Daniel Dale never planned to spend more than four years fact-checking Donald Trump.
In September 2016, Dale was a Washington, D.C.-based political reporter for the Toronto Star. He'd previously covered the scandal- and deception-ridden tenure of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and was struck by then-candidate Trump's serial inaccuracies. He started compiling informal lists on Twitter, tallying various claims made by the Republican nominee followed by parenthetical fact-checks.
Then filmmaker Michael Moore tweeted in praise of Dale, saying he "shames the US media" each day. "I got a ton of followers from that. I was like, 'Oh, my God, I have to do it every day now to satisfy people,'" Dale recalls wearily. "Like a lot of people, I wrongly thought Hillary Clinton would win and that would be the end of a crazy daily fact-check load, though I'd have to fact-check her too."
Since Inauguration Day in 2017, Trump has kept Dale busier than he ever imagined. "He was lying about the weather on the first day of his presidency," he says.
Last year, Dale left the Toronto Star for CNN, where he has become a viral star. Appearing on air after key events in the campaign cycle — including presidential debates or convention speeches — Dale breathlessly enumerates the torrent of false claims made by Trump (while also noting the falsehoods of his opponent, Joe Biden). Despite his evident frustration, the smooth-voiced, gently accented 35-year-old somehow never shouts or becomes flustered, and his plain-spoken fact-checking blitzes have left Anderson Cooper wordlessly sipping from his coffee cup.
As all-consuming as his beat can be, Dale unplugs from politics when he can. He and his partner, Kelsey, unwind by watching "Planet Earth II" or playing with their pet Pomeranian, Breezy. "I'm not slaving away 24 hours a day," he says, "but it's easy with this president to spend all of your time fact-checking because it just never stops."
Q: Tell me a little bit about your process. How do you keep track of the many false claims made by Trump?
A: I either read or watch everything that Trump says or tweets. And then we have a database at CNN that is, in which we sort all of his false claims with a unique code for each claim. So for the Veterans Choice claim he always makes (that he started the program which expanded health care options for veterans), I can go to that code and say, OK, this is the 160th time he's said that. Each claim is also organized by category codes. So for Veterans Choice, that would be military, veterans and health care. So if I want to see how many false claims has Trump made, I can also sort by category over (a given time period). We can sort by venue or forum, so I can see how many false claims he has been making at his rallies versus interviews, or in tweets versus official speeches. I didn't build this (database) myself, it was the tech team at CNN. But it's super helpful because you need a way to organize them or you'll just drown.
Q: What's the tally of Trump's false claims as of right now?