Trump on the Stump
Forty-six false and misleading claims the president has made at recent rallies.
By Robert Farley, Jessica McDonald, Rem Rieder, D'Angelo Gore, Lori Robertson and Eugene Kiely
Posted on October 22, 2020
We reviewed all of President Donald Trump’s speeches at campaign rallies over five days, from Oct. 12 to Oct. 16. There were six speeches and combined, Trump spoke for more than eight hours, averaging about one hour and 20 minutes per speech.
Below is a compilation of 46 of the false and misleading claims he made; Trump often repeated those claims at multiple rallies. We have organized them by subject matter.
Trump spoke in Sanford, Florida, on Oct. 12, his first rally since recovering from COVID-19. It was the shortest of the five speeches, at just over an hour. The following night, the Republican nominee spoke in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, followed by an Oct. 14 rally in Des Moines, Iowa, then Greenville, North Carolina, on Oct. 15. He finished up the week with two rallies: one in Ocala, Florida, and another in Macon, Georgia, on Oct. 16.
(We published a similar story looking at the false or misleading statements made by former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, during his stump speeches over the same period. Readers will likely observe that we wrote about fewer claims from Biden. We would note that while Biden held six rallies — the same as Trump — he spoke for a total of only two hours and 46 minutes. Trump spoke nearly three times longer than Biden.)
#1: Not ‘Rounding the Turn’ on COVID-19
As he did in his Oct. 15 town hall, the president baselessly claimed in his Pennsylvania and North Carolina rallies that the U.S. is “rounding the turn” on the coronavirus pandemic. That’s at odds with the available data showing an increase in COVID-19 cases and with expert assessments of the situation.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN on Oct. 12 that the U.S. is “on a trajectory of getting worse” and recommended that the public continue to practice simple public health measures, including physical distancing, wearing masks and avoiding crowds.
As of Oct. 18, the seven-day average of new cases is topping 55,000 a day, up from a still-high low of around 34,000 in mid-September. The COVID Tracking Project, which is responsible for tabulating those figures, concluded that a “third surge” is underway. A Johns Hopkins University analysis similarly shows that cases are on the rise in many states, particularly in the upper Midwest.
#2: ‘Unscientific Lockdowns’
At three different rallies, Trump misleadingly claimed that Biden would “annihilate” the economy with a “draconian unscientific lockdown.” Trump is referring to a comment Biden made in an ABC News interview with David Muir on Aug. 21, but contrary to supporting an “unscientific lockdown,” Biden said he would “listen to the scientists” if they recommended another shutdown. “So if the scientists say shut it down?” Muir asked. “I would shut it down, I would listen to the scientists,” Biden said. He has since emphasized that he doesn’t think a lockdown would be necessary.
#3: Travel Restrictions
“But when I locked down China, he thought it was a terrible thing,” Trump said. “He called me xenophobic, right? When I locked down China, which was in January, months earlier than what he said. Then ultimately, he admitted I’m right, but then he said, oh, he should’ve acted faster. Well, this was months later, then, he says I should have acted fast. Nobody acted fast like I did.” There are several false claims in this statement.
For starters, as we have written repeatedly, Trump did not “lock down” travel from China. There were exceptions for American citizens and permanent residents, as well as their family members, meaning that tens of thousands of people flew directly from China to the U.S. in the months after the restrictions were enacted.
As for Biden, the former vice president made this statement on the same day that the president announced the travel restrictions on Jan. 31: “This is no time for Donald Trump’s record of hysteria, xenophobia – hysterical xenophobia – and fearmongering to lead the way instead of science.” Trump cites it as evidence that Biden opposed his decision to impose travel restrictions on China. But the Biden campaign on April 3 said Biden supported the travel restrictions, and that the xenophobia comment was unrelated to them.
And finally, contrary to Trump’s claim that “nobody acted fast like I did” with travel restrictions on China, a country-by-country analysis by Think Global Health, a project of the Council on Foreign Relations, shows that 36 countries imposed travel restrictions, including the U.S., by Feb. 2.
#4: Face Masks
Trump misstated the findings of a study on COVID-19, saying, “Did you see, the CDC? That 85% of the people wearing the mask catch it, okay?” The day before the speech, the CDC released a tweet directly contradicting the president’s claim, saying, “the interpretation that more mask-wearers are getting infected compared to non-mask wearers is incorrect.”
The major finding of the CDC study, released Sept. 11, was that people in the survey with COVID-19 were twice as likely to have eaten at a restaurant, and that eating in restaurants or drinking in bars might be a higher risk activity. The report also found that people in the study with and without COVID-19 reported high levels of mask wearing in public. Among the approximately 150 COVID-19 patients in the study, 85% reported they “always” or “often” wore a face mask in the 14 days before illness onset. The CDC tweeted on Oct. 14, “Much evidence shows wearing masks in public reduces transmission by blocking exhaled respiratory droplets.”
#5: Fauci’s Not a Democrat
Trump wrongly said of Fauci, “He’s a Democrat, everybody knows that.” The longtime NIAID director told CNN he is not registered with any political party, which we confirmed through District of Columbia voter registration records. And as CNN noted, Fauci has “served in his current role under Democratic and Republican U.S. presidents going back to the Reagan administration.”
