Trump made 56 false claims last week
President Donald Trump made 56 false claims last week, delivering his usual assortment of dishonesty about immigration, his popularity and his record.
That was down from 78 false claims the week prior and 61 false claims the week before that.
Where he made the biggest numbers: Trump made 26 false claims at his campaign rally in Cincinnati, 13 more in various exchanges with the media, seven on Twitter, five in an interview with C-SPAN.
Top categories: Eighteen false claims were about the economy or trade; 10 were about Trump’s popularity, his crowds or others’ crowds; 10 were about immigration; eight were about former President Barack Obama’s record.
The most egregious false claim: Support from African Americans
Trump’s stories are peppered with unnamed validators — “many people” who say he’s right about something, “tough guys” backstage who break down crying in his presence, a “friend” who just called him to say something dramatic.
Last week, as he faced accusations of racism for his attack on Baltimore as “disgusting, rat and rodent infested” and unfit for human habitation, he turned the black community into a validator.
“What I’ve done for African Americans, no president, I would say, has done,” he told reporters, citing his criminal justice legislation, the low black unemployment rate and the criticism of Baltimore itself. “Now, I’ll say this: They are so happy, because I get the calls.”
Though Trump does have African American supporters, all the available evidence suggests African American voters are overwhelmingly unhappy with him. In one poll the week before last, he had a 6% approval rating with black voters; 80% of them said he is racist.
We can’t fact-check the existence of phone calls to him. We can note that he has invented phone calls before.
The most revealing false claim: A Veterans Choice fable
Trump has made a concerted effort to erase and distort Obama’s record. He has claimed more than 75 times as President that he was the one who got the Veterans Choice health care program passed, though Obama signed it into law in 2014.
Most of the time Trump talks about Veterans Choice, he simply asserts that he was the one responsible for doing what previous presidents couldn’t. Sometimes, like at his rally last week, he invents an entire elaborate story.
He said he was thinking about the problem of veterans’ health care “during the campaign,” and he approached “experts” with a “great idea” he thought made him “the smartest guy”: Veterans, he had decided, should be allowed to see private doctors if they are facing long waits in the VA system. (Note: That is what the Obama program already allowed them to do.) As it turned out, he said, the “experts” had something remarkable to tell him: They had this same idea long before, but could never get it implemented.
“Sir,” Trump said the experts told him, “we’ve known about it for about 40 years, but we’ve never been able.”
Note the “sir,” one of the most surefire signs Trump is making something up.
The most absurd false claim: Hot air on wind
When Trump uses his campaign rallies to rile up his supporters over issues like immigration, we say he is throwing them red meat.
We need a phrase for when he uses his rallies to rant about a personal grievance that his supporters don’t seem to be interested in at all. Green meat?
One such issue is wind turbines, a longtime bugbear for him. Again and again, Trump has returned to the subject even as the people in his crowds have demonstrated little apparent excitement.
At the rally last week, he did not repeat his infamous false claim that wind turbines cause cancer. He did, however, claim that wind turbines being built near your house means your house becomes “practically worthless.”
Not true, studies show.
Here is this week’s full list of 56:
Crowds and popularity
“…I’ve never had an empty seat. … I don’t think we’ve had an empty seat. I don’t think you’ve seen an empty seat, with thousands of people outside. … We’ll have a 22,000-seat arena, including like a basketball — an NBA — arena, or even bigger stadiums, we’ve never had an empty seat.” — July 30 interview with C-SPAN
“I’m going to Cincinnati. The arena is a very large one. And we’ve sold it out. We could sell it out probably 10 times, from what I hear. The applications for seats, as you know — never had an empty seat. …” — August 1 exchange with reporters
Facts First: There have been empty seats at various Trump events, including a rally in Greenville, North Carolina, just two weeks prior to these remarks.
Bloomberg News reporter Josh Wingrove tweeted a photo of what he described as a “smattering” of empty seats in the almost-full 8,000-capacity venue in Greenville.
