Fact-Checking The First 2024 Presidential Debate

Check Your Fact Staff | Contributor

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump faced each other for 90 minutes in Atlanta, Georgia. The two sparred over foreign policy, the economy, abortion and other issues. (You can watch it here or via the embedded video below)

Here are fact-checks of a few of their claims.

“Truth is, I’m the only president this century -this decade- that doesn’t have any troops dying anywhere in the world.” -President Biden

This claim is false. 11 Marines, 1 sailor and 1 soldier died during the Afghanistan withdrawal in August 2021, according to Marine Corps Times. Their names were Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, Cpl. Hunter Lopez, Cpl. Daegan W. Page, Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, Navy Corpsman Maxton W. Soviak and Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, per the outlet.

Three U.S. Army Reserve soldiers died in a drone attack on a base in Jordan in January 2024, according to the Defense Department. Their names were Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, Spc. Kennedy Ladon Sanders, and Spc. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett.

“[Donald Trump] had the largest national debt of any president, four year period, number one.” -Biden

The national debt increased by $7.8 trillion during Trump’s term in office, according to a previous Check Your Fact report. Much of the debt increase was due to pandemic spending and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which added $1.9 trillion in deficits. It is larger than former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush’s borrowing, per the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank.

The non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) found that Trump approved $8.3 trillion in borrowing over 10 years, while Biden approved borrowing by $4.3 trillion over 10 years.

“Debt held by the public rose by $7.2 trillion during President Trump’s term including $5.9 trillion in the first three years and five months. Debt held by the public has grown by $6.0 trillion during President Biden’s term so far,” the analysis found (emphasis is from CRFB).

“[Biden] also said he inherited 9% inflation. No, he inherited almost no inflation.” – Trump

According to the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) available via the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website, inflation was 1.4% in January 2021 when Biden was sworn in as president. The CPI-U data examines the inflation rate on all items in the U.S. and is not seasonally adjusted, the BLS website indicates.

Likewise, an interactive chart from the BLS showing the 12-month percentage change for inflation on all items from March 2004 to March 2024 and the U.S. Inflation Calculator available via the Coin News Media Group also placed inflation at 1.4% in January 2021.

When speaking about inflation during the debate, Trump referenced a previous claim Biden made during a May 2024 interview with CNN host Erin Burnett. During the same interview, Biden said inflation was “nine percent when [he] came to office.”

Check Your Fact previously reported the claim is false. At the time, multiple sources told this outlet that Biden made an inaccurate claim.

“There is no evidence to support President Biden’s claim. While inflation numbers depend on the price index used for computation as well as the timeframe aggregation, based on a variety of sources I cannot validate the 9% figure President Biden cites in the interview,” said Jai Kedia, a research fellow who studies monetary economics and macro-finance at the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute’s Center for Monetary and Financial Alternatives.

“According to multiple sources, the inflation rate when Biden took office in January 2021 was 1.4%,” a spokesperson for the Hudson Institute said.

A White House official also commented on the claim and explained that Biden “was making the point that the factors that caused inflation were in place when he took office.”

“The pandemic caused inflation around the world by disrupting our economy and breaking our supply chains. For instance, semiconductor shortages from Asian supply chain breakdowns were already in place when he took office. They showed up in everything from auto parts to washing machines after inventories ran out. By some measures, they accounted for 1/3 of inflation in late 2021,” the official said.

“I’ve changed [the law] in a way that now you’re in a situation where there are 40 percent fewer people coming across the border illegally.” – Biden

Border Patrol encounters have dropped over 40 percent, according to June 26 remarks from Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. This comes three weeks after Biden implemented new restrictions that cut off asylum access after border arrivals reached a certain number, according to PBS. The average number of Border Patrol’s daily arrests over a seven-day period fell below 2,400, the outlet reported.

This follows a downward trend over the last several months, where U.S. Border Patrol agents reported a daily average of about 3,700 apprehensions during the first 21 days of May, according to CBS News. This represents a 54 percent decrease when compared to the 8,000 daily average in December—an all-time high, the outlet reported.

PolitiFact fact-checked a June 4 claim from Biden that encounters were down already as true. However, immigration experts noted to the outlet, “No crackdown in the last 10 years has had a lasting impact” and that there’s no reason to believe the decrease will be long-lasting.

“And as far as Afghanistan is concerned, I was getting out of Afghanistan, but we were getting out with dignity, with strength, with power.” – Trump

NPR reported that the Trump administration agreed to a withdrawal of troops with a target date of May 1, 2021 . The Biden administration in a press release referenced the 2020 deal that Trump reached with the Taliban, called the Doha Agreement, to withdraw all the U.S. troops from the country by that date.

CNN reported in Jun 2020 that Trump finalized a deal to withdraw more than 4,000 troops saying, “The move would reduce the number of troops from 8,600 to 4,500.” The report goes on to indicate that this move was the beginning of a full withdrawal. (RELATED: Biden Campaign’s Comparison Of Rally Audience With Trump Is Missing Context)

Trump was out of office before the date of the troop withdrawal. After Biden took office in January 2021, he did remove all troops from Afghanistan. Biden was criticized for the manner in which the process took place. The Associated Press reported at the time the Biden Administration blamed the former administration saying they were “severely constrained” by Trump’s decisions.

Elias Atienza, Christine Sellers, Anna Mock and Joseph Caiseri contributed to this report. 

Check Your Fact Staff