Trump’s history of mistruths is undermining his doctors

Donald Trump’s presidency began with a falsehood, and now, thousands of misstatements later, that history of prevarication is undermining the administration at a time when trust is needed most.

As the president continued to suffer the effects of COVID-19 — the true extent of his ailment and condition being two of many unanswered questions — the news media and the country it serves were lost Saturday in a fog of contradiction and misinformation.

It was nothing new. As of this summer, the Washington Post’s Fact Checker tallied more than 20,000 false or misleading claims made by the president since assuming office — a major reason he’s struggling for reelection. But that made the obfuscation no less fraught.

“There are moments in which the president and the office of the presidency and the White House in general need to be trusted, because the country needs to know that we have a president who is capable of discharging the functions of the office,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a political communications expert at the University of Pennsylvania.

“If that trust doesn’t exist,” she said, “we cannot trust the statements that reassure he’s in fact capable of discharging his duties.”

Kevin Madden, a communications strategist with experience on Capitol Hill and serving three Republican presidential campaigns, was blunter still. “The chickens,” he said, “are coming home to roost.”

This was not, however, the harmless and easily disprovable claim that Trump’s inaugural crowd size surpassed any in history. Rather, it was a literal life-and-death matter involving a virus that has killed more than 209,000 Americans and now infects the president of the United States and many powerful people in his Republican Party.