#6: Misquoting Fauci
Trump misquoted Fauci, claiming that Fauci said of the coronavirus, “This is not a threat. This is not a problem. Don’t worry about it.” As we have written, Fauci said in a Feb. 29 interview on NBC’s “Today” show that “right now at this moment” the risk was “low” and there was “no need” for people “to change anything that you’re doing on a day-by-day basis.” But he added that “this could change,” that people needed to be wary of “community spread,” and that it could develop into a “major outbreak.”
#7: COVID-19 Immunity
Following his COVID-19 diagnosis and release from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the president claimed to be immune to the virus, adding in a colorful twist that he could now kiss everyone in the audience. He also incorrectly suggested that after he contracted the disease, people then said immunity lasted only a few months, rather than being lifelong. Scientists don’t know how long immunity might last, as we’ve written, but experts never thought it would be lifelong, as no other human coronavirus infection provides such durable immunity. Current data suggest most people are protected against reinfection for at least several months, but how much longer that likely immunity extends is still unclear.
It’s impossible to know whether Trump has immunity. It’s possible that the experimental antibody cocktail he received to treat his COVID-19 prevented him from mounting his own antibody response — and that he could become susceptible again more quickly than most other COVID-19 patients. In any case, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautions against acting as though someone is immune. The agency recommends that even those who have had COVID-19 continue to take steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, including hand washing, mask wearing and physical distancing.
#8: ‘Saved’ Millions of Lives
In multiple rally appearances, Trump claimed that the original estimate for the number of American lives lost to the coronavirus pandemic was 2.2 million — a reference to an Imperial College London report from March — and that his administration has therefore saved “millions” of lives. But as we’ve explained before, the 2.2 million figure was a projection for what could happen in “the (unlikely) absence of any control measures or spontaneous changes in individual behaviour.” It therefore was never meant to be taken as a literal yardstick of a country’s performance.
In speaking about the 2 million lives during his Macon, Georgia, rally, Trump also falsely claimed that the U.S. death toll was good compared with other countries. “We’re over 200,000, that’s terrible,” he said of confirmed COVID-19 deaths. “But compared to other nations, it’s amazing what we’ve been able to do.” The U.S.’s record is in fact quite poor. According to figures assembled by Johns Hopkins University as of Oct. 21, America has the 11th highest per capita COVID-19 death rate out of nearly 170 nations.
#9: Availability of COVID-19 ‘Cures’
As he has before, the president incorrectly referred to the experimental antibody cocktail he received to treat COVID-19 as a “cure” — and suggested that it would soon be available to everyone.
“If you look at what we’re doing with therapeutics and frankly, cures, we’ve made tremendous progress,” Trump said to supporters in Florida. “And I said to my people, we are going to take whatever the hell they gave me and we’re going to distribute it around to hospitals and everyone’s going to have the same damn thing.”
The antibody drug Trump was given, which is made by the biotech company Regeneron, is still in clinical trials, and has not yet been shown to be effective against the coronavirus. While the preliminary results are promising and the company has submitted an application for emergency use authorization, the Food and Drug Administration has yet to make a determination on the drug, so access remains limited to those participating in the trials and to select individuals through its compassionate use program.
Experts are concerned that if antibody drugs do get the green light from the FDA that there will not be enough supply to satisfy demand, which could easily reach more than 200,000 doses a month in the U.S. alone. Regeneron said on Oct. 7 that it has enough doses to treat “approximately 50,000 patients” and expects to have enough for 250,000 more “within the next few months.” Eli Lilly is making a similar product and expects to have 100,000 doses of its single antibody therapy in October, although the National Institutes of Health paused its trial because of potential safety concerns.
#10: Declining Fatality Rate
In three rallies, Trump touted America’s declining COVID-19 case fatality rate, attributing the large drop to improvements in treatments. “You know, we’re 90% better now than we were six, seven months ago in terms of a cure for people that get really sick,” the president said in Florida, later using similar percentages in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. “We pioneered all of these incredible therapies and reduced the fatality rate 80, think of it, 85%,” he said in North Carolina.
The president’s figures mostly check out, but there is no “cure” for COVID-19 and the treatments he cites are only a part of the reason. According to a CDC dataset that was last updated on Sept. 30, 7.5% of people with probable and suspected COVID-19 cases died in April, which fell to 1.29% in August and 0.9% in September. That’s a decline of 83% and 88%, respectively, after four and five months. (The figures could still change, as people diagnosed last month could still be battling the virus — and the data are also not entirely complete, with many missing or unknown values.)
But the case fatality rate, which refers to the percentage of people who died from the coronavirus among the confirmed cases, hasn’t fallen only because of better treatment. As we explained last month, because the metric is highly dependent on how many and which cases are identified, experts say part — if not most — of the decline can be explained by increased testing and a shift toward younger people catching the coronavirus.
“More effective medical management may be playing a role in the falling case fatality rate in the US, but I suspect this improvement has been small relative to the large decrease,” University of Pennsylvania infectious disease fellow Dr. Aaron Richterman told us.
