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Fact-checking the first 2020 presidential debate, Joe Biden vs. Donald Trump

By PolitiFact Staff, September 29, 2020, Source - POLITIFACT - first presidential debate on Sept. 29, 2020, in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP)

Interruptions dominated the first debate of the fall 2020 campaign. Moderator Chris Wallace struggled to keep President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden from talking at the same time as they clashed over Trump’s taxes, the coronavirus crisis and racial justice protests.

Trump dusted off some of the falsehoods from his COVID-19 talking points, and Biden — when he was allowed to speak uninterrupted — floated some inaccuracies about Trump’s handling of the pandemic.

Trump: "Why did (Hunter Biden) deserve three and a half million from Moscow?"

Rating: Limited and disputed evidence

Trump hit an unverified story about Biden’s son Hunter over and over again. "Why is it, just out of curiosity, the mayor of Moscow’s wife gave your son three and half million dollars," Trump said.

A Senate Republican report said the widow of the ex-mayor sent $3.5 million to an American account in 2014. 

Republicans tied Hunter Biden to the account, but refused to share any documents that might substantiate that. Hunter Biden’s lawyer said he had no connection to the account. Democratic Senate staff said they’ve seen the documents that Republicans have, and that they don’t tie Hunter Biden to the account.

Trump: "I’m getting (insulin) so cheap, it’s like water."

Rating: Mostly False

Trump signed an executive order on insulin at the end of July, but the scope was limited. It targeted a select group of health care providers that represent fewer than 2% of the relevant outlets for insulin. Between 2017 and 2018, insulin prices for seniors rose.

"The truth is that patients who need drugs like insulin are having a hard time affording them, particularly for the many who are now uninsured," said Vanderbilt Medical Center’s Stacie Dusetzina.

Trump: I paid "millions of dollars" in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017.

Rating: Disputed

This is countered by reporting from the New York Times, which obtained years of tax-return data for Trump and his businesses. The Times reported that Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes in both 2016 and 2017, and no taxes at all in 10 of the 15 years before that.

Trump has refused to release his tax returns, pending an audit, and he likely pays other types of taxes. But on federal income taxes, he has not provided evidence to refute the Times report. There’s "no evidence of millions in income taxes," said Edward McCaffery, a professor of law, economics and political science at the University of Southern California.

Trump: Says Joe Biden "said you went to Delaware State but you forgot the name of your college."

Rating: False

Trump’s claim was putting words in Biden’s mouth. The former vice president never said that he attended Delaware State. 

Trump appeared to be referring to a remark that Biden made at a town hall in Florence, S.C., where he said that he got his "start" at DSU. In context, it’s clear that Biden wasn’t implying that he went to the university, but referencing the support he received from the school in 1972 when he announced his run for U.S. Senate on the campus. 

Trump: "If you had good forest management you wouldn’t be getting … calls (that California’s on fire)."

Rating: False

Forest maintenance does play a role in mitigating forest fires, but that doesn't negate the fact that climate change has made California’s environment much more flammable. Climatologists, ecologists and wildfire experts all told us that climate change has not only fueled the fires but also worsened their impact. 

The area affected by wildfires in California has expanded tenfold over the last four decades. Noah Diffenbaugh, a climate scientist at Stanford University, told us that "about half" of that increase is attributable to the effects of global warming. 

Biden: "The president has no plan" for the coronavirus pandemic.

Rating: Needs context

The Trump administration has announced a plan on how it will distribute vaccines. The plan shows that the federal government aims to make the two-dose vaccine free of cost, for instance. 

However, public health experts have said that Trump and his administration did not have a plan to combat the pandemic or a national testing plan.

Biden: Says Trump suggested that "maybe you could inject some bleach in your arm and that would take care of (the coronavirus)."

Rating: Needs context

Trump did not explicitly suggest that people inject bleach in their arms. He did express interest in exploring whether disinfectants could be applied to the site of a coronavirus infection. The comment came after an administration official presented a study that found sun exposure and cleaning agents like bleach could kill the virus when it lingers on surfaces.

On disinfectant, Trump said: "And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning, because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it’d be interesting to check that, so that you’re going to have to use medical doctors with, but it sounds interesting to me."

Trump: Biden "wants to shut down the country."

Rating: Needs context

In an interview with CBS News, Biden was asked if he was prepared to shut down the country down to deal with the coronavirus.

"I would be prepared to do whatever it takes to save lives, because we cannot get the country moving until we control the virus,"  Biden said. "In order to keep the country running and moving and the economy growing, and people employed, you have to fix the virus, you have to deal with the virus."  

And then he said, "I would shut it down. I would listen to the scientists." 

Trump: "We guaranteed preexisting conditions." 

