Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

Fact-checking Biden and Trump’s claims at the first debate

By 37ci3 Jun28,2024

Forget alternative facts and political spin: Thursday’s presidential debate was more like a tsunami of falsity.

President Donald Trump unleashed a torrent of misinformation on topics from terrorism to taxes during the first debate of the 2024 general election, while President Joe Biden flubbed figures and facts about military deaths and insulin prices.

More than a dozen NBC News reporters, editors and correspondents fact-checked the key claims the presidential candidates made Thursday night. Here they are by topic:

Economy, trade and health care

Fact check: Did Biden inherit 9% inflation?

“He also said he inherited 9% inflation. Now, he inherited almost no inflation, and it stayed that way for 14 months, and then it blew up under his leadership,” Trump said about Biden.

This is false.

The inflation rate when Biden took office in January 2021 wasn’t 9%. It was 1.4%. It has risen on his watch, peaking at about 9.1% in June 2022, but by last month it had come down to 3.3%. Pandemic-related stimulus policies put in place by both Trump and Biden were blamed, in part, for the rise in the inflation rate.

Fact check: Did Biden lower the cost of insulin to $15 a shot?

“We brought down the price of prescription drugs, which is a major issue for many people, to $15 for an insulin shot — as opposed to $400,” Biden said.

This is false.

Biden capped the cost of insulin at $35 a month under Medicare, not $15 a shot, and some drug companies have matched that cap. The price cap doesn’t apply to everyone, however. 

What’s more, Biden’s also significantly overstating how much insulin cost before the change. A 2022 report by the Department of Health and Human Services found that patients using insulin spent an average of $434 annually on insulin in 2019 — not $400 a shot.

Fact check: Did Trump lower the cost of insulin?

Trump claimed credit for lowering the cost of insulin for seniors, saying, “I am the one who got the insulin down for the seniors.”

That is mostly false.

In 2020, Trump created a voluntary program under Medicare Part D. The program allowed Medicare Part D plans to offer some insulin products for no more than $35 per month. It was active from 2021 to 2023, with fewer than half of the plans participating each year. 

In 2022, Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act, which included a provision that lowered the out-of-pocket cost for people on Medicare to $35 a month and covered all insulin products. The cap didn’t apply to those with private insurance. However, after the law was implemented, insulin manufacturers voluntarily lowered the out-of-pocket cost to $35 a month for people with private insurance.

Fact check: Does Biden want to raise ‘everybody’s taxes’ by four times?

“Nobody ever cut taxes like us. He wants to raise your taxes by four times. He wants to raise everybody’s taxes by four times,” Trump claimed. “He wants the Trump tax cuts to expire.”

This is false.

Biden’s tax plan “holds harmless for 98% of households,” said Kyle Pomerleau, senior fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. And Biden wants to extend the majority of the Trump tax cuts, too, though he has advocated for hiking taxes on very high earners.

Fact check: Biden said the U.S. trade deficit with China is at its lowest since 2010

“We are at the lowest trade deficit with China since 2010,” Biden said.

This is true.

The U.S. had $279 billion more in imports than exports to China last year, the lowest trade deficit with the world’s second-largest economy since 2010. The highest deficit in recent years was $418 billion, in 2018, when Trump began a trade war with China. 

The decline has been driven largely by tariffs that Trump imposed in office and that Biden has maintained and in some cases expanded.

Fact check: Are immigrants taking ‘Black jobs’?

Asked about Black voters who are disappointed with their economic progress, Trump claimed Black Americans are losing their jobs because of illegal border crossings under Biden’s administration.

“The fact is that his big kill on the Black people is the millions of people that he’s allowed to come through the border. They’re taking Black jobs now,” Trump said.

This is false.

There’s no evidence that undocumented immigrants are taking jobs away from Black Americans. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Black unemployment rate fell to 4.8% in April 2023 — an all-time low. Before that, the Black unemployment rate was as high as 10.2% in April 2021.


Fact check: Did Trump end catch and release?

“We ended ‘catch and release,’” Trump said.

This is false.

