In reality, Americans needed authorization from a doctor to get tested — and even many people who did have a doctor’s order could not get access.
This was Trump deceiving the country about one of the most critical problems of the crisis.
The most revealing false claim: Trade with Europe
Trump is serially reluctant to admit error, even trivial slips he makes while reading prepared speeches. Instead of correcting himself, he usually pretends
that he has not slipped at all.
During his Oval Office address to the nation about the coronavirus on March 11, Trump, speaking from a script, announced that he was imposing restrictions on travel from Europe — and then added that “these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval. Anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we are discussing.”
As he was forced to explain
on Twitter after the speech, he was not actually banning trade and cargo from Europe.
So what happened? The usual, according to reporting from The New York Times
and The Wall Street Journal
. Trump’s speech said the prohibitions would not apply to trade and cargo; Trump accidentally added the word “only,” reversing the meaning; Trump plowed ahead as usual.
The most absurd false claim: Handshakes in India
Trump is regularly willing to make false claims that can be disproven using widely available video footage.
with the prime minister of Ireland on March 12, Trump was asked whether he was fine shaking hands with foreign prime ministers. Trump said they hadn’t shaken hands that day — then added, “You know, I just got back from India, and I didn’t shake any hands there.”
An Indian news website promptly published a photo gallery
of seven Trump handshakes during his trip.
‘Control’ of the coronavirus
“This is a very contagious — this is a very contagious virus. It’s incredible. But it’s something that we have tremendous control of.” — March 15 coronavirus press conference
Facts First: Experts said the US did not have the virus even close to under control. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at this same briefing after Trump left the room: “The worst is, yes, ahead for us. It is how we respond to that challenge that’s going to determine what the ultimate end point is going to be. We have a very, very critical point now.”
Trump claimed the next day that he had not meant the virus was under control — that he had meant “we are doing a very good job within the confines of what we’re dealing with.” But he had repeatedly made clear on previous occasions that he was talking about the virus when he spoke of “control.” He said
in late January, soon after the US announced its first confirmed case, that “we have it totally under control.” He said
in late February, when the number of confirmed US cases was in the low dozens, that “we have it very much under control in this country.”
Expectations of the pandemic
“…but we’re having to fix a problem that, four weeks ago, nobody ever thought would be a problem.” — March 11 exchange with reporters
at coronavirus meeting with bankers
Facts First: The US intelligence community, public health experts and officials in Trump’s own administration had warned for years that the country was at risk from a pandemic. Some of the warnings specifically mentioned the possibility of a coronavirus pandemic. And when this particular coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, was identified in China in early January, health experts quickly cautioned it could be a major problem around the world.
“This was foreseeable, and foreseen, weeks and months ago, and only now is the White House coming out of denial and heading straight into saying it could not have been foreseen,” Harvard University epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch, director of Harvard’s Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, said on Sunday.
“Almost two months ago, experts were saying that the new virus in Wuhan was potentially a global threat,” Lipsitch said in an email. “One month ago, experts were saying that it was likely to be pandemic, and the White House’s response was that this was under control, despite the fact that the US’s lack of testing was demonstrably giving a false picture of the extent of infection.”
Obama and coronavirus testing
Trump claimed twice
that he had reversed an Obama-era decision that had impeded testing for the coronavirus. On the first occasion, Trump said, “The Obama administration made a decision on testing that turned out to be very detrimental to what we’re doing. And we undid that decision a few days ago so that the testing can take place in a much more accurate and rapid fashion. That was a decision we disagreed with.”
: There is no regulation from President Barack Obama that impeded coronavirus testing. The Obama administration did put forward a draft proposal related to lab testing, but it was never implemented. When asked what Obama administration decision Trump might be referring to, Peter Kyriacopoulos, chief policy officer at the Association of Public Health Laboratories, said: “We aren’t sure what rule is being referenced.”
Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, who was principal deputy commissioner of the FDA under Obama and is now professor of the practice at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said, “There wasn’t a policy that was put into place that inhibited them. There was no Obama policy they were reversing.”
The availability of coronavirus tests
“Anybody that wants a test can get a test. That’s what the bottom line is.” And: “Anybody right now and yesterday — anybody that needs a test gets a test. We — they’re there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful. Anybody that needs a test gets a test.” — March 6 exchange with reporters
after tour of the Centers for Disease Control of Prevention
: That simply wasn’t true. There were an insufficient number of tests available, as Vice President Mike Pence acknowledged the day prior, and Americans could not get tested simply because they wanted to get tested. “You may not get a test unless a doctor or public health official prescribes a test,” Azar said the day after Trump’s remark — and even some of the people whose doctors wanted them to be tested were not able to obtain a test. (Azar claimed Trump was using “shorthand” for the fact that “we as regulators, or as those shipping the test, are not restricting who can get tested.”)
Trump was asked about a case in which a doctor in Houston reported being unable to obtain permission to get a patient tested despite the patient having “symptoms of something” and having tested negative for the flu.
Trump responded that this was a mere “one case” and that “frankly, the testing has been going very smooth.” He also claimed: “If you go to the right agency, if you go to the right area, you get the test.” — March 12 exchange with reporters
before meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar
Facts First: It was simply not true that testing had been going smoothly or that, as Trump suggested, it was simple to get a test by contacting the proper authorities.
