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Trump alternative facts saga 'disturbing', says Nobel Prize-winner Stiglitz

Joseph Stiglitz
David Orrell | CNBC
Joseph Stiglitz

President Donald Trump and his administration's undermining of facts and truth is "disturbing," Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said on Monday.

Speaking at the World Government Summit in Dubai, Stiglitz addressed a number of topics including U.S. tax policy, globalization and inequality. But in the process of speaking about the new U.S. administration, Stiglitz expressed dismay at what he described as the "undermining of the basis of a common agreement about what is truth."

"You saw in the Trump administration we have alternative facts. It used to be that we could have a discussion and you agree on facts, but you disagree on interpretation," Stiglitz told the audience.

"Now we have an administration that says we have alternative facts. It's going to be very very difficult to reach a consensus on the way forward if you're questioning theory, you're questioning facts."

The term "alternative facts" was coined by Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway after press secretary Sean Spicer inaccurately described the inauguration crowd as "the largest ever". President Trump's administration has come under attack for a number of unfounded claims it has made.

"(The) irony is you have the United States which has been viewed as the center of science … and you have a president and administration that is questioning science," Stiglitz said.

Stiglitz did no go into detail on what he specifically meant by "questioning science, " but Trump is known to be a climate change skeptic. Last month, he asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take down climate change pages from its website. And in 2012, Trump said on Twitter that climate change was a hoax "created by and for the Chinese".

Another term that was prominent through the U.S. election campaign and into Trump's short time in office is "fake news". Generally, it refers to hoax or fabricated stories, made easier by the fact that publishing online has become easy.

"We are in a very difficult position today," Stiglitz ended by saying, referring to the tough task of separating fact from fiction.