On Monday, President Donald Trump used a meeting with congressional leaders to push a blatant lie about the Nov. 8 presidential elections — that he lost by a 2.9 million margin in the popular vote not because of his plummeting favorability ratings with the public, but because 3 million to 5 million undocumented immigrants illegally voted.
Voting law experts are unanimous the fraud did not occur, and that in-person voting fraud is actually incredibly rare. But it turns out the president's awful story is even thinner and more racist than the original story might suggest. According to a New York Times piece published Wednesday, Trump's rationale came by way of an anecdote from famous 59-year-old Bavarian golfer Bernhard Langer.
Three sources in the meeting told the Times Trump described an incident in which Langer "was standing in line at a polling place near his home in Florida on Election Day ... when an official informed Mr. Langer he would not be able to vote."
"Ahead of and behind Mr. Langer were voters who did not look as if they should be allowed to vote, Mr. Trump said, according to the staff members — but they were nonetheless permitted to cast provisional ballots," the Times continued. "The president threw out the names of Latin American countries that the voters might have come from."
There's no mincing words here. Trump was simply describing an incident in which a single rich white person was unable to vote, which could have been the result of any number of bad but mundane reasons from inaccurate registration records to Langer arriving at the wrong precinct, while other nonwhite people were allowed to vote. This is not evidence of mass voter fraud. This is evidence Trump is suspicious of any Latino person who tries to vote. As Speaker of the House Paul Ryan might say, it's a textbook definition of a racist comment.
But the racist absurdity of Trump's voter fraud claims will probably not slow any future Republican attempts to crack down on their opponents' right to vote, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders argued on Tuesday.
On Thursday, Langer released a statement clarifying his role, or lack thereof, in perpetuating the anecdote, noting that he is not a U.S. citizen. Langer characterized the event as "misconstrued."
Jan. 26, 2017, 12:20 p.m.: This story has been updated.