading Slanting a news story by leaving out available pertinent data. Or oversimplifying a statement too much, hiding the complexity.
2 Advocacy Advocating for one point of view in a news story and ignoring or hiding available evidence for the opposing point of view
3 Misquoting Quoting a portion of a statement that clearly meant something else when the full statement is heard or a major mix up of the facts.
4 Misrepresentation Stating an opinion as if it were a fact, deceptive hair-splitting, manufacturing a lie from a true statement based on tricky semantics.
5 Lying Making a statement that simply is not true when clear evidence it is not true is easily available, implying intent to deceive.

Table 2

Table 3 summarizes the results of our investigation of the New York Times list. The columns are the categories I assigned to the New York Times explanation of why they think the Trump statements are lies. The rows are my evaluation of the Trump statement after researching it. I paid close attention to the full statement, so I knew the context and his meaning. The categories overlap to a certain extent and often a statement would fit into more than one category, generally I picked the higher category in that case. This is subjective, and many will probably not agree with my categorization of all the statements, but I did try to be as objective as possible. Categories 4 and 5 are dependent upon intent to deceive. Intent is impossible to discern. I would only categorize a statement or NYT opinion as a 4 or 5 if clear evidence existed at the time that the statement or opinion was false, and I had reason to believe either Trump or the New York Times knew it. A statement (or NYT judgement) can be a 4 if an opinion, even an “expert” opinion is presented as a fact and all experts do not share that opinion. Presenting a controversial opinion, regardless of the source, as a fact is a very common error in “professional” journalism today.

New York Times lies
Trump lies 0, True 1, Misleading 2, Advocacy 3, Misquoting 4, Misrepresentation 5, Lying Grand Total
0, True 5 2 2 21 35 65
1, Misleading 6 1 5 12
2, Advocacy 1 1 2
3, Misquoting 5 5
4, Misrepresentation 1 3 1 6 11
5, Lying 9 1 1 11
Grand Total 16 15 4 2 34 35 106

Table 3.

Table 3 clearly shows that, at least in my view, the New York Times lied about Trump’s lies more than he lied (NYT: 69; Trump: 22). In several cases, I found earlier articles in the New York Times that supported Trump’s statement. Some examples are given in Table 4. Regarding the example statement on March 4, the New York Times simply says there is “no evidence” of a wiretap. This is silly, especially since on January 20, 2017 they ran a front-page story suggesting that Trump headquarters had been wiretapped. The flimsy excuse that the wiretap may have been targeted at a foreign person makes no difference. Further, now we have the actual FISA warrants (redacted to be sure) that authorized the spying (OK, OK “paid informant”) on the Trump campaign. The NYT does some incredible verbal gymnastics to attempt to make some of Trump’s statements look like lies, but they fail miserably. The NYT says the Chinese stopped manipulating their currency “years ago” on April 29, but on April 14 they blast Trump because he “reversed his position” and won’t condemn China for currency manipulation. One wonders if there is any communication on the NYT newsroom floor.

Date Trump “lie” Discussion Source 1 Source 2 Trump Category Trump Explanation NYT Category NYT Explanation
3/4/2017 “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” As we all know now, this is true, and evidence existed in 2017 as well. The New York Times presented evidence in their paper in January 2017. National Review snopes 0 TRUE 5 Not only a lie from the NYT, but hypocritical, since they reported on the spying. Egregious hair-splitting.
4/29/2017 “As you know, I’ve been a big critic of China, and I’ve been talking about currency manipulation for a long time. But I have to tell you that during the election, number one, they stopped.” NYT says they stopped years ago, not likely. They also argued the opposite, hypocritically, on 4/14/2017. The Chinese did stop during the campaign and for the first part of 2017, they started again late in 2017 and Trump jumped all over them then and now. The Times got this wrong and they clearly knew that, it was in their paper. Forbes Forbes 0 They stopped during the election. 5 They got this completely wrong and should have known.
4/29/2017 “I think our side’s been proven very strongly. And everybody’s talking about it.” The NYT claims there is no evidence the Trump campaign phones were tapped. Everyone knows about the spying on the Trump campaign and the phone taps. We have the FISA warrants and sworn congressional testimony. The NYT reported the phones were tapped in a front-page story Jan. 20, 2017 on their front page. Washington Times Reuters 0 TRUE 5 A knowing lie, the NYT reported about the wiretapping as early as Jan. 20, 2017

Table 4. Examples where the New York Times contradicts itself, apparently to “get” Trump.

Category 1 is meant to capture sloppy journalism, that is the reporter (or Trump) asserted something unsubstantiated and doesn’t discuss or mention readily available data or information that shows the opposite. We found 12 Trump statements in this category and 15 New York Times claims. There are many examples of “Misleading” in the database, Table 5 is one example.