#11: China Stopped Virus Spread in China
Trump claimed that “China stopped it [the virus] from going into the rest of China, but they didn’t stop it from coming out and going to Europe and the United States and the rest of the world, 188 countries.” But China did not stop the coronavirus from spreading from Wuhan, where it originated, to other parts of China.
The number of reported cases and deaths in China’s major cities outside Wuhan have been far lower than the numbers in many European and American cities, but China also took extreme measures to slow the spread of the disease that the U.S. did not. In the past, Trump has wrongly speculated that China stopped flights from Wuhan to the rest of China while continuing to allow flights from Wuhan all over the world, including to the U.S. But as we wrote, that’s not accurate, either.
#12 WHO and Lockdowns
Trump falsely claimed in two rallies that the World Health Organization said “Trump was right” about lockdowns. “They said Trump was right,” the president said of the WHO while in Pennsylvania. “They said you can’t make the cure worse than the problem itself. I’ve been saying that for a long time.”
The president is referring to recent statements from two WHO officials who advised against implementing national lockdowns whenever possible. But as we’ve explained, the U.N. health agency has never recommended lockdowns as the primary strategy to control the virus — although it recognizes that in some cases they may be needed. Moreover, neither WHO representative specifically referenced Trump.
#13: States Not Closed
Trump falsely claimed that the state of Michigan is closed and attacked the state’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer. At a rally in Greenville, North Carolina, Trump said, “But we’ve been suing a lot of people and we just won in Michigan against … what she did was terrible. I mean, she did … It’s like a prison warden. So Michigan, we won on a constitutional basis to have to open it up. You got to open this one up.” In fact, Whitmer, a frequent target of Trump, on June 1 lifted the state’s stay-at-home order, which the governor issued in March to combat the spread of COVID-19. As we have written, when Trump said “the whole state is closed,” the vast majority of Michigan’s businesses are open with some restrictions, as are churches and schools, although some of the latter are teaching remotely.
The situation in Michigan was complicated on Oct. 2 when the Michigan Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional the 1945 law that Whitmer had relied on in issuing her emergency orders on COVID-19. In the wake of the ruling, the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services, citing authority not covered by the state Supreme Court ruling, issued an emergency order replicating several aspects of Whitmer’s orders. They include requiring wearing masks at indoor and outdoor gatherings; limiting the size of crowds at indoor and outdoor gatherings, with some exceptions; and requiring bars to close indoor common areas.
Trump has also singled out Pennsylvania, as he did in his speech in Georgia, falsely claiming the state is still closed. “Pennsylvania, they got to open this state,” Trump said. In fact, Pennsylvania has been largely open since July 3, when all counties in the state entered the green phase of Gov. Tom Wolf’s reopening plan. There are some restrictions: For example, indoor dining at restaurants is limited to 50% of capacity. As for schools, state guidance allows local districts to decide whether to utilize in-person or remote learning or a mixture of both, depending on local conditions.
#14: ‘Greatest Economy’
Trump repeatedly claimed that the United States “had the greatest economy in the history of the world” before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. But that is not the case. As we have written many times, the economy has gone through many periods of more robust growth than it has under the Trump administration. The real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product, or GDP, grew 2.2% last year — down from 3% in 2018, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. It grew faster — 3.1% — in 2015, which was Obama’s best year. Over the last 39 years — dating to Ronald Reagan’s presidency — the nation’s real economic growth has exceeded Trump’s peak year of 3% 17 times.
#15: Coal Miners
In Pennsylvania, Trump falsely told the crowd: “But we’re putting our great coal miners back to work.” Coal mining jobs have declined by 6,400, or nearly 13%, during Trump’s time in office. Nearly 600 mining jobs were lost in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic, with lower natural gas prices one of the factors affecting the industry.
#16 Auto Plants
Trump has frequently exaggerated his success in attracting new auto plants to Michigan. At a rally in Macon, Georgia, Trump said, “A poll just came out … we’re up in Michigan. You know why? Because they had no car companies, they had no plants, they had no nothing for 44 years. And they’re building plants all over the state of Michigan because of me. And they’re coming in from Japan and they’re coming in from Germany. They’re building plants all over and expanding plants.”
As for the 44 years, that’s incorrect. As we have written, General Motors built a light vehicle assembly plant in Lansing Delta Township, completed in 2006. And auto plants are not popping up all over the state. Take Japan. Trump previously said that Japan had committed to build five new auto plants in the state. But as we have written, there have been five new investments, not plants. One of them is a manufacturing facility, but for fuel cells, not an auto assembly plant. In fact, the Michigan investments during his time in office are less than what Japanese companies had invested in the three prior years in 2014 to 2016, according to Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor & economics at the Center for Automotive Research.
As for polls, the average of polls for Michigan at Real Clear Politics shows Biden up by 7.2 points.
#17: Manufacturing Jobs
Trump gave a misleading picture of how the number of manufacturing jobs has changed under his administration. At his rally in Johnstown, the president said, “We added nearly 600,000 manufacturing jobs and we added 15,000 factories, and Obama said ‘You’ll never produce manufacturing jobs.’ Remember? You need a magic wand. Well, we found the magic wand.”
