Joseph Sohm /

The Many Gaffes and Misstatements of Donald Trump

From the size of his airplane to the source of his campaign money, the GOP frontrunner continues making factually untrue claims

Ever since he got in­to the pres­id­en­tial race nearly six months ago, Don­ald Trump has had an epic battle on his hands.

No, not with his rival Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ates, who un­til re­cently have been re­luct­ant to cri­ti­cize him, but with the truth. As in ac­tu­al, prov­able facts.

While just about all the can­did­ates have ex­ag­ger­ated or em­bel­lished their re­cords or their pro­pos­als in some way, de­veloper-turned-real­ity-TV-star Trump has been in a league of his own when it comes to mak­ing fac­tu­al claims that are, simply, fac­tu­ally not true. From the size of his air­plane to the nature of the trade deal ne­go­ti­ated with Pa­cific Rim coun­tries to how he’s pay­ing for his cam­paign, what Trump has said re­peatedly fails to mesh with real­ity.

What’s more, he and his cam­paign typ­ic­ally re­fuse to ac­know­ledge any er­rors, and in­stead at­tack those point­ing them out. Cam­paign man­ager Corey Le­wan­dowski, for ex­ample, re­spon­ded to Na­tion­al Journ­al’s query about Trump’s fre­quent mis­state­ments by chal­len­ging the basis of the art­icle it­self: “The premise of your ques­tion is wrong and demon­strates the bi­as in your re­port­ing.”

This at­ti­tude is per­haps un­sur­pris­ing giv­en Trump’s ad­mit­ted propensity to stretch the truth when it has suited his busi­ness pur­poses. “I’m not dif­fer­ent from a politi­cian run­ning for of­fice,” he said in a 2007 de­pos­ition. He even al­lowed that his much-touted net worth was a func­tion of his “feel­ings” on any giv­en day.

And while Trump has kept fact-check­ers busy with scores of ques­tion­able claims, here are sev­en of the most egre­gious:

  • His air­plane. Of his nu­mer­ous mis­state­ments, this one is the most eas­ily re­futed and there­fore the most mys­ti­fy­ing. In an in­ter­view with Rolling Stone aboard his Boe­ing 757, Trump said about his plane: “It’s big­ger than Air Force One, which is a step down from this in every way.” That state­ment, of course, is not re­motely true. Since 1990, the U.S. pres­id­ent has used a Boe­ing 747 as Air Force One (tech­nic­ally, whatever Air Force plane the pres­id­ent hap­pens to be us­ing is des­ig­nated Air Force One for that flight). The pres­id­ent’s plane is 50 feet longer, has a fu­sel­age 8 feet wider and a max­im­um takeoff weight more than three times that of a 757. All of this is read­ily known to even a school­child with a cas­u­al in­terest in air­planes—which raises the ques­tion: Where and why would Trump get the idea his plane was big­ger?
  • A quarter-mil­lion Syr­i­an refugees. On the cam­paign trail, Trump fre­quently men­tions the Obama White House’s plan to ac­cept more Syr­i­an refugees. “Our pres­id­ent wants to take in 250,000 from Syr­ia,” he said in Texas two weeks ago. Only the ac­tu­al num­ber the ad­min­is­tra­tion has pro­posed is some­what smal­ler: 10,000, mean­ing Trump’s fig­ure rep­res­ents a 25-fold ex­ag­ger­a­tion. Trump has been ques­tioned about this claim, but re­fuses to back away from it. On Sunday, he men­tioned it again on NBC’s Meet the Press. His source for the fig­ure? “I happened upon a cer­tain amount of know­ledge, I’m very friendly with a lot of people on both sides, that Obama’s plan is 200,000 to 250,000,” he told NBC.
  • Cheer­ing New Jer­sey Muslims. Some­what re­latedly, Trump told ABC’s This Week: “There were people that were cheer­ing on the oth­er side of New Jer­sey where you have large Ar­ab pop­u­la­tions. They were cheer­ing as the World Trade Cen­ter came down.” If Trump ac­tu­ally saw this on tele­vi­sion, it was per­haps on a spe­cial chan­nel pro­duced only for him and some of his fol­low­ers. While In­ter­net posts al­leging this ex­is­ted im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing the ter­ror­ist at­tacks, po­lice de­part­ments and loc­al me­dia said then and say now there were no such cel­eb­ra­tions. In­ter­est­ingly, fel­low GOP can­did­ate Ben Car­son, who fol­low­ing Trump’s re­marks also said he saw the cheer­ing on TV, later said he had got­ten con­fused, and foot­age of the cel­eb­ra­tions was ac­tu­ally from East Jer­u­s­alem.
  • Self-fun­ded cam­paign. Over and over, Trump has told audi­ences that he is be­hold­en to nobody be­cause he is pay­ing for his cam­paign him­self. He told mil­lions of TV view­ers of the GOP main-stage de­bate in Mil­wau­kee: “I’m self-fund­ing my cam­paign. I’m put­ting up my own money.” Ex­cept that Fed­er­al Elec­tion Com­mis­sion re­cords to date show that it is not true. Not even half-true. While Trump did lend his cam­paign $1.8 mil­lion dur­ing the first half of the year, and then spent an­oth­er $100,000 in “in-kind” con­tri­bu­tions dur­ing the sum­mer months, the bulk of his cam­paign money through Sept. 30, nearly $3 mil­lion, has come from the sale of “Make Amer­ica Great Again” hats, T-shirts, and oth­er souven­irs. The cam­paign’s second-biggest ex­pense over the sum­mer months, after the cost of fly­ing his 757 around, was for hats and T-shirts—which the cam­paign then sells at a 200-per­cent markup—mean­ing Trump’s cam­paign is not really so much self-fun­ded as it is hat-fun­ded.
  • China’s trade pact “back door.” Trump has made China’s sup­posed abil­ity to get the bet­ter of Amer­ic­an lead­ers a fo­cus of his cam­paign. But dur­ing the Mil­wau­kee Re­pub­lic­an de­bate, he took this theme to a new level, sug­gest­ing that China would be the ac­tu­al be­ne­fi­ciary of the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship trade agree­ment that was re­cently com­pleted among the United States and 11 na­tions in Asia and the Amer­icas: “It’s a deal that was de­signed for China to come in, as they al­ways do, through the back door and totally take ad­vant­age of every­one,” Trump said. This claim has flum­moxed trade ex­perts. Back door? And giv­en that China is not even party to this agree­ment (as Sen. Rand Paul cor­rectly poin­ted out dur­ing the de­bate), are the Chinese so crafty and de­vi­ous that they can some­how in­sert self-serving pro­vi­sions in­to trade deals that they had no part in ne­go­ti­at­ing? This claim also speaks to Trump’s China fix­a­tion more broadly, in which he at­trib­utes the re­l­at­ive shift of man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs to China and oth­er Far East­ern na­tions to bad ne­go­ti­at­ing by U.S. lead­ers rather than mar­ket forces, such as vastly lower labor costs in those coun­tries. When The Wall Street Journ­al ed­it­or­i­al board asked him re­cently who he looked to for ad­vice on eco­nom­ics, Trump said there was no need: “Hon­estly, I feel that I have such a vast feel­ing for it that I really—you know, Milton Fried­man was good—but I don’t really listen to any­body,” he said.
  • Mark Zuck­er­berg’s per­son­al sen­at­or. Dur­ing the Oct. 28 de­bate in Boulder, Col­or­ado, Trump was asked why he had re­ferred to Sen. Marco Ru­bio as Face­book cofounder Mark Zuck­er­berg’s “per­son­al sen­at­or” re­gard­ing Ru­bio’s sup­port for more tech-work­er visas. Trump’s reply: “I nev­er said that. I nev­er said that,” and ad­ded that he had no clue where mod­er­at­or Becky Quick could have come up with such an idea. Dur­ing a com­mer­cial break, though, Quick dug up the source for her ques­tion. It had come from Trump’s own cam­paign web­site. Trump offered a 158-word reply that said he had cre­ated tens of thou­sands of jobs and that im­mig­rants had to come to his coun­try leg­ally be­cause “we have a coun­try of bor­ders”—but failed to ad­dress his cat­egor­ic­al and, as it turns out, in­cor­rect deni­al from minutes earli­er.
  • River of Blood. Trump’s for­ays in­to fic­tion are not lim­ited to his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign. A Vir­gin­ia golf course he pur­chased and ren­ov­ated along the Po­tom­ac River was giv­en a his­tor­ic­al monu­ment re­cently com­mem­or­at­ing all the sol­diers from both sides who died near that spot dur­ing the Civil War: “The cas­u­al­ties were so great that the wa­ter would turn red and thus be­came known as ‘The River of Blood.’” The only prob­lem was that ac­tu­al his­tor­i­ans, ac­cord­ing to aNew York Times ac­count, say that loc­a­tion saw noth­ing like what Trump ima­gines. Trump’s re­sponse to the Times: “How would they know that? Were they there?”

(Image via Joseph Sohm / )