MIDDLETOWN, Pa. — President Donald Trump, who likes to denounce the “fake” news media, threw himself into the warm embrace of Fox News host Sean Hannity on Wednesday night, where he regurgitated at least three claims that were demonstrably false.
Over the course of an hour-long interview in a cavernous hangar of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard’s 193rd Special Operations Wing, Hannity seemed less an interrogator than an enabler. The host told Trump more than once how unfairly he’d been treated by the Washington press corps, how the president’s tax cut package had been inaccurately portrayed, and he got a crowd of mostly truckers to offer up throaty cheers for the nation’s 45th chief executive.
Calling his proposed tax cut program “the biggest in the history of country,” Trump again repeated his inaccurate claim that the United States is the “highest tax country in the world.”
In fact, the United States ranks toward the middle of the international pack, CNBC reported, citing data compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The United States’ tax burden lags behind such NATO allies as France and Germany, but does finish ahead of Canada and the United Kingdom, the international research body found.
Hannity allowed that claim to pass unchallenged, observing later that “Anytime I talk to anyone else in the media but Fox, they call it tax cuts for the wealthy. It’s not really true this is a tax cut for the wealthy like they’re portraying it.”
Except that claim isn’t true either: Trump’s tax plan eliminates the estate tax, a move that would help the wealthiest Americans, including the president himself. It also gets rid of the alternative minimum tax, which is designed to prevent tax avoidance. In 2005, that levy forced Trump to pay an additional $31 million in taxes, The New York Times reported.
The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center also found that, rather than lowering taxes, the White House’s plan “would raise taxes for almost 30 percent of filers making $50,000 to $150,000 per year,” Bloomberg reported.
Those inconvenient truths didn’t stop Trump from proclaiming to Hannity that working- and middle-class Americans are “going to get a massive tax break.”
At the beginning of his interview, Hannity credited Trump for sparking economic growth, including a higher performing Wall Street, a higher labor-participation rate and “the lowest number people on food stamps in seven years.”
That claim is true. But the reasons behind it are complicated. For one, states dropped waivers prompted by tough economic times. New work requirements have also driven people out of the program.
More people could lose benefits if Congress follows through on a committee’s recommendation to trim $150 billion to food stamps, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, as it’s officially known, over the next decade. Trump’s own budget proposal called for a $193 billion reduction.
Despite those unchecked whoppers, including Trump’s ongoing insistence that claims of Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign were fabricated by Democrats, the president continued an attack on the press begun earlier in the on Wednesday.
“The media is bad. They’re very dishonest people. They’re very bad,” he said. “There’s such dishonesty.”
Trump’s comments came hours after he denied an NBC News report suggesting that he had pressed for expanding the United States’ nuclear arsenal. He also questioned whether licenses should be taken from NBC stations as a consequence of the network’s report.
“It’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write and people should want to look into it,” Trump told reporters, as he met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Bloomberg reported.
In suburban Harrisburg, with Hannity, however, Trump was all smiles as he wrapped up his second broadcast interview with a friendly media outlet in less than a week. On Sunday, Trump sat down for a softball interview with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee that aired on the Trinity Broadcasting Network.
“You have been so great and I am very proud of you. What you have done is incredible And it’s an honor to be on your show,” Trump told Hannity.
The host gushed back: “This is how I’ve always felt — I only want one thing … to help the forgotten men and women, that’s our prayer for you and for the country.”
So this is what falling through the looking glass feels like.
An award-winning political journalist, Micek is the Opinion Editor and Political Columnist for PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. Readers may follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.