Fact-Checking Top 10 Claims in the First Presidential Debate: Donald Trump and Joe Biden
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*Editor’s Note: This is Part One of our Fact-Checking Series. Want us to fact check a claim? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Fact Check
In a turbulent first debate of the 2020 election, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden had a slew of claims about the economy, Trump’s tax returns, the 1994 crime bill, climate change, and Antifa.
During the heated two-hour-long exchange, the candidates pitted a number of issues against each other, from Trump’s tax return records to Biden’s 47-year experience in the Senate. The Scriberr Review Team fact-checked some of these claims for our readers and hyperlinked sources for deeper inquiring.
- “No, I don’t support the Green New Deal.” –Joe Biden
- “I support the Biden plan I put forward, which is different than what [Trump] calls the Green New Deal.” –Joe Biden
- According to Biden’s climate plan on his website, “Biden believes the Green New Deal is a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face. It powerfully captures two basic truths, which are at the core of his plan: (1) the United States urgently needs to embrace greater ambition on an epic scale to meet the scope of this challenge, and (2) our environment and our economy are completely and totally connected.”
- The Green New Deal, or House Resolution 109, was introduced in Congress by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–NY 14th District) and Senator Ed Markey (D–MA) in Feb. 2019. The deal says climate change impacts the economy, environment, and national security.
- The resolution’s list of goals outlined in the bill text would be accomplished through a “10-year national mobilization.” The deal did not make it further amid a divided Congress.
- The Green New Deal (GND) is a hybrid plan to merge the goal of a clean environment and social issues, such as universal healthcare, guaranteed housing, a federal job program, and a food security program, according to the resolution, since the effects of climate change disproportionately impact low-income communities.
- The center-right think tank, the American Action Forum, projects the GND will cost $52 trillion over the next decade, concluding at $93 trillion. The GND does not include how it will be paid for in the resolution.
- Biden’s plan would spend $2 trillion over the next four years in an effort to renew clean energy and restore infrastructures. His plan is supported by the recommendations of the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force, which states: “Like so many crises facing the United States, the impacts of climate change are not evenly distributed in our society or our economy. Communities of color, low-income families, and indigenous communities have long suffered disproportionate and cumulative harm from air pollution, water pollution, and toxic sites.”
- “He [Biden] called the military stupid bastards.” – Donald Trump
- “I did not say that.” – Joe Biden
- In a resurfaced video from a trip to the Al-Dhafra Air Base when Biden was Vice President in 2016, Biden tells troops according to transcripts: “And I want you to know notwithstanding what you may hear about me, I have incredibly good judgment. One, I married Jill. And two, I appointed Johnson to the academy. I just want you to know that. Clap for that, you stupid bastards. (Applause.) Come on, man. Man, you are a dull bunch. Must be slow here, man. I don’t know.”
- Previously, Biden opened his speech saying: “Hello! (Applause.) It’s great to see you all. Jill and I are really honored to be here. I’ve been doing this job for a while, and everywhere I go I see warriors like all of you before me and behind me here. Excuse my back, folks. I’ve been in and out of the Balkans 25 times; in and out of Iraq 26 times; in and out of Afghanistan about 10 or 12 times. And I have one regret every time I’m with you all — and I mean this sincerely — is the folks back home can’t see you; can’t see you in place. Don’t get to fly on the mission with you. Don’t understand — they appreciate, but they don’t fully understand the incredible sacrifices you make for our country.”
- Via PolitiFact, USA Today, Snopes a spokesperson for Biden’s campaign, Andrew Bates, said “Vice President Biden was jokingly encouraging the audience to clap for an airwoman on the stage, and a number of service members can be seen laughing and smiling at the comment.”
- “He passed a tax bill that gave us all these privileges for depreciation and for tax credits. We build the building and we get tax credits, like the hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. Which by the way, was given to me by the Obama administration.” –Donald Trump
- President Trump did take advantage of the tax codes written by both the Bush and the Obama administrations. This is not unique to just Trump, but most affluent Americans in the 1% are able to find loopholes to avoid paying heaping taxes. Tax avoidance is legal, while tax evasion is not.
- Obama’s stimulus policies––as part of the Great Recession recovery effort––allowed Trump to continue avoiding paying taxes. The stimulus is partially outlined in the sweeping New York Times article about Trump’s tax returns published on Sept. 27.
- In short, the tax code allowed Trump to not only avoid taxes, but he received a $73 million tax refund, since the code allowed business owners to request full refunds of the last four years they paid in taxes, and half of those from the previous year.
