For nine of these rallies in 2018, Trump gave hilariously overblown estimates of his crowd sizes. He claimed 50,000 people were outside a rally in Houston because they couldn't get in, but the city's police chief said the number was much lower: 3,000.
In Cleveland, Trump claimed "thousands" of people were outside because the venue was packed. But Twitter users at the event posted evidence that Trump didn't fill the venue and that only a handful of people were milling around in the parking lot. In Tampa, Trump claimed thousands who couldn't get in were watching outside on a "tremendous movie screen" — that didn't exist, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
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Mike Pence, by himself, has a solid record on press freedom
But what does it matter when he works for President Trump and defends his "enemy of the people" shtick?
The president routinely calls journalists the "enemy of the people," doles out insults and payback for tough questions, cheered Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) for assaulting a reporter, fantasizes about "opening up the libel laws" so he can sue journalists more easily, and spreads false claims to argue that preserving the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia is more important than punishing the kingdom's leaders for directing the brutal murder of a Washington Post contributor, Jamal Khashoggi.
Presidential words have consequences — and reverberate around the world. Now, all sorts of odious regimes use one of Trump's favorite expressions, "fake news," as a propaganda tool. In Myanmar, a government official said: "There are no such thing as Rohingya. It's fake news." In Libya, after a CNN report showed migrants being sold into slavery, officials used a tweet by Trump calling the network "fake news" in an attempt to discredit the story.
So, Pence's remark would be Geppetto-worthy ... if it weren't for the fact he reports to Trump. As things stand, the VP earns Three Pinocchios.
Fake news watch
We found several stories this week delving into the psychology of fake news. What makes people believe or abide it? Who is pumping out this stuff? And why is Facebook hiring opposition researchers to spread conspiracy theories about George Soros?
A detailed investigation by the New York Times found that as Facebook became a tool to "disrupt elections, broadcast viral propaganda and inspire deadly campaigns of hate around the globe," its top two executives, Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, were fixated on growth so much they "ignored warning signs and then sought to conceal them from public view." Eventually, they hired a PR firm that "cast Mr. Soros as the unacknowledged force behind what appeared to be a broad anti-Facebook movement." (Soros, a billionaire donor to liberal causes, is a Facebook critic and frequent target of right-wing conspiracy theories.)
The Washington Post wrote about a liberal blogger posting satirical items on Facebook that resembled right-wing conspiracy theories. It was supposed to be a joke, but instead, it became a monster hit with conservatives over 55. "No matter how racist, how bigoted, how offensive, how obviously fake we get, people keep coming back," the blogger once wrote, on his own personal Facebook page. "Where is the edge? Is there ever a point where people realize they're being fed garbage and decide to return to reality?"
Poynter found that what's good for the fake goose is good for the fake gander. A (different) conspiracy theory about Soros hopscotched through a bunch of different European countries. "The good news is that conspiracy theorists are lazy and don't adapt their hoaxes. A fact check from one country can serve as an early warning in another. The bad news is confirmation bias: The real stories that seem to echo elements of the hoax are enough for true believers."
Election fraud, the Mueller investigation, the midterm elections and the Affordable Care Act — there were a lot of subjects subject to presidential misinformation in Trump's interview with the Daily Caller.