The Dallas News said of Trump’s October 18 rally in Houston: “Many hundreds of seats were empty, including all of the boxes on both tiers of the mezzanine.” At Trump’s Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, rally in April 2017, Philadelphia Inquirer journalist Jonathan Tamari tweeted a photo of rows of empty seats in the upper deck.
Support among religious voters
When Trump was asked about recent criticism from Wilton Gregory, archbishop of Washington, who said the President’s recent remarks had “deepened divisions and diminished our national life,” he said he was unaware of the archbishop’s remarks but that he is highly popular with “the church.” He continued, “The church has loved me and I love them. You know, we’ve got about 84% of the vote. And the churches love Donald Trump and I love them.” — August 1 exchange with reporters
Facts First: Trump did not get anywhere close to 84% of the vote from Catholics in the 2016 election. Exit polls had him winning 50% of the Catholic vote to Hillary Clinton’s 46%. Data from the American National Election Study had Clinton winning 48% to Trump’s 45%.
Trump might have been referring imprecisely to his level of support from white evangelical Christians. Exit polls found 80% of that particular group voted for Trump.
Support among African Americans
“What I’ve done for African Americans, no president, I would say, has done. Now, I’ll say this: They are so happy, because I get the calls.” And: “The African American people have been calling the White House. They have never been so happy as what a president has done.” — July 30 exchange with reporters
Facts First: African Americans are overwhelmingly unhappy with Trump’s job performance, polls have consistently shown.
Trump began talking negatively about Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings and Baltimore in a series of tweets on July 27. In a Quinnipiac University poll conducted from July 25 to July 28 — two days before the tweets, the day of the tweets and one day after the tweets — Trump had a 6% approval rating and 84% disapproval rating with black voters. Eighty percent of black voters said Trump is racist, while just 11% said he is not.
A Fox News poll conducted from July 21 to July 23 had Trump at 75% disapproval among black registered voters, with 22% approval. In a Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted June 28 to July 1, 81% of African Americans said they disapproved; 18% approved. Both of those approval numbers were substantially better than the one in the new Quinnipiac poll, but still: On the whole, large majorities of African Americans were displeased with him.
“Wow! Morning Joe & Psycho ratings have really crashed. Very small audience. People are tired of hearing Fake News delivered with an anger that is not to be believed. Sad, when the show was sane, they helped get me elected. Thanks! Was on all the time. Lost all of its juice!” — July 30 tweet
Facts First: The ratings for the MSNBC show “Morning Joe” have not “crashed.” The show’s viewership in the second quarter of 2019 was nearly identical to its viewership in the second quarter of 2018 and the second quarter of 2017 — and significantly higher than its ratings in the second quarter of 2016, during the presidential election.
“Morning Joe” averaged 1.03 million viewers in the second quarter of this year. That was down very slightly from 1.06 million viewers in the same quarter in 2018 and up very slightly from 997,000 viewers in the same quarter in 2017.
All of these figures were higher than the 608,000 viewers “Morning Joe” averaged in the second quarter of 2016.
Joe Biden’s crowd size
“I saw Biden’s opening, where he couldn’t get 150 people to an opening in a little basketball, high school gymnasium.” — July 30 interview with C-SPAN
Facts First: About 600 people attended Biden’s first speech after he announced his candidacy — which was held at a union hall, not a high school gymnasium.
Trump had previously claimed that Biden’s launch event was attended by 150 people, not the reported 600. This time, the President claimed it was not even 150.
The Atlantic reported that journalists occupied 100 of the 600 spots at the hall in Pittsburgh, but that is still 500 non-journalists.
Biden did hold an event at a community center gym in South Carolina that same week, but he drew a crowd of 700, The New York Times reported.
The crowd in Cincinnati
“l’ll tell you what: This is some crowd, some turnout. We’ve sold tens of thousands of tickets, and you know, at the sale prices, we keep it nice and low, but keep it nice and low.” — August 1 rally in Cincinnat
Facts First: Tickets to Trump’s rallies are not “sold” by the campaign. Contrary to Trump’s suggestion that people had paid to attend this rally, attendance was, as always, free.