Health officials in states around the country continued to report a shortage of tests and other problems. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Congress the same day: “The system does not — is not really geared to what we need right now … that is a failing. It is a failing, let’s admit it.”
Dr. Fauci said, “The idea of anybody getting it easily the way people in other countr(ies) are doing it: we’re not set up for that. Do I think we should be? Yes. But we’re not.”
You can read a full fact check here
“We got hit with the virus, really, three weeks ago, if you think about it, I guess. That’s when we first started, really, to see, you know, some possible effects.” — March 5 Fox News town hall
in Scranton, Pennsylvania
Facts First: The US had its first confirmed case of the coronavirus on January 21, more than six weeks before Trump spoke here, so it’s not true that the US had not really seen even “some possible effects” until three weeks ago.
People’s knowledge of the number of flu deaths
“You know, three, four weeks ago, I said, ‘Well, how many people die a year from the flu?’ And, in this country, I think last year was 36- or 37,000 people. And I’m saying, ‘Wow, nobody knew that information.'” — March 2 exchange with reporters
at coronavirus meeting with pharmaceutical companies
“So when you lose 27,000 people a year, nobody knew that. I didn’t know that.” — March 2 campaign rally
in Charlotte, North Carolina
: Trump might not have known the number of annual flu deaths in the US, but that doesn’t mean “nobody” else did. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publishes annual estimates on its website.
The CDC estimates that between 12,000 and 61,000 people have died in the US in each flu season between 2010-2011 and 2018-2019; its preliminary figure for 2018-2019 is 34,157 deaths.
Flu deaths in 1990
Speaking about the flu, Trump said, “I think we went as high as 100,000 people died in 1990, if you can believe that.” — March 4 interview
with Fox News’ Sean Hannity
“…when I was hearing the amount of people that died with flu, I was shocked to hear it. Anywhere from 27,000 to 70,000 or 77,000. And I guess they said, in 1990, that was in particular very bad; it was higher than that.” — March 6 exchange with reporters
after tour of the Centers for Disease Control of Prevention
: While the 1989-1990 flu season was considered bad at the time — the CDC declared that it was an epidemic — Trump greatly overstated the number of deaths. A CDC analysis in 2010 estimated that there were 26,582 deaths from the seasonal flu in 1989-1990. (The same analysis found that this number of deaths was exceeded in nine of the 17 subsequent flu seasons through 2006-2007.)
Polling on Trump and the coronavirus
“Gallup just gave us the highest rating ever for the way we are handling the CoronaVirus situation.” — March 5 tweet
“Our response is one of the best, with fast action of border closings & a 78% Approval Rating, the highest on record.” — March 12 tweet
Facts First: Trump does not have a “78% approval rating” for his handling of the coronavirus, nor “the highest rating ever” for a president’s handling of an outbreak.
Trump may have been wrongly describing a Gallup poll
conducted in early-to-mid-February — before there were any reported US deaths from the coronavirus — that found 77% of respondents had confidence in the federal government to handle a coronavirus outbreak. But that poll asked about confidence in the government’s future acts, not about approval of its actual work to date. It also did not ask about Trump in particular.
Polls actually asking
about people’s approval of Trump’s handling of the virus situation at the time found that his approval rating is much lower than 78%. In an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll
conducted March 11-13, 45% of registered voters approved of his handling of the coronavirus, while 51% disapproved. A Quinnipiac University poll
conducted March 5-8 found that 43% of registered voters approved, 49% disapproved. (Some subsequent polls
found Trump’s coronavirus-related approval above 50%.) Conversely, a CNN poll taken in October and November 2009 found
that 57% approved of Barack Obama’s handling of the H1N1 flu pandemic.
Travel from Europe
“To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days…There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings…These restrictions will also not apply to the United Kingdom.” — March 11 Oval Office address
to the nation on the coronavirus
Facts First: Trump was incorrectly describing his own policy.
His travel suspension did not apply to “all travel from Europe”; it applied to the 26 countries in the Schengen Area, a European zone in which people can move freely across internal borders. (Trump later added the United Kingdom and Ireland, which are not in the Schengen Area, to the restricted list.)
Trump did not mention that he was exempting a variety of non-US citizens, including permanent US residents and certain family members of both citizens and permanent residents. And by referring to “Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings,” he did not make clear that US citizens can return from Europe even if they have not been screened before they take off for the US. The screening comes after they land in the US.
You can read a full fact check here
“There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings, and these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval. Anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we are discussing.” — March 11 Oval Office address to the nation on the coronavirus
: Though he corrected his error in a tweet shortly after his speech, Trump was not actually prohibiting trade and cargo from Europe. We’re still counting this as a false claim because he did not correct himself during a high-profile national address.
The New York Times
and The Wall Street Journal
reported that, according to Times sources and a Journal review of drafts of Trump’s speech, the text of Trump’s speech said the restrictions will not apply to trade and cargo.
(Trump has a long history
of attempting to improvise after he has made a mistake reading a speech from a Teleprompter, rather than simply correcting the error.)