Date Trump “lie” Discussion Trump Category Trump Explanation NYT Category NYT Explanation
1/25/2017 “You had millions of people that now aren’t insured anymore.” The Obamacare fiasco is a very complex subject and there are data out there to support almost any view, both Trump and the NYT are guilty of over-simplifying and offering opinions as fact. Roughly 7 to 8 million people had their health insurance canceled when Obamacare went into effect in 2014. 1 More accurate: millions lost their policies. 1 “1” is generous, 3 or 4 possible here.

Table 5. Example category 1 from the database.

Category 2 is advocating for or against a cause. Politicians, lawyers and businessmen can advocate for a cause, they are expected to, it is part of their job. They can legitimately present the facts that support their point of view and ignore or downplay contrary facts, but Trump has gone over-the-top doing this a couple of times. The New York Times was guilty of doing this four times. This is called bias, advocates are biased, but a newspaper of the stature of the New York Times is expected to be unbiased. It is expected to dig out both sides of an argument and present them fairly in news stories. Thus, we feel justified in using a higher standard when judging the NYT, versus Trump, when it comes to bias. Editorials are obviously biased and generally present only one side of an argument, so we have not included any statements from editorials in our list unless they are out-and-out lies (category 5). Table 6 presents an example of a category 2 statement by the NYT.

Date Trump “lie” Discussion Source 1 Source 2 Trump Category Trump Explanation NYT Category NYT Explanation
6/1/2017 “China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. So, we can’t build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement. India will be allowed to double its coal production by 2020.” The NYT says the deal doesn’t allow or disallow coal plants. This is a stupid technicality, when we know India and China are building or planning to build hundreds of coal-powered electric plants and submitted their plans including the plants. What Trump says is clearly true, our plan had no plants in it. IER WUWT 0 TRUE 2 Pure advocacy, no truth. A “manufactured” lie, Trump’s point sailed right over their heads.

Table 6. Example category 2 from the database.

Category 3 is not common in this list, which is a bit surprising. This is carefully selecting a portion of a person’s statement and presenting it in a news story with an artificially constructed meaning that is different from what the person said. Trump did this five times and the New York Times twice. See an example in Table 7.

Date Trump “lie” Discussion Source 1 Source 2 Trump Category Trump Explanation NYT Category NYT Explanation
6/21/2017 “You have a gang called MS-13. … We are moving them out of the country by the thousands, by the thousands.” 5,400 gang members were deported in 2017. They were not all MS-13 gang members, but they were from gangs. Trump’s full quote is not clear that he is saying MS-13 members are deported by the thousands, it sounds more like he is saying gang members. Independent Politifact 0 MS-13 does not connect with thousands deported 3 Politifact and NYT put words in Trump’s mouth by selectively quoting him.

Table 7. Example category 3 from the database.

Category 4 is very common. It is when the news article (or Trump) present an opinion, often by someone they have characterized as an “expert” and treat it as a fact. This is only acceptable when all other experts agree with the person quoted. If there are equally qualified people that disagree with the selected “expert” their opinions need to be stated in the news article or speech and both statements treated as what they are, opinions. Both the New York Times and Trump are guilty of “opinion shopping,” that is searching for someone they can call an expert and has the opinion they want. However, the New York Times is far worse than Trump and, in this list, did it 34 times, versus 11 for Trump. This type of misleading statement is very close to lie in our opinion. Table 8 is an example.

Date Trump “lie” Discussion Source 1 Source 2 Trump Category Trump Explanation NYT Category NYT Explanation
3/22/2017 “NATO, obsolete, because it doesn’t cover terrorism. They fixed that.” Trump is correct, NATO did not join the war on ISIS until they announced they would join in a non-combat role 25 May 2017. Trump has encouraged NATO to make a more active role in combating terrorism and is making some progress. NYT claims NATO has fought terrorism since 1980s, is true, but this was not the terrorism Trump was talking about. Independent 0 TRUE 4 This is generous, a 5 might be justified here.

Table 8. Example category 4 from the database.

Category 5, an out-and-out lie, is more common than you might think. The list has the New York Times telling 35 lies about Trump statements, but only contains 11 out-and-out lies by Trump. This is a statement, in a news article or in an editorial, that is clearly false and clear evidence existed at the time the article was published, or the speech was given, that it was false. Table 1 is an example of a New York Times lie. Table 9 is an example of a Trump lie.

Date Trump “lie” Discussion Source 1 Source 2 Trump Category Trump Explanation NYT Category NYT Explanation
7/17/2017 “We’ve signed more bills — and I’m talking about through the legislature — than any president, ever.” Trump is wrong here. The highest recent number is 228 signed by Eisenhower. politifact.com 5 False and he should have known 0 Trump’s 42 bills don’t come close to Eisenhower’s 228 or Kennedy’s 200

Table 9. Example Trump lie (5) from the database.