Actually, the number of manufacturing jobs has declined under Trump, due to the COVID-19 pandemic-induced recession. As we have written, the country added 475,000 manufacturing jobs — not the 600,000 cited by Trump — during his first three years in office. But this year the number has declined sharply, and as of September there were 164,000 fewer manufacturing jobs than when Trump took office — something the president didn’t mention at his rally.
#18: Biden Tax Plan
Trump wrongly claimed that Biden says he wants to “terminate all of the Trump tax cuts. Well, that’s $2,000 plus child tax credits, plus all of the other things. You’re talking about $6,000, $7,000, $8,000 a year.” Biden has not said he will terminate all of the Trump tax cuts, only the cuts for those making more than $400,000 a year.
The most recent estimate (issued Oct. 15) by the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, for example, calculates that the net result of all Biden’s tax proposals would be, on average, an increase in after-tax income (in effect, a tax cut) for the bottom 80% of households, with the top one-tenth of 1% of earners bearing 70% of Biden’s proposed tax increases.
And contrary to Trump’s claim that Biden would eliminate the child tax credits contained in the Trump tax cuts, he is proposing to expand them during the pandemic. Biden also proposes to expand child care tax credits up to $8,000 for low-and middle-income families.
#19: Private Insurance
Trump claimed Biden would “outlaw the private health insurance plans of over 180 million Americans who love those plans.” Biden doesn’t support eliminating private insurance in favor of a single-payer health care system, as Trump suggested. Biden’s plan includes a Medicare-style public option as a choice, but also increases tax credits for individuals purchasing their own insurance.
“Instead of starting from scratch and getting rid of private insurance, he has a plan to build on the Affordable Care Act by giving Americans more choice, reducing health care costs, and making our health care system less complex to navigate,” the plan says.
Trump falsely claimed in several rallies that Biden would “confiscate your guns” and “get rid of your Second Amendment.” Biden has advocated a ban on the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines for ammunition — not a ban on all guns — and he has said he wouldn’t confiscate assault weapons or high-capacity magazines that had already been purchased legally. As we’ve written before, Biden’s platform on gun control says he would give those currently in possession of either a choice: sell the weapons to the government, or register them under the National Firearms Act.
#21: Biden and Law Enforcement
In Sanford, Florida, Trump claimed that during the first presidential debate he said to Biden, “‘Say the words, law enforcement, just say it.’ Couldn’t do it. He couldn’t say it.” That’s wrong. After Trump urged Biden to say “law enforcement,” debate moderator Chris Wallace turned to his next question, about race, and Biden said the words “law enforcement” in his answer.
“There’s systemic injustice in this country. In education, in work and in law enforcement and the way in which it’s enforced. But look, the vast majority of police officers are good, decent, honorable men and women,” Biden said. “They risk their lives every day to take care of us. But there are some bad apples. And when they occur, when they find them, they have to be sorted out. They have to be held accountable.”
In Pennsylvania, Trump changed the claim to say he asked Biden to “‘say the words law and order. Say it, Joe. Say it.’ He couldn’t do it.” In the debate, Trump also accused Biden of not wanting “to say anything about law and order” and later said, “Are you in favor of law and order?” Biden said those words, too, responding, “I’m in favor of law, you following it. … Law and order with justice, where people get treated fairly.” In his rally, Trump mocked the inclusion of “justice,” saying: “Then I think at the end, didn’t he say like law, and order, and safety, and justice, and you know, all the stuff.”
#22: Charter Schools
In Florida, Trump claimed of Biden, “He’ll ban charter schools.” As we have written, Biden opposes federal funding for schools managed by for-profit companies, which make up only about 10% of charter schools, according to a researcher for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. And while Biden opposes vouchers for private school tuition — the ultimate in school choice for some — he does not oppose students choosing between public schools, magnet schools and high-performing charter schools.
#23: Restoring Order in Minneapolis
Trump has falsely taken credit for restoring order in Minneapolis in the face of violent protests in May following the death of George Floyd in police custody. “Remember Minneapolis was burning down, day after day and I’d called, let us come in, let us come in, and anyway, they finally came in,” Trump said. “How long did it take? About a half an hour. Remember the beautiful scene?”
In fact, as we have written, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey requested National Guard support on May 27, the second day of demonstrations. National Guard support was authorized by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz in an executive order May 28, and troops began arriving in Minneapolis later that day. That night the Minnesota National Guard tweeted that it had “activated more than 500 soldiers to St. Paul, Minneapolis and surrounding communities.” No calls from Trump were necessary. The local officials acted on their own and promptly to summon help.
#24: Highway Approvals
Trump falsely claimed that “it used to take 18, 17, 20, 21, it would take years and years, 21 years to get a highway approved. … We have that down now to two years and probably one.” Trump signed an executive order in August 2017 setting a “goal of completing all Federal environmental reviews and authorization decisions for major infrastructure projects within 2 years.” But that hasn’t been achieved. As we wrote when Trump made a similar claim during the Republican National Convention in August, according to the latest statistics from the Federal Highway Administration, it took a median of 3.83 years in fiscal 2019 for projects requiring environmental impact statements to complete the process required by the National Environmental Policy Act. That’s the same or a bit longer than it took during the last five years of the Obama administration.