Trump did not end “catch and release,” a term used to describe the practice of releasing migrants into the country with court dates while they await court hearings. The U.S. doesn’t have enough facilities to detain every migrant who crosses the border until they can see judges, no matter who is president, so Trump — like Barack Obama before him and Biden after him — released many migrants back into the U.S.

Fact check: Did the Border Patrol union endorse Biden?

“By the way, the Border Patrol endorsed me, endorsed my position,” Biden said.

This is false.

The National Border Patrol Council, the labor union for U.S. Border Patrol agents and staff members, has endorsed Trump. 

“The National Border Patrol Council has proudly endorsed Donald J. Trump for President of the United States,” the group’s vice president, Hector Garza, said in a statement shared exclusively with NBC News. 

The union posted on X, “to be clear, we never have and never will endorse Biden.”

Biden may have been referring to a Senate immigration bill that he backed, which earned the union’s endorsement.

Fact check: Did Trump have ‘the safest border in the history of our country’?

“We had the safest border in the history of our country,” Trump said.

This is false.

It’s a clear exaggeration. In 2019, the last year before the Covid-19 pandemic brought down border crossings, there were roughly 860,000 illegal border crossings, far more than in any year during the Obama administration.

Fact check: Trump says Biden is allowing ‘millions’ of criminals to enter U.S.

“I’d love to ask him … why he’s allowed millions of people to come in from prisons, jails and mental institutions to come into our country and destroy our country,” Trump said.

There is no evidence of this.

Venezuela doesn’t share law enforcement information with U.S. authorities, making it very hard to verify criminal histories of immigrants coming to the U.S. But there’s no evidence that Venezuela is purposefully sending “millions” of people from mental institutions and prisons to the U.S.


Fact check: Did Virginia’s former governor support infanticide?

“They will take the life of a child in the eighth month, the ninth month and even after birth. After birth. If you look at the former governor of Virginia, he was willing to do so, and we’ll determine what we do with the baby. Meaning we’ll kill the baby. … So that means he can take the life of the baby in the ninth month and even after birth. Because some states, Democrat-run, take it after birth. Again, the governor, the former Virginia governor, put the baby down so that we decide what to do with it. He’s willing to, as we say, rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month and kill the baby. Nobody wants that to happen, Democrat or Republican; nobody wants it to happen,” Trump said.

This is false.

While some Democrats support broad access to abortion regardless of gestation age, infanticide is illegal, and no Democrats advocate for it. Just 1% of abortions are performed after 21 weeks’ gestation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Trump first made the claim in 2019, after Virginia’s governor at the time, Ralph Northam, made controversial remarks in discussing an abortion bill. NBC News debunked the claim then, reporting that Northam’s remarks were about resuscitating infants with severe deformities or nonviable pregnancies. 

Asked on a radio program what happens when a woman who is going into labor desires a third-trimester abortion, Northam noted that such procedures occur only in cases of severe deformities or nonviable pregnancies. He said that in those scenarios, “the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

Terrorism, foreign policy and the military

Fact check: Trump said there was ‘no terror’ during his tenure

“That’s why you had no terror, at all, during my administration. This place, the whole world, is blowing up under him,” Trump said.

This is false.

There were two ISIS-inspired terrorist attacks while Trump was president. The first occurred in October 2017, when Sayfullo Saipov killed eight people and injured a dozen more in a vehicle ramming attack on the West Side Highway bike path in New York City. The second occurred in December 2017, when Akayed Ullah injured four people when he set off a bomb strapped to himself.

Fact check: Biden suggests no troops died under his watch

“The truth is I’m the only president this century that doesn’t have any this decade and any troops dying anywhere in the world like he did,” Biden said.

This is false.

The Defense Department confirmed that 13 U.S. service members were killed in a suicide bombing attack at Abbey Gate at the Kabul airport by a member of ISIS-K as the U.S. was leaving Afghanistan. 


Fact check: Did Trump have the ‘best environmental numbers ever’?

“During my four years, I had the best environmental numbers ever, and my top environmental people gave me that statistic just before I walked on the stage, actually,” Trump said.

This is false.

The figure Trump is referring to is the fact that carbon emissions fell during his administration. He posted the talking points his former Environmental Protection Agency chief emailed him on social media before the debate.

