President Donald Trump gave the second-longest speech of his presidency at his rally in Greenville, North Carolina, on Wednesday night, clocking in at just over 90 minutes.
He made 20 false claims, plus one, on the performance of 401(k)s, that we’ll call misleading. Here is a list.
“We haven’t had an empty seat in any event, I don’t believe, that we’ve ever been to. I don’t think, we’ve ever had – we’ve always had people – we haven’t had an empty seat,” Trump said.
Facts First: There were empty seats at this very rally. There have also been empty seats at various other Trump events.
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.
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.
“You have to remember this, are you ready? Because they give us a bum rap. Patients with preexisting conditions are protected by Republicans much more so than protected by Democrats who will never be able to pull it off,” Trump said.
Facts First: Democrats have already pulled it off: they installed protections for people with preexisting conditions in the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Republicans, conversely, have repeatedly tried to weaken these protections.
Trump’s administration and congressional Republicans have repeatedly put forward bills and lawsuits that would weaken Obamacare’s protections for people with preexisting conditions. Trump is supporting a Republican lawsuit that is seeking to get all of Obamacare declared void. He has not issued a plan to reinstate the law’s protections for people with preexisting conditions if the suit succeeds.
“Omar laughed that Americans speak of al Qaeda in a menacing tone and remarked that, ‘You don’t say America with this intensity. You say al Qaeda – makes you proud. Al Qaeda makes you proud. You don’t speak that way about America,’ ” Trump said.
Facts First: Omar did not say that the terrorist organization al Qaeda makes her proud. Trump was inaccurately describing remarks she made in 2013 about how one of her college professors acted when he discussed al Qaeda.
In a 2013 appearance on the Twin Cities PBS show BelAhdan, host Ahmed Tharwat mused about how Americans use the Arabic names for “violent or negative entities,” such as terrorist groups, rather than translating them to English.
Omar, now a Minnesota congresswoman and then a community activist, responded that the use of the Arabic names was a product of media sensationalism. When a word is said with “such intensity,” she said, people think “it must hold a bigger meaning.”
She then spoke about a college class she said she took on terrorist ideology. She said, laughing, that the professor reacted with particular body language whenever he said the name “al Qaeda.”
“The thing that was interesting in the class was every time the professor said ‘al Qaeda’ he sort of like – his shoulders went up,” Omar said.
After some banter with Tharwat, she continued: “You don’t say ‘America’ with an intensity, you don’t say ‘England’ with an intensity, you know, you don’t say ‘the Army’ with an intensity. But you say these names because you want that word to carry weight.”
She concluded: “So yes, a lot of it is deluded, I think. When you hear a lot of people speaking in Arabic, you know, suspicion arises.”
There was no praise of al Qaeda. In the same interview, she described terrorism as “evil.”
Hispanics and the wall
“Unemployment, among Hispanic Americans, where we’re doing really well. You know why? Because they want a strong border. They want it because they understand the border better than anybody. They want that strong border. They want that wall, that’s being built right now. They want that wall, and they really do. They understand the border better than anybody,” Trump said.
Facts First: A majority of Hispanics oppose Trump’s proposed border wall, polls show.
In a Pew poll in 2018, 75% of Hispanics were opposed to expanding the border wall. In a Quinnipiac University poll in January, 66% of Hispanics were opposed to building a wall. (The questions were phrased slightly differently.)
The wall is not “being built right now.” As of June, no new miles had been constructed. Trump said 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.
Democrats and undocumented immigrants
“The Democrats want to spend more money on health care for an illegal immigrant than they do for a citizen of the United States,” Trump said. He added: “Illegal aliens will be very nicely covered. How about California? They just approved $100 million. They just approved $100 million to take care of the needs of illegal immigrants.”
Facts First: California did approve spending of about $100 million to provide Medicaid health coverage to low-income undocumented immigrants between the ages of 19 to 25. But there is no basis for the claim that Democrats want to spend “more” on health care for the undocumented than on citizens.
Some Democrats, including most of the party’s presidential candidates, support offering health insurance to undocumented immigrants around the country. But they are proposing to treat undocumented people the same way citizens are treated, not better than citizens.
And since there are many fewer undocumented immigrants than citizens – 10.5 million in 2017, according to Pew – the total cost of coverage would be much lower.
