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One of the side effects of having a president who frequently lies to us is that we become immune to false statements and stop paying attention to facts. This is the trick of autocratic leaders who spread false stories through the media, call facts “fake news,” or take control of the media. President Donald Trump can’t take control of the American media, but he can inundate us with so many false statements that we become numb and distracted from the erosion of truth.

In any free society, especially our American democracy, it is important that the media correct the record and not give up or give in to the falsehoods spread by our government. Those who prefer otherwise might want to live in Russia where all the news confirms their leader’s messaging while citizens are kept in the dark, imprisoned, or killed.

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A couple of weeks ago Trump went to Austin, Texas to visit an Apple computer factory. He toured the facility with Apple CEO Tim Cook. The plant opened during President Barack Obama’s administration, about six years ago. But that didn’t stop Trump from taking credit for the plant opening.

Trump said, “We’re seeing the beginning of a very powerful and important plant. And anybody that followed my campaign, I would always talk about Apple — that I want to see Apple building plants in the United States. And that’s what’s happening; we’re opening up massive Apple plants.” Later in the day, he tweeted, “Today I opened a major Apple Manufacturing plant in Texas that will bring high paying jobs back to America. Today Nancy Pelosi closed Congress because she doesn’t care about American Workers.”

Trump did not open the Texas Apple computer plant and Pelosi did not close Congress. The plant opened in 2013, three years before Trump took office. It was a little lie, by Trump’s standards, that the media largely ignored.

This was the third factory Trump toured this year in which he falsely took credit for opening. During an August rally in New Hampshire, Trump announced, “In Pennsylvania, we just opened a $10 billion plant. We have many of them going up. Many. A lot of jobs. In Louisiana, a liquefied natural gas plant — $10 billion — could never have happened.” As stated by Jon Greenberg of Politifact, “The reality is that the LNG plant in Louisiana, and the plant in Pennsylvania, were in the works during the Obama years.”

Regarding the LNG plant in Louisiana, the company website noted that they received federal approval in 2012 and “In April 2014 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued the final environmental impact statement to construct and operate the liquefaction facility.”

It goes on to say that the federal government approved a plant expansion in 2016.

The Pennsylvania plant purchased its land in 2014, received final permits from the state and began ground preparation in 2015, and began plant construction in 2016. According to Greenberg, the Pennsylvania plant, as well as the Louisiana and Texas plants, were “well underway” before Trump took office. But Trump told a crowd in Pennsylvania, “This would have never happened without me and us.”

What Trump will not take credit for is how his tariffs have hurt all three plants because of their dependence on raw materials and parts from China and around the world. Prior to Trump’s visit, Cook announced that he would need to close the Texas plant if the Trump administration did not grant them a waiver from Trump’s tariffs on computer parts from China. Apple received the waiver. Unfortunately for the majority of companies who trade with China, however, their waivers have been denied.

Trump has a habit of making multiple falsehoods in one statement, perhaps to distract us from the big lie. For example, while he was taking credit for opening the plant in Texas (the big lie), Trump also tweeted that Pelosi had closed Congress that day (the small lie). In fact, the House was not closed, Congress had passed two pieces of legislation that day, and they were holding impeachment hearings. But the small lie did take away media coverage from the big lie.

Trump likes to tell his supporters that he “tells it like it is.”

In fact, that is a lie. Trump is not telling it like it is when he lies. He is telling his supporters what he wants them to believe. His supporters have become immune to his less consequential lies about opening plants in Texas, which sets them up to believe his lies about the big stuff on Russia and Ukraine.

It is an interesting strategy, but one we ignore at our peril.

Democracy dies by a thousand cuts.

Tom Zirpoli is the program coordinator of the Human Services Management graduate program at McDaniel College. His column appears on Wednesdays. Email him at tzirpoli@mcdaniel.edu.

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