- From this Newsweek report published Sept. 29: “They have a lot of options for playing the tax code. The president may have been very aggressive in his use of them,” Eugene Steuerle, cofounder of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, told Newsweek. “Some things he might not, with a detailed audit, get away with, but I’m guessing a lot of other people do get away with, such as the extent to which you can effectively write off personal expenses as a business deduction. For the president, whether it’s his haircuts or trips to the golf courses. The really big ways that people like Donald Trump avoid taxes often are quite legal.”
- According to a review in the National Tax Journal published in 2010, “We find that, when taxpayers are arrayed by their estimated ‘true’ income, defined as reported income adjusted for underreporting, the ratio of aggregate misreported income to true income generally increases with income, although it peaks among taxpayers with adjusted gross income in the 99.0 to 99.5 percentile.”
- In simple terms, the top 1% of American taxpayers made up approximately 34% of underreported taxes.
“They had the slowest recovery since 19 — economic recovery, since 1929. It was the slowest recovery.” –Donald Trump
- Depending on how one interprets what constitutes a growing economy, this claim is argued among different economists. In 2016, CNN Money wrote an article titled, “Yes, this is the slowest U.S. recovery since WWII.”
- “In terms of the average pace of GDP growth, this is the slowest expansion on record,” Lakshman Achuthan, co-founder of the Economic Cycle Research Institute told CNN.
- The report outlined that since the housing market crash in late 2008, the U.S. economy had only grown 2% every year under the Obama administration, down from an annual 4% growth rate during a healthy economy.
“Miracle to bring back manufacturing. I brought back 700,000 jobs. They brought back nothing. They gave up on manufacturing. Part of my standard fare. He totally gave up on manufacturing.” – Donald Trump
- Reported at the start of 2020, Trump brought back 487,000 manufacturing jobs, not 700,000––but up from a loss of 300,000 manufacturing jobs under the previous administration.
“ANTIFA’S an idea, not an organization.” – Joe Biden
- Rose City Antifa is the oldest radical left-wing group founded in 2007. According to their website, “We are a group closed to members only, but if you are interested in joining please send us an email with a little bit of information about you and what makes you interested in joining.”
- Since 2016, Rose City Antifa has been part of the Torch Network, which mobilizes a number of Antifa chapters across the U.S.
“They came after me trying to do a coup, they came after me spying on my campaign. They started from the day I won and even before I won, from the day I came down the escalator with our first lady.” –Donald Trump
- Perhaps one of the more difficult claims for our team to review, we’ve compiled a list of resources for our readers to decide whether “Spygate” has a legitimate basis, or if it’s just a conspiracy theory:
- Did Obama Get Caught ‘Spying’ on Trump’s 2016 Campaign?
- Government documents show six examples of Obama admin spying on Trump camp
- Donald Trump repeats false claim that Obama spied on his campaign
- Sorry, But Obama White House, Not Dossier, Was Behind Trump Investigation
- DOJ inspector general refutes Trump claim that Obama tapped his wires
- William Barr says ‘spying did occur’ on Trump campaign during Obama era
- Former FBI Lawyer To Plead Guilty In Trump Campaign Probe
“You know we’re planting a billion trees, the Billion Tree Project.” –Donald Trump
- The project is actually the Trillion Trees Initiative, sponsored by the United Nations and introduced at the World Economic Forum in 2019. A total of 13.48 billion trees have been planted worldwide. A number of other nations are also involved in the initiative.
“Look how much we’re paying now to deal with the hurricanes, with — to deal with — by the way, he has an answer for hurricanes. He said maybe we should drop a nuclear weapon on them.” –Joe Biden
- In 2019, Axios published a report stating an inside source heard the president make these claims, but there is no audio or video evidence to substantiate the report.
“You did a crime bill, 1994, when you call them super predators, African-Americans, super predators, and they’ve never forgotten it. They’ve never forgotten it, Joe.” –Donald Trump
- The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, drafted by then-Senator Biden, is the largest crime bill in U.S. history that administered 100,000 new police officers, nearly $10 billion in prison funding, and $6 billion in prevention programs. The bill expanded federal law in a number of ways and disproportionately impacted African American communities.
- In a Nov. 18, 1993 speech at the Senate floor, Biden did use the term “predators,” and said they are “beyond the pale,” but he did not explicitly use “super predators.” Former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, did, however, use the term “super predators” when talking about the bill in 1996.