Fact-checking Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention
Trump overstating his own standing within history was one of several examples where he was wrong or misleading about his own record or that of Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
President Donald Trump accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for president in a speech from the South Lawn of the White House on Aug. 27, the first president to do so since Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
In 1940, Roosevelt accepted the nomination for a third term with a late night radio address. “It is with a very full heart that I speak tonight. I must confess that I do so with mixed feelings — because I find myself, as almost everyone does sooner or later in his lifetime, in a conflict between deep personal desire for retirement on the one hand, and that quiet, invisible thing called ‘conscience’ on the other.”
Eighty years later, Trump spoke to a crowd in a different moment, striking a different tone.
“I say very modestly that I have done more for the African American community than any president since Abraham Lincoln, our first Republican president,” Trump said. “I have done more in three years for the black community than Joe Biden has done in 47 years—and when I’m reelected, the best is yet to come.”
The claim overstates Trump’s own standing within history, historians say.
President Lyndon B. Johnson, a skilled legislator from his years in the Senate, deliberately crafted his civil rights agenda and pushed it through Congress with personal persuasion. President Harry Truman moved to desegregate the military, and even President Richard Nixon, who was captured on tape making racist remarks, advanced the desegregation of schools and affirmative action in employment.
It’s one of several examples where Trump was wrong or misleading about his own record or that of Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
‘Joe Biden claims he has empathy for the vulnerable, yet the party he leads supports the extreme late-term abortion of defenseless babies right up to the moment of birth.’
This mischaracterizes the Democratic Party’s stance on abortion and Biden’s position.
Biden has said he would codify the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade and related precedents. This would generally limit abortions to the first 20 to 24 weeks of gestation. States are allowed under court rulings to ban abortion after the point at which the fetus can sustain life, usually considered to be between 24 and 28 weeks from the mother’s last menstrual period — and 43 states do. But the rulings require states to make exceptions “to preserve the life or health of the mother.” Late-term abortions are very rare, about 1%.
The Democratic Party platform holds that “every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion—regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured.” It does not address late-term abortion.
‘When asked if he supports cutting police funding, Joe Biden replied, “Yes, absolutely.” ’
Amid discussions of defunding the police, this claim is missing context. Biden has said he would redirect some social-services responsibilities away from police departments and roll back investments in military gear, but he also wants to increase federal funding for community policing.
During an interview with Biden, liberal activist Ady Barkan said deadly police encounters with citizens could be reduced if some police funding were redirected to mental health counseling and other priorities. Biden said he supported that approach.
Biden’s “absolutely” remark came during a discussion of the police using military equipment in their communities. Barkan interjected as Biden was talking about the military equipment: “But do we agree that we can redirect some of the funding?” Biden replied: “Yes. Absolutely.”
Biden has also called for linking federal law-enforcement funding to policing reforms.
‘Biden has promised to abolish the production of American oil, coal, shale, and natural gas — laying waste to the economies of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Colorado, and New Mexico.’
This is misleading. Biden’s climate plan aims to wean the country off oil, coal and natural gas, not abolish it outright.
Biden’s plan calls for a transition to clean energy over several years, with the U.S. reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. The plan includes energy efficient infrastructure investments and the creation of clean energy jobs.
‘Biden also vowed to oppose school choice and close down charter schools, ripping away the ladder of opportunity for Black and Hispanic children.’
This is Mostly False. Biden’s policy platform backs several forms of school choice, including nonprofit charter schools, public magnet schools, and choice within school districts.
He opposes using public dollars to pay for private school tuition, and he opposes for-profit charter schools.
‘Joe Biden recently raised his hand on the debate stage and promised he was going to give it away, your health care dollars to illegal immigrants, which is going to bring massive number of immigrants into our country.’
This is misleading. During a June 2019 Democratic primary debate, candidates were asked: “Raise your hand if your government plan would provide coverage for undocumented immigrants.” All candidates on stage, including Biden, raised their hands. They were not asked if that coverage would be free or subsidized.
Biden supports extending health care access to all immigrants, regardless of immigration status. A task force recommended that he allow immigrants illegally in the country to buy health insurance, without federal subsidies.
Biden ’has pledged a $4 trillion tax hike on almost all American families.’
Yes and no. That’s an accurate estimate for Biden’s tax revenues over a decade, according to the Tax Policy Center. (Other groups have come up with slightly lower estimates.)
