Carroll County Times
Carroll County Times Opinion

Zirpoli: Wanting a lie to be true doesn't change facts

When Fox News calls out President Donald Trump for a fake news tweet, you know it’s a whopper of a lie.

On Feb. 1, Trump tweeted, “Thank you for all of the nice compliments and reviews on the State of the Union speech. 45.6 million people watched, the highest number in history.” Not true, stated Fox News. Not true, stated Nielsen, who has been the official recorder of the number of TV viewers for decades. Fox News noted that the three presidents who immediately proceeded Trump each delivered a State of the Union speech watched by more people than Trump’s speech. Indeed, Trump’s speech came in sixth place overall behind speeches given by former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.


According to Fox News, the largest TV audience for a State of the Union speech was recorded in 1993 by President Bill Clinton. It was viewed by 66.9 million people. In second place was President George W. Bush’s 2003 speech viewed by 62.1 million. President Barack Obama takes third place with his first address in 2009 which was watched by 52.4 million viewers. He also holds fourth place for his 2010 address with 48.0 million viewers, and fifth place for his last address with 47.7 million viewers in 2017. Trump’s speech takes sixth place.

Trump’s lie about something so easily proven false reminded me of his fixation with the size of his inauguration crowd, which Trump still says, contrary to all evidence, was larger than Obama’s. After his exaggeration was documented as false by the media and U.S. Park Officials, the official people counters for Washington events, Trump sent his then-White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, to the press room to announce that the crowd size “was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration. Period. Both in person and around the globe.” In fact, President Trump’s inauguration crowd size and his inauguration TV ratings were both lower than President Obama’s.


As stated by comedian Stephen Colbert, “Look. It doesn’t matter how many people watched. But what does matter is that the president needs to lie about it.” Indeed. Why does a 71-year-old man, now president of the United States, need so badly to have the biggest crowd size or the largest TV audience to the point of lying about it? Why isn’t he embarrassed by such an obviously false statement, so easily proven wrong? Why does he always need to see his performances as the best or the greatest or the largest in history? If a child behaved this way, a responsible parent or teacher would seek a psychological assessment.

While there is not a clinical diagnosis for chronic lying, psychologist David Ley stated that it is sometimes a symptom of other psychological disorders. Ley states that “some people get so accustomed to lying that they do so even when there is no clear purpose, when their lies are easily disproven, leaving everyone scratching their heads over the point of their deceptions.”

Ley has studied chronic lying and has found six main elements about the liar:

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1. While everyone else around the liar sees the issue lied about as unimportant, the issue is very important to the liar. For Trump, it was very important to him to have the largest TV audience in history for his first State of the Union speech. Most viewers, however, were more focused on what he had to say rather than the size of his audience.

2. Liars want to control how others react to a situation or event, especially when the truth does not conform to their preferred narrative. Trump has repeatedly stated that he “has nothing to do with Russia,” even when the facts tell a different story about financial relationships and social contacts between Russia and Trump associates.

3. Liars want you to like them and be impressed. Enough said.

4. A chronic liar can’t admit to a single lie, no matter how obviously a lie, because then you might not believe their past or future lies. Can anyone cite one example of Trump admitting to a lie or exaggeration?

5. Repetitive liars frequently create an alternative world in their head that conforms with their lies.


6. Liars want their lies to be true and this desire overwhelms any instinct to tell the truth.

Wanting a lie to be the truth, however, does not change the facts.