Rating: Misleading

President Trump signed an executive order on Sept. 24 that says those with preexisting conditions will be able to get affordable health care coverage. The executive order language was a response to criticisms about Trump’s efforts against the Affordable Care Act. However, legal and health policy experts said that the executive order guarantees nothing near the protections in the ACA. The experts said actual congressional legislation, not this type of order, is necessary to maintain these preexisting conditions protections if the ACA goes away.

Trump: "I don’t think (Kellyanne Conway) said that" riots, chaos and violence helps Trump’s cause.

Rating: She did

In an Aug. 27 interview with "Fox & Friends," former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway was asked about former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg blaming Trump for unrest in cities. "I guess Mayor Pete knows full stop that the more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who’s best on public safety and law and order," Conway said.

Trump: Says his rallies were "outdoors."

Rating: Misleading

Trump has held many outdoor rallies, but he did hold indoor rallies in Nevada and Oklahoma in recent months. Trump held a rally June 20 at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. Arena officials, who scanned tickets, said the crowd totaled around 6,200.

On Sept. 13, about 5,600 supporters gathered to hear Trump speak at Xtreme Manufacturing, a warehouse, in Henderson, Nev., despite a state rule prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people. Many people in the crowd were not wearing masks. The company was fined by the city for multiple violations.

Trump: Says Biden called African Americans "superpredators" when he did the 1994 crime bill.

Rating: No evidence 

In a Nov. 18, 1993, Senate floor speech, Biden spoke about doing something for young people who did not have supervision or structure and who did not have opportunities. He said the country needed to focus on them, because otherwise, a portion of them would "become the predators 15 years from now." Biden did not single out African Americans.

"Madam President, we have predators on our streets, and society has in fact, because of its neglect, created that," Biden said, according to the Congressional Record.

The term "superpredators" also came up during the 2016 presidential campaign between Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. We found that Clinton in 1996 used the term "superpredator" when referring to "gangs of kids." Clinton did not specifically label superpredators as African American, but the context of her speech and her subsequent apology decades later suggests it was a reasonable inference.

Trump: Biden called members of the military "stupid bastards. He said it on tape. He said stupid bastards."

Rating: Half True

Biden used the term "stupid bastards" as part of a joke in addressing a group of airmen during a trip overseas in 2016. 

Biden’s presidential campaign confirmed that he called the service members in the audience "stupid bastards" and a "dull bunch," but said his remarks were made not in disrespect, but in jest to generate applause for a female lieutenant he was referencing. In his full speech, Biden repeatedly complimented the troops and spoke about his late son Beau, who served as a major in the Delaware Army National Guard.

Biden: Trump is "the only one defunding" police. His budget "calls for a $400 million cut in local law enforcement assistance."

Rating: Mostly True

Trump’s budget plan for FY 2021 sought to reduce spending on state and local law enforcement aid in two ways. He would cut $280 million from a broad range of assistance programs, and another $170 million from a community policing initiative, Community Oriented Policing Services, that dates back to the days of President Bill Clinton. 

The total is over $400 million. The caveat is most — but not all — of the affected programs provide direct aid to local police. There is some money aimed at teens who are at risk or have already broken the law, with the goal of keeping them out of prison.

This report was written by PolitiFact staff writers Jon Greenberg, Louis Jacobson, Amy Sherman, Samantha Putterman, Miriam Valverde, Bill McCarthy, Noah Y. Kim and Daniel Funke and Kaiser Health News reporters Victoria Knight and Emmarie Huetteman.

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The point of no return occurred when Trump enabled white supremacists to "stand by". It was a call for civil and racial war should he not win the elections.

I am preparing myself for the worst. This is how genocide happens. This is how the Holocaust started.

Biden's most memorable line is: It is what it is because you are who you are. This was in reference to the Coronavirus.
The most insulting is: Biden calling the president a clown which was an insult to circus clowns who protested.

Last edited by skeldon_man
@alena06 posted:

Biden: 6/10

Frump: 2/10

Biden had a concrete plan for climate change. Frump had no plans for anything. 😃

He always had a get-rich plan. Demolish America nd surrender it to Putin, his financier. He should be charged for treason and jailed for the rest of his life.

‘I don’t want to pay taxes,’ Trump says while disputing NYT report in debate with Biden

U.S. President Donald Trump was challenged on reports that he paid hardly any federal taxes in 2016 and 2017 during his first debate with former vice president Joe Biden on Tuesday night.

The New York Times has reported that Trump paid only $750 in those two years as he campaigned for and then began his presidency, and paid no taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years.

Read more: ‘Shut up man’: Trump, Biden clash, interrupt each other during U.S. presidential debate

But Trump, when asked about the report by moderator Chris Wallace, claimed he has paid “millions of dollars” in taxes during his career as a real estate developer.

“I paid $38 million one year, I paid $27 million one year,” Trump said, while Biden repeatedly called for the president to “show us your tax returns.”

