WASHINGTON (AP) — Fake news or fib?
Two phone calls described by President Donald Trump that didn’t actually happen represent the latest chapter in a long-running series of disputes revolving around the president’s rocky relationship with facts.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Wednesday found herself explaining that compliments Trump had described receiving in phone calls from the Mexican president and the Boy Scouts did happen — just not on the phone.
“I wouldn’t say it was a lie. That’s a pretty bold accusation,” she told reporters. “The conversations took place, they just simply didn’t take place over a phone call. ... He had them in person.”
The noncalls weren’t earth-shattering news. But they fit a pattern that also involves weightier issues and that has raised larger questions about Trump’s credibility six months into his presidency.
After Donald Trump Jr. put out a statement, later shown to be misleading, about his meeting with a Russian lawyer in 2016, the president’s outside lawyer was categorical that the president had no role in drafting the statement. But when The Washington Post later reported that the president had dictated the statement for his son, Sanders acknowledged that Trump had “weighed in” on his son’s statement “as any father would based on the limited information that he had.”
Polls, history and other research leave open the question of how impressions of Trump’s truthfulness affect his job approval, which hovers around a third of Americans.
Trump won the presidential election despite having promoted false claims such as the notion that President Barack Obama was born outside the U.S. (he was born in Hawaii) and that Hillary Clinton had started the rumor (she didn’t).
The campaign featured another instance when Trump said someone told him something that the person then denied. Candidate Trump last summer claimed the NFL had complained to him that the presidential debate schedule competed with football games. The NFL denied that.
A Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday found that for all of the economic and other progress Trump claims, just 33 percent of Americans approve of the job he’s doing, similar to the results of a survey conducted in June by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Only 34 percent of the Quinnipiac poll respondents say that Trump is “honest.”
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