Transcript for President Trump's Complicated Relationship with the Truth
On day 20 of the Donald J. Trump presidency and it has been a day filled with fastballs. The president began with a dire warning about the security of this country and then he moved on to talking about his daughter's business. With charges and counter charges flying, it can sometimes be hard to sort fact from fiction. There's never been anywhere near the media dishonesty hike we've seen in this election. I understand the total sdor dishonesty of the media. You are fake news. Reporter: Truth be told, president trump has a complicated relationship with the truth. This week glaring examples of statements that are provably false. He told the troops at centcomm that the media doesn't cover terrorism. We've seen what happened in Paris and nice. All over Europe it's happening. It's gotten to a point where it's not even being reported. Reporter: Appearing to ignore -- The gunman then came directly through this entryway -- A nation in shock -- What we know this morning from police -- Reporter: All evidence to the contrary. He told sheriffs -- The murder rate in our country is the highest it's been in 47 years. Reporter: Not true. Take a look, we pulled crime stats from the FBI. You can see right there the murder rate is nowhere near the highest at this point. Reporter: Trump continues to make the case without offering any proof, that millions of voters committed voter fraud, casting ballots for Hillary Clinton. In that big super bowl interview, Bill O'Reilly pushed back on that one. You say, for example, that there are 3 million illegal aliens who voted. Then you don't have the data to back it up. Some people are going to say that's irresponsible for a president to say that. Is there any validity to that? Many people have come out and said I'm right. But you've got to have data -- Let me just tell you -- Reporter: The trump white house has become northern for alternative facts which sometimes distort the truth, sometimes seem to ignore it altogether. When the president says sli something like this today -- Believe me, I've learned a in the last two weeks. And terrorism is a far greater threat than the people of our country understand. Reporter: Should we accept that at face value? Is there a specific threat that he is talking about? And should the American public, based on that statement right there, be fearful? No, but I think the American people should understand that the president's committed to doing this. We face a very, very real threat in ISIS and radical islamic terrorism. And that we've got to do everything we can and that the reason he is taking the steps that he is, is because we are constantly -- we must remain ever vigilant. Reporter: Today we came to Washington to see how it's going for our colleagues in the trenches. We are here with ABC's Cecilia Vega who literally has a front-row seat for all this. You're sitting one over, yeah. The truth seems to be a moving target. Define the truth. We're playing "Define the truth" in the white house. I don't know how that compares to past administrations but half of my day is spent fact-checking. Is it your sense that this is because they're winging it? Or because there's some sort of design, some sort of strategy? It's probably all of the above. This is a brand-new white house. Everybody that comes into this place is afforded a little bit of a honeymoon period or should be. Reporter: It's been a boon to comedy shows. "Saturday night live" having a field day. As you know, president trump announced his supreme court pick on the national TV today. When he entered the room the crowd greeted him with a standing ovation! Which lasted a full 15 minutes! Maybe the best defense against the inaccuracies coming out of the white house is "Saturday night live." Reporter: Plenty of trump supporters are still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. The misstatements, the allegations of exaggeration, outright lies, they really don't bother me very much at this point. I regard them simply as part of the fallout of a very heated political campaign and election. Reporter: Which makes fair-minded journalism more important than ever. Yesterday CNN's Jake tapper gave a master class. Facts are stubborn things. To say we're not reporting something that happens not to be true, therefore we're not to be trusted, that's a problem. Well, Jake, if I can take the broader issue of our relationship with the media, I mean, I'm among if not the most open press person in the white house, I'm now being attacked by the media, including networks that are familiar to you. I'm just going to keep soldiering on. Reporter: The foundation myth every schoolkid learns about the presidency is that story about George Washington and the cherry tree. America's first president, pint-sized in that famous painting, who even at age 6 could not tell a lie. But in truth, plenty of presidents have prevary daicated. Chuck Lewis, founder of center for public integrity, has written a book on the subject, 935 lies, all told by occupants of the oval office over the years. I came to Washington during watergate. I was in the midst of watching and covering Iran contra, abscam, all the worst scandals we're had as a country, including the Clinton years. Reporter: A bipartisan affliction, from Richard Nixon's whopper -- I'm not a crook. To Bill Clinton's brazen denial. I did not have sexual relations with that woman. Reporter: Even Ronald Reagan fibbed. The United States has not swapped boatloads of planeloads of American weapons for the return of American hostages. Reporter: During a primetime address he ultimately apologized. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that's true. But the facts and the evidence tell me it is not. Reporter: Hard to imagine president trump admitting even that much. Nowadays we seem to live in a post-factual world. What advice do you have for the reporters who are in the trenches covering this administration every day? My advice would be, just keep on covering everything that's said and check the veracity of everything that's said, and if it's true, then report it straight. If it's not true, point it out. Reporter: It's not just unraveling falsehoods. President trump prides himself on being unafraid to speak unpopular truths. And that gets a lot of attention too. An example from this weekend, his comments to Bill O'Reilly about Vladimir Putin. Putin's a killer. A lot of killers, we got a lot of killers, what, you think our country's so innocent? Reporter: Not something any other president has said before. This is a president who shames critics into submission. Today trump took on retailer Nordstrom for dropping his daughter's fashion line from their stores. My daughter ivanka has been treated so unfairly by Nordstrom, she's a great person, always pushing me to do the right thing, terrible. Shortly after the president put out that tweet, Nordstrom issued a statement of their own saying they're doing this for business reasons, that it's not personal. They say over the past year, and particularly in the last half of 2016, sales of the brand have steadily declined to the point where it didn't make good business sense for us to continue with the line for now. They added that they have a great relationship with ivanka Trump and her team. The worry is that these petty battles over side issues will serve mostly to drive up people's cynicism, in the president and the press corps. And also that they'll distract from what's really important. I think what the president is doing is trying to convince a large swath of the public that the only person who can be believed is him. I think his supporters will give him a year. And they will -- they'll see what happens. It is possible that misstatements, errors of fact that are exposed, do take away some of the credibility. That's unavoidable. But I think those of us who supported him, we reserve judgment on that until we get to the point of policy-making. Reporter: It's still early days. But we're off to a rocky start. I'm David Wright for "Nightline" in Washington.
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