A “rally” in Tampa
Talking about how his campaign has canceled rallies because of the coronavirus, Trump said, “And we had four or five of them that we were thinking about. We have a big one in Tampa, all sold out. We have over 100,000 requests for tickets, but I think we’ll probably not do it because people would say it’s better to not do.” — March 12 exchange with reporters
before meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar
: There was no “sold out” Trump rally in Tampa, Florida. While Trump’s campaign was in the process of planning a Tampa rally, the event had not been publicly announced and no tickets had been publicly offered, so it simply does not make sense that the event was “sold out” or that there had been “over 100,000 requests for tickets.” The Associated Press reported that Trump’s claim was “an impossibility” and that the campaign had declined to comment; the campaign also did not respond to our inquiry.
Google’s coronavirus website
“I want to thank the people at Google and Google Communications because, as you know, they substantiated what I said on Friday. The head of Google, who’s a great gentleman, said — called us and he apologized. I don’t know where the press got their fake news, but they got it someplace…And how that got out — and I’m sure you’ll apologize. But it would be great if we could really give the news correctly. It would be so, so wonderful.” — March 15 coronavirus press conference
“The Fake and Corrupt News never called Google. They said this was not true. Even in times such as these, they are not truthful. Watch for their apology, it won’t happen. More importantly, thank you to Google!” — March 15 tweet
: Google declined to comment on the substance of any call between CEO Sundar Pichai and the Trump team, but it’s not true that the press did not call Google or that the press reported “fake news” about Trump’s announcement that Google was helping to develop a coronavirus website, to be completed “very quickly,” that would “determine whether a test is warranted and to facilitate testing at a nearby convenient location.” Journalists contacted Google and accurately reported the company’s initial response, which made clear that Trump had exaggerated.
After Trump made the announcement, Google issued a statement on behalf of its sister company Verily, which said
, “We are developing a tool to help triage individuals for Covid-19 testing. Verily is in the early stages of development, and planning to roll testing out in the Bay Area, with the hope of expanding more broadly over time.” In other words, there would be no quick national website. Verily’s focus was one part of California, and the entity in charge of the effort was not Google itself (though Verily said Google engineers had volunteered to assist with the project).
Then, more than 24 hours after the initial statement from Verily, Google issued a second
statement announcing that it would itself be “partnering with the US Government in developing a nationwide website that includes information about COVID-19 symptoms, risk and testing information.”
So it was fair for Trump to applaud the second statement, but its existence does not mean that media reports about the first statement were inaccurate.
New York coronavirus deaths
“And then, when you do have a death, like you have had in the state of Washington, like you had one in California — I believe you had one in New York…” — March 4 interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity
: There had not been any New York deaths attributed to the coronavirus at the time. (The first two deaths in the state were announced on March 14, 10 days after Trump spoke here.)
The coronavirus situation in Italy
“…I hear the numbers are getting much better in Italy.” — March 6 exchange with reporters after tour of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Facts First: The number of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths in Italy was continuing to increase at the time Trump made this comment. As of Saturday, March 7, the day after Trump spoke here, Italy had 5,883 confirmed cases and 233 deaths; as of Monday, March 9, there were 9,172 cases and 463 deaths.
The coronavirus in the US and elsewhere
“We have very low numbers compared to major countries throughout the world. Our numbers are lower than just about anybody.” — March 6 exchange with reporters
at signing of coronavirus appropriations bill
Facts First: Trump was exaggerating. The US did have fewer confirmed coronavirus cases than some countries, including China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, France and Germany. But it had more confirmed cases than big-population countries like India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Brazil, Russia and Nigeria, plus neighbors Mexico and Canada, plus many other high-income countries.
In addition, the number of confirmed cases is dependent on how many people are tested. The US was conducting fewer tests than some countries with much smaller populations.
A remark by Nancy Pelosi
“Nancy Pelosi just said, ‘I don’t know if we can be ready this week.’ In other words, it’s off to vacation for the Do Nothing Democrats. That’s been the story with them for 1 1/2 years!” — March 10 tweet
: Democrats were not going away on vacation, and Pelosi was not suggesting they were. Asked on Monday, March 9 if her goal was to have the House pass a coronavirus relief bill “this week,” Pelosi said, “I don’t know that we can be ready this week, but we can introduce this week, we can introduce it and we may be ready this week, depending on CBO (Congressional Budget Office), depending on (the House Office of the Legislative Counsel) and how quickly they can get something back to us.”
The House ended up passing
the bill early in the morning of Saturday, March 14.
Canadians on the Grand Princess
Referring to the Grand Princess cruise ship that had been kept in limbo over coronavirus concerns before being allowed to dock in Oakland, Trump said
on March 10, “So, the UK is taking their people, their citizens back, and Canada is about 600 people; they’re coming back. They’re being met and brought to planes and being brought very, very — in a very, very dignified fashion back into Canada.” He said
on March 13, “We worked with Canada. They took their people back. And Canada has approximately 600 people…”
: Trump’s number was wrong. There were fewer than 240 Canadians on the Grand Princess, according to the Canadian government; 228 Canadians were flown from California to a military base in Ontario on a plane chartered by the Canadian government.
People on the Grand Princess
Trump said, of the Grand Princess cruise ship that was being kept in limbo over coronavirus concerns, “We do have a situation where we have this massive ship with 5,000 people and we have to make a decision.” He later amended the claim slightly, saying, “It’s close to 5,000 people.” — March 6 exchange with reporters
at signing of coronavirus appropriations bill
: Trump was overstating the number of passengers on the ship. There were 3,533 people aboard: 2,422 guests and 1,111 crew members.
