The Slatest

Trump Just Can’t Stop Telling This Lie About San Bernardino

Donald Trump looks through a teleprompter as he holds a campaign event at the Kilcawley Center at Youngstown State University on August 15, 2016.

Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Donald Trump on Monday outlined his latest closed-borders approach to national security, which now includes the “extreme vetting” of immigrants with an ideological test of some kind to ensure only “those who support our values” are allowed entry into the United States. He also repeated one of his favorite lies.

While talking about last year’s domestic terror attack in San Bernardino, California, Trump declared that one of the shooters’ neighbors “saw suspicious behavior—bombs on the floor and other things—but didn’t want to warn authorities because they said they didn’t want to be accused of racial profiling.” Trump’s been making the same claim for a few months now, despite the fact that it is unsupported by the available evidence. Fact checkers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center looked into the assertion shortly after Trump made it during an appearance on Fox and Friends in mid-June and concluded:


There is also no evidence for Trump’s repeated claim that “many people” including neighbors of the San Bernardino shooters saw “bombs all over the floor” of the apartment, but did not report it to authorities because of politically correct concerns about racial profiling.

Politifact came to a similar conclusion way back in January when Chris Christie made a similar claim during a GOP debate:

We looked for any reports of the neighbors saying they had an inkling of any plans for an attack. We didn’t find any. We did find second-hand reports that weren’t well sourced, and these were repeated primarily on right-leaning news websites. … We rate this statement False.

Trump (and Christie) appeared to be taking liberties with a report from the ABC affiliate in Los Angeles shortly after the attack that was based on second-hand information from a man, Aaron Elswick, who claimed to know one of the shooters’ neighbors. Elswick told the local news station that his unnamed friend told him she noticed the shooters “receiving quite a number of packages and they were also working a lot in their garage.” He then concluded: “And it sounds like she didn’t do anything about it. She didn’t want to do any kind of racial profiling.” A day earlier, a CBS affiliate in Los Angeles quoted an unnamed man who claimed he saw “unusual activity” while working in the same neighborhood but didn’t go to police because, in the reporters’ words, “he didn’t want to be seen as racial profiling,” which was not an outrageous conclusion to come to given the “unusual activity” was, in the interviewee’s words, a half dozen “Middle Eastern guys… kinda dressed nice” on their way to lunch.

Trump, though, is more than happy to fudge the facts since it allows him to claim that the San Bernardino attack wouldn’t have happened if the neighbors hadn’t been afraid of the PC police.

Read more Slate coverage of the 2016 campaign.