It’s possible Trump was making a joke, but that wasn’t clear.
The 2016 election
“I say it all the time: never happened before. There’s never been a movement like this. They’ve had movements, they never went — they won a state, they did well in a state. We won 32 states, there’s never been anything like it.” — August 1 rally in Cincinnati
Facts First: Trump won 30 states, not 32. Also, this was far from a historic number: Richard Nixon in 1972 and Ronald Reagan in 1984 each won 49 states; James Monroe won every state in the uncontested election of 1820.
“There have been 45 presidential elections in which the winning candidate won a larger share of the electoral vote,” The New York Times reported.
Ohio in 2016
“We ended up winning Ohio by close to 9 points, which is unheard-of. …” — August 1 rally in Cincinnati
Facts First: Trump exaggerated very slightly. He won 51.7% to 43.6%, a margin of just over 8 points. That was the biggest margin in Ohio since George H.W. Bush’s 11-point win in 1988, but not an unprecedented margin for the state.
Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon all won the state by 20 points or more.
Florida in 2016
“So we have a great governor in the state of Florida. Ron DeSantis. Calls me up — doing a great job, Ron DeSantis. He was at 3 and he went to 70. That’s a pretty good increase.” — August 1 rally in Cincinnati
Facts First: DeSantis did experience a spike in support after Trump endorsed him, but he never came close to 70% in the polls. He won the Republican primary with 56.5% of the vote.
We also could not find any public polls in which DeSantis was as low as 3%, though he was indeed polling poorly before Trump expressed support for him in December 2017 and before the President issued a “full” endorsement in June 2018. He was at 17% in a Fox News poll just before the endorsement.
Talking about immigration, Trump said, “We’re the only country in the world, or just about, where people come in, Bill, they come in and they get a trial, so we hire Perry Mason. And it’s a big deal. And the trial we say, ‘Come back in four years.’ It is so crazy. But we’re the — nobody else has judges. They come in — other countries, they come and they say, ‘Sorry, you have to get out.’ And in this country they come in, it’s ‘Welcome to litigation.’ ” — August 1 interview with Bill Cunningham of 700WLW Cincinnati
Facts First: The US is far from the only country to grant asylum claimants the right to a legal process.
In Canada, for example, refugee claimants who pass an initial eligibility test are given hearings before a tribunal called the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada; if their applications are rejected by the board, they have the right to seek reviews by the Federal Court of Canada. In Germany, claimants who are rejected by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees also have the right to file appeals in court.
“This statement is patently false,” James Hathaway, law professor and director of the program in refugee and asylum law at the University of Michigan, said in an email in response to a previous version of Trump’s claim. “It is completely routine in other countries that, like the U.S., have signed the UN refugee treaties for asylum-seekers to have access to the domestic legal system to make a protection claim (and to be allowed in while the claim is pending).”
If Trump was talking about undocumented immigrants who do not make asylum claims, it is not true that these people are welcomed in and granted a trial years down the road. Under a system of “expedited removal,” people who are apprehended within 100 miles of a land border and within 14 days of arrival can be quickly deported without seeing a judge. (The Trump administration announced in July that it plans to expand expedited removal to include undocumented immigrants anywhere in the country who can’t prove they have been in the US continuously for two years or more.)
Democrats and the border
“Despite the Democrats wanting very unsafe Open Borders. …” — July 30 tweet
“But what we have to do is fix the loopholes, and the Democrats don’t want. The reason is the Democrats want open borders.” — July 31 exchange with reporters
“The greatest betrayal committed by the Democrats is their support for open borders. And these open borders would overwhelm schools and hospitals, drain public services and flood communities with poisonous drugs.” — August 1 rally in Cincinnati
“But I watched (the Democratic debates) and I guess it’s probably four or five (contenders). It’s down to four or five. I can’t imagine somebody else coming up. But I don’t think it’s what our country represents, number one. And when you look at open borders, how about the open borders, where everybody can just come in. … But I’m just watching, and it’s incredible to think people come up — many of these people are not good people. They’re convicted of lots of bad crimes, and they want open borders where they just flow into our country.” — August 1 interview with Bill Cunningham of 700WLW Cincinnati
Facts First: Some Democrats, including presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Julián Castro, have advocated a significant loosening of immigration law, including a decriminalization of the act of illegally crossing the border. But none of them have proposed literally opening the border to unrestricted migration.