But tax analysts say the impact on most American families would be small and largely due to the indirect effects of Biden’s raising the corporate tax rate. Biden’s proposed increases are heavily concentrated on corporations and the nation’s biggest earners. The Tax Policy Center estimated that more than 90% of the tax increases would be borne by the top 20% of earners.
Biden has vowed not to directly raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 per year.
‘Biden voted for the NAFTA disaster, the single worst trade deal ever enacted; he supported China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, one of the greatest economic disasters of all time. After those Biden calamities, the United States lost 1 in 4 manufacturing jobs.’
The accuracy here is mixed. Biden did vote for the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993 and for normalized trade relations with China in 2000. Both led to a fall in American manufacturing jobs.
Of the two agreements, the one with China was responsible for nearly all of the manufacturing job losses, which were one out five, a bit smaller than Trump said.
Beyond manufacturing, researchers disagree on the effect of both trade agreements on employment in general. Some find net job losses, while others find neither net gains nor losses.
The Obama-Biden administration ’spied on my campaign and they got caught.’
False. Multiple independent investigations, including a series of bipartisan Senate reports, found no influence by the Obama administration over the FBI investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and contacts with the Trump campaign.
The FBI targeted four people with greater or lesser roles in the Trump campaign, but conducted that independently of the White House, a review by the Justice Department found.
Democrats ‘will demolish the suburbs.’
This is a False interpretation of Biden’s proposal to reinstate an Obama administration rule change related to discrimination in housing. The change required certain localities to work with Washington to identify barriers to fair housing and come up with strategies to fix them.
Experts said restoring that regulation would not force those jurisdictions to make zoning changes or build low-income housing. It certainly wouldn’t spell the end for the suburbs’
‘The top 10 most dangerous cities in the country are run by Democrats, and have been for many decades.’
This is misleading. Large cities do have more crime, and they do have more Democrats — both in terms of general voting and local leadership. But the connection to crime is a classic example of correlation without evidence of causality.
FBI data shows that the top 10 cities for violent crime have Democrats as mayors, according to a Washington Post analysis in June.
Multiple local socioeconomic and cultural factors play a role in which areas yield that concentrated crime. The FBI explicitly warns against simplistic readings of the “rough rankings” for those reasons.
“Somehow arguing that Democrats cause crime or something of that sort just doesn’t fit the history of crime prevention in the U.S.,” David Weisburd, executive director of the Center for Evidence Based Crime Policy at George Mason University, previously told us.
‘During the Democrat Convention, the words ‘under God’ were removed from the Pledge of Allegiance — not once, but twice.’
The phrase “under God” was not excluded from the televised Democratic National Convention. Delegates at two of 30 caucus and council meetings that took place during the convention week omitted “under God” during the Pledge of Allegiance.
‘We have already built 300 miles of border wall.’
This is wrong. Before Trump took office, the nearly 2,000-mile southern border had 654 miles of primary barriers (the first physical impediment a migrant may face).
More than three years into Trump’s presidency, that has increased by 5 miles.
Trump’s boast refers to the replacement of older barriers with new fences.
‘By the end of my first term, we will have approved more than 300 federal judges, including two great new Supreme Court justices.’
The 300 number is optimistic. So far, about 200 federal judges have been appointed by Trump and confirmed by the U.S Senate, according to records from the Federal Judicial Center. This number refers to “Article III judges” — U.S. Supreme Court justices, federal circuit and district judges — who serve a lifetime appointment after nomination by the president and confirmation by the U.S. Senate.
‘When the anarchists started ripping down our statues and monuments, right outside, I signed an order immediately, 10 years in prison.’
This is overstating the law. The 10-year penalty for damaging federal property is a maximum punishment, meaning it doesn’t apply to every violation.
The penalty also isn’t new. It was contained in a previous piece of U.S. Code.
‘We have spent nearly $2.5 trillion on completely rebuilding our military, which was very badly depleted when I took office.’
This is Mostly False. The $2.5 trillion comes from the total defense budgets for the last four fiscal years. The Pentagon spent or appropriated about $562.5 billion on buying or upgrading equipment, which can take years to build and develop. The rest went to research and development, military personnel, and operation and maintenance costs, among other things.
Experts say most weapons are the same as before, and there is more continuity than change in defense policy from President Barack Obama to Trump.