Although there have been outliers, the median wait time to get permit approval has never been nearly as high as the president claimed. According to Federal Highway Administration data, after the method for tracking wait times was revised starting in fiscal 2012, the median wait time during the last five years of the Obama administration was 43.6 months, or 3.63 years. That median time has not been trimmed during the Trump years. The median wait time was 46 months in fiscal 2017, 47 months in fiscal 2018 and 46 months in 2019.
#25: The Suburbs
Addressing Pennsylvania supporters, Trump implored suburban women to like him because he “ended … the rule that made the zoning so impossible that you had to destroy your communities” and “brought crime to the suburbs.” He said, “I don’t want to build low-income housing next to your house.”
In July, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced it will end a 2015 HUD rule on “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing.” But experts told us the rule didn’t mandate low-income housing or rezoning, as Trump has claimed or suggested. In the published rule, HUD made clear it “does not impose any land use decisions or zoning laws on any local government.” The rule changed the way jurisdictions that receive HUD funding develop and report plans to address fair housing issues in their communities.
#26: Veterans Choice
For two years, Trump has been spreading a bogus tale that he was responsible for enacting legislation to create the Veterans Choice program, when, in fact, that legislation was signed by Obama in 2014. Trump did so again at all five rallies last week, claiming in Pennsylvania, “For our great vets. We passed VA choice and VA accountability. Nobody thought would ever get that done.” In the past, the president has even claimed the program — which allows veterans to receive care from non-VA health care providers if they were unable to get timely appointments or faced long travel to VA facilities — was his idea, calling it “the greatest idea I think I’ve ever had.” The Veterans Choice legislation passed easily in August 2014, with overwhelming bipartisan majorities. Only eight lawmakers in Congress opposed the final bill. Trump has signed legislation to continue the program and to expand eligibility for its services.
#27: Biden and Social Security
At all five rallies, Trump argued that “Biden’s agenda would be a catastrophe for seniors,” claiming, “Biden tried to cut Social Security and Medicare” for years, but “nobody remembers that.”
We took a deep dive into Biden’s history on Social Security when, during the Democratic primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders accused Biden of saying “on many occasions we should cut Social Security.” In 1984, when Ronald Reagan was president, then-Sen. Biden co-sponsored a Senate bill (along with Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley and others) seeking a one-year, across-the-board freeze on defense and domestic spending as a way to reduce budget deficits. It would have eliminated cost-of-living increases for one year for Social Security and Medicare. It failed. And as we wrote, on other occasions in the past, Biden has been willing in budget negotiations with Republicans to at least consider things such as raising the age of eligibility or recalculating cost-of-living increases for Social Security.
But that’s not what Biden is proposing now. In his 2020 campaign, Biden has proposed a plan that would increase revenue for Social Security by eliminating the payroll tax cap and expand benefits for some of the oldest seniors. A recent analysis of Biden’s plan for Social Security by the Urban Institute concluded, “If enacted, Biden’s proposals would improve financial security for many older adults and people with disabilities and close about a quarter of Social Security’s long-term financial shortfall.”
#28: ‘Defunding’ Police
Trump put a new twist on his false claim that Biden wants to “defund” the police, saying instead that “Joe Biden and the Democrat socialists will … dismantle your police departments.” Despite the frequency of this claim, Biden has repeatedly said he doesn’t support that. “While I do not believe federal dollars should go to police departments violating people’s rights or turning to violence as the first resort, I do not support defunding police,” the former vice president said in a June 10 op-ed. “The better answer is to give police departments the resources they need to implement meaningful reforms, and to condition other federal dollars on completing those reforms.” A campaign spokesman also told us Biden supports more funding for police for initiatives to strengthen community relationships and for body-worn cameras.
#29: Biden and Puerto Rico Pharmaceutical Companies
Trump repeatedly has made exaggerated claims about Biden and the Puerto Rican pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, claiming variously that Biden “shut down” the industry or “voted to obliterate” it. In 1996, Biden, then a senator, joined all of the Democrats who voted and a majority of Republicans, who controlled the Senate at the time, in approving a wide-ranging bill focused largely on small businesses. As we have written, it is true that the legislation phased out a tax exemption for companies manufacturing products in Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories.
Loss of the exemption did impel many pharmaceutical companies to move their operations off of the island, costing Puerto Rico many jobs. But the island’s drug manufacturing industry has not been “shut down.” According to the Food and Drug Administration, in 2016 about 30% of Puerto Rico’s gross domestic product consisted of drug and medical device manufacturing, and 8% of U.S. pharmaceutical expenditures were for products manufactured in Puerto Rico. A Senate Finance Committee report issued that same year found that the impact of the legislation has been exaggerated. The island is currently home to 49 pharmaceutical plants, according to the Puerto Rican government.