Trump’s student loan plan
“Amazing how the Fake News never covers this. No Interest on Student Loans. The Dems are just talk!” — March 15 tweet
: Numerous media outlets, including CNN
, reported on Trump’s announcement that he had “waived interest on all student loans held by federal government agencies, and that will be until further notice.” (Outlets noted that the administration had not immediately provided important details
of the plan and that borrowers might not see a reduction in their current monthly payments
, but they were indeed covering
“In a certain way, you could say that the borders are automatically shut down, without having to say ‘shut down.’ I mean, they’re, to a certain extent, automatically shut down. But it’s affecting the airline business, as it would.” And: “And we have closed down certain sections of the world, frankly, and they’ve sort of automatically closed them also.” — March 4 remarks
at briefing with airline executives
: Trump did not explain what he meant by “the borders are automatically shut down.” His travel restrictions at the time, on China and Iran, did not constitute complete closures of the border; they make exceptions for American citizens, permanent residents and some of their family members.
The Europe restrictions and testing
When a reporter noted that an American could bring back the coronavirus even with Trump’s new travel restrictions on some European countries, Trump said, “Sure. But we have them very heavily tested. If an American is coming back or anybody is coming back, we’re testing. We have a tremendous testing set up where people coming in have to be tested.” — March 12 exchange with reporters
before meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar
Facts First: It’s not true that Americans or others returning from Europe “have to be” tested for the coronavirus — and no system is being set up to actually test these returning travelers.
Instead, travelers are funneled to specific airports and put through an inspection known as enhanced screening, which cannot prove whether someone has the virus. Previous US airport screening for the coronavirus has involved temperature checks, questions about travelers’ health and travel history, and an inspection for symptoms like a cough or breathing trouble. The administration’s statements about the enhanced screening for travelers from Europe made no mention of coronavirus tests being conducted.
(Travelers returning from Europe after the restrictions went into effect faced lengthy delays while awaiting screening, and hundreds were packed shoulder to shoulder even as public health officials were advising Americans to keep a distance from other people. Chad Wolf, acting secretary of homeland security, later announced
that they had “fixed” the problem with increasing staffing.
Handshakes in India
“You know, I just got back from India, and I didn’t shake any hands there. And it was very easy because they go like this. (Takes slight bow.)” — March 12 exchange with reporters before meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar
: Trump was filmed shaking hands repeatedly in India, as Indian news website ThePrint pointed out. You can see images of his handshakes here.
Here is the full list of 71 false claims from the two-week period:
Obama, the coronavirus and swine flu
Trump said of H1N1, also known as swine flu: “And they didn’t do anything about it.” — March 4 interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity
“If you go back and look at the swine flu and what happened with the swine flu, you’ll see how many people died and how actually nothing was done for such a long period of time, as people were dying all over the place.” — March 12 exchange with reporters before meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar
“And, interestingly, if you go back — please — if you go back to the swine flu, it was nothing like this. They didn’t do testing like this. And actually, they lost approximately 14,000 people. And they didn’t do the testing. They started thinking about testing when it was far too late.” — March 13 coronavirus press conference
Facts First: The Obama administration did respond to H1N1, and it’s not true the administration did not even start “thinking” about testing until it was too late.
On April 26, 2009, less than two weeks after the first US cases of H1N1 were confirmed, the Obama administration declared
a public health emergency. Two days later, the Obama administration made
an initial $1.5 billion funding request to Congress. (Congress ultimately allocated
$7.7 billion). That same day, April 28, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention test was cleared for use. The CDC began shipping tests across the US and around the world on May 1. Between April 23 and May 31, the CDC says its influenza laboratory analyzed about 5,000 samples. In October, Obama declared
a national emergency to allow hospitals more flexibility for a possible flood of H1N1 patients.
The Obama administration did face criticism
over the pace of the government’s vaccination effort, but “they didn’t do anything” is clearly false.
Unemployment in Pennsylvania and Scranton
“This area of Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania itself, has the best numbers it’s ever had. It’s got the best economy it’s ever had. It has the best unemployment numbers it’s ever had. And Scranton has the lowest and best unemployment numbers they’ve — and employment numbers too — that they’ve ever had, by far.” — March 5 Fox News town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania
Facts First: Neither the unemployment rate for Pennsylvania nor the unemployment rate for the Scranton area is at its lowest level ever. And both rates have crept higher over the past several months.
The Pennsylvania state unemployment rate
was at 4.5% in December 2019, worse than the best rates under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. (The rate increased steadily in 2019 from the 3.8% rate in of April, May and June, which was the state’s lowest rate since at least 1976.)
The December 2019 unemployment rate for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton area was 5.6%
— worse than various rates under Clinton and Bush and also worse than the rate in Obama’s last full month in office, 5.4% in December 2016. It hit 4.0% in April 2019, which was the lowest for the area since at least 1990.)
Social Security and Medicare
“I must say, that was a VERY boring debate. Biden lied when he said I want to cut Social Security and Medicare. That’s what they ALL said 4 years ago, and nothing happened, in fact, I saved Social Security and Medicare. I will not be cutting, but they will. Be careful!” — March 15 tweet
: Trump simply did not “save” Social Security and Medicare, which still face uncertain financial futures, and there is no evidence Democrats intend to cut either program. Also, Biden did not “lie” when he accused Trump of wanting to cut Social Security and Medicare: Trump’s 2020 budget proposal includes cuts to Medicare spending and spending on Social Security’s Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs.
