Fact-checkers assess candidates' statements, find Trump had most misleading statements
By Miriam Raftery
View video of President Trump's hour-and-a-half long acceptance speech or scroll down for highlights and analysis.
August 28, 2020 (Washington D.C.) – President Donald Trump made his case for reelection during his acceptance speech to the Republican National Convention last night. The President delivered his formal acceptance from the south lawn of the White House, but earlier in the week surprised delegates with a live appearance at the convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Trump touted his record, stating, he was “ proud of the extraordinary progress we have made together over the last four years; and brimming with confidence in the bright future we will build for America over the NEXT four years.” The President also sharply criticized Democrats in general and rival Joe Biden in particular and sought to position his party as the party of law and order.
However, independent fact-checkers found he exaggerated or misstated much of his administration’s record on issues such as battling the coronavirus, unemployment and addressing racial inequities. He also misrepresented some, though not all, of Biden’s positions, according to fact checks by CNN and Politifact.
The Republican and Democratic presidential conventions presented a study in contrasts in many othe ways.
Democrats held the first-ever virtual convention to protect participants due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Slick videos on issues ranging from healthcare to racial justice to school shootings replaced live presentations, though video speeches were delivered by prominent officials including former President Barack Obama, for whom Biden served as Vice President, and Hillary Clinton, the prior Democratic presidential nominee. Democratic delegates cast votes with videos showcasing each state.
Republicans held their speeches before a live audience packed into a hall with no social distancing, chanting “Four more years” to speakers who included several members of the president’s family, Ambassador Nikki Haley who insisted that America is not a racist nation, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Conspicuously absent were former president George W. Bush and past GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who have refused to endorse Trump. Far from social distancing, President Trump was filmed mingling in a crowd at the RNC convention, not wearing a mask or social distancing.
The Republican Party, for the first time since it began convening in 1856, opted not to provide a party platform – the party’s official position on issues, customarily crafted by delegates. Official, the party stands for no specific positions, instead stating, ““The Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the president’s America-first agenda,” essentially providing unconditional backing of any Trump actions. Officially the party said it dumped a platform due to the difficulty of convening delegates amid the coronavirus. However the Democratic Party managed to create a 92-page Democratic platform crafted by delegates remotely with detailed positions on a wide range of issues despite having no live convention this year.
As for the veracity of candidates’ statements, fact-checkers found Biden’s speech which promised of “fact over fiction” to be largely true, though the Poynter Institute found Biden actually underestimated the number of Americans infected with COVID-19 during Trump’s presidency as well as the number estimated to lose health insurance due to losing jobs during the pandemic.
Trump’s speech included some factual claims about his record, primarily on foreign policy, such as continuing the Obama administration’s effort to complete ouster of ISIS terrorists from Iraq, killing a major ISIS leader in a drone strike, and moving the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.
But Trump stretched the truth repeatedly in his favor and unlike Biden, told many provable falsehoods, primarily on domestic issue.
Here are a few of the President's major statements and how they stacked up with fact checkers:
Economy and jobs
Statement: “Over the past three months, we have gained over 9 million jobs, a new record.”
This statement ignores the fact that the nation lost 22 million jobs due to COVID-19 shutdowns. The 9 million jobs were due to partially reopening closed-down businesses. Only about 40% of those had been restored as of July, the last number for which figures are available. The U.S. unemployment rate hit 14.7% in April, the worst since 1948, and remains above 10% today.
Statement: “Biden voted for the NAFTA disaster, the single worst trade deal ever enacted” and also supported China’s entry in the World Trade Organizations.”
Fact: It is true that Biden voted for both of these, and both did lead to a fall in American manufacturing jobs, primarily from the China deal, however this was partially offset by some job gains and the exact amount of job losses varies depending on the estimate.
COVID-19 crisis and healthcare
Statement: Trump claimed the U.S. “has among the lowest case fatality rates of many major country” from COVID-19.
This is false. The U.S. fatality rate is 3.1%, which according to Johns Hopkins University, the nation’s top medical school, the U.S. has one of the highest death rates at 54.9 deaths per every 100,000 people. That’s worse than all but 10 nations on earth. Even Mexico and Haiti, a nation the President once called a “shithole country,” have lower death rates from the virus. As for total cases, the U.S. has by far the most cases of COVID-19 of any country in the world.
Statement: “We developed, from scratch, the largest and most advanced testing system in the world” for coronavirus.
Fact: The U.S. was slower than other nations to roll out tests because the U.S. refused to allow tests approved by the World Health Organization and used successful in other nations. After developing tests, the U.S. has still tested a lower percentage of the population than most other countries and the Centers for Disease Control under Trump drew criticism this week from medical experts after calling for tests to be discontinued on patients without symptoms even if known to be exposed; exposed patients can spread the disease for days before showing symptoms.
Statement: We will produce a vaccine before the end of the year, or maybe even sooner.”
Fact: This is mostly true. While the administration has taken steps to expedite approval of a vaccine and several are now in the third phase of testing on thousands of patients, protocols to assure that a vaccine is safe and effective take time that could extend access of a proven vaccine until early next year. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, essentially affirms the essence of Trump’s statement. “We feel cautiously optimistic that we will have a vaccine by the end of this year and as we go into 2020,” Dr. Fauci says.
Statement: Trump said he signed executive orders to reduce drug prices.
It’s true he signed orders and supports allowing importation of prescription drugs form nations such as Canada. However some of his orders aiming to cut drug costs face potential court challenges and the administration backed down on one proposal after determining it would raise Medicare premiums. The President has pledged to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which provided 40 million uninsured Americans with healthcare and protected those with preexisting conditions. While he has made vague statements supporting healthcare reforms, in four years in office he has not put forward any healthcare reform plan to reduce costs of premiums or make healthcare accessible and affordable to more Americans, though costs have continued to rise sharply.
