He responded to a series of tough questions from Pennsylvania voters, and some more from moderator George Stephanopoulos, much like he responds to easy questions from his favorite conservative television hosts — with a barrage of dishonesty.
Trump made at least 22 false or misleading claims over the hour-and-a-half event, according to our preliminary count.
The coronavirus pandemic
Downplaying the virusTrump was asked why he downplayed the coronavirus. He responded, “Well, I didn’t downplay it. I actually — in many ways I up-played it in terms of action.”Facts First: This is ridiculous spin. Trump admitted to journalist Bob Woodward in a recorded March 19 interview that “I always wanted to play it down” (he claimed he did so to keep the public calm).
And we didn’t need Woodward’s tape to know Trump had downplayed it; this was obvious even back in February and March, when Trump kept wrongly claiming that the situation was under control and that the virus was akin to the flu.
Trump’s praise of ChinaPressed about how he had initially said China was doing a good job handling the virus, Trump suggested he had not issued such praise: “No, I didn’t say one way or the other.
I’m not saying one way or the other.”Facts First: Trump repeatedly and effusively praised China and leader Xi Jinping for their handling of the virus situation earlier this year. You can read a list of examples here.SeniorsTrump said: “So I didn’t say anything bad about President Xi initially, because nobody knew much about the disease. Nobody knew the seniors are susceptible.”Facts First: It’s just not true nobody knew seniors were susceptible to the virus at the time of Trump’s praise.
Chinese officials emphasized in January that elderly people with chronic diseases were at the highest risk of serious illness. January media reports around the world talked about the risk to seniors; a January 23 report in the New York Times was headlined “Coronavirus Deaths Are So Far Mostly Older Men, Many With Previous Health Issues.” Beginning in February, a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, had one of the first known outbreaks of the virus in the US.Biden and the pandemicTrump claimed opponent Joe Biden said in March that the pandemic was “totally over-exaggerated.
“Facts First: We could not find any evidence of Biden saying anything like this in March.Biden did say in late February and early March that people shouldn’t “panic” about the virus, but even conservative Breitbart News noted that Biden added in his February comments that “coronavirus is a serious public health challenge” and in March that people shouldn’t “downplay” the situation. In other words, he wasn’t saying that it was being overblown.
On March 12, Biden delivered a sharp rebuke of Trump’s handling of the pandemic and introduced his own plan for addressing the crisis.MasksTrump claimed that “a lot of people think that masks are not good.” Asked who these people are, Trump said “waiters” — citing the example of a person he said had been serving him but also touching their mask, which “can’t be good.
“Facts First: There is an overwhelming scientific consensus that masks help reduce transmission of the coronavirus. And there is no actual evidence that “waiters” generally disagree with this consensus;
the example Trump cited did not involve even a single waiter expressing negative sentiments about masks.Trump was correct when he said that prominent experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, initially advised people against wearing masks. (Fauci later said that he had been worried about a shortage of protective equipment for health care workers.)
But that doesn’t mean there is a real debate now.”These face masks are the most important, powerful public health tool we have,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Robert Redfield testified to a Senate committee on Wednesday, urging “all Americans” to embrace them because of the “clear scientific evidence that they work, and they are our best defense.
” He argued that masks might even be a better defense against someone getting Covid-19 than taking a vaccine.VentilatorsTrump repeated his familiar claim that the “cupboards were bare” of ventilators when he took office.Facts First: This is not at all true.
Trump inherited more than 16,000 ventilators.A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed to CNN in late June that there had been about 19,000 ventilators in the national stockpile for “many years,
” including 16,660 ventilators that were ready for immediate use in March 2020. The spokesperson confirmed that none of those 16,660 were purchased by the Trump administration.
As of June 23, the Trump administration had distributed 10,760 ventilators during the coronavirus pandemic, a smaller number than the administration inherited.You can read a longer fact check here.
Testing and casesTold that the US has 20% of the world’s coronavirus cases and deaths, Trump said, “We have 20% of the cases because of the fact that we do much more testing. If we wouldn’t do testing, you wouldn’t have cases. You would have very few cases.”Facts First: Testing does not create cases; it reveals them.
And testing is a tool used to help prevent the spread of the virus and reduce the number of actual cases. You can read a longer fact check here.Travel restrictions on China and EuropeTrump claimed that he put “a ban on” China and “a ban on” Europe to address the pandemic.Facts First: While Trump did restrict travel from China and from much of Europe, neither policy was a “ban”: both made exemptions for travel from US citizens, permanent residents, many of their families, and some others — and the restrictions on Europe exempted entire European countries.Exemptions from the restrictionsTrump said of his critics’ comments about the travel restrictions:
“They say that we allowed certain people in, it’s true — but they were American citizens.”Facts First: Again, citizens were not the only people exempted. Also omitted from the prohibition were permanent residents; spouses of citizens and permanent residents; parents or guardians of unmarried citizens or permanent residents under age 21; unmarried siblings under age 21 of unmarried citizens or permanent residents under age 21; and various other categories of people.