Trump’s budget is a request to Congress, not a law, so the cuts may not happen. And Republicans are free to note that the proposed cuts would reduce projected future spending, but not be reductions from the current level of spending. Still, Biden had a reasonable factual basis for saying what he did.
(Trump also told Fox News
earlier in March that “we’ll be cutting” entitlement programs, though he did not say which ones. His press secretary claimed
he was talking about “cutting deficits, NOT entitlements” when he said “we’ll be cutting,” though he had been asked, “But if you don’t cut something in entitlements, you’ll never really deal with the debt.”)
Trade with Japan
“I just made a deal with Japan where they’re paying $40 billion. They never gave us anything. All they do is sell us cars for no tax coming into the — to the country.” — March 5 Fox News town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania
: Japan does not export cars to the US for “no tax”; the US has a 2.5% tariff on Japanese cars. It’s obviously untrue that Japan “never gave us anything,” whatever Trump meant by that vague phrase; Japan purchased $120.4 billion in US exports in 2018, according to government data. And experts say that the 2019 deal between the US and Japan does not include a $40 billion payment from Japan.
In prepared remarks in October, Trump himself said
the deal “sets standards on the $40 billion in digital trade between the United States and Japan.” In other words, he suggested himself that it contained provisions addressing $40 billion in trade, not that it was a $40 billion payment.
“Japan is not paying $40 billion dollars to the United States as part of the mini trade deal,” Mireya Solis, director of the Center for East Asia Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution think tank, said in an email. She added: “US-Japan digital trade is worth $40 billion, but again that does not mean Japan is paying the US that amount.”
Matthew Goodman, senior vice president and senior adviser for Asian economics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, said there are “no hard numbers or commitments in the US-Japan deal to support that figure, as far as I know.”
China and drugs
“When you go to a country where they have very, very stringent — unbelievably stringent, like probably we can’t do in our country — they have no drug problem. You go into China, you say, ‘How’s your drug problem?’ They don’t even know — President Xi doesn’t even know what you’re talking about. ‘We have no drug problem.’ They have quick trials. Right? Quick trials. And I won’t even tell you what the punishment is, but let me just say it’s very swift.” — March 3 speech
to the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference
Facts First: It is simply not true that China has no “drug problem,” though Trump did not define what he meant by “drug problem.” Joe Amon, director of global health at Drexel University and a clinical professor of community health and prevention, said the statement is “definitively” false. Ann Fordham, executive director of the International Drug Policy Consortium, a global network of non-governmental organizations, said, “There is so much data that refutes this claim from Trump.”
Fordham noted that the US State Department released a report
this very month that said China has a drug problem.In the report’s words: “While drug trafficking, manufacturing, diversion, and other drug-related crimes remain significant problems in (China), the central government continues to take steps to integrate the PRC into regional and global drug control efforts, as well as to address the country’s domestic drug problem through enforcement and rehabilitation.” Amon noted that China’s own official figures, as of 2017, listed about 2.5 million people registered as drug addicts. A 2016 report from the Brookings Institution noted
that the number of registered addicts had “increased every year since the government’s first annual drug enforcement report in 1998.”
The New York Times reported in 2015 that it was widely acknowledged that the official numbers understated the extent of the problem. The Times reported
: “In October, Liu Yuejin, director general of the government’s anti-narcotics division, estimated the actual number of addicts at roughly 13 million.”
Here are the repeat false claims we have previously included in one of these roundups:
Ukraine and impeachment
Trump called the whistleblower who complained about his dealings with Ukraine a “phony whistleblower” and claimed this person had described “a call that didn’t exist.” — March 5 Fox News town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania
: The whistleblower’s account of Trump’s July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been proven substantially accurate. In fact, the rough transcript Trump released showed that the whistleblower’s three primary allegations about the call were correct or very close to correct. You can read a full fact check here.
Hunter Biden’s career
Trump claimed that, before Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden was appointed to the board of directors of Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings, Hunter Biden “didn’t have a job.” — March 5 Fox News town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania
: At the time Hunter Biden was appointed to the board of Burisma in 2014, he was a lawyer at the firm Boies Schiller Flexner, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s foreign service program, chairman of the board of World Food Program USA, and chief executive officer and chairman of Rosemont Seneca Advisors, an investment advisory firm. He also served on other boards.
Before Joe Biden became vice president in 2009, Hunter Biden, who graduated from Yale Law School, worked as a lobbyist. He became a partner at a law and lobbying firm in 2001. (He stopped lobbying late in the 2008 election.) Before that, he had worked
for financial services company MBNA, rising to senior vice president and worked for the US Commerce Department.
None of this is to say that Hunter Biden’s name was not a factor in the Burisma appointment; Hunter Biden has acknowledged
that he would “probably not” have been asked to be on the board if he were not a Biden. But Trump’s repeat portrayal of him as an unemployed man is inaccurate.
Prescription drug prices
Trump claimed that last year was the “first time in 51 years that drug prices, prescription, have come down.” — March 2 exchange with reporters
at meeting with Colombian President Iván Duque
: The decline — shown in the Consumer Price Index, but not some other measures — happened in 2018, not “last year.” And Trump was exaggerating how long it had been since the 2018 decline; it had been 46 years, not 51. (This may seem like a small exaggeration, but it is habitual; he has made it more than a dozen times since July 8. You can read a longer fact check here.)