#30: Support From Women
As he has numerous times in the past, Trump inflated the support he received from women in the 2016 election. At one rally, Trump said prognosticators who predicted he would “do terribly with women” were proven wrong. “I did great with women,” he said. At another rally, Trump hit the same theme, saying, “Four years ago, they said women will never vote for him. I said, ‘Why, am I so bad?’ They said, ‘The women will never vote.’ Then I got 52%,” Trump said. That’s wrong. Trump got only 41% of the female vote, according to the exit polls. Trump received 52% of the white women vote. But Trump received much lower percentages from minority groups, including Black women (4%), Latino women (25%) and other races (31%).
#31: Energy Independence
While talking about American energy in Pennsylvania, the second largest state producer of natural gas, Trump said that “we are now energy independent, first time ever.” U.S. domestic energy production did exceed its energy consumption in 2019, which is one way to define energy independence. But that wasn’t the first time that happened. The Energy Information Administration said it was the first time the U.S. produced more energy than it consumed since 1957. EIA also said U.S. energy exports exceeded its energy imports from foreign sources in 2019. That was the first time since 1952 that the U.S. was a net energy exporter, which is considered to be another type of energy independence.
Trump claimed a Biden-Harris administration will “shut down American energy” and “shut down fracking.” At times during the Democratic primary, Biden did tell environmental activists and protesters that he would “end” or “get rid of fossil fuels.” But the climate change plan Biden has proposed doesn’t include a full ban on either fossil fuels or fracking, a drilling technique used to extract oil and natural gas from rock formations.
The Biden plan says he’d ban “new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters.” That wouldn’t prohibit fracking under existing permits or in non-federal areas — where most crude oil and natural gas is produced. Biden and Harris have said multiple times that Biden won’t ban fracking. Biden does call for America to use less energy from fossil fuels, but his goal is net-zero emissions by 2050. That means emissions from fossil fuels could continue, as long as certain methods are used to sequester or remove those emissions from the atmosphere, resulting in no net addition.
#33: ‘Clean Coal’
At his Pennsylvania rally, Trump inaccurately suggested that all coal was “clean,” saying of the Democrats: “They hate coal. They hate clean, beautiful coal. I see what they do with coal now.”
As we’ve noted before, coal itself is not “clean,” although there are technologies that can make coal cleaner to burn. The only technique that substantially lowers coal’s carbon dioxide emissions is carbon capture and sequestration (or storage), or CCS. The method prevents CO2 from being released into the atmosphere, but the technology is expensive and is not yet widespread. According to the International Energy Agency, as of June 2020, there are only two operational commercial coal CCS plants in the world — the same as in 2018, when we addressed this topic. One is in the U.S., which means even if the plant runs at its maximum 240 megawatt capacity, “clean coal” accounts for only 0.1% of America’s coal-fired electricity generating capacity.
#34: Open Borders
In Sanford, Florida, Trump wrongly claimed Biden put forward “a plan to eliminate U.S. borders. Oh, that’s wonderful. Where’s our border? We don’t have one, just come in, everybody. Come on in, come on in, everybody. If you’re a murderer, if you’re a rapist, if you’re very, very sick with a disease that can spread all over, just come on in.”
As we have reported, that is not the case. There’s no doubt Biden supports a less restrictive immigration policy than the one championed by Trump. But that’s not the same as eliminating the border. “I’m going to make sure that we have border protection, but it’s going to be based on making sure that we use high-tech capacity to deal with it. And at the ports of entry — that’s where all the bad stuff is happening,” Biden said in an interview on Aug. 5. Specifically, people applying for legal immigration to the U.S. are inadmissible if they have been convicted of violent crimes, such as rape and murder, and that was true under Obama as it is under Trump. As for Trump’s claim that Biden would let in diseased people, we have written there is no evidence to back Trump’s previous assertions that Mexicans have caused a spike in coronavirus cases in pockets of the U.S.
#35: Border Wall
At his rally in Pennsylvania, Trump claimed that one of his signature promises of the 2016 election — a border wall along the Southern border — “is almost built.” Trump said it “is up to 392 miles. It’s almost built.” At other rallies, he put the total miles at over 400. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 371 miles of barriers have been erected as of Oct. 19. But according to the latest data provided to us by CBP, only 15 miles of that is new primary fencing where none previously existed. Whether that fencing meets the definition of the wall that Trump promised as a candidate, we would note that before and after the election Trump has frequently talked about the need for more new wall because immigrants simply go around the existing wall.
As for Trump’s frequent campaign promise in 2016 that Mexico would pay for the wall, Trump claimed in Pennsylvania that “Mexico is paying for the wall by the way, you know that. … We’re putting a charge on where the cars go through and it will more than pay for the wall.” Trump mentioned a border toll in August, adding to a long list of ways Trump has dubiously claimed that Mexico will pay for the wall. But to be clear, no such toll currently exists.
