At the start, it sounded like a big deal that Donald Trump would be caught making false claims, since that kind of thing can backfire on a candidate.
But even as Trump’s departures from provable truth pile up, his campaign rolls onward.
The man who belittled his inept rival as “Lyin’ Ted” unloaded a series of dubious charges in recent days en route to the expected win in Indiana.
Well, you may say, politicians do lie, stretch and hype.
Welcome to the world, you may say. President Bill Clinton said he “didn’t have sex with that woman.” Hillary Clinton found herself “landing under sniper fire.” Vice President Dick Cheney said there was “no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.”
All were untrue. The last one got people killed.
To a cynic, Trump might deem it presidential that he can invent facts without an average person’s shame or dread of being caught. What’s unusual is how frequently he starts these fires, to the point where keeping a box score may be in order.
On Tuesday, as Hoosiers went to the polls, Trump let loose what may be the wildest charge yet in the campaign — that Ted Cruz’s father was pictured with Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963 handing out pro-Fidel Castro pamphlets.
“Nobody even brings it up!” Trump protested in a phone interview with Fox News. “That was reported [in the National Enquirer] and nobody talks about it.”
“I mean, what was he doing — what was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death? Before the shooting? It’s horrible.”
Cruz, of course, denied the story and calls it “garbage.” He called Trump a pathological liar. But it was too late for Cruz.
The falsehoods march on.
On Monday, Trump was asked if he still thought boxer Mike Tyson got a raw deal in his 1992 rape trial in Indiana. “I don’t know anything about his trial. I really don’t,” he said.
But in fact, Trump advocated for Tyson at the time and even criticized the ex-champ’s defense attorney. “You have a young woman that was in his hotel room late in the evening at her own will,” he was widely quoted as saying.
This was similar to Trump’s denying he had heard of former KKK leader David Duke, about whom he’d made comments going back to the 1990s. Earlier this year, Duke said “voting against Donald Trump at this point is really treason to your heritage.”
On Monday, Trump told CNN that Clinton “doesn’t do very well with women” in terms of approval. He gave no hard evidence to support this.
In fact, a George Washington University/Battleground poll last month showed her with a 51 percent favorable rating among women and 47 percent unfavorable.
Trump scored 26 percent favorable and 71 percent unfavorable among women in the poll.
In the same CNN interview, he was asked why he skipped the White House correspondents dinner during the weekend. He said it was because the news media would lie about him.
At the same event five years ago, comedian Seth Meyers and President Barack Obama mocked Trump’s reckless embrace of “birther” theories. Trump said Monday he had a great time at that event, but the press then had lied that he’d been humiliated at it.
But if you go to the videotape from that night in 2011, you can see Trump glower, still and stone-faced, through Meyers’ routine.
It’s as if Trump keeps challenging the public with the question: “Who are you going to believe — me or your own lying eyes?