At the risk of offending EVERYONE of all political spectrums, should we really accept tweets by Trump as "notable" without explicit evidence that people actually believe them and don't just treat them as hyperbole?

Left-wingers don't believe anything he says on principle.

Right wingers explicitly told pollsters or surveyors that they don't necessarily take his statements at face value or factually (they treat them as hyperbole or even symbolic) and would vote for Trump regardless (citation: recent 538 podcast. They are not exactly friends of Trump so hard to claim partisan bias there).

So, if most people don't actually believe the claims, merely the fact that he has a wide audience seems to not add up to being notable by the definition Skeptics.SE uses (that people must believe the claim), e.g. we consider humorous or based-on-fictional-stories claims to be off-topic.

The question isn't really Trump-specific but Trump does seem like an extreme case where we KNOW he isn't necessarily widely believed despite wide audience.

  • Specific question that triggered this was $4B for Air Force One. But I suspect we have tons of such.
    – user5341
    Dec 16, 2016 at 3:44
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    There will probably very quickly be many links pointing to those tweets - of people who link to them because they believe it (and more links for other reasons). Because of our filter bubbles we may not see them, meaning that the OP would have to provide them. (When) Will this make it notable?
    – user22865
    Dec 16, 2016 at 11:00
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    The fact that this question even has to be asked is demoralizing.
    – Ellesedil
    Dec 21, 2016 at 18:09
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    Such "questions" on here are simply agitprop. The fact that the site does not recognize that "many questions on this site are simply agitprop posing as questions" is the "elephant in the room" problem that trivializes this site.
    – Fattie
    Dec 28, 2016 at 15:02
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    @JoeBlow Are you seriously taking the position that it's communist propaganda to ask whether a claim by an obviously notable figure is true?
    – user34418
    Dec 28, 2016 at 16:45
  • Hi @CPerkins. Firstly, I don't know what you mean by "seriously". Was that just a general rhetorical device meaning, "you don't agree with me?"
    – Fattie
    Dec 28, 2016 at 18:44
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    Hi @CPerkins. Many questions on this site are simply agitprop. For want of a more precise term. For me a more precise term is along the lines "SEO-prop". So: it's simply people wanting to gain more "internet inches" for some particular side of a political battle. ("SEO" as in "search engine optimization.") So, the poster has (actually) no interest in a skeptical question, they just want to "see in print" that "Trump/Hillary/Greenpeace said such and such." I assert that many questions on this site are, quite simply, trivially "agitprop" of that nature. (Or again, whatever the best term is.)
    – Fattie
    Dec 28, 2016 at 18:48
  • So, I assert that many questions on this site are, quite simply, trivially "agitprop" of that nature. (Or again, whatever the best term is.) Further, I assert that this is overwhelmingly obvious. I assert that an obvious, clear problem on this site is that (to put it bluntly) many of the questions are just silly crap - someone wanting to see "Greenpeace Lied!" in large letters. An interesting point is that "you all" seem to be discussing the "notable" aspect of this problem. But that's a furphy. The simple (for me: obvious) problem on the site is you get "agitprop" questions. ("SEO-prop")
    – Fattie
    Dec 28, 2016 at 18:52
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    Thus (user5341), user5341 is making an excellent and let's say subtle point. Regarding the absurd slew of "Hillary/Donald/GlobalWarming Lied" posts (I won't call them "questions"): user5341 is making the fine point that "some of the Trump ones are not sensible questions because it's obvious hyperbole not really a claim." That's true enough, but it misses the broader central problem of this site that many of the "questions" are trivially nonsense posts by someone who just wants to see more "Hillary/Donald/GlobalWarming Lied" in google searches.
    – Fattie
    Dec 28, 2016 at 18:55
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    @JoeBlow No, it wasn't rhetoric. It was actually wanting to know if you stood behind the position that it was communist propaganda, because that was the meaning of "agitprop" when I learned it. Turns out it's been changed and is now just "propaganda". And I agree with you, many of the "questions" here appear to be just someone seeking to load search engines with garbage. But when a politician or candidate makes what appears to be a factual claim, someone must be skeptical about it. That's not propaganda, that's defending the republic.
    – user34418
    Dec 29, 2016 at 14:36
  • Hi @CPerkins. I'll more carefully check my understanding of the usage and origin of the word "agitprop" - thanks a lot for that pointer. Cheers for now.
    – Fattie
    Dec 29, 2016 at 14:38
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    Perhaps I misunderstand the question, but I don't see why the existing FAQ post "What is a 'notable' claim?" doesn't already cover Trump. The answer says that "Claims put forward by a celebrity are also automatically considered notable."
    – Shokhet
    Jul 18, 2017 at 6:29

3 Answers 3


I think you have a point there. There are a few possible issues with those questions:

  • They uncritically assume that whatever Trump says is notable. What if Trump says that cows fly? Do we want to go there?

