Fact-checking the final Trump-Biden presidential debate
President Trump interrupted far less but told no fewer falsehoods in his second and final debate with former Vice President Joe Biden. Much like in their first debate, Biden also veered from the facts occasionally, but not as much as Trump.
President Trump interrupted far less but told no fewer falsehoods in his second and final debate with former Vice President Joe Biden. The president shaded or mangled the truth on topics ranging from the coronavirus to North Korea. He also leveled baseless allegations that Biden profited from foreign business interests.
Much like in their first debate, Biden also veered from the facts occasionally, but not as much as Trump. Here’s a look at where each went off course.
No, it was not ‘expected’ that 2 million would die from COVID-19.
Trump: “2.2 million people, modeled out, were expected to die.”
This statement falsely draws from early estimates about the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, the White House projected that between 1.5 million and 2.2 million people could die, if there were no precautions taken — no social distancing, no lockdowns, no masks. With such interventions, the projection showed, the death toll could be between 100,000 and 240,000. Virtually no one expected that no action would be taken.
Seven months later, with more than 220,000 dead and public health experts warning about a new wave of cases, the country looks likely to exceed 240,000 lives lost. A Columbia University study released this week said there were 130,000 to 210,000 avoidable COVID-19 deaths — far from the triumph that Trump claims.
No, Americans won’t be getting vaccinated within weeks.
Trump: “We have a vaccine that’s coming, that’s ready, that’s going to be announced within weeks.”
The president has repeatedly said a vaccine is around the corner, even suggesting it could be rushed to completion before election day. But scientists and public health experts have said consistently that’s an unlikely timetable.
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said this week that he’s “guardedly optimistic” that a vaccine could be ready by the end of the year. Then it’s a question of how quickly a vaccine could be distributed. Robert Redfield, head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently testified to Congress that there won’t be enough vaccine doses to restore “regular life” in the country until perhaps the third quarter of next year.
No, Trump hasn’t been Russia’s toughest adversary.
Trump: “No one has been tougher than me on Russia.”
The Trump administration has slapped sanctions on some Russian actors in response to their espionage on the United States and attacks on Russian dissidents overseas, and the United States has expelled a number of Russian spies. Often, however, the actions are taken over the president’s objections. And he slow-walked several sanctions on Russia that Congress ordered him to impose. Trump has declined to publicly criticize Russian leader Vladimir Putin, and said he believed Putin’s word that Russia had not interfered in the 2016 U.S. election — despite the U.S. intelligence community’s findings to the contrary.
No, there isn’t proof that Biden is connected to corruption in Ukraine or China.
Trump: “I don’t make money from China. You do. I don’t make money from Ukraine. You do.”
The president and his allies have been hammering Biden for his son Hunter’s overseas business dealings in Ukraine and China, but they have yet to produce any clear evidence that Biden misused his authority as vice president for his family’s profit. They also haven’t demonstrated that Biden personally benefited financially. Mostly they’ve relied on ominous insinuations from emails allegedly obtained from Hunter’s abandoned laptop. Biden has denied any wrongdoing. A Republican-controlled Senate committee recently concluded an investigation without substantiating the president’s allegations.
No, Biden wouldn’t ban fracking.
Trump: “He was against fracking. He said it.”
Biden’s comments about fracking have varied some. In a debate during the Democratic presidential contest, Biden suggested he’d permit existing fracking projects but would allow “no new fracking.” His campaign later said he meant no new fracking on federal land, which accounts for a fraction of the fracking nationwide. Biden recently revisited the issue in Pittsburgh — the battleground state of Pennsylvania has a number of jobs related to fracking — and said, “I am not banning fracking, no matter how many times Donald Trump lies about me.”
No, not everyone was able to keep their healthcare plan under Obamacare.
Biden: “They did not lose their insurance unless they chose [that] they wanted to go to something else.”
The 2010 Affordable Care Act set new standards for health insurance, barring plans from turning away sick customers and requiring them to provide a basic set of benefits. That meant that some people who had plans that didn’t meet these standards were forced to change health insurance policies. The new plans were more comprehensive, but they often cost more, fueling frustration among some consumers who blamed the healthcare law for driving up costs.
No, Kim didn’t snub Obama; Obama wouldn’t see him.
Trump: Obama “tried to meet with him [Kim] — he wouldn’t do it.”
That’s not true. Obama refused to meet with Kim unless he met certain preconditions related to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Kim declined and no meeting was ever even proposed. It is true, as Trump said, that Obama warned Trump during the presidential transition that North Korea was possibly the most serious problem Trump would face. Initially, Trump was provocative, calling Kim “Little Rocket Man” and saying the United States was “locked and loaded.” Trump later shifted into a “bromance” with Kim, meeting him three times for summits, giving Kim the international standing he craved without curbing North Korea’s nuclear program.
No, Trump hasn’t been the second-best president for Black people.
Trump: “No one has done more for the Black community than Donald Trump ... with the exception of Abraham Lincoln.”
Saying it doesn’t make it so. The president says this often, and bases his claim on the low, pre-pandemic unemployment rates among Black Americans as well as his signing of prison-sentencing reform legislation. Trump also helped secure long-term funding for historically Black colleges and universities. But the decline in joblessness among Black people in Trump’s first years continued a years-long trend begun during the Obama administration. And the sentencing reforms also took shape in that time but were blocked by Senate Republicans until Trump took office.
More to the point, Trump’s claim ignores gains for Black citizens made under some previous presidents. Most significantly, Lyndon B. Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act and landmark programs to alleviate poverty.
No, Biden doesn’t want ‘tiny small windows’ in all buildings.
Trump: “They want to spend $100 trillion, they want to knock down buildings and build new buildings with little tiny small windows.”
All of this is false. Biden’s plan to alleviate climate change would invest $2 trillion in his first term for infrastructure using renewable energy infrastructure. Some funds would be spent to modernize offices and homes to make them more energy-efficient. Window sizes have nothing to do with it.
No, there isn’t proof that the laptop is Russian disinformation.
Biden: “That’s exactly what we’re told.”
It’s true that U.S. intelligence officials say Russia is again interfering in the U.S. presidential campaign, this time by pushing the false narrative that Biden is tied to corruption in Ukraine through his son’s former role on the board of Burisma, a natural gas company there. But it’s not clear that Russia is behind the emails, texts and photos that Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, has been promoting. Giuliani said he received copies from a Delaware computer repair shop where Hunter dropped off his laptop for repair. That’s a murky story that has raised more questions than answers, but there’s no evidence yet that the laptop is part of a Russian plot.
Staff writers Tracy Wilkinson, Noam N. Levey and Anna M. Phillips in Washington, and Tyrone Beason in Los Angeles, contributed to this report.
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