Quint Forgey and Matthew Choi
Here’s a list of the most significant false and misleading statements from the pair of White House contenders.
We’re weeks away from a Covid-19 vaccine.
Trump defended his administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic by claiming a Covid-19 vaccine was only weeks away from being available. But several of his own health experts have cast doubt on that timeline. Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said a vaccine could be ready by next month, but it wouldn’t likely be available to the majority of Americans until the summer or fall of next year. Trump himself previously claimed a vaccine wouldn’t be available to “every American” until at least April — and that’s on an optimistic timeline.
Potential vaccine trials are likely to produce data within months soon enough to justify an emergency use authorization. The soonest results are not expected until late October at the earliest. But Moncef Slaoui, head of the administration’s efforts to hasten vaccine development, has said it is “very unlikely” a vaccine will be granted an emergency use authorization by early November.
Biden’s son Hunter acted improperly by receiving money from foreign sources.
Trump and his allies first began attacking Hunter Biden amid the Ukraine scandal that resulted in the president’s impeachment. Republicans’ core allegation was that Joe Biden abused his power as vice president by seeking the dismissal of Ukraine’s former prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, in 2016 — all while Biden’s son Hunter sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma.
But in pushing for Shokin’s ouster, Biden was advancing the interests of official U.S. foreign policy, other Western nations and anti-corruption advocates who viewed Shokin as corrupt. Shokin’s investigation of Burisma had reportedly long been dormant by the time he was forced from his post in Kiev, and there is no indication that the Bidens acted improperly with regard to Ukraine.
More recently, Trump has promoted dubious claims of foreign business dealings by Hunter Biden. Those accusations are based on a new report summarizing the findings of a controversial, highly politicized Republican Senate investigation into the Bidens. But the report, released last week, relies heavily on vague assessments that have already been made public, and it has produced little new evidence of wrongdoing.
And in alleging Hunter Biden received millions of dollars from the wife of Moscow’s late mayor Yury Luzhkov, Trump also fails to mention that he himself sought to do business with Luzhkov’s government in the late 1990s, according to POLITICO. Trump was pursuing high-profile real-estate deals in Russia as recently as 2016, including a proposed Trump Tower Moscow.
Biden is against “law and order.”
Trump said racial tension was at a higher boiling point during the Obama-Biden presidency than during the anti-racism protests that sprung up in cities across the country this year. He also claimed that Biden is beholden to leftists calling for the defunding of the police.
This is untrue. Biden has repeatedly condemned violence by protesters and police alike and voiced his overall support for law enforcement. Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris has separately made similar points in public appearances. Biden has rejected defunding police but proposed conditional federal funding to ensure police departments implement standards for decency.
Still, Trump has gained the support of several prominent police organizations — a fact Trump has used to portray himself as a “law and order” president.
“There was unity” before the pandemic.
Trump claimed “everything was good” in the United States prior to the coronavirus pandemic, insisting that a spirit of national unity was spreading across the country. “There was unity going to happen. People were calling me for the first time in years,” he said. The president has made similar arguments in the closing months of the general election campaign, saying in an August speech that before the pandemic, “everybody was doing well, and we were actually coming together.”
Washington was bitterly divided in the weeks leading up to the Covid-19 outbreak in the U.S. The president’s relationship with congressional Democrats had seemingly hit an all-time low amid the Ukraine scandal that resulted in his impeachment. For reference, Trump’s administration declared a public health emergency at the end of January, but it was not until early February that his Senate trial finally concluded with his acquittal.
He came up with a comprehensive plan to replace Obamacare.
Trump has long vowed to replace Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act, with his own plan that he said will protect people with preexisting conditions. But he failed to repeal Obamacare after being elected in 2016, when Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress, and he has not produced a substantive alternative to the landmark health care law. In June, the Trump administration backed a Supreme Court challenge to Obamacare, scheduled to be argued a week after Election Day, that could strip health insurance from more than 20 million Americans amid a pandemic.
After promising for months to unveil a new health care proposal before the election, Trump announced last week his “America First” plan — made up of two largely symbolic executive orders that pledge to ban “surprise” medical bills and protect people with pre-existing conditions, even if the Supreme Court overturns Obamacare. Trump also said he would send $ 200 drug discount cards to 33 million Medicare beneficiaries to help pay prescription drug co-pays. His plan is far from a comprehensive legislative replacement for Obamacare, and it is unlikely to yield new protections for Americans. Trump has signed other recent executive orders on drug pricing and rural health care.
Trump is the first president “to leave office having fewer jobs.”
Biden claimed that Trump, if he is not reelected in November, will be the first U.S. president to leave office having the number of American jobs diminish under his watch. “He’s going to be the first president of the United States to leave office having fewer jobs in his administration than when he became president. … First one in American history,” Biden said, referring to the economic devastation associated with the coronavirus pandemic.
But that distinction actually belongs to Herbert Hoover, according to the Associated Press. Hoover lost his bid for a second term to Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 amid historic job losses caused by the Great Depression. Federal employment data stretching back to 1939 indicates that no president since then has left the White House with fewer American jobs than when he entered it, the AP reported, and Trump is expected to be the first president to have lost jobs in his first term since Hoover.
He paid “millions of dollars” in federal income taxes.
Trump said he paid “millions of dollars of income tax” — a claim that contradicts a recent New York Times report on his financial history. The Times reported this week that Trump only paid $ 750 in federal income taxes in both 2016 and 2017, and that he had paid no income taxes whatsoever in 10 of the past 15 years because he declared he had lost much more money than he had made.
