The Lies of Donald Trump: A Taxonomy

18 Pages Posted: 28 Nov 2018

See all articles by James P. Pfiffner

James P. Pfiffner

Schar School of Policy and Government

Date Written: September 17, 2018


The most important lies of Donald Trump differ significantly from previous presidential lies. Other presidents have lied for a variety of reasons, from legitimate lies concerning national security to trivial misstatements, to shading the truth, to avoiding embarrassment, to serious lies of policy deception. The paper distinguishes four types of Trump’s lies: 1) trivial lies, 2) exaggerations and self aggrandizing lies; 3) lies to deceive the public; and 4) egregious lies. It then analyzes the consequences of lies with respect to misinformation encoding and the relationship of lies to loyalty and power. The most serious lies of Donald Trump were egregious false statements that were demonstrably contrary to well known facts. The paper concludes that his lies were detrimental to the democratic process, and that his continued adherence to demonstrably false statements undermined enlightenment epistemology and corroded the premises of liberal democracy.

Keywords: president Trump, lies, presidency, misinformation, enlightenment

Suggested Citation

Pfiffner, James P., The Lies of Donald Trump: A Taxonomy (September 17, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

James P. Pfiffner (Contact Author)

Schar School of Policy and Government ( email )

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