LENOX >> The leading Republican presidential candidate lies and exaggerates; he's also a racist, bully and nativist — a truly dangerous politician. In my opinion.
Among Donald Trump's most outrageous lies is that President Obama plans to admit up to 250,000 Syrian refugees to the U.S. The actual number is 10,000 during 2016, meticulously vetted by multiple agencies to ensure that no potential terrorists slip through.
Another whopper: He tweeted that 81 percent of white murder victims are killed by blacks. The reality: 82 percent of whites are murdered by whites.
He called for a national registry of Muslims, backed off but then reasserted the evil policy proposal. He denied criticizing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's policy on foreign workers and calling Republican rival Marco Rubio "Zuckerberg's personal Senator," even though both statements were on Trump's campaign website.
But this assertion at a Birmingham, Ala., rally on Nov. 21 should be more than enough to disqualify him from serious consideration: "Hey, I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down."
Last Sunday, Trump, a phone-in guest on ABC's "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos, expanded on his claim, even though the host kept repeating that police denied it ever happened. The candidate insisted he saw video footage with his own eyes.
"It did happen. I saw it. It was on television," he insisted.
The problem for Trump is, no such footage exists.
As reported by The New York Times a few days ago, John J. Farmer Jr., the New Jersey attorney general and the state's chief law enforcement officer at the time, investigated the claims in the days after 9/11 and found that they were bogus. Farmer, the senior counsel to the Sept. 11 commission probing the terrorist attacks, was stationed in the state's command center, Liberty State Park in Jersey City. Part of his assignment was to check an outpouring of rumors.
Among them: Bombers with suicide vests were in Times Square. Saboteurs were threatening power plants. New York City's mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, was missing.
And Muslims were dancing on the rooftops and in the streets of Jersey City and Paterson.
"We followed up on that report instantly because of its implications," Farmer stated. "The word came back quickly from Jersey City, later from Paterson. False report. Never happened."
On the contrary, many Muslim Americans voiced horror at the World Trade Center bombings and other Sept. 11 attacks, as widely reported on the next day.
To be sure, there were people celebrating the terrorist attacks. They were in a few regions of the Mideast, including Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, and that video did appear on newscasts at the time.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, a Democrat, has accused Trump of "shamefully politicizing an emotionally charged issue. No one in Jersey City cheered on Sept. 11. We were actually among the first to provide responders to help in Lower Manhattan."
George Pataki, the Republican governor of New York at the time and now a marginal Republican presidential aspirant, tweeted a denial; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a bit less marginal among the 14 candidates, also stated that he had no recollection of seeing dancing on the rooftops.
The bottom line: Scores of reporters, law enforcement and government officials, including those who were in New Jersey following the terrorist attacks, have thoroughly discredited Trump's claims.
A week after Sept. 11, a Washington Post article cited rumors of "tailgate-style" celebrations on rooftops in Jersey City as the towers crumbled. But Serge Kovaleski, the lead reporter on that story and now a Times journalist, said: "We did a lot of shoe-leather reporting in and around Jersey City. I do not recall anyone saying there were thousands or even hundreds of people celebrating."
Fredrick Kunkle, Kovaleski's colleague on the story, added: "I specifically visited the Jersey City building and neighborhood where the celebrations were purported to have happened. But I could never verify that report."
True to form, Trump made matters even worse, if that were possible, by mocking Kovaleski, who has a congenital joint condition called arthrogryposis, which limits his ability to move his arms.
During a South Carolina campaign rally on Tuesday, Trump bloviated: "Now, the poor guy — you've got to see this guy, 'Ah, I don't know what I said! I don't remember!' "To drive home his shameful point, Trump jerked his arms in front of his body.
Truly despicable. The would-be leader of the free world later denied he had ever met Kovaleski, who actually had frequent personal contact with Trump while covering the mogul's financial setbacks for the Daily News in New York from 1987 to 1993.
The Washington Post's Fact Checker column has awarded Trump more Four-Pinocchio ratings than any other candidate. The false claims about celebrations in Jersey City earned him yet another one.
PolitiFact, the Tampa Bay Times's Pulitzer Prize-winning monitor of campaign falsehoods, gave Trump another "Pants on Fire!" Citation, the 15th.
There may have been isolated incidents of impromptu celebrations here and there. But, as PolitiFact stated: "There is no evidence of mass demonstrations. At best, there were only some kids acting up — who may or may not have been Arab."
Of course, there will be no apology from Trump for defaming Muslims yet again. His campaign rolls on, with a solid 25 to 30 percent base of support among Republican voters.
Here in deep blue Berkshire County, I hear assurances that he won't be nominated and even if he is, no way will he be elected against Hillary Rodham Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee.
I'm not so sure. There's a stench of ultra-right hatred, approaching fascism, abroad in the land, even though we don't often encounter it here. Nothing should be taken for granted at a time when irrational fear overcomes reason and reality.