As Hurricane Florence reached the east coast this morning, Donald Trump published a series of tweets – and thankfully, none of them were overtly ridiculous. In fact, the president hadn’t written almost any of them.
In a rare display of common sense, nearly every tweet Trump shared with his followers this morning was hurricane-related information created by state and federal agencies. There was one message from FEMA, however, that stood out:
“We have created a rumor control page for Hurricane #Florence that will be updated regularly. During disasters, it’s critical to avoid spreading false information. Always check with official sources before sharing.”
The tweet directed people to this FEMA website, devoted exclusively to addressing dubious claims that the public may have confronted via social media.
What’s wrong with that? On the surface, nothing. But just below the surface, it’s hard not to notice the irony of this president reminding the public that “it’s critical to avoid spreading false information.”
After all, Donald Trump is … how do I put this gently … Donald Trump.
In fact, just 24 hours earlier, the president spread false information about casualties in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria. Last night, Trump again turned to Twitter to double down on his demonstrably false conspiracy theory.
It’s an everyday problem with this president, as a Washington Post report made clear yesterday.
On Sept. 7, President Trump woke up in Billings, Mont., flew to Fargo, N.D., visited Sioux Falls, S.D., and eventually returned to Washington. He spoke to reporters on Air Force One, held a pair of fundraisers and was interviewed by three local reporters.
In that single day, he publicly made 125 false or misleading statements – in a period of time that totaled only about 120 minutes. It was a new single-day high.
The day before, the president made 74 false or misleading claims, many at a campaign rally in Montana. An anonymous op-ed article by a senior administration official had just been published in the New York Times, and news circulated about journalist Bob Woodward’s insider account of Trump’s presidency.
Trump’s tsunami of untruths helped push the count in The Fact Checker’s database past 5,000 on the 601st day of his presidency. That’s an average of 8.3 Trumpian claims a day, but in the past nine days – since our last update – the president has averaged 32 claims a day.
To be sure, I wholeheartedly agree with FEMA’s warning: it is, in fact, “critical to avoid spreading false information.” But self-awareness is a welcome quality, and the president is a poor messenger for this message.