“This is all over the world, human trafficking. It’s a terrible, terrible thing and we’re going to solve it. You know most of it comes through in this country, our southern border, where we don’t have the wall. They’re not going through our points, they’re not going through areas where we have security, where we have guards, where we have gates, where we have all sorts of equipment. No, they ride through the desert and they make a left, where you don’t have the wall. It’s so simple. Everybody knows it,” Trump said.
Facts First: Many human trafficking victims do indeed come through ports of entry, according to experts on trafficking and according to international data. Experts say that victims are more likely to be deceived into crossing the border willingly than kidnapped and put in the back of a vehicle.
“I have worked on human trafficking on multiple continents in multiple countries for more than two decades, and in all the work that I’ve done with trafficking victims, I have met one who was actually kidnapped and thrown into a car,” Martina Vandenberg of the Human Trafficking Legal Center told CNN in January, when Trump was telling frequent stories about women being bound and gagged in cars.
Many victims, experts say, are tricked into coming to the US with promises of a good job. Others are coerced through threats to their families or themselves. While experts say there may be some cases like the ones Trump has described, they emphasize that such cases are in a small minority.
In 2018, the UN International Organization for Migration found that “in the last 10 years, almost 80% of journeys undertaken by victims trafficked internationally cross through official border points, such as airports and land border control points.”
Democrats and human trafficking
“Human trafficking is the worst now throughout the world, because of the internet. It’s the worst that’s ever been. And the worst treated of all, children, but it’s women, women. The Democrats want to do nothing about it,” Trump said.
Facts First: It is false that Democrats want to “do nothing about” human trafficking. They have joined with Republicans in multiple Trump-era bills on the issue.
Trump is arguing that Democrats don’t want to address trafficking because they oppose many of his immigration proposals, including a border wall. But that is not the same thing.
House Democrats introduced and voted unanimously for the Put Trafficking Victims First Act of 2019 and voted overwhelmingly for the Republican-introduced Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017. Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand have both introduced legislation on human trafficking.
Later in this same speech, Trump himself said Democrats have voted for recent human trafficking bills he has signed: “I’ve proudly signed four bipartisan human trafficking laws, securing $400 million to support victims of human trafficking.”
Democrats and the border wall
“No, they (human traffickers) ride through the desert and they make a left, where you don’t have the wall. It’s so simple. Everybody knows it. You know, the Democrats all know it because five years ago, before I was here, they all wanted it. Now they don’t want it. You know why they don’t want it? For political reasons,” Trump said.
Facts First: Some Democrats, but far from all, voted in 2006 to approve a fence on the Mexican border – a fence Trump himself said was much different than the wall he wanted.
The law was to authorize 700 miles of fencing. Trump himself said during the 2016 campaign that this fencing was not comparable to the giant concrete wall he was proposing: “It was such a little wall, it was such a nothing wall,” he told Fox News.
Democrats also endorsed border fencing as part of the failed 2013 “Gang of Eight” comprehensive immigration reform bill. That, however, was part of a compromise package in which undocumented immigrants would be given a path to citizenship – so Democrats did not go from supporting a standalone fence proposal in 2013 to opposing that same kind of proposal.
Democrat Dan McCready
“Ninth Congressional District: the Democrat in the race is an ultra-liberal named Dan McCready, wants to take away your guns. He wants to raise your taxes. He doesn’t care about borders. He likes open borders, and he really admires socialism,” Trump said.
Facts First: Trump’s claims about McCready were comprehensively inaccurate. McCready advocates additional gun control measures, but not taking away people’s guns. He is campaigning on tax cuts for “middle class families.” And he supports border security measures including “physical barriers.”
McCready’s website says: “Dan will fight for common-sense and bipartisan gun violence prevention, comprehensive background checks, and closing the gun show and online loopholes that allow guns to fall into the hands of domestic terrorists, domestic abusers, and the mentally ill.” That isn’t close to “take away your guns.”
McCready is calling for comprehensive immigration reform “that secures our border, respects our laws and protects our American values.” He says the border should be secured by using a mix of physical barriers and technology like drones and infrared cameras.
