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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

AP Fact check: Rhetoric from Trump, Biden in the non-debate

The AP does a fact check of questions answered by US President Donald Trump and presidential candidate Joe Biden as they faced voters on separate stages in different cities.

By: AP | Washington | October 16, 2020 6:11:18 pm
Two weeks to go for polls, Trump narrows gap, but Biden still has the edgePresident Donald Trump and Joe Biden during a town-hall-style event on Thursday. (The New York Times)

President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden faced inquisitive voters on separate stages in different cities in a substitute for the debate that was meant to be.

Here’s how some of the rhetoric Thursday night compared with the facts in the prime-time events and a day of campaigning:


Trump, answering questions in Miami on NBC: “We had the greatest economy in the history of our country.”

The facts: The numbers show it wasn’t the greatest in U.S. history.

Did the U.S. have the most jobs on record before the coronavirus pandemic? Sure, the population had grown. The 3.5 per cent unemployment rate before the recession was at a half-century low, but the percentage of people working or searching for jobs was still below a 2000 peak.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Romer looked at Trump’s economic growth record this month.

Growth under Trump averaged 2.48 per cent annually before the pandemic, only slightly better than the 2.41 per cent gains achieved during Barack Obama’s second term. By contrast, the economic expansion that began in 1982 during Ronald Reagan’s presidency averaged 4.2 per cent a year.

Election fraud

Trump: “When I see thousands of ballots dumped in a garbage can and they happen to have my name on it? I’m not happy about it.” – from Miami.

The facts: Nobody has seen that. Contrary to Trump’s repeated, baseless attacks on voting security, voting and election fraud is vanishingly rare. No cases involving thousands of ballots dumped in the trash have been reported in this election.

Trump has cited a case of military ballots marked for him being thrown in the trash in Pennsylvania as evidence of a possible plot to steal the election. But he leaves out the details: County election officials say that the seven ballots, along with two unopened ones, were accidentally tossed in an elections office in a Republican-controlled county by a contract worker and that authorities were swiftly called.

The Brennan Center for Justice in 2017 ranked the risk of ballot fraud at 0.00004per cent to 0.0009per cent, based on studies of past elections.

In the five states that regularly send ballots to all voters, there have been no major cases of fraud or difficulty counting the votes.


Biden, answering questions in Philadelphia on ABC: “The crime bill itself did not have mandatory sentences, except for two things, it had three strikes and you’re out, which I voted against in the crime bill.”

The facts: That’s misleading. He is understating the impact of the bill and the influence he brought to bear in getting it passed into law.

Biden wrote and voted for that sweeping 1994 crime bill, which included money for more prisons, expanded the use of the federal death penalty and called for a mandatory life sentence for three-time violent offenders – the so-called three strikes provision.


Biden in Philadelphia, on U.S. troops in Afghanistan: “They have more people there now, by the way, than when I left, when we left in Afghanistan.”

The facts: Not so.

The U.S. now has about 5,000 troops in Afghanistan. The troop level did not dip below 8,400 before President Barack Obama left office. The U.S. had about 8,500 troops in Afghanistan during Trump’s first several months in office.

The number of troops in Afghanistan reached 100,000 in 2010, before Obama took office. Obama did withdraw thousands of troops during his two terms, but he was unable to fulfill promises to decrease the number of troops to 5,500 toward the final years of his presidency.


Trump: “Just the other day they came out with a statement that 85 per cent of the people that wear masks catch it so … that’s what I heard and that’s what I saw.” – town-hall event in Miami.

Trump, on his rallies: “What I do is outside is a big thing. And if you look at those, people, they really are wearing masks. I’ll tell you, I looked last night in Iowa – there were many, many people wearing masks. But then you see CDC comes out with a statement that 85per cent of the people wearing masks catch it.” – Fox Business interview.

Trump, looking out over his crowd: “Look at all the masks. You know, they keep saying, ‘nobody wears a mask, wear the mask.’ Although then they come out with things today. Did you see CDC? That 85per cent of the people wearing a mask catch it, OK?” – remarks at rally during the day in Greenville, North Carolina.

The facts: He’s botching the study’s findings, repeatedly. The study cited, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, did not find that 85 per cent of mask wearers catch COVID-19. If that were the case, the majority of Americans would be infected.

It found something quite different: that 85 per cent of the small group of COVID-19 patients surveyed, about 150 on this question, reported they had worn a mask often or always around the time they would have become infected.

Trump, reacting to the news that people associated with the Biden campaign on a recent flight with Harris tested positive for COVID-19: “We extend our best wishes, which is more than they did to me, but that’s OK.” – Greenville rally.

The facts: That’s false.

Hours after Trump’s early morning announcement on October 2 that he had tested positive, both Biden and Harris sent their wishes for a quick recovery via Twitter.

“Jill and I send our thoughts to President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump for a swift recovery”, Biden wrote. “We will continue to pray for the health and safety of the president and his family.”

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