There are hundreds of journalists covering U.S. President Donald Trump, but only one relentlessly fact-checks nearly everything Trump says, and he’s Canadian.
Daniel Dale hails from Thornhill, Ont., and he’s becoming famous for his regular appearances on CNN, where he unleashes breathless streams of fact-checks, often leaving his colleague speechless. Dale’s work has not gone unnoticed by Americans. Youtube videos of his television appearances have racked up millions of views.
So how did a Canadian print reporter end up becoming the fact checker in chief to the U.S. Commander in Chief?
“Yeah, I mean, I think all the time about how strange this has been for me personally,” Dale told Global National’s Dawna Friesen.
“You know, I never aspired to be a fact-checker. I never aspired to be on TV. I thought I would be a Canadian print reporter. My entire career, I was at the Toronto Star. And I thought I’d stay there for years or decades. And I started fact-checking Trump and it sort of took on a life of its own because of, frankly, how much lying he does.”
Dale watches or reads transcripts of nearly every interview or speech President Trump gives, and fact-checking him is a full-time job. At last count, Dale had catalogued more than 9,000 lies or false claims. He has it down to a science.
“I do have a database. It’s sorted by claim and by category and by date and by type of event. And so when Trump says something for the 30th or 50th or the 100th time, I can tell you ‘that was the 78th time Trump made that claim.’”
Dale is one of the few reporters willing to call out President Trump for lying, and he says it gets worse as Americans prepare to go to the polls.
“He is serially inaccurate. You know, I’ve been fact-checking him for more than four years. He’s lied throughout these four years. But what happens as we get closer to an election period is that in addition to the ad-libbed impromptu lies that he is known for, there starts to be more lies written into his speeches. So it becomes not just Trump being Trump, but it’s more like dishonesty as a deliberate campaign strategy.”
Dale wasn’t always this way, but a run-in with another politician who had a tenuous relationship with the truth changed everything. It happened in 2012 while Dale was covering Rob Ford, the bombastic, crack-smoking former Mayor of Toronto.
“There was an incident some people in Toronto might remember where I was investigating the mayor’s proposal to purchase a piece of parkland adjacent to his house. And I went there to check out the property and see what he was trying to buy for himself. And the mayor came out and confronted me, chased me with a raised fist. It was very strange. Anyway, he then went on television and essentially accused me of being a pedophile.”
Ford claimed Dale had been lurking around his property, and taking pictures of his children. Dale sued, and wrote a story in the Star titled “Rob Ford is Lying About Me, and it’s Vile.” Ford eventually admitted it wasn’t true and apologized.
It was the first time Dale had ever called someone a liar in print. But it wouldn’t be the last.
“I gradually started using the word lie for other false things that Ford was saying,” says Dale. “And then I moved to D.C. in 2015, started covering Trump. And then when Trump started lying, it was kind of a no brainer for me at that point. You know — I used the word lie covering Ford, why can’t I use it covering Trump? “
When CNN hired Dale away from the Toronto Star last year, he was on his way to becoming a household name in the U.S. His willingness to call a lie a lie has earned him some enemies, but a lot of fans too, like veteran journalist Eric Alterman.
“Daniel Dale is, for my purposes, the most important reporter in the world right now,” says Alterman.
Alterman is an award-winning journalist, professor and author of eleven books, including his latest “Lying in State: Why Presidents Lie, and Why Trump is Worse.”
He says being Canadian gives Dale an advantage over his American counterparts.
“He didn’t grow up in this media culture that is so deferential to the president that they’re afraid to call a lie a lie. He hasn’t grown up in this media culture where because of national security, reporters are afraid to get involved in saying that the government is not telling the truth.”
Dale agrees that his Canadian roots make a difference.
“I think being Canadian and working for a Canadian outlet first at the Toronto Star gave me a level of freedom that many American reporters and American outlets did not have. They might have had pressure from their bosses, you know, to really create the appearance of objectivity: ‘But you can’t call lie a lie because our readers or advertisers will call us biased or the president will call us out.’ But I think I know in the back of my head, you know — I can always go back to Canada.”
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