Undocumented immigrants, cars and the media
“You know, I joked, I said, ‘And everybody will get a free Rolls-Royce. Every family gets a free Rolls-Royce, every family.’ And the media said, ‘Donald Trump is exaggerating. He knows that they’re not getting a Rolls-Royce.’ I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Don’t put it. Don’t put it. Don’t put it. Don’t put that I said free Rolls-Royce,” Trump said.
Facts First: That is not exactly what happened. Trump did make a joke at a 2018 campaign rally about Democrats wanting to give undocumented immigrants a free Rolls-Royce – but then, at a rally the next day, he made a non-joking claim that Democrats want to “give them cars.” He continued to joke about a Rolls-Royce in particular, but he was challenged on the assertion of fact.
The version that we fact checked was the assertion of fact, at his rally in Elko, Nevada, in October. He said then: “They want to open your borders, let people in, illegally. And then they want to pay for those people for health care, for education. They want to give them cars, they want to give them driver’s licenses. I said last night, we did a great – we did a great, great rally in Arizona last night, and I said – I said last night, what kind of car will they supply them? Will it be a Rolls-Royce?”
The previous day, at a rally in Mesa, Arizona, he had said, “That’s why Democrats want to give illegal aliens free welfare, free health care, and free education. Give them a driver’s license. Give them a driver’s license. Next thing you know, they want to buy them a car. Then they’ll say the car’s not good enough, we want – how about a Rolls-Royce?”
“Think of it, we have the strongest economy in history. The lowest unemployment numbers ever,” Trump said.
Facts First: Particular minority groups are all near their lowest unemployment numbers ever, but the country as a whole is not.
Black, Asian and Hispanic Americans are at roughly their lowest unemployment rates since the government began tracking them using its current methodology (in the early 1970s for black and Hispanic Americans, 2000 for Asians), though the Asian and Hispanic rates were slightly lower earlier in the year.
Unemployment in North Carolina
Trump, claiming that North Carolina “has had its best economic year in the history of your state,” said “you have the lowest unemployment rate” and “your best unemployment numbers.”
Facts First: North Carolina does not have either its lowest unemployment rate ever or the lowest unemployment rate in the country.
North Carolina’s unemployment rate has been lower than 4.1% as recently as 2000. So this is a 19-year low (if you ignore previous Trump-era months when it was slightly lower than it is now), not a historic low.
Polls part 1
“You remember last election? ‘Donald Trump will never ever get the women.’ Then we get this tremendous number of women. We’ve got this tremendous number of women and during the election night they said, ‘What’s going on?’ You know what it’s called? Suppression polls. Suppression. Polls are just as fake as the news itself,” Trump said.
Facts First: There is simply no evidence that pollsters have manipulated their numbers to suppress the enthusiasm of Trump voters, as Trump has repeatedly alleged.
Exit polls found that Trump won 41% of the ballots cast by women.
Polls part 2
“And according to the polls, I won every single debate, Republican and against Hillary. Can you imagine – those are the polls. They won’t admit that: many, many polls,” Trump said.
Facts First: Trump did not win every Republican debate according to scientific opinion polls with random sampling – and he did not win any of the three debates with Clinton according to scientific polls. He won the Clinton debates only in unscientific website polls, in which anyone could go and click a button.
Carly Fiorina did best in a Fox News poll on performance in the first Republican debate in August 2015; Trump was in last.
Trump has tended to point to polls on websites such as Breitbart and Drudge Report, which allow anyone to go and click for their favorite. Such polls are not representative of the population, since they allow coordinated efforts to boost particular candidates.
“Now we’re no longer the suckers. Like with NATO, we protect Europe. We spend hundreds of billions of dollars, and they’re not paying their fair share. So last year, I went and said, ‘Folks. Sorry, you’ve got to pay your fair share.’ Sixteen years, it was going like this (downward), the contribution, and now it’s like a rocket ship, $100 billion,” Trump said.
Facts First: Military spending by NATO members other than the US was not declining for “16 years” prior to Trump’s presidency: it increased in both 2015 and 2016, according to official NATO figures.
Spending increased by 1.8% in 2015 and 2.6% in 2016, before Trump took office. Trump-era increases have been higher – 6% in 2017 and an estimated 3.8% in 2018 – and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has credited Trump for his role in prompting the increase. But the upward trend started two years before Trump’s tenure began.
