The second and final 2020 presidential debate between Joe Biden and President Donald Trump was certainly a lot more civil that the first. But a CNN fact-check after the debate found there was still a lot of untruths — particularly from the president.
“President Trump was better behaved tonight, but he lied more,” CNN fact checker Daniel Dale told anchor Wolf Blitzer, later noting that Trump’s first sentence was inaccurate. “This was just a bombardment of dishonesty that we’ve heard before at his campaign rallies, about subjects big and small.”
Dale noted that Biden was also “far from perfect,” having “at least a few” statements that were false, misleading, or lacking the necessary context. But Dale added the contrast between the two men was stark. Even though a debate mute button meant far less back and forth between Biden and Trump, it also allowed the president to lie uninterrupted for two minutes at a time.
CNN's Daniel Dale fact-checks President Trump's debate performance: "President Trump was better behaved tonight, but he lied more. ... With this President, we just see a constant barrage incessantly of false or misleading stuff" #Debates2020 pic.twitter.com/YJxrHzf3sr— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) October 23, 2020
In an interview with Blitzer, Dale singled out two big misleading things Trump said about the Covid-19 pandemic, first that “2.2 million people were expected to die” and second that the country is “rounding the corner” on the virus and it is “going away.”
Dale pointed out that while the 2.2 million number is a real figure from a study, it was a projection of how many people would die if the American government did nothing and no social distancing measures were taken by US residents.
“This was not an expectation, it was not a realistic estimate,” Dale said. “This was a figure put out there to say this is how bad it gets if you just let this virus run its course, which of course the government was not about to do.”
Trump’s claim that the virus is now “going away” in the US is also without merit. Cases are rising in what public health experts believe could be a third peak for virus cases in the US, and daily hospitalizations are now at levels not seen since the summer peak of cases — a potentially ominous sign going into winter.
Trump saying that the virus is going away is nothing new, according to Dale, who counted 38 times Trump said Covid-19 would go away during the months of February and October 10.
“It was wrong eight months ago, and it’s wrong today,” Dale said.
Here are some of Dale’s other fact-checks on Biden and Trump, pulled from his CNN appearances:
- During a segment on immigration, Trump claimed that less than 1 percent of immigrants actually show up for their immigration court hearings in the US after being released pending a hearing. Dale cited a 2018 statistic showing that 75 percent of immigrants show up for their hearings, meaning closer to 25 percent don’t show up. A more recent study found an even higher percentage of immigrants show up for hearings, although the Trump administration has disputed this type of count.
- Trump claimed that Biden’s proposed health insurance plan would kick 180 million people off of their private insurance. That claim is false; Biden’s plan would expand the Affordable Care Act giving people more choice through existing health insurance exchanges. It would also add a government-run plan, but selecting that public option would be up to Americans; they would not be forced into choosing it.
- On Trump’s claim that Biden received $3.5 million from Russia, coming from Russian President Vladimir Putin, Dale said: “The initial allegation [from Senate Republicans], which is denied by [Biden’s son] Hunter Biden ... is that Hunter Biden received $3.5 million in a business deal, a consulting deal, with the wife of the late mayor of Moscow. That’s not what Trump said, Trump said that Joe Biden got the money and it came through Putin. There is no allegation from Senate Republicans, from anyone ... that Joe Biden received these payments.”
- Dale also fact-checked Biden’s claim that he has “never said” he opposed fracking. Dale said: “Biden did make anti-fracking comments during the Democratic primary in 2019 and 2020. Biden did not say the words ‘I oppose fracking there,’ but he clearly was at least strongly suggesting that he was an opponent.” Dale also clarified that anti-fracking was never the Biden campaign’s policy position, but Biden himself made “broad anti-fracking comments” during Democratic primary debates.
More than once, Dale said the most serious of Trump’s falsehoods was the repeated one that Covid-19 is going away in America. On Friday morning, NBC News reported the US saw a new single-day record of Covid-19 cases, 77,640 new cases compared to the previous 75,723 record from July 29.
“We’re in a rapidly worsening pandemic crisis, might be entering the very worst period of it so far, and the president just keeps saying it’s getting better and will vanish,” Dale tweeted.
The country is most certainly not “rounding the corner” on the Covid-19 pandemic, and suggesting so runs the risk of lulling people into a false sense of security during a dangerous time for public health.