Economy to Coronavirus: All That Was False in Trump-Biden Debate
Trump and Biden made false and misleading claims about coronavirus, mail-in ballots, economy, among others.
US President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden’s first presidential debate was replete with several incorrect, misleading and out of context statements as the two candidates met in a socially-distanced arrangement in Cleveland on Wednesday, 30 September.
The debate was categorised into five topics: ‘The Trump and Biden Records’, ‘The Supreme Court’, ‘COVID-19’, ‘Economy, Race and Violence in our Cities’ and ‘The Integrity of the Election’, according to the Commission on Presidential Debates.
Here’s a look at what both the nominees got wrong in the 90-minute long debate.
1. CLAIM: YOUNG CHILDREN AREN’T VULNERABLE TO COVID, SAYS TRUMP
While speaking about the pandemic, Trump once again reiterated his claim that young people aren’t affected by COVID-19. He said:
“We found that elderly people with heart problems and diabetes and different problems are very very vulnerable. We learnt a lot. Young children aren’t. Even younger people aren’t. We have learnt a lot.”Donald Trump, US President
WHAT’S THE FACT?
The Quint’s WebQoof team had debunked his claim earlier too and we showed that though the effect of the virus on young people is still being studied, a study by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) showed that out of 143,429 deaths in the, 754 were in the age group of 18-29, while 89 were under the age of 18.
Most fatalities also reported some underlying medical conditions such as chronic lung disease, morbid obesity, neurologic and developmental conditions, and cardiovascular conditions.
This statement is also in sharp contrast to what Trump had earlier said in an interview to Washington Post where he acknowledged the extent of the virus and said that it is impacting “plenty of young people”.
While there might be fewer fatalities for people under 18, The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that young people have emerged as the chief spreaders of the virus. WHO’s head of emerging disease and zoonosis unit, Maria Van Kerkhove, said “we are seeing young people who are dying from this virus” in a press conference last month.
2. CLAIM: ‘H1N1, YOU WERE A DISASTER,’ SAYS TRUMP
Hitting out at his opponent and the Democratic candidate Biden, Trump claimed that his handling of H1N1 that hit the US in 2009 was a “disaster”.
WHAT’S THE FACT?
In a press release dated 17 April 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the initial persons infected with the H1N1 virus.
Soon after, on 26 April 2009, Barack Obama-led government declared swine flu as a public health emergency.
In 2010, the CDC released a detailed report on the efforts taken by the government from 2009 to 2010 in combating H1N1.
“The real-time PCR test developed by CDC was cleared for use by diagnostic laboratories by FDA under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) on 28 April 2009, less than two weeks after identification of the new pandemic virus,” the report mentioned.
On September 2009, states were in a position to place orders for the H1N1 vaccine and the first doses were administered on 5 October 2009.
Further, regarding the public confidence in the government to tackle H1N1, average of two Gallup surveys showed that 67 percent of the respondents were under the category ‘Very/Somewhat.’
Another survey conducted by the same organisation in February showed that as compared to other outbreaks, public showed second highest confidence in the government to tackle H1N1.
3. CLAIM: DR FAUCI SAID MASKS ARE NOT GOOD, SAYS TRUMP
While debating on the handling of the coronavirus crisis by the Trump administration, Biden argued that if people wore masks, experts believed that it could save several lives.
To this Trump replied, “Dr Fauci said the opposite. He said very strongly. Masks are not good. Then he changed his mind, he said mask is good.”
WHAT’S THE FACT?
However, the statement is not a true representation of what Fauci said. In the initial days (late March) he did say that “people should not be walking around with masks” but as soon as the virus spread, Fauci spoke about broadening the recommendation and since then has endorsed them.
In an interview to The Street in June, he said that while masks are not 100 percent protective, it’s definitely better than not wearing a mask at all as it can help in preventing the spread of infection from an asymptomatic person to somebody else.
He further said that while physical distancing is advised at all times but it might not be possible to maintain that distance each time, hence “we combine physical separation with a mask even though mask is not 100 percent protective but it does give you some protection.”
Regarding why weren’t the citizens asked to wear masks from the very beginning, he said, “The public health community and many other people were concerned that it was at a time when personal protective equipment including the N95 masks and the surgical masks were in very short supply. And we wanted to make sure that the people, namely the health care workers.....We did not want them to be without the equipment that they needed.”
He further added that while it may appear as a contradiction, “the circumstances have changed. That’s the reason why.”
In another interview to BBC in July, while responding to Trump’s earlier claims on masks being not required to fight COVID-19, Fauci said, “But I can tell you, you'd have to say it's not helpful if people get signals about not wearing masks when we are trying to get people to universally wear masks.”
4. CLAIM: LEFT A BOOMING ECONOMY, SAYS BIDEN
While discussing the economic growth, Biden claimed that they left a “booming economy” and that Trump caused a recession.