During the Trump era, Democrats have voted for billions of dollars’ worth of fencing and other border security measures. In 2018, Democratic leaders offered Trump $25 billion for border security in exchange for a path to citizenship for the “Dreamers,” young undocumented immigrants brought to the US illegally as children.
“The cages for kids were built by the Obama Administration in 2014. He had the policy of child separation. I ended it even as I realized that more families would then come to the Border! @CNN” — July 31 tweet
Facts First: Trump was correct that Obama’s administration built chain-link “cages” to detain migrants. But Trump did not inherit an Obama policy of routinely separating migrant children from their parents. Separations were rare under Obama; Trump made them standard.
In March 2017, John Kelly, then the secretary of homeland security, told CNN that he was thinking about implementing a separation program “to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network.” In April 2018, Jeff Sessions, then the attorney general, announced a new “zero tolerance” policy in which everybody caught crossing the border illegally would be criminally prosecuted — a change he explicitly noted would result in regular separations.
Separations did sometimes occur under Obama, but they were non-routine and much less frequent, according to immigration experts and former Obama officials. They occurred in exceptional cases, such as those where the parent was being criminally prosecuted for carrying drugs across the border or other serious crimes aside from simple illegal crossing, those where human trafficking was suspected and those where the authorities could not confirm the connection between the child and the adult.
It is technically true that Trump is the one who ended the separation policy: In June 2018, he signed an executive order to detain families together. But he was ending his own policy, not Obama’s, and he signed the order only after a furious public outcry.
“We’re building the wall faster and better than ever.” — August 1 rally in Cincinnati
“… Crossings are way down and the Wall is being built). Even with zero Dem help, Border getting strong!” — July 29 tweet
Facts First: Nothing resembling the wall Trump campaigned on has been built at any speed. Zero additional miles of border barriers had been erected as of mid-June.
About 50 miles have been built over his two-and-a-half years in office, but all of them are replacement barriers rather than additional miles.
According to Customs and Border Protection, 47 miles “of new border barriers in place of dilapidated design” had been completed as of June 14. The Washington Examiner reported July 20 that the total was up to 51 miles of such replacement barriers, but that no additional miles had been built. (Customs and Border Protection did not respond to our request for updated information in the wake of the Examiner story.)
Trump has started arguing since this spring that replacement fencing should be counted by the media as his “wall,” since he is replacing ineffective old barriers with effective modern ones. This is subjective, but we think it’s fair to focus on the new barriers he promised during his campaign.
“We’re replacing random migration and we’re replacing the lottery system. How about the lottery system? How about lotteries? This was Chuck Schumer: You put the name in a basket. The country puts the name in the basket. And you pick people out of the lottery. ‘Well, let’s see, this one’s a murderer. This one robbed four banks, this one … I’d better not say … this one, another murderer, ladies and gentlemen, another murderer.’ ” — August 1 rally in Cincinnati
Facts First: Almost everything Trump said here was inaccurate. Foreign countries don’t enter people into the green card lottery conducted by the State Department, let alone deliberately enter their criminals and problem citizens. Individuals enter on their own because they want to immigrate.
The people whose names are selected are subjected to an extensive vetting process that includes a criminal background check.
“It’s time for Democrats to end sanctuary cities, end catch and release. You know what you do: You catch ’em and then you release ’em and you say, ‘Would you please report back in four years from now?’ But only 2% come back.” — August 1 rally in Cincinnati