In 2014, NATO countries who were not yet meeting the alliance guideline of spending 2% of their Gross Domestic Product on defense re-committed to meeting the target. Spending began rising after that.
Trade deficit with China
” … European Union is terrible to us on trade, terrible. Frankly, they’re as tough or tougher than China, just smaller numbers. That’s the only difference. With China, $507 billion dollars, you look over the years,” Trump said.
Facts First: The US has never had a $500 billion trade deficit with China. (Trump refers to trade deficits as losses, though most economists don’t.)
Elizabeth Warren and Native Americans
“I was driving her (Elizabeth Warren) crazy, so she went out and hired a guy to check the blood. I’m sure he had a lot of fun doing that. He checked her blood and found out that many, many, many, many, many, many years ago, there could have been somebody. And he could have been Indian. And then the Indians got together, and they said, ‘We don’t want her. We don’t we want her. We want Trump. We want Trump. They want Trump,’ ” Trump said.
Facts First: Cherokee Nation leaders did criticize Warren for taking a DNA test to establish that she might have a distant Native American ancestor, saying that it was “inappropriate” and “wrong” to use such a test to try to establish a connection to the nation. But they did not simultaneously say “we want Trump.”
Chuck Hoskin Jr., secretary of state for the Cherokee Nation, wrote in an op-ed for the Tulsa World that it “offends us when some of our national leaders seek to ascribe inappropriately membership or citizenship to themselves.” In the same op-ed, however, Hoskin took issue with name-calling; though he didn’t explicitly mention Trump derisively dubbing Warren “Pocahontas,” he wrote that “when someone disparages someone else’s family lore by dismissively calling them names or using negative stereotypes about Native Americans, that robs us all of an opportunity to have a meaningful discussion.”
“I mean, I’ve done things – I’ve done things that I never – I never said we were going to get. As an example with our vets, that we’re going to get Choice … been trying to get practically from the beginning, Choice, so simple, and yet they never got it. Nobody got it through,” Trump said.
Facts First: Trump did not get the Veterans Choice program passed. It was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2014.
In 2018, Trump signed the VA MISSION Act, which expanded and changed the Choice program.
Prescription drug prices
“And last year, this is – I’m so proud of this, because we have no help from the Democrats. Last year, for the first time in over 50 years, drug prices went down,” Trump said.
Facts First: This was a slight exaggeration: prescription drug prices declined last year for the first time in 46 years, according to one of several measures.
The Consumer Price Index for prescription drugs showed a 0.6% decline between December 2017 and December 2018, the first calendar-year decline since 1972.
As The Washington Post pointed out in its own recent fact check, some experts say that the Consumer Price Index is a flawed measure of trends in drug prices, since it doesn’t include rebates that drug companies pay to insurers. The IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, which studies drug prices, found that “net drug prices in the United States increased at an estimated 1.5% in 2018.”
Trump can reasonably cite the Consumer Price Index. He was just off on the number of years.
“So we’ve taken historic action to fight the opioid epidemic, what a problem. And just today, it was just announced before I came in, that drug overdose deaths, we’re working so hard on this, including our Vice President, including our first lady, including everybody in the Trump administration – it’s dropped for the first time in more than 30 years. It’s gone down. First time,” Trump said.
Facts First: This was one of Trump’s trademark small exaggerations. Media outlets reported that day that overdose deaths had declined in 2018 for the first time since 1990, or 28 years, according to preliminary data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.
We might be inclined to let this go if Trump did not do such exaggerating so frequently. As he did in the same speech with prescription drug prices, he regularly adds additional years to his accomplishments.
“And if our opponent ever got into office, instead of being up 62%, instead of those 401(k)s of yours being up 60, 70, 80, 90% – crash. Big crash,” Trump said.
Facts First: We can’t be sure how much individuals’ 401(k)s are up, but these percentages overstate gains in US stock markets.
It is possible that some people have 401(k)s that are up as much as 80% or 90% on the year or since Trump was elected, but stock markets themselves are not up nearly that much even if you go back to Trump’s election day, as Trump often does: 48% for the Dow, 39% for the S&P, 58% for the Nasdaq.