And it’s true that carbon emissions are falling — they have been dropping for years. Emissions particularly plunged in 2020, dropping to levels around those in 1983 and 1984. That drop was in large part thanks to Covid lockdowns, and emissions rose again when air travel and in-person working resumed. 

Still, climate activists and experts are quick to note that those drops are nowhere near enough to head off predicted catastrophic effects of global warming. Other major countries cut their emissions at a much faster rate during the Trump administration.

Jan. 6

Fact check: The Jan. 6 crowd was not ‘ushered in’ by the police

This is false.

“If you would see my statements that I made on Twitter at the time and also my statement that I made in the Rose Garden, you would say it’s one of the strongest statements you’ve ever seen. In addition to the speech I made in front of, I believe, the largest crowd I’ve ever spoken to, and I will tell you, nobody ever talks about that. They talk about a relatively small number of people that went to the Capitol and, in many cases, were ushered in by the police. And as Nancy Pelosi said, it was her responsibility, not mine. She said that loud and clear,” Trump said.

During a lengthy answer to a question about whether he would accept the result of the 2024 election and say all political violence is unacceptable, Trump made several false statements, including the claim that police “ushered” rioters into the U.S. Capitol and that then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said it was her responsibility to keep the chamber safe. 

Video and news reports of the Jan. 6 riots clearly captured the U.S. Capitol under attack by pro-Trump crowds who overran the law enforcement presence around and inside the complex. 

On Pelosi, Trump was most likely referring to video shot by Pelosi’s daughter Alexandra for an HBO documentary that showed her during the events of Jan. 6, 2021, tensely wondering how the Capitol was allowed to be stormed.

“We have responsibility, Terri,” Pelosi tells her chief of staff, Terri McCullough, as they leave the Capitol in a vehicle. “We did not have any accountability for what was going on there, and we should have. This is ridiculous.”

“You’re going to ask me in the middle of the thing, when they’ve already breached the inaugural stuff, ‘Should we call the Capitol Police?’ I mean the National Guard. Why weren’t the National Guard there to begin with?” Pelosi says in the video. 

“They clearly didn’t know, and I take responsibility for not having them just prepare for more,” she says. 

Many allies of Trump have tried for the more than three years since the riots to paint Pelosi as somehow being responsible for the violence. Some Trump-backing Republicans have, for example, falsely claimed that she blocked the National Guard from going to the Capitol during the riots.

And everything else …

Fact check: Trump skipped World War I cemetery visit because the soldiers who died were ‘losers’

Biden said that Trump “refused to go to” a World War 1 cemetery and that “he was standing with his four-star general” who said Trump said, “I don’t want to go in there, because they’re a bunch of losers and suckers.”

This is true.

In 2018, during a trip to France, Trump canceled a visit to an American cemetery near Paris, blaming weather for the decision. 

But in September 2020, The Atlantic reported that Trump had axed the visit because he felt that those who’d lost their lives and been buried there were “losers.” The magazine cited “four people with firsthand knowledge of those discussions.”

According to The Atlantic, Trump said: “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” In another conversation, The Atlantic reported, Trump said the 1,800 American Marines who died were “suckers.” 

Several media outlets confirmed the remarks, and Trump’s former White House chief of staff John Kelly also said those specific comments were true.

Fact check: Trump says Biden didn’t run for president due to 2017 Charlottesville rally

“He made up the Charlottesville story, and you’ll see it’s debunked all over the place. Every anchor has — every reasonable anchor has debunked it, and just the other day it came out where it was fully debunked. It’s a nonsense story. He knows that, and he didn’t run because of Charlottesville. He used that as an excuse to run,” Trump said about Biden.

This is false.

The “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 featured torch-bearing white supremacists marching to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue and chanting racist slogans like “You will not replace us.” It turned deadly when a car plowed into a crowd.

In recent months, Trump has downplayed the violence, saying it was “nothing” compared to recent pro-Palestinian protests on university campuses.

Meanwhile, Biden has always pointed to Trump’s 2017 comments as the primary reason he decided to seek the presidency in 2020, including in his campaign announcement video back in April 2019.

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By 37ci3

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