Donald Trump hosted a press conference at one of his private golf clubs on Saturday, at near the top of his remarks, the president peddled a familiar claim. From the White House transcript:
"Our vets are very special. We passed Choice, as you know -- Veterans Choice -- and Veterans Accountability. And they've been trying to get that passed for decades and decades and decades, and no President has ever been able to do it. And we got it done so veterans have Choice."
The problem, of course, is that the program Trump is so eager to claim as his own was signed into law in 2014 by then-President Barack Obama. Trump likes to pretend otherwise, so he's insisted, over and over again, that he deserves credit.
Indeed, if we're judging by sheer volume, this is among the Republican's very favorite lies: Trump has claimed credit for the 2014 law more than 150 times.
This time, however, as his Q&A with reporters unfolded, something unexpected happened: CBS News White House correspondent Paula Reid asked the president why he keeps saying something that isn't true.
As Trump tried to call on another reporter instead, Reid continued, "You said that you passed Veterans Choice. It was passed in 2014...it was a false statement, sir." Trump paused, then responded: "OK. Thank you very much, everybody." He then walked away as the song "YMCA" played.
And if that makes it sound as if Trump fled his own press conference when confronted with inconvenient fact-checking, it's because that's what happened.
This stood out for me for a couple of reasons, starting with the fact that Saturday's incident wasn't unique.
Politico's Jack Shafer took note of the familiarity of the circumstances: "It starts with a reporter, usually a female reporter, asking President Donald Trump hard, tenacious questions at a news conference. Trump's jaw seizes up, rattled and dumbfounded by the questions that he can't or won't answer, he abruptly ends the presser by saying, 'Thank you, very much' and stalking out of the room."
But just as importantly, by retreating after someone dared to interrupt his fun with the truth, Trump offered a timely reminder of just how quickly he can be thrown off his game. Paula Reid asked him to justify his bogus claim, and instead of coming up with a quip, or even trying to bully the CBS reporter into submission, the president instinctively turned tail and left the room.
Trump just doesn't like being reminded of the truth -- especially when he's wedded to a specific lie, especially when it's a woman journalist confronting him with facts he'd prefer to ignore. He wants the Veterans Choice law to be his, and if that means bolting moments after a journalist tells him his claim is false, so be it.
Ideally, this would give Trump pause before making the same claim again, but if recent history is any guide, he'll repeat it, perhaps more than once, sometime this week.