‘Last month, I took on Big Pharma. You think that is easy? I signed orders that would massively lower the cost of your prescription drugs.’
Misleading. Trump signed four executive orders on July 24, 2020, that are aimed at lowering prescription drug prices. But those orders haven’t been put into effect yet — the text of one hasn’t even been made publicly available — and experts told us that if implemented, it’s unlikely they would result in significant drug price reductions for the majority of Americans.
‘We will always and very strongly protect patients with preexisting conditions, and that is a pledge from the entire Republican Party.’
Trump’s pledge is undermined by his efforts to overturn the Affordable Care Act, the only law that guarantees people with preexisting conditions both receive health coverage and do not have to pay more for it. In 2017, Trump supported congressional efforts to repeal the ACA. The Trump administration is now backing the GOP-led efforts to overturn the ACA through a court case. And Trump has also expanded short-term health plans that don’t have to comply with the ACA.
‘Over the past three months, we have gained over 9 million jobs, a new record.’
The 9 million gain in jobs was preceded by a loss of 22 million jobs due to the shutdown prompted by the coronavirus pandemic. In February, before the pandemic was declared, the United States had 152.4 million people employed in non-farm jobs. That number bottomed out at 130.3 million in April. By July, the number rose to 139.6 million. In other words, only about 40% of the jobs lost due to the downturn had been gained back
‘The United States has among the lowest (COVID-19) case fatality rates of any major country in the world. The European Union’s case fatality rate is nearly three times higher than ours.’
The case fatality rate measures the known number of cases compared to the known number of deaths. The European Union has a rate that’s about two and a half times larger than the United States.
But the source of that data, Oxford University’s Our World in Data project, says that “during an outbreak of a pandemic the case fatality rate is a poor measure of the mortality risk of the disease.”
A better way to measure the threat of the virus, experts say, is to look at the number of deaths per 100,000 residents. Viewed that way, the U.S. has the 10th-highest death rate in the world.
‘We will produce a vaccine before the end of the year, or maybe even sooner.’
It’s far from guaranteed that a coronavirus vaccine will be ready before the end of the year.
While researchers are making rapid strides, it’s not yet known precisely when the vaccine will be available to the public. Six vaccines are in the third phase of testing that involves thousands of patients. Like earlier phases, this one looks at the safety of a vaccine, but it also examines effectiveness and collects more data on side effects. Results of the third phase will be submitted to the Food and Drug Administration for approval.
The website of Operation Warp Speed is less optimistic than Trump, saying that it “aims to deliver 300 million doses of a safe, effective vaccine for COVID-19 by January 2021.”
And federal health officials and other experts have generally predicted that the vaccine will be available in early 2021. Federal committees are working on recommendations about vaccine distribution, including which groups should get it first. “From everything we’ve seen now — in the animal data, as well as the human data — we feel cautiously optimistic that we will have a vaccine by the end of this year and as we go into 2021,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said. “I don’t think it’s dreaming.”
‘We developed, from scratch, the largest and most advanced testing system in the world.
This is partially right, but it needs context.
It’s accurate that the U.S. developed its COVID-19 testing system from scratch, because the government didn’t accept the World Health Organization’s testing recipe. W, but whether the system is the “largest” or “most advanced” is subject to debate.
The U.S. has tested more individuals than any other country in the world. But experts told us a more meaningful metric would be the percentage of positive tests out of all tests, indicating that not only sick people were getting tested. Another useful metric would be the percentage of the population that has been tested. The U.S. is one of the most populous countries in the world, but has tested a lower percentage of its population than other countries.
The U.S. was also slower than other countries in rolling out tests and amping up testing capacity. Even now, many states are still experiencing delays in reporting test results to positive individuals.
As for “the most advanced,” Trump may be referring to new testing investments and systems, like Abbott’s recently announced $5,15-minute rapid antigen test that the company says will be about the size of a credit card, needs no instrumentation and comes with a phone app where people can view their results.
But Trump’s comment makes it sound as if these testing systems are already in place, when they haven’t been distributed to the public.
Daniel Funke, Jon Greenberg, Louis Jacobson, Noah Y. Kim, Bill McCarthy, Samantha Putterman, Amy Sherman, Miriam Valverde and Kaiser Health News reporter Victoria Knight contributed to this article.
PolitiFact is a nonpartisan, fact-checking website operated by the nonprofit Poynter Institute for Media Studies.