Hispanic home ownership
“And we’ve increased Hispanic American home ownership by more than half a million homes. That’s tremendous. We’ve seen the largest net gain in Hispanic American homeowners ever recorded.” — March 4 speech
to Latino Coalition Legislative Summit
Facts First: The number of Hispanic homeowners had indeed increased by more than 500,000 during Trump’s presidency, according to data provided by the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals — it rose by 176,000 in 2017, 365,000 in 2018, 277,000 in 2019. But this total gain of 818,000 was not the largest net gain ever recorded. In 2001, 2002 and 2003, the first three years of George W. Bush’s presidency, the total gain was 930,000, according to the association’s data. (The net gain during the 2003-2005 period, also under Bush, was 940,000.)
Median household income and energy
“Median household income has hit the highest level ever recorded. If you look back and you go to President Bush, it’s $450. If you go to President Obama — and that’s for eight years, remember. If you go to President Obama, for eight years, $975. And if you go to President Donald John Trump, over a period of three years, it’s almost $10,000. That’s a big difference.” — March 3 speech
to the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference
Facts First: It’s not true that median household income gains under Trump were almost $10,000 in three years. A firm called Sentier Research says real median household income, pre-tax, was $65,666 in December 2019 — up from $61,496 (in inflation-adjusted December 2019 dollars) in January 2017, a difference of $4,170. Trump habitually adds an additional $5,000-plus on account of his loosening of regulations and supposed energy savings, but these explanations do not make sense mathematically.
You can read a longer fact check here
Ivanka Trump and jobs
“We’re also promoting workforce development through our Pledge to America’s Workers. Four hundred and thirty companies have already committed to providing new jobs and training opportunities to over 15 million Americans. And I give my daughter, Ivanka, a lot of credit for that … she started off with 500,000 jobs, and she just broke 15 million.” — March 3 speech to the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference
Facts First: Ivanka Trump has obviously not created more than “15 million jobs.” Before the coronavirus crisis, roughly 7 million jobs had been created during the entire Trump presidency.
Trump was referring to the White House’s Pledge to America’s Workers initiative, in which Ivanka Trump has sought to get companies to commit to providing “education and training opportunities” for workers. As of March 19, 2020, companies had promised
to create 15.7 million opportunities, including one million by Walmart alone — but many of these opportunities are internal training programs, not new jobs. Also, as CNN has previously reported
, many of the companies had already planned these opportunities before Ivanka Trump launched the initiative.
“Best unemployment numbers in the history of our Country.” — March 10 tweet
Facts First: Trump was exaggerating, though the February unemployment rate was indeed impressive.
The rate, 3.5%, was tied with September, November and December 2019 for the lowest since 1969. But it was not the best ever: it was substantially higher than the record 2.5% set in 1953
. (Unemployment is expected to worsen substantially in March as a result of the coronavirus crisis.)
Unemployment for women
Trump said women had the lowest unemployment rate “in 71 years.”=- March 4 interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity
: This was another of Trump’s regular little exaggerations of an impressive accomplishment. It had been between 66 and 67 years, not “71 years,” since the women’s unemployment rate had been as low as it was in February, 3.4%; it hit that level in late 1953. (It was also 3.4% during previous months of Trump’s presidency, but we’ll ignore those here for fairness to Trump.)
Unemployment rates are expected to rise substantially
in March as a result of the coronavirus crisis
An LNG plant in Louisiana
“I opened up LNG plants in Louisiana where they were for years — for 10, 12, 14 years and longer — trying to get permits. They couldn’t get permits. I got them built: a $10 billion plant in Louisiana…” — March 5 Fox News town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania
: The $10 billion LNG facility Trump visited in Louisiana in 2019 was granted its key permits under Obama, and its construction also began under Obama. Federal regulators have approved other multi-billion-dollar LNG facilities for Louisiana under Trump, but they had not been waiting anywhere close to 10 or 14 years for approval.
The estate tax
Trump falsely claimed to have eliminated the estate tax. — March 2 campaign rally in Charlotte, North Carolina
Facts First: Trump has not eliminated the federal estate tax. His 2017 tax law raised the threshold at which the tax must be paid, from $5.5 million to $11.2 million for an individual, but did not get rid of the tax entirely.
“The tragedy in Venezuela is a reminder that socialism and communism bring misery and heartache everywhere they’re tried. I remember so many years ago — 20, less — it was the wealthiest country.” — March 4 speech to the Latino Coalition Legislative Summit
Facts First: Venezuela was not the wealthiest country in Latin America 20 years ago, as Trump has claimed previously, and certainly not one of the wealthiest countries in the world, as Trump has also claimed previously. (Trump didn’t say this time which one he meant.)
“Venezuela was one of the richest countries in the world 60 years ago. The richest in Latin America 40 years ago. But not 20 years ago,” Ricardo Hausmann, a former Venezuelan planning minister and central bank board member, said in response to a previous version of the claim.
Venezuela’s per capita gross domestic product in 2000 ($4,824) was lower than that of Argentina ($8,387), Mexico ($7,016), Uruguay ($6,817) and Chile ($5,072).