Racial relations and public safety
Statement: “I have done more for the African-American community than any president since Abraham Lincoln…”
Facts: President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, the two most significant pieces of legislation to help African-Americans. The Voting Rights Act has been gutted by the Supreme Court and Trump has opposed Congressional efforts to restore those cherished voting protections. A Quinnipiac University Poll from Black citizens voiced a 93% disapproval of Trump, with just 4% supporting his candidacy.
Statements: Trump said our nation is at a "moment of crisis" due to "violence in our cities" resulting from protests. Trump has said Biden supports defunding police and has suggested that under a Biden presidency, violent protests would not be curtailed.
Fact: Trump denounced acts of violence by protesters and rioters, but made no mention of violence by police that ignited protests, such as the kiling of George Floyd or the most recent incident in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where a white officer shot an unarmed black man seven times in front of his children, leaving the man paralyzed. At a protest over the Kenosha shooting, an armed counter-protester shot and killed two protestors. On Thursday, Biden's vice presidential running mate, Kamala Harris, issued a video statement condemning acts of violence on all sides. "We must always defend peaceful protest and peaceful protesters. We should not confuse them with those looting and committing acts of violence, including the shooter, who was arrested for murder." Biden has called for linking federal law enforcement funding to policing reforms to reduce racial disparities. Biden has actually indicated he supports an increase in community policing, but also supports shifting some funds from military gear for police into investments in social services.
Statement: Trump said Democrats “will demolish the suburbs,” referring to a Biden plan to reinstate an Obama rule aimed at preventing discrimination in housing.
Fact: Experts have indicated restoring the regulations would not mandate building any low-income housing or force zoning changes, but would prohibit discrimination based on race.
Statement: "We obliterated 100 percent of the ISIS caliphate.”
Facts: The analytics and consultancy firm IHS Markit estimated that the ISIS caliphate in Iraq and Syria covered about 35,000 square miles near its height in January 2015. By the time Trump took office in January 2017, ISIS-controlled territory had already shrunk to about 23,300 square miles. At the end of Trump’s first year in office, Brett McGurk, special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter ISIS, said that about 98 percent of the land had been recaptured by coalition forces. So Trump deserves credit for nearly completely ousting ISIS, though this was a continuation of a partly successful effort initiated by the Obama administration.
Statement: Trump accused Biden of voting for the Iraq War.
It's true that Biden voted for the Iraq invasion in 2003. However Trump also supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq in a 2002 interview with Howard Stern. Trump's Vice President, Mike Pence, also voted for the Iraq War while in Congress.
Fact: Biden “ has pledged a $4 trillion tax hike on almost all American families.”
This is false. Biden has specifically pledged not to raise taxes on anyone earning less than $400,000 a year. The Tax Policy Center estimated than over 90% of the tax increase would be on the wealthiest 20% of earners.
Statement: Biden “vowed to oppose school choice and close all charter schools, ripping away the ladder of opportunity for Black and Hispanic children.”
The Democratic platform does not call for banning all charter schools, but does support halting federal funding of for-profit charter schools. Democrats want to tie renewal of charter school contracts with school districts to performance in serving the most needy and under-served students, a plan that intends to aid poor and minority children. As for Biden, he supports some alternatives to traditional public schools including letting parents send kids to public magnet schools or high-performing public charters. Parents who prefer private schools such as religious institutions could opt to pay for those options.
Border security and immigration
Statement:” We have built 300 miles of border wall.”
Fact: Before Trump took office, the nation’s 2,000 mile long border had 654 feet of fencing or other barriers. Trump’s administration has added just 5 new miles, though it has fortified many other sections such s replacing fencing with a wall in parts of San Diego County.
Statement: Trump held a naturalization ceremony to welcome new immigrants during the RNC convention to suggest support for immigrants.
Fact: Trump has a record of verbally attacking immigrants, calling Mexicans “rapists and murders” and implementing a “Muslim ban” thrown out by the courts. He has been blocked thus far by courts in his efforts to eliminate protections for “dreamers” or young immigrants raised in the U.S, whom Trump has sought to deport. The Trump administration has sought to keep out asylum seekers fleeing violence and the Trump administration policies have separated thousands of immigrant families from children at the border, also drawing controversy for putting immigrants including children in cage-like detention enclosures. Biden has pledged to support comprehensive immigration reforms.
Energy and climate change
Statement: :”Biden has promised to abolish the production of American oil, coal, shale and natural gas, laying waste the economy (of several states).”
Fact: Biden has called for a transition to clean energy over several years including creating clean energy jobs to replace jobs lost in fossil fuels, in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions which contribute to climate change, which Trump has denounced as a hoax. The President withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Change accord, which had been agreed upon by virtually ever other nation.
Statement: Trump claimed he signed Veterans Choice.
Fact: This law was actually signed by President Obama. Trump did sign a measure expanding the Veterans Choice program, however.
View President Donald Trump’s acceptance speech: https://www.c-span.org/convention/?party=rnc&day=1598241600
Read transcript of acceptance speech:
Fact checks of Trump acceptance speech:
Highlights of additional RNC 2020 convention speeches:
First Lady Melania Trump https://www.c-span.org/convention/?party=rnc&day=1598328000
Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State https://www.c-span.org/convention/?party=rnc&day=1598328000
Vice President Mike Pence https://www.c-span.org/convention/?party=rnc&day=1598414400
Nikki Haley, former U.N. ambassador: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZtXp1TsW6Uc