Trump also claimed he was simply following the federal tax code that’s been in place for years, including under former president Barack Obama, with whom Biden served as vice president.

“I don’t want to pay taxes,” Trump said. “Before I came here, I was a private developer, I was a private business people. Like every other private person, unless they’re stupid, they go through the laws and that’s what it is.”

Biden promised he will “rip up” the major tax cuts Trump introduced in 2017 if he were to be elected president.

“The tax code that put him in a position that he pays less tax than on the money a schoolteacher makes is because of him — he says he’s smart because he can take advantage of the tax code, and he does take advantage of the tax codes,” he said.

Asked by Trump why Biden didn’t reform the tax codes while he was serving in the Senate and as vice president, Biden responded: “Because you weren’t president screwing things up.”

“You’re the worst president America has ever had,” Biden said before Wallace changed the topic.

@kp posted:

Trump is a Mob Criminal using the White House for impunity. He is an unstable illiterate , they should have him on suicide watch.

"He is an unstable illiterate , they should have him on suicide watch."  You should take your own advice-- KP is so good at describing himself.  

@cain posted:

I just heard bro trumpski along with the First lady now in quarantine, why so man? Ain't that  Fake news, fake virus, then....fake quarantine tarassss.

This like the virus is fake news too? At least something shut the bastard down.

Last edited by skeldon_man

I notice a fly took a dump on his head.

As usual with these guys, he did not answer some of the questions. One question when asked how would he as VP act if trump lost, would he do as trump suggested and flop in the whitehouse, instead of answering the banna talk all sorta shit bout trump winning and price of sardine or some such crap. 

@cain posted:

I notice a fly took a dump on his head.

As usual with these guys, he did not answer some of the questions. One question when asked how would he as VP act if trump lost, would he do as trump suggested and flop in the whitehouse, instead of answering the banna talk all sorta shit bout trump winning and price of sardine or some such crap. 

Cain -- That fly took its usual and prominent place on Pence. 

Trump's Pence did not expect such a thumping at the debate.

Fly evades coronavirus shields, lands on Pence’s head, steals debate spotlight President Mike Pence listens to Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris with a fly on his head, during the vice presidential debate Oct. 7 in Salt Lake City. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Patrick Semansky/AP)

WASHINGTON — A nation that needed a laugh got at least a little chuckle, as a fly evaded the plexiglass dividers that separated Vice President Mike Pence from Sen. Kamala Harris of California during the vice presidential debate on Wednesday night in Salt Lake City, Utah. The fly then proceeded to take a star turn amid the talk of congressional relief packages and judicial confirmations.

The insect came to rest on the vice president’s short-cropped silver mane 1 hour and 13 minutes into the debate, as Pence was answering a question about racial justice. It lingered for a long minute or so, then flew away.

It is not known where the fly came from, and it is not known where the fly went. But judging by social media, many people were glad it had made its appearance.

Given the state of affairs, the bar for collective amusement is relatively low. An insect will do.

The fly arrived just as Pence was reasserting his and President Trump’s firm support for law enforcement officers. The fly got more attention than the answer, which made clear that Trump and Pence oppose the reforms, for example a ban on chokeholds, that racial justice advocates have been seeking. Harris and the man who would be her commander in chief, former Vice President Joe Biden, support such reforms.

By the time the moderator, Susan Page of USA Today, returned to Pence, the fly was gone. The vice president then proceeded to defend some of Trump’s more inflammatory statements on race.

Within minutes, the fly had been pressed into action by the Biden campaign, with a tweet that showed Biden sitting at a folding table holding a fly swatter and looking, a little roguishly, up at the ceiling. “Pitch in $5 to help this campaign fly,” read the punning caption. The accompanying link opened a fundraising page.

Trump watched from the White House, having returned there after a weekend stay at the Walter Reed National Medical Center after being treated for COVID-19. Since returning home, he has been tweeting energetically. But as of the time of writing, he has not yet tweeted about the fly. 

Presumably, though, it did not please a president who once refused to hire John Bolton because of his mustache. The fly was not a sign of vulnerability, of course, but it was a surprise that alighted right on the vice presidential cranium — and stayed for quite a while. It can be fairly said that most Americans are tired of surprises, big and small. Especially surprises that carry disease. 

As strange as the fly was, it was nothing compared to the time the sound cut out in a 1976 presidential debate between Gov. Jimmy Carter of Georgia and President Gerald Ford. An estimated 90 million people watched for the next 27 minutes without knowing what was going on, as the two candidates debated on a Philadelphia stage.

The fly could not be reached for comment.

@Totaram posted:

"He is an unstable illiterate , they should have him on suicide watch."  You should take your own advice-- KP is so good at describing himself.  

If Trump is illiterate, what do you call the people who elected him?

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