The Mexican border
“We have, right now, 27,000 Mexican soldiers on our border.” — March 5 Fox News town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania
: Mexico has deployed around 27,000 troops, but Trump exaggerated how many are being stationed near the US border in particular; Mexico’s defense minister said in October that it was about 15,000 on the US border, about 12,000 on Mexico’s own southern border.
The Soviet Union and Afghanistan
Talking about the history of war in Afghanistan, Trump said the Soviet Union “became Russia because of Afghanistan. You know, it’s a tough place.” — March 5 Fox News town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania
: This was an exaggeration. Experts say the Soviet Union’s failed Afghanistan War was far from the only reason for its collapse, though the war did contribute.
Trump and the invasion of Iraq
“And I was always against Iraq — going into Iraq. I think it was one of the worst — maybe the worst decision ever made.” — March 5 Fox News town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania
Facts First: Trump was tentatively supportive of the war in Iraq when radio host Howard Stern asked him in September 2002, “Are you for invading Iraq?” Trump responded: “Yeah, I guess so. I wish the first time it was done correctly.” The day after the invasion in March 2003, he said, “It looks like a tremendous success from a military standpoint.” Trump did not offer a definitive position on the looming war in a Fox News interview in January 2003, saying, “Either you attack or don’t attack.”
Trump started publicly questioning the war later in 2003, and he was an explicit opponent in 2004. You can read a full fact check here
Democrats and cars
“If you like automobiles, how can you vote for a Democrat who all want to get rid of cars, as quickly as possible, especially if they are powered by gasoline. Remember also, no more than one car per family.” — March 10 tweet
: The Democrats are not proposing any limits on the number of cars a family could own. (Trump has previously claimed, falsely, that this one-car limit is included in the Democrats’ Green New Deal environmental proposal.) And while some prominent Democrats, such as presidential candidate Joe Biden, want to implement policies they believe will reduce the number of cars on the road, they are not proposing to get rid of cars by any kind of government prohibition. Biden, for example, argues that a major expansion of high-speed rail would result in millions fewer automobiles being driven.
The Green New Deal proposal calls
for “overhauling transportation systems in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible, including through investment in zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing; clean, affordable, and accessible public transit; and high-speed rail.”
Obama and Kim Jong Un
Trump discussed a conversation he claimed he had with President Barack Obama about North Korea and its leader Kim Jong Un. Trump said, “And I have a good relationship with him (Kim). I said (to Obama), ‘Did you ever call him?’ The answer is: Yes, he did. But I will tell you, I don’t think they admit that; maybe they do. But called many times, and Kim Jong Un did not want to talk to him.” — March 5 Fox News town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania
: There is no evidence that Obama called Kim even once. “This is a total fabrication,” Susan Rice, who served as Obama’s national security adviser, said on Twitter in response to a previous version of this Trump claim. “Obama never called Kim. Not once,” Ben Rhodes, former deputy national security adviser to Obama, said on Twitter after this new claim on March 5. There’s also no evidence for Trump’s previous claim that Obama begged Kim for a meeting.
Obama and the 1994 crime bill
After touting the criminal justice reform bill he signed in 2018, Trump appeared to criticize the 1994 crime bill signed into law by President Bill Clinton and supported by then-senator Joe Biden — and suggested Barack Obama, who was not yet in elected office of any kind, had something to do with it: “And, again, this was a Biden/Obama law that was — this was — and, obviously, it was — it was really a Hillary — this was a Bill Clinton and a Hillary. And it was — I guess Biden was a senator then and pushing it hard. Obama was — somebody said he was talking about it, but he had to be pretty young, if that were the case.” — March 4 interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity
Facts First: Trump seemed to realize partway through this claim that it did not make sense to blame Obama for a bill signed into law before Obama was even elected to the Illinois state Senate — but even though he eventually conceded Obama was “pretty young” at the time, he did not make clear that Obama had nothing at all to do with the bill.
Accomplishments and promises
Trump twice claimed to have gotten the Veterans Choice health care program passed into law. On one occasion, he said others had tried to do so “for over 40 years.” On the other, he said they had tried for “almost 50 years.”
: The Veterans Choice bill, a bipartisan initiative led by senators Bernie Sanders and the late John McCain, was signed into law by Barack Obama in 2014. In 2018, Trump signed the VA Mission Act, which expanded and changed the program.
On separate occasions, Trump claimed that overdose deaths have declined for the first time “in 31 years” or “in nearly 31 years.”
: This was yet another of Trump’s signature exaggerations of numbers that are already impressive. There was a rare decline in overdose deaths in 2018, according to preliminary data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics — but it was the first in since 1990, or 28 years ago, not 31 or nearly 31 years ago.
“We are protecting people with pre-existing conditions and we always will.” — March 3 speech to the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference
“Pre-existing conditions: 100%, we take care of.” — March 5 Fox News town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania
Facts First: The Trump administration has repeatedly supported bills that would weaken Obamacare’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Trump is currently supporting a Republican lawsuit that is seeking to declare all of Obamacare void. He has not issued a plan to reinstate the law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions if the suit succeeds, though he promised again at the town hall that Republicans would have one.