  • They are often immediate, knee-jerk questions. We can't really verify the impact of those tweets instantly: do those claims "stick" at all? Do we really want to be the site that "responds" to whatever random claim a person decides to tweet?

There are often issues with the answers as well as often they merely repost content form other fact-checkers, which sometimes are just not very authoritative, and in any case simply reposting others' conclusions is not the kind of content we need.

On the other hands there are few caveats to what you say:

  • Often Trump repeats claims that already exist (e.g. his birther claims). We need to verify whether a tweet from him is a novel claim or a rehash of an existing claim.

  • Some claims may originate from his tweets and become notable over time. We shouldn't disallow such claims.

  • Fact-checking is part of this site's topic, so I think we can discuss how to handle fact-checking but not disallow it based our perception that no one believes what Trump is saying.

  • Your question seems to address the perception of Trump in the US, but the site is not limited to what North Americans believe. I see no reason not to assume that a hugely repeated claim by the President Elect won't be taken at face value by a bunch of people over the world.

In the light of these considerations, I propose we use the "single-source, on-going claim" rule here. Future questions will need have notability beyond a single tweet, in other words: if the claim is notable, people should actually make it theirs, not simply like or retweet Trump. For new claims, this means waiting a bit to see the impact; for old claims that Trump picks up on, this means go ahead, but give evidence of it.

As usual, we should give questions the benefit of the doubt, and not close automatically. Search first, and if there's no evidence of notability, VTC.

  • "Often Trump repeats claims that already exist" - that one's easy to fix by editing in original claim.
    – user5341
    Dec 16, 2016 at 12:46
  • "Some claims may originate from his tweets and become notable over time" - yep, those should stay. Basically, that was the gist of my question, there should be evidence that his claim became notable.
    – user5341
    Dec 16, 2016 at 12:46
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    "a hugely repeated claim by the President Elect won't be taken at face value by a bunch of people over the world" - I'm not sure that's accurate, but I have no proof, to be honest. IMHO, main difference between US and rest of world is likely to be the sets of people who fall into two big "hate Trump, don't believe anything he says" vs "like Trump, don't care what he says even if I repeat it for political points" buckets - but the buckets themselves would stay the same even if he former is likely far larger in Europe.
    – user5341
    Dec 16, 2016 at 12:49
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    Everything said by the 'leader of the free world' is notable. Dec 16, 2016 at 14:59
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    @DJClayworth [citation needed]
    – Sklivvz
    Dec 16, 2016 at 14:59
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    There mere fact that it is said by the leader of the free world makes it 'notable'. As I said above, notable does not mean credible. But 17 million followers and 62 million voters make anything he says notable. Dec 16, 2016 at 15:01
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    a) Trump is not the leader of the free world. He is the (future) leader of the US. b) not everything a notable person says is notable, we said this many times c) the whole argument is circular logic
    – Sklivvz
    Dec 16, 2016 at 15:05
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    You're living in denial if you don't think every single thing Donald Trump says is now taken note of. That's what notable means. Boeing shares lost $1B when he tweeted about Air Force One. That certainly means his tweet was taken note of. Dec 16, 2016 at 15:07
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    @DJClayworth please chill down with the insults. No one is in denial. The rules of the site are what they actually are, and they are not going to change today because Trump has been elected. If he makes notable claims they are on topic, if he does not, they are not. The burden is on the asker to show notability, as always, and is on you to prove that everything he says is notable. If he said "today I broke a shoelace" should we allow "did donald trump break a shoe lace?", if so, it's not a site that I want to moderate.
    – Sklivvz
    Dec 16, 2016 at 15:10
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    I'm not trying to insult people, I'm just pointing out the new reality. I would agree that "I broke a shoelace" may not be notable, but "Air Force One costs $4B" is not in that category. If it's true, it's important. Do people take note of it? Yes, they do. I think that's an entirely reasonable definition of 'notable'. Dec 16, 2016 at 15:12
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    Not intending a special Trump rule. In fact we should treat Trump the same as any other President. Dec 16, 2016 at 17:14
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    @AE are you talking about "did trump say that cows fly" or "do cows fly"? in the first case, the question is not really notable at all unless people believe that he did and using the "trump" rule is not appropriate at all. I also object to the second case, unless we show that someone took that idiocy seriously (no matter who makes such a statement).
    – Sklivvz
    Dec 26, 2016 at 19:12
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    An intentionally non-Trump example: Richard Nixon said in 1977, “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.” This is (IMO) notable both as "did he say it?" and "is it true that whatever the president does is legal?", because his position as president of the USA meant that if he believed he was not bound by the law then the impact on world events could be significant.
    – A E
    Dec 26, 2016 at 19:38
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    @AE you provided a notable example, but that does not convince me that anything they say is equally notable (when I said "trump" rule, i did not specifically mean trump, by the way)
    – Sklivvz
    Dec 26, 2016 at 21:32
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    @Sklivvz Not everything they say, but everything which is thought or argued to be false which has a bearing on politics (which in practice means everything except the trivial - and to a more limited extent, the strictly personal). It's hard for me to imagine how a false statement on a political topic by a major world leader could be non-notable.
    – A E
    Dec 26, 2016 at 23:23

