FACT CHECK: 6 Claims From The 1st Presidential Debate
Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden squared off onstage Tuesday night during the first of three planned presidential debates. Fox News host Chris Wallace moderated the event in Cleveland, Ohio.
Per the Commission on Presidential Debates, the six topics covered included: “the Trump and Biden Records, the Supreme Court, Covid-19, the Economy, Race and Violence in our Cities and the Integrity of the Election.”
Here are six checks on the candidates’ claims.
Claim 1: “[Dr. Anthony Fauci] said very strongly, ‘Masks are not good.’ Then he changed his mind. He said, ‘Masks are good,'” said Trump.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised that people exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 and people caring for the sick should wear face coverings and that face masks should be conserved for health care workers to prevent a shortage. During a March interview with “60 Minutes,” Fauci stated, “The masks are important for someone who’s infected to prevent them from infecting someone else… Right now in the United States, people should not be walking around with masks.”
However, Fauci’s advice on face coverings changed in accordance with updated guidance from the CDC. In early April, the CDC revised its guidance to recommend all Americans wear cloth face coverings in public settings where social distancing cannot be maintained, according to NPR. The change came after more information became known about the transmission of the new coronavirus.
Fauci has since strongly urged Americans to wear face masks in public, in addition to social distancing, according to CNN. While testifying before Congress in June, Fauci, for example, said, “Plan A: Don’t go in a crowd. Plan B: If you do, make sure you wear a mask.”
Claim 2: “One in 1,000 African Americans has been killed because of the coronavirus,” said Biden.
Biden’s figure appears to be correct. The American Public Media Research Lab reported on Sept. 16 that, based on data through Sept. 15, one in 1,020 black Americans has died from COVID-19.
The CDC states on its website that black Americans are 2.1 times as likely to die from COVID-19 compared to white Americans. Provisional COVID-19 death count data from the CDC shows that 40,334 black Americans died from COVID-19 from the week of Feb. 1 to the week of Sept. 26.
Claim 3: “In fact, some of her biggest endorsers are very liberal people from Notre Dame and other places,” Trump said of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
Trump may be referencing Notre Dame law professor O. Carter Snead, who wrote a Sept. 26 op-ed for the Washington Post titled, “I’ve Known Amy Coney Barrett For 15 Years. Liberals Have Nothing To Fear.”
“What is clear is that she would carefully analyze each case on its merits, respectful of the stakes for both the rule of law and the stability of our polity, doing her level best to get the question right, regardless of her own personal views,” Snead wrote in the op-ed. “At a time when there is so much to worry about in our troubled nation, having a Supreme Court justice who brings such honesty and integrity to her work should be the least of our fears.”
Liberal Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman also wrote in a Bloomberg op-ed that Barrett, a judge for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, is “highly qualified to serve on the Supreme Court.”
“I disagree with much of her judicial philosophy and expect to disagree with many, maybe even most of her future votes and opinions,” Feldman wrote. “Yet despite this disagreement, I know her to be a brilliant and conscientious lawyer who will analyze and decide cases in good faith, applying the jurisprudential principles to which she is committed. Those are the basic criteria for being a good justice. Barrett meets and exceeds them.”
Claim 4: “There’s a hundred million people who have pre-existing conditions,” said Biden.
Studies appear to show a wide range of estimates for the number of Americans with pre-existing health conditions.
For instance, a 2017 Department of Health and Human Services study found that between 61 million and 133 million non-elderly Americans had pre-existing conditions. The 61-million figure used a “narrow definition based on eligibility criteria for pre-ACA state high-risk pools,” while the 133-million figure used a “broader definition closer to the underwriting criteria used by insurers” prior to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), according to the study.
A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis found that an estimated 53.8 million people in 2018 had a declinable pre-existing condition that “would likely to have caused them to be denied coverage if they applied for non-group health insurance prior to the effective date of the ACA.” Another 2018 analysis from Avalere, a health care consulting firm, found that 102 million Americans had a pre-existing condition.
43 percent of American households reported at least one member with a pre-existing condition, Gallup reported in December 2019.
Claim 5: “They said it would take a miracle to bring back manufacturing. I brought back 700,000 jobs. They brought back nothing,” said Trump.
Trump took office on Jan. 20, 2017. From February 2017, his first full month in office, to February 2020, the total number of manufacturing jobs rose by approximately 468,000, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Manufacturing employment in the U.S. has decreased since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic in early March. The net loss of manufacturing jobs from February 2017 to August of this year is roughly 252,000, according to the BLS data. The manufacturing job numbers for July and August 2020 are preliminary.
Claim 6: “He talks about the art of the deal. China’s perfected the art of the steal. We have a higher deficit with China now than we did before,” said Biden.
The annual U.S. trade deficit in goods and services with China was about $308 billion in 2019, down roughly $72 billion from the approximately $380 billion gap in 2018, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis published by the Census Bureau. The trade deficit in goods and services with China was about $337 billion for 2017, the data shows.
The U.S. trade deficit in goods and services with China for the second quarter of 2020 appears to be lower than that for the second quarter of 2019. For the second quarter of 2019, the gap was about $80 billion, whereas for the second quarter of 2020, it was approximately $76 billion, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
This fact check is available at IFCN’s 2020 US Elections FactChat #Chatbot on WhatsApp. Click here, for more.
Elias Atienza, Brad Sylvester and Trevor Schakohl contributed to this report.