Trump denied the Times’ report during the debate, saying he “paid $ 38 million one year” in income taxes and “paid $ 27 million” another year. Pressed specifically on how much he paid in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017 — as opposed to state and local taxes or payroll taxes, for example — Trump responded: “Millions of dollars.”
Trump also appeared to repeat his claim that he is unable to release his tax returns because they are under federal audit, even though former IRS officials have said there is nothing stopping him from making the documents public. “You’ll see it as soon as it’s finished,” he said.
Biden called U.S. troops “stupid bastards.”
In defending himself from an Atlantic report that claimed he called U.S. veterans “losers” and “suckers,” Trump accused Biden of having called American troops “stupid bastards” on tape. Biden immediately denied that ever happening and challenged Trump to play the tape.
Trump appears to be alluding to a video broadly shared by his campaign with the then-vice president jokingly calling some members of the military “stupid bastards” during a trip to the United Arab Emirates. The servicemen and women could be seen laughing in response. The clip comes from a 2016 speech where Biden made the joke after expressing how much he appreciated their sacrifice.
Meanwhile, numerous news outlets, including Fox News and The Washington Post, have corroborated reporting by The Atlantic that Trump derided veterans and other members of the military. The White House has denied the accounts.
Hunter Biden was dishonorably discharged for abusing cocaine.
Trump fended off reports that he had disparaged the U.S. military by attacking Biden’s son Hunter’s military record. Trump said Hunter Biden was dishonorably discharged for cocaine use and “didn’t have a job until you became vice president.”
It was part of an ongoing accusation against Biden’s family of abusing his vice presidency for personal financial gain. The Biden campaign has repeatedly denounced the attacks as baseless.
Biden acknowledged on stage that Hunter had — and got over — a substance abuse problem. He failed a drug test for cocaine in 2014 and was discharged from the Navy Reserve, The Wall Street Journal reported at the time. The type of discharge was unclear, but those who leave due to failed drug tests generally do not get an honorable discharge.
A Hunter Biden statement cited by the Journal said: “I deeply regret and am embarrassed that my actions led to my administrative discharge. I respect the Navy’s decision.”
Mailmen are selling ballots.
Trump claimed mail carriers were selling ballots, along with a slew of other claims aimed at sowing doubt on the reliability of the upcoming election.
There is no evidence of any such practice. Nor has any reputable news organization reported such a phenomenon in the United States. The Constitution prohibits poll taxes.
A 2012 Washington Post report warned about potential voters offering to vote for candidates for a price, but that is not what Trump claimed occurred. Numerous studies have also found voter fraud to be far rarer in the United States than Trump has claimed.
Trump has repeatedly cast aspersions on mail-in voting as a gateway for voter fraud. He has also claimed that malign foreign agents were planning to send in fraudulent ballots to steal the election. His own intelligence community said there was no evidence for that either.
There has been “no negative effect” from his rallies.
Trump defended his decision to continue holding large-scale campaign rallies amid the coronavirus pandemic. “We’ve had no negative effect,” he said, boasting that the rallies had garnered crowds of up to 40,000 people. While Biden’s campaign has organized smaller events where attendees practice social-distancing, Trump has headlined massive rallies in mostly outdoor venues that defy his own administration’s public health guidance for curbing the spread of Covid-19.
Despite the president’s insistence that the rallies had not negatively affected his supporters’ health, officials in Tusla, Okla., reported that Trump’s rally there in June “likely contributed” to a spike in new coronavirus cases. The Tulsa rally was the first such event Trump held after the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., and it took place inside a 19,000-seat arena. Only about 6,200 people turned out for the rally, however, disappointing Trump’s campaign.
He brought foreign car companies to Ohio and Michigan.
Trump characterized himself as the savior of American manufacturing, claiming that “many car companies came in from Germany and Japan” to open plants in Michigan and Ohio on his watch. He also disparaged the previous administration as not having done anything to help car manufacturers amid a plummeting economy.
Trump has made these claims repeatedly on the campaign trail, bolstering his performance in critical swing states. Local and national news outlets in those states have also repeatedly debunked them as exaggerations or outright untrue.
There are no new plants in Ohio, The Washington Post reported. Only one major assembly plant in Michigan — owned by Jeep — has been announced during the Trump presidency, The Detroit Free Press reported. A smaller facility was also announced by the French company Navya in the state, but that would create only about 50 new jobs, the Free Press and Post reported.
Biden also retorted that “I’m the guy that brought back the automobile industry.” It’s a line his campaign has used before, referring to the Obama administration’s bailout of major car manufacturers during the Great Recession. While the administration did extend billions of dollars to General Motors and Chrysler, President George W. Bush also made federal funds available to manufacturers in 2008.
Biden called African Americans “super predators.”
Trump went after Biden’s record on criminal justice reform by mentioning a bipartisan crime bill from 1994 authored by Biden that critics have since said led to mass incarceration.
“He did a crime bill, 1994, where you called them ‘super predators,’” Trump said. “African Americans, super predators. And they’ve never forgotten it.”
Biden denied on the stage ever using the term. Hillary Clinton used the term when justifying the bill in 1994, but she did not explicitly use it to describe Black youth. Biden did say in 1993 that “we have predators on our streets” who were “beyond the pale” when pushing the bill forward.
Though the bill has provisions that remain popular with Democrats today, its legacy continues to be marred in controversy over its impact on Black incarceration.