It is not reasonable to start with the assumption that statements by the 'leader of the free world' are not notable. Every nontrivial thing said by a person with that much power and influence is 'notable' unless proven otherwise. Note that 'notable' does not mean the same thing as 'credible' (and even then we have good evidence that nearly 62 million people take what he says seriously).

Even presidents do of course say unimportant things, and this is not to say "I had eggs for breakfast" needs to be fact-checked. Also some presidents make jokes, and we should not take seriously a claim that "Obama is a cartoon lion born in Africa". But our default assumption should be notability.

In terms of the number of people who take Trump's claims seriously - well, we have questions about moon landing hoaxes, and far more people take Trump's claims seriously than that.

For those of you as concerned about the current US political situation as I am, there is a good argument to be made that not taking Trump's claims seriously got us where we are today. A lot of news organizations said 'nobody takes what he says seriously', and so didn't spend much effort refuting them. On November 8th 2016 they were proven wrong. I personally know plenty of people who repeat Trump's claims as if they were fact. If you want to consider the "$4b Air Force One" claim as an example, I post 4 sites who took Trump seriously in the comments, and only comment length limits prevented me adding more. The stock market considered his comments notable enough that $1B was wiped off Boeing shares.

I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but we are now moving into a reality where everything this man says must be treated seriously. You may not like it, but that's the world we are now in.

If our aim is to shine the light of truth on unfounded claims, then there is no reason for us to stop doing it just because it's the President who says it.

  • 3
    The definition of "notable" as used for this exchange(meta.skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/2506/…) does not include the importance of the speaker. You're implicitly suggesting a change to that definition. I tend to agree, but I think you'll get farther by proposing that directly, rather than risk having the issue seem to be all about Trump.
    – user34418
    Dec 16, 2016 at 18:14
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    CPerkins: From that answer you link: "Claims put forward by a celebrity are also automatically considered notable." I don't think this is a change in definition, but perhaps I am missing it. Can you elaborate, please?
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Dec 17, 2016 at 0:37
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    "we have good evidence that nearly 62 million people take what he says seriously" Not really. More like evidence that approximately 70.5 million people really didn't want Hillary Clinton to become President of the United States.
    – reirab
    Dec 17, 2016 at 5:31
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    @Oddthinking that rule, is and has always been a "proxy". A celebrity tweet is notable if the claim is notable. We only assume it is notable because it's made by a celebrity. That said, any non notable tweet by a celebrity is still not on topic here.
    – Sklivvz
    Dec 17, 2016 at 10:13
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    @Sklivvz Maybe that should be edited then, because if it is as you say, then the rule is both confusing and redundant. Dec 19, 2016 at 9:12
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    @Sklivvz DJ addresses that too: Even presidents do of course say unimportant things, and this is not to say "I had eggs for breakfast" needs to be fact-checked. Also some presidents make jokes, and we should not take seriously a claim that "Obama is a cartoon lion born in Africa". But our default assumption should be notability. Dec 20, 2016 at 21:03

I want to add a few things to @DJClayworth's answer.

We need to remember that there are people on this world who really beleave in a world wide conspiracy by alien Jewish lizard people that control the banking system through mind control and the Iluminati. Everything that a president of the United States, acting, elect or former says gets a lot of exposure, whether directly from their tweeter folowers, or from other media that cover them, weather in support or in opposition. I've been exposed to many of Trumps' tweets even though I don't have a tweeter account.

Also, the fuct that he's the presedent (elect) does gives his statements more credibility beause most people assume that the president have at least a small idea of what he's talking about and that he is supposed to understand the weight that his words have and would idealy avoid saying nonsence.

Of course that claims that are obviously jokes (like I'm Simba) or have no value (I ate eggs) should be disregarded, but anything else should be taken at face value and be assumed as credible.

[1] - This goes for all past, current and future U.S. presidents, not only for Trump.

[2] - This doesn't hold for tweets and remarks that were said before becoming the president (elect), and things that were said during his campeign should also take into concideration at what stage of the campeign he was when he said them, the words of the elected Republican presidential nominee have more weight that the words of a candedate.


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