Presidential Debate 2020: Trump and Biden's claims fact-checked

President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden squared off Tuesday night in their crucial first debate of the 2020 campaign, the most pivotal opportunity yet for them to outline starkly different visions for a country facing multiple crises.

The evening erupted in contentious exchanges over the coronavirus pandemic, city violence, job losses and how the Supreme Court will shape the future of the nation’s health care. 

Here we analyse what each candidate said: 

On the economy 

CLAIM:  Biden said Trump will be the ‘first (president) in American history’ to lose jobs during his presidency.

FACT: No, if Trump loses re-election, he would not be the first president in U.S. history to have lost jobs. That happened under Herbert Hoover, the president who lost the 1932 election to Franklin Roosevelt as the Great Depression caused massive job losses.

Official jobs records only go back to 1939 and, in that period, no president has ended his term with fewer jobs than when he began. Trump appears to be on track to have lost jobs during his first term, which would make him the first to do so since Hoover. 

CLAIM: Trump said the country is doing  ‘record business’.

FACT: Unemployment has fallen from 14.7 per cent in April to 8.4 per cent.

CLAIM: Trump said: ‘I brought back 700,000 jobs. They brought back nothing’.

FACT: Manufacturing employment has risen by just under 500,000 jobs since Trump became president. The sector is currently down by more than 200,000 jobs from when he took office.

CLAIM: Biden said the US has a ‘higher deficit with China now than we did before’.

FACT: The trade deficit with China fell sharply between 2018 and 2019.

On the coronavirus  

CLAIM:  Trump said they have had ‘no problem whatsoever’ with his campaign rallies.

FACT: Trump held an indoor rally in Tulsa in late June, drawing both thousands of participants and large protests.

The Tulsa City-County Health Department director said the rally ‘likely contributed’ to a dramatic surge in new coronavirus cases there. 

By the first week of July, Tulsa County was confirming more than 200 new daily cases, setting record highs. That’s more than twice the number the week before the rally. 

CLAIM: Biden said there are 100million Americans with pre-existing conditions.

FACT: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid says a range from 50 to 129 million, not including the elderly, have pre-existing conditions.

CLAIM: Trump claimed Biden called him xenophobic after he banned travel from China due to coronavirus concerns.

FACT: Biden said in March ‘banning all travel from Europe — or any other part of the world — will not stop’ the virus. 

On January 31, hours after Trump’s announcement on China, Biden, without mentioning the virus, said: ‘We need to lead the way with science — not Donald Trump’s record of hysteria, xenophobia, and fear-mongering.’  

CLAIM: Trump said the US is ‘weeks away from a vaccine’.

FACT: Health officials have said we may have to wait until next summer until a vaccine is widely available 

CLAIM:  Biden said the US has ‘5 percent — 4 percent — of the world’s population, 20 percent of the coronavirus deaths’.

FACT: This is true.

CLAIM:  Trump said: ‘I’m okay with masks. I’m not fighting masks’.

FACT: The president has repeatedly been seen in public without a mask; he often mocks Biden for wearing one.  

CLAIM: Trump said of Biden: ‘He wants to shut down this country and I want to keep it open.’

FACT: Biden said in September: ‘There is going to be no need, in my view, to be able to shut down the whole economy.’ 

CLAIM: Trump addressing Biden said: ‘You didn’t do very well on the swine flu. H1N1. You were a disaster.’

FACT: Trump frequently distorts what happened in the pandemic of 2009, which killed far fewer people in the United States than the coronavirus is killing now.

 For starters, Biden as vice president wasn’t running the federal response. And that response was faster out of the gate than when COVID-19 came to the U.S.

On the supreme court

CLAIM:  Biden said of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett: ‘She thinks that the Affordable Care Act is not constitutional.’

FACT: Barrett has been critical of the Obama-era law and the court decisions that have upheld it, but she has never said it’s not constitutional. 