“We left Donald Trump a booming economy, and he caused a recession,” Biden claimed.
WHAT’S THE FACT?
An article published in The New York Times in 2018 mentioned that the years of 2015 and 2016 witnessed a slowdown in business investment which was caused by plunging oil prices.
Obama’s tenure got over in 2016. The impact was mostly seen in energy and agricultural sectors with slowing down of the overall economic growth, however, it remained in the positive coordinates.
Regarding Trump’s tenure, according to a BBC analysis, the economy saw an annual average growth of 2.5 percent in the first three years of him being the president. “The last three years of the Obama administration saw a similar level of growth (2.3%) along with a significantly higher figure (5.5%) in mid-2014,” the report added.
Regarding unemployment rate, the analysis found that prior to the coronavirus pandemic, it stood at 3.5 percent which is the lowest for over 50 years.
“However, the Obama administration added more jobs to the economy, comparing similar time-frames,” the report noted.
Further, Biden’s claim of Trump “causing” recession lacks evidence.
5. CLAIM: 'HAVE A HIGHER TRADE DEFICIT WITH CHINA THAN WE DID BEFORE,' SAYS BIDEN
While slamming Trump on trade deals, Biden said that the US has a 'higher deficit' with China than they did before.
He said, "His trade deals are the same way. He talks about these great trade deals. He talks about the art of the deal. China's perfected the art of the steel. We have a higher deficit with China now than we did before."
WHAT'S THE FACT?
Trade deficit occurs when the imports of a country exceeds the value of its exports. Both imports and exports refer to goods and services here.
We scanned the document uploaded on the website of US Census Bureau which listed the complete details of imports, exports, difference between the values of imports and exports over the years.
We compared the figures for the last three years of Obama's tenure and first four years (till 2019) of Trump's administration.
A quick look through the numbers shows that the trade deficit for the year 2019 was 3,45,204.2 while for the three years under Obama government, it was:
(All figures in million of US dollars, source: US Census Bureau)
It is evident that 2015 and 2016 witnessed slightly higher trade deficit as compared to 2019 while 2014 experienced nearly the same amount when compared to 2019. But while Trump has lowered the trade deficit with China, the trade deficit with other countries has grown, mentioned an NYT article.
Election Campaigns & Voting
6. CLAIM: ‘OUTSIDE,’ SAYS TRUMP ON CONDUCTING RALLIES
Moderator Chris Wallace questioned both the leaders on their approaches towards campaigning and said, “President Trump, you're holding large rallies with crowds packed together, thousands of people.”
To which Donald Trump said, “Outside.”
WHAT’S THE FACT?
However, not all the rallies conducted by him have been outside. According to a CBS News report, Trump held an indoor rally in September which was packed with several people not wearing masks in Henderson, Nevada.
Several journalists pointed out on Twitter that Trump has conducted indoor rallies.
7. CLAIM: MAIL-IN BALLOT IS GOING TO BE A FRAUD YOU HAVE NEVER SEEN, SAYS TRUMP
Trump has been repeatedly saying that mail-in ballots are a recipe for fraud and that they are a disaster. During the debate, he reiterated his claims.
“As far as the ballots are concerned, it’s a disaster. Solicited ballot is okay...if you have unsolicited, they are sending millions of ballots all over the country, there is fraud, they found them in creeks, they found some with the name Trump on them, just the other day, in a waste paper basket....this is going to be a fraud like you have never seen,” Trump said.
WHAT’S THE FACT?
Mail-in voting, in simple terms, means authorities send ballots to a voter based on their request which is then sent back to the authorities post voting. This system of voting has been around since the US Civil War, when the Union and Confederate soldiers were allowed to cast ballots from their battlefield units and have them be counted back home.
IS THE PROCESS SAFE?
- There is no evidence which corroborates the allegation that states which send mail-in ballots to voters automatically have issues with accuracy.
- California Secretary of State Alex Padilla has said that vote by mail is proven to be “successful, secure, convenient” and one of the “safest” options due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reported ABC News.
- Earlier, responding to Trump, Ellen Weintraub, commissioner of the Federal Election Commission, had said that there will be no “mayhem in the 5 jurisdictions that have decided to provide their voters with mail-in ballots this year.”
- The New York Times (NYT) reported that five states, including the Republican bastion Utah in the US, conduct all elections almost entirely by mail and report very little fraud.
- According to another report in NYT, nine states and Washington DC automatically send out ballots, but out of these states, only Nevada is a true battleground. In the rest, results will be called within minutes of polling because they are either pro-Republican or pro-Democrat. It further reported that states where more time is required to count the ballots are the “no-excuse absentee” ballot states, which means if someone wants to vote by mail then they need to request for their ballot.
We had earlier fact-checked Trump on his narrative against mail-in ballots and voting and the full report can be read here.
Trump and Biden made some incorrect and misleading statements in the first presidential debate, some of which have been repeatedly called out by fact-checkers.
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