Trump’s trip to Mexico yesterday, and his statements in a press conference following his meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, appeared to show a more conciliatory side of the GOP presidential nominee.
After the meeting, Trump spoke of his “tremendous respect” for the Mexican leader, adding: “It’s been a tremendous honor, and I call [him] a friend.” Trump went on to say that the issue of a border wall hadn’t even come up during the encounter.
Except that it had.
Peña Nieto tweeted in Spanish after he met with Trump: “At the outset of the meeting, I made it clear that Mexico would not pay for the wall.” In a joint press conference following the meeting, Peña Nieto basically called Trump out as a liar in the most nonaggressive way possible, explaining that Trump’s characterization of immigration from Mexico is a “clearly incomplete version” of the issue.
It’s hard to understand what Trump was trying to accomplish by blatantly lying about parts of his discussion with Peña Nieto.
One thing is certain, he has time and time again lied about meeting people and continually confounds truth with imagination.
Trump has said that he met with top law-enforcement officers in the Chicago PD, a claim quickly refuted by the CPD in a statement that explained: “No one in the senior command at CPD has ever met with Donald Trump or a member of his campaign.”
He lied about seeing the footage of a plane loaded with cash landing in Iran. He eventually walked back that claim.
The list goes on. In fact, Politifact, the Pulitzer prize-winning fact-checking site, rates 71% of Trump statements it has checked as either pants on fire, false or mostly false.
In a normal election season, continually lying — and being called out on those lies — would be political suicide. But as anyone who even barely follows this cycle know, this is not a normal presidential election.
Trump supporters don’t seem to care that he manipulates the truth — and then modifies it even more the next time he’s on air. They like being provoked, whether the provocation is real or imagined.
As a reality TV star, Trump deeply understands that the general public likes fiction that reminds them of real life. But it’s a different — and disorienting — type of fictional world when the media calls out a politician’s lie. And the public then calls the fact-check a lie. Welcome to the world of cognitive dissonance.
My guess is Trump likes making stuff up. He’s used to it, and his supporters like it, too. He started his campaign lambasting the rapists, criminals and drug dealers Mexico is “sending” to the United States.
Lying about a meeting with another head of state, however, is a whole different ball game. Heads of state command a military, can impose sanctions and take their grievances to the international community, much of which is deeply confused and worried about the prospect of a Trump presidency.
As my editor puts it, we need a 21st-century Edward R. Murrow to get things in order. John, Chuck, George, keep pressing Trump and press him harder. Maybe we’ll start to realize the danger.