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case on Nov. 10, and the Trump administration is asking the high court to rule the law unconstitutional.

On Hunter Biden      

CLAIM: Trump said Biden’s son Hunter was kicked out of the military.

FACT:  Hunter Biden was discharged from the Navy Reserve in 2014 after failing a drug test and has struggled with alcohol and drug abuse.

CLAIM: Trump said Hunter was given $3.5 million by the mayor of Moscow’s wife.

FACT: Hunter Biden had a ‘financial relationship’ with the widow of a Moscow mayor who was ousted over corruption allegations, according to a report from Republican senators.

The 87-page report was released earlier this month by the Republican-led Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Finance Committee, and focuses on Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine.

Biden’s campaign said the investigation was founded on ‘a long-disproven, hardcore rightwing conspiracy theory’.

On climate change  

CLAIM: Biden said Trump suggested dropping nuclear weapons on hurricanes.

FACT:  Sources told Axios in August last year Trump asked Homeland Security and national security officials several times if nuclear bombs can be dropped on hurricanes to stop them from making landfall in the US.

‘The story by Axios that President Trump wanted to blow up large hurricanes with nuclear weapons prior to reaching shore is ridiculous. I never said this. Just more FAKE NEWS!’, the president tweeted.

On healthcare 

CLAIM: Trump said: ‘You agree with Bernie Sanders, who is far-left on the manifesto, we call it’.

FACT: Biden and Sanders formed a joint task force in May to unify Democrats on issues including health care, producing a 110-page set of policy recommendations.

CLAIM: Trump said he is ‘cutting drug prices’.

FACT: The president has signed executive orders lower drug prices but experts doubt the relief that it will actually provide.

On law and order        

CLAIM: Biden said of Trump: ‘His own former spokesperson said, you know, ‘Riots and chaos and violence help his cause.’ That’s what this is all about.’

FACT: The president’s former adviser Kellyanne Conway said in August: ‘The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who’s best on public safety and law and order.’ 

CLAIM: Trump said Biden called African-Americans super-predators.

FACT: The first lady Hillary Clinton used the term ‘super predator’ in 1994 to support a crime bill co written by Biden. He warned of ‘predators’ in a floor speech supporting the bill.

CLAIM: Trump said: ‘Portland – the sheriff just came out today and said, ‘I support President Trump.’

FACT: Multnomah County, Oregon, Sheriff Mike Reese tweeted: ‘As the Multnomah County Sheriff I have never supported Donald Trump and will never support him.’

Multnomah County includes the city of Portland.

CLAIM: Biden said: ‘The fact of the matter is violent crime went down 17 per cent, 15 per cent, in our administration.’ 

FACT: That’s overstating it.

Overall, the number of violent crimes fell roughly 10 per cent from 2008, the year before Biden took office as vice president, to 2016, his last full year in the office, according to data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program.

But the number of violent crimes was spiking again during Obama and Biden’s final two years in office, increasing by 8 per cent from 2014 to 2016.

More people were slain across the U.S. in 2016, for example, than at any other point under the Obama administration. 

CLAIM: Trump said: ‘If you look at what’s going on in Chicago, where 53 people were shot and eight died. If you look at New York where it’s going up like nobody’s ever seen anything…the numbers are going up 100 150, 200%, crime, it’s crazy what’s going on.’

FACT: The statistics in Chicago are true. 

As for New York, Trump may have been talking about shootings. They are up in New York by about 93% so far this year, but overall crime is down about 1.5%. 

On voting

CLAIM: Trump said: ‘This is going to be fraud like you’ve never heard.’

FACT: Voter fraud has proved exceedingly rare. The Brennan Center for Justice in 2017 ranked the risk of ballot fraud at 0.00004% to 0.0009%, based on studies of past elections.

In the five states that regularly send ballots to all voters, there have been no major cases of fraud or difficulty counting the votes. 

President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden squared off Tuesday

President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden squared off Tuesday