#36: Deporting Criminals
Trump wrongly claimed that Biden would “release criminal aliens,” adding specifically in Sanford, Florida that Biden’s position is, “If you’re a murderer, if you’re a rapist … just come on in.” Instead of releasing “criminal aliens,” Biden has pledged to halt deportations for 100 days and deport only felons after that. “Biden will direct enforcement efforts toward threats to public safety and national security, while ensuring that individuals are treated with the due process to which they are entitled and their human rights are protected,” his campaign website says.
#37: Catch and Release
Trump made false claims about so-called “catch-and release” for those crossing the border illegally. “My opponent has put forward a radical plan to eliminate U.S. borders by implementing catch and release programs,” he said in Pennsylvania. “You know what catch and release is? You catch a murderer, you catch a rapist coming across our border, and you release him. … And you say, ‘I’m sorry. Three years from now, please come back for a court case.’ Nobody comes back.” That’s not what Biden has called for, and actually, Trump administration officials have said about 50% of those released pending immigration hearings appear in court. Immigration experts say the figure is higher.
As we’ve written, Biden’s plan calls for ending “prolonged detention” for those who cross the border illegally and instead using “proven alternatives to detention and non-profit case management programs, which support migrants as they navigate their legal obligations” as “the best way to ensure that they attend all required immigration appointments.” He also supports an end to for-profit detention centers. In terms of prosecuting illegal border-crossers, policy recommendations from Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders call for scrapping the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, which criminally prosecuted all unauthorized border-crossers and separated families, and focusing on prosecuting “human traffickers, smugglers” and other serious criminals.
#38: Health Care for Immigrants
Trump wrongly claimed that Biden “raised his hand” in support of “free health care for illegal aliens.” On health care, Biden has said those who are now in the country illegally should be able to buy insurance, without any subsidies — not get it for “free” — on the Affordable Care Act exchanges, as we’ve written before. The Biden-Sanders task force also “recommends extending Affordable Care Act coverage to DACA recipients.” Those are the so-called Dreamers, who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children by their parents.
Trump’s comment about Biden raising his hand refers to a June 2019 Democratic debate in which all of the candidates, including Biden, raised their hands when asked, “Raise your hand if your government plan would provide coverage for undocumented immigrants.” But the question didn’t say anything about “free” coverage, and Biden has since explained his position. About a week after that debate, he told CNN: “I think undocumented people need to have a means by which they can be covered when they’re sick,” mentioning building more clinics. “In an emergency, they should have health care. Everybody should.” Trump also claimed this “health care for the illegal aliens” would end up “decimating Medicare and destroying your Social Security.” But again, Biden has said immigrants living in the U.S. illegally should be able to buy plans, not get them for free.
#39: Nobel Peace Prize
As he often does, Trump touted the fact that he has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, and lamented that the media coverage he has received for that honor is dwarfed by the press President Barack Obama got in 2009. In Pennsylvania, Trump claimed, “I got nominated for three Nobel Peace prizes” but “the press didn’t cover it.” Trump made the same claim in Sanford, Florida, adding, “Remember when Obama got it right at the beginning. … It was the biggest story you’ve ever seen.”
Trump wasn’t nominated for three Nobel Prizes; he was nominated by three people for the same prize. And it’s not the big deal Trump makes it out to be. There were 318 candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize for 2020 — 211 individuals and 107 organizations. On its website, the Nobel committee warns not to attach too much importance to a nomination, stating, “Any person or organization can be nominated by anyone eligible to nominate,” the committee states. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has no input into submissions, though it decides who actually wins the prize. “To simply be nominated is therefore not an endorsement or extended honour to imply affiliation with the Nobel Peace Prize or its related institutions,” the committee states. Obama did get a lot of press in 2009 — not for his nomination, which was largely ignored — but for actually winning the prize. Trump did not win it.
#40: Iran Nuclear Deal
Trump has claimed repeatedly that, as part of the Iran nuclear deal, the U.S. gave Iran “$150 billion, $1.8 billion in cash for nothing.” As we have written, the nuclear deal with Iran did lift a freeze on Iran’s assets that were held largely in foreign, not U.S., banks. And, to be clear, that money belonged to Iran. Secondly, $150 billion is a high-end estimate. The U.S. Treasury Department estimated the number at about $50 billion in “usable liquid assets.”
The $1.8 billion in cash that Trump mentioned is from an unrelated settlement reached by the Obama administration to resolve a dispute that dates to 1979, when Iran paid the U.S. $400 million for military equipment it never received. The U.S. refused to provide the equipment after the Shah of Iran was overthrown in 1979. The U.S. agreed in 2016 to pay $1.7 billion to settle a claim Iran had filed against the U.S. in an international tribunal in The Hague.
#41: Russia Investigation
Trump repeatedly claimed that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election was “a fake witch hunt,” and falsely accused the Obama administration of “spying on our campaign.” As we have written, there was ample evidence to justify opening an investigation, and the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General report on the origins of the investigation found no evidence of illegal “spying” — either before or after the FBI opened the investigation.
That report, which was released in December 2019, said the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation July 31, 2016, into whether individuals associated with the Trump campaign were coordinating with the Russian government based on information from a “Friendly Foreign Government.” George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, told the foreign official that “the Trump team had received some kind of suggestion from Russia that it could assist … with the anonymous release of information during the campaign that would be damaging to Mrs. [Hillary] Clinton,” the report said.