“Nobody has done more in three years, the first three years, than we have. Now environmentally, we’re — we have the cleanest air. We have the cleanest water. Our air is as clean or cleaner than it’s ever been.” — March 4 interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity
“And I say very simply: I want to have the cleanest air on the planet. I want to have the most crystal clear, beautiful water on the planet. And our conditions now are much better than they were three years ago.” — March 5 Fox News town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania
: By several measures, US air was cleaner under Obama than it has been under Trump. Three of the six types of pollutants identified by the Clean Air Act as toxic to human health were more prevalent in the air as of 2018 than they were before Trump took office, according to Environmental Protection Agency data. There were more “unhealthy air days” for sensitive groups in 2018 than in 2016, and researchers from Carnegie Mellon University who studied Environmental Protection Agency data found that air pollution increased between 2016 and 2018.
Trade and China
Chuck Schumer and the China deal
“Or I watch Schumer … If you say, how great is the deal with China, oh, I don’t like it, I don’t like it. He said, ‘He took away tariffs.’ Well, I didn’t take away the tariffs. They’re paying 25 percent of $250 billion. They pay us a tariff of 25 percent on $250 billion. But he was screaming, he took away the tariffs. You know, he didn’t want the tariffs. And then, all of a sudden, when he thinks they were taken away — but we didn’t take them away. Just the opposite.” — March 4 interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity
: Trump’s deal with China reduces, though does not eliminate, some of the US tariffs on imported Chinese products. Schumer accurately described the tariff changes in a January letter in which he argued that Trump had given away leverage “with a temporary deal of some reduced tariffs in exchange for American goods and vague promises of reform.”
After Trump made a previous version of this accusation on January 15, Schumer responded the same day: “I know what’s in the deal. I’m not sure the president does. If he knows what’s in the deal — he should throw it away and take China back to the negotiating table. I will cheer him on if he does.”
China’s agricultural spending
Trump said of Chinese agricultural purchases: “You know, the highest ever was $16 billion.” — March 3 speech to the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference
Facts First: Sixteen billion in Chinese agriculture purchases is not the record: China spent $25.9 billion on American agricultural products in 2012, according to figures from the Department of Agriculture.
Who’s paying for Trump’s tariffs on China
Trump claimed that revenue from his tariffs on imported Chinese products is “paid for by China” and that it is “money from China.” — March 3 speech to the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference
“China is paying us billions and billions of dollars because of what I did to them with tariffs. Billions of dollars.” — March 5 Fox News town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania
: Study after study has shown that Americans are bearing the cost of the tariffs. And it is Americans who make the actual tariff payments.
The trade deficit with China
Trump claimed that the US used to have “$500 billion a year” trade deficits with China. — March 3 speech to the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference
: There has never been a $500 billion trade deficit with China. (Trump describes trade deficits as “losing,” though many economists dispute that characterization.) The 2018 deficit was $381 billion when counting goods and services, $420 billion when counting goods alone.
Hillary Clinton and the trade agreement with South Korea
“We have successfully renegotiated new trade deals with South Korea and Japan, who were really ripping us. South Korea — remember, Hillary Clinton — the great Hillary Clinton — she said, ‘No, no we want this deal. It will produce 250,000 jobs.’ And she was right, for South Korea. They produced — (laughter) — it’s true. It got South Korea 250. So you can’t say she was wrong. She wasn’t misleading us. She said, ‘250,000.’” — March 3 speech to the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference
Facts First: There is no record of Hillary Clinton projecting an increase of 250,000 jobs because of the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS). President Barack Obama said the deal would “support at least 70,000 American jobs.”
in 2009 that increasing the US share of trade with Asia from 9% to 10% “could mean 250,000, 300,000 jobs,” but he was not specifically attributing that estimate to the potential effects of a trade deal with South Korea. Republican Rep. Kevin Brady later used an estimate
of “about 250,000 new jobs” from trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama combined, not just the one with South Korea.
Talking about the federal judiciary, Trump said, “But the bottom line is, President Obama gave me 142 openings when I first got there.” — March 5 Fox News town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania
: This is Trump’s usual exaggerated figure. There were 104 court vacancies on January 1, 2017, 19 days before Trump took office, according to Russell Wheeler, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution who tracks judicial appointments.
The history of court vacancies
Trump claimed that “normally,” presidents are left “no opening” on the federal judiciary; “if you have one, it’s like you got lucky.” — March 5 Fox News town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania
Facts First: It is standard for presidents to inherit dozens of vacancies. According to Wheeler, there were 53 vacancies on January 1, 2009, just before Obama took office; 80 vacancies on January 1, 2001, just before George W. Bush took office; 107 vacancies on January 1, 1993, just before Bill Clinton took office.
The legality of the Mueller investigation
“Many Republican Senators want me to Veto the FISA Bill until we find out what led to, and happened with, the illegal attempted ‘coup’ of the duly elected President of the United States, and others!” — March 12 tweet
: The Russia investigation was not illegal. Multiple federal courts have upheld the legality of special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment and endorsed actions he took, such as subpoenaing witnesses to testify before a grand jury and bringing criminal charges against some senior Trump aides.
The inspector general for the Department of Justice conducted an exhaustive review
and determined in a report released in December that the FBI had a legitimate basis for opening the Russia investigation in July 2016, prior to Mueller’s appointment in May 2017, though his report also criticized some FBI officials for how they had handled other aspects of the investigation.