With roughly 22 exceptions, Trump’s 106 statements are plausible interpretations of the facts known at the time. But, of the 106 statements the New York Times calls lies, we only found eleven that were clear lies where clear evidence that they were wrong was obviously easily available. The New York Times does not categorize the statements in their Trump list, every misstatement is jumbled together and called an “outright lie.” Some of Trump’s statements are hyperbole, some are exaggerations, some are clearly his opinion and stated as such, some are obvious minor mistakes. Generally, the mistake is some hyperbolic statement, like he has the all-time record for being on the cover of Time magazine, an innocent mistake for sure since he was on the cover 11 times, but it can hardly be called a lie. The New York Times is not allowed such mistakes, they are a news organization, researching and reporting and explaining the truth is their job. So, we are holding the New York Times to a higher standard than President Trump and that is fair. They must get it right. Trump is a businessman, politician and candidate. He is a professional advocate, first for his business, then for himself as a candidate and finally for the country. The New York Times has become an advocate for the left, which is antithetical to their standards and ethics statement:

“The core purpose of The New York Times is to enhance society by creating, collecting and distributing high-quality news and information. Producing content of the highest quality and integrity is the basis for our reputation and the means by which we fulfill the public trust and our customers’ expectations.”

After investigating the list of supposed Trump “lies,” I concluded that the New York Times violated the “highest quality and integrity” portion of their standards. It would be interesting to hear their arguments that they met this standard in light of the spreadsheet database I created. I checked each “Trump Lie” claim, both the Trump statement and the New York Times characterization of the statement. My results are similar to previous attempts by the Conservative Daily News and The Maven, but more complete. Sometimes the New York Times is correct and sometimes Trump is correct, usually they are both a little wrong and the statement is a matter of opinion. The New York Times clearly lied 35 times and Trump lied 11 times, but the facts needed to tell which is correct in the remaining 60 statements do not exist.

Trump is prone to hyperbole and careless wording when speaking but calling every mistake and inaccuracy a lie is over-the-top and just not true. We have used the category zero when a statement contains a minor numerical or date inaccuracy, but the gist of the statement is clearly correct. Figure 1 is a plot of the count of NYT reported lies by month from January 2017 through November 2017. These are the latest figures the NYT has published as of this writing. The count of categories 1 through 5 are plotted in blue and the count of the well-defined lies (4 and 5) are shown in orange. The zero category is ignored since these are either true or obvious minor mistakes.

Figure 2. A plot of the number of Trump “lies” per month for the period.

 

Trump had a bad month in February and July wasn’t great, but generally he has improved a lot since he took office. He had never been a politician before and was greeted with a firestorm upon his inauguration, so it isn’t surprising that he had a couple of bad months. The improvement is nice to see.

Conclusions and discussion

In the past, presidents and most elected officials only rarely challenged the press, even when the press was clearly wrong. An example is the claim that Gore said he “invented the internet.” He never said that, he just said correctly and accurately that he pushed its development from the Senate. Claiming he said that is a lie of type “3” in our list. That is misquoting or selective quoting to change a clearly intended meaning. Gore has not fought back very hard on this and the lie that Gore said he invented the internet cannot be dislodged now.

Thus, the press has held great power. They have a symbiotic relationship with elected officials and the government bureaucrats (the “Deep State”) they use as sources and as a result they do no research anymore and are captives and advocates for their sources. Their stories rarely come from hard scrabble research, generally they simply take something from a source they consider reliable, do a quick check of some obvious small things and publish it. They use their position, inherited from better times, to set the narrative. They attempt to establish the “truth” and there is no effective check or balance to that power. Now we have Trump’s twitter feed fighting back, ugly as his tweets can be they are a good thing. The terrified press acts like the school yard bully who finally got what has been coming to him.

We know that Trump’s twitter feed is not perfect, but at least regarding the statements in this list, it is more reliable than the New York Times. At one time the New York Times was very reliable and tried to be as objective a news source as possible. This is long gone now, and why I no longer subscribe to the paper. They have descended into blatant advocacy for the Democratic Party and the government bureaucracy, aka the “Deep State.”

The rest of the news media has chosen sides, one side advocates for President Trump and the Republicans and the other joins the New York Times and advocates for the deep state and the Democrats. This means we must pay attention to both camps and figure it out for ourselves, thus internet search engines and social media become important. I doubt professional, unbiased coverage will ever return to the heights seen in the period from 1960 to 1980, from now on it is up to us to sort it out.

When the list is studied in detail, the overt and obvious anti-Trump bias is shocking. The once-great New York Times now seems captive to the goal of destroying our elected President. Trump is the enemy, they attack him to the exclusion of truth, objectivity and common sense. Everything, gang violence, crime, terrorism, obvious corruption is secondary to “getting” Trump. They seem to have no pride, professionalism or self-esteem left, which is a shame.

The database of Trump statements the New York Times calls lies and the source for the tables and figures can be downloaded here.