FACT CHECK: How Many Times Did 2020 Candidates Mention Trump During The First Democratic Debate?

Aislinn Murphy | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook claims that 2020 candidates uttered the word “Trump” 1,326 times, “free” 683 times and “America” only twice during the first Democratic primary debate. Spanish was spoken a total of 14 times, it claims.

Verdict: False

There were 63 mentions of President Donald Trump’s last name, 17 instances of the word “free” and nearly 80 of the word “America.” Spanish was spoken around eight times.

Fact Check:

Twenty candidates participated in the first Democratic presidential debate of the 2020 election cycle, hosted in Miami. To accommodate the crowded presidential field, the debate was split into two nights, with 10 candidates appearing on stage each night.

The first night’s lineup included Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar, as well as former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and several lesser-known candidates. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, both frontrunners in the race, participated in night two of the debate.

Millions of viewers watched the broadcasts, with many chiming in over social media. As commentary continued into the weekend, one image posted on Facebook claimed that Trump’s name was invoked an inordinate 1,326 times during the debate.

Night one candidates largely avoided talking about Trump, as many outlets noted, but the second night’s debaters took a number of swipes at the president. In fact, Vox joked that “there were 10 new candidates onstage during night two of the first Democratic presidential debate – 11, if you count President Donald Trump.”

However, the image greatly exaggerates the number of times his last name was uttered. According to transcripts from The New York Times, Trump was mentioned by name 63 times in the two nights of debate, including instances where the moderators said his name.

NBC News tallied 87 instances where Democrats referred to the president by name or title, with 35 mentions on the first night and 52 on the second night. CNN recorded a slightly different count. (RELATED: Did It Take 16 Minutes For 2020 Democrats To Mention Trump At The First Night of Debates?)

The meme also touches on the number of times Democrats said the word “free,” likely referring to programs like tuition-free college and Medicare For All, the program championed by progressive candidates like Sanders.

“Every proposal that I have brought forward is fully paid for,” Sanders said during Thursday’s debate, though it took a direct question from NBC News anchor Savannah Guthrie for him to acknowledge that his health care proposal would require higher taxes for the middle class.

A far cry from the 683 instances claimed in the meme, candidates and moderators used the word “free” 17 times across both debates, with three of those instances unrelated to such policy proposals. Booker mentioned the free market economy once, for example.

As candidates fielded questions on topics ranging from climate change to immigration, they tried to convey their vision for the country. Unsurprisingly, the word “America” got tossed around quite a bit. The image claims it was used twice, but it actually appears in NYT transcripts nearly 80 times.

The Daily Caller excluded the word “Americans” from this count, as well as a few instances where candidates referred to Central America.

The meme was closer in its claim that Spanish was spoken 14 times during the debate. In lieu of transcribing these remarks, many news outlets used placeholder terms like “UNTRANSLATED” or “SPEAKING IN SPANISH” in their transcripts. Counting these instances alone, the Caller found eight instances of Spanish being spoken in transcripts from the Times.

Candidates like O’Rourke, Booker and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro spoke Spanish, with varying degrees of proficiency, though our tally also includes the Spanish spoken by Telemundo host Jose Diaz-Balart.

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Aislinn Murphy

Fact Check Reporter
Follow Aislinn on Twitter Have a fact check suggestion? Send ideas to [email protected].

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