The special counsel’s report found that Russian government agents carried out an extensive social media campaign and hacking operation designed to damage Clinton’s campaign and help elect Trump. In an op-ed after issuing his report, Mueller called Russia’s actions “a threat to America’s democracy” and said it was “critical that they be investigated and understood.” Likewise, the inspector general concluded that the investigation “was opened for an authorized investigative purpose and with sufficient factual predication.” So it was hardly a “witch hunt,” even if the investigation “did not establish that the Campaign coordinated or conspired with the Russian government in its election-interference activities,” as Mueller’s report said.
As for spying, the inspector general report said: “We did not find any documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the FBl’s decision to conduct these operations. Additionally, we found no evidence that the FBI attempted to place any CHSs [confidential human sources] within the Trump campaign, recruit members of the Trump campaign as CHSs, or task CHSs to report on the Trump campaign.”
Trump falsely claimed he “raised $130 billion a year from other countries” in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization “that weren’t paying their bills.” “And that goes up to $410 billion,” he said. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Canada and European NATO allies are estimated to have increased their collective defense spending by $130 billion from 2016 to 2020 — not per year. And $400 billion is how much more they are projected to spend combined by the end of 2024 — not annually. What those nations spend is not a “bill” or direct payment to NATO, but rather their own defense spending.
Trump repeatedly embellished his administration’s record on dealing with ISIS and falsely portrayed the performance of the Obama administration. In one example, on Oct. 13, he said, “we took down 100% of the ISIS caliphate. And when I took over, that caliphate was all over the place. It was a mess.” As we have written, according to figures provided by Trump’s own administration, about half of the territory held by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, had been regained under Obama. In a Dec. 21, 2017, briefing, Brett McGurk, then-special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter ISIS, said that about 98% of the Islamic State land had been recovered by coalition forces, and 50% of that recovery had happened in 2017.
Personal Attacks on Biden
In the final weeks of the campaign, Trump has used his rallies — as he did in Iowa — to revive a false narrative that Biden “went to Ukraine and threatened to withhold $1 billion in aid if they did not fire the prosecutor that was investigating his son and the company that his son worked for.”
As we have reported more than once, Biden traveled to Kyiv as vice president and warned Ukraine’s then-president, Petro Poroshenko, that the U.S. would withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees until Ukraine removed its prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin. But Biden didn’t go rogue, and it wasn’t a “quid pro quo,” as Trump often has claimed. Biden was carrying out the Obama administration’s policy to address corruption in Ukraine. The international community and anti-corruption advocates in Ukraine were also calling for Shokin to be removed from office for his failure to prosecute corruption.
At the time, Biden’s son, Hunter, was a board member for the Burisma Group, one of the biggest private gas companies in Ukraine. But there is no evidence that Hunter Biden was being investigated at the time of Shokin’s removal, which came a few months after Joe Biden visited Kyiv on Dec. 9, 2015, and dangled the prospect of future U.S. aid if the country rid itself of the “cancer of corruption.” Yuriy Lutsenko, who served as Ukraine’s top prosecutor from 2016 to 2019, told Bloomberg News that Mykola Zlochevsky, who ran Burisma, and others were being investigated in 2014 for an alleged money-laundering transaction in 2013 that had occurred before Hunter Biden joined the board in mid-2014.
#45: Biden’s Income
Trump wrongly claimed that while Biden “live[d] on a politician’s salary for his whole life … he lives in beautiful houses all over the place” and must be “corrupt” to afford such a lifestyle. In August 2019, Forbes estimated that Biden and his wife, Jill, were worth $9 million. The magazine said their wealth included two Delaware homes valued at $4 million combined (including a vacation house in Rehoboth, Delaware), cash and investments worth around $4 million, and a federal pension worth more than $1 million.
But there is no evidence Biden earned money through any kind of corruption. Rather, he has had some lucrative years in the private sector after serving in the Senate and as vice president. Forbes said Biden received $2.4 million in speaking fees and $1.8 million from book tour events. It also said he brought in $775,000 from the University of Pennsylvania, where he is the Benjamin Franklin professor of practice and where he heads the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy & Global Engagement. It said Jill Biden added $700,000 in speaking fees. The Washington Post detailed Biden’s post-government income in a June 2019 story on how he “reaped millions in income since leaving the vice presidency.”
#46: Biden ‘Abandoned’ Scranton
Trying to dissuade Pennsylvania voters from supporting Biden, who was born in the state, Trump said, “They say he was born in Scranton, but he left. He left. He abandoned you.” Biden’s family did move from Scranton to Delaware in 1953, when he was around 10 or 11 years old. Delaware is the state Biden represented in the U.S. Senate for 36 years, and it’s where he has lived even longer. But even after Biden’s family moved, he continued to have a relationship with the city and state where he was born. In a 2010 GQ interview, Biden said: “I go back a lot. For the last thirty-five years, any time Scranton needs something… I don’t know how to say no to them. For real. I really don’t. You know, it’s still home.”
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