President Donald Trump’s rally speech in Cincinnati on Thursday was littered with false claims – several of them egregious, several of them trivial, and most of them repeated from previous remarks.
By our count, Trump made more than 20 false or misleading claims during his 79-minute address.
Here’s our fact check of each one.
“The previous administration, they liked windmills. You know windmills: if a windmill is within two miles of your house, your house is practically worthless.”
Facts First: While some homes might fall in value when turbines are erected close by, studies in the US have not found that homes generally become anywhere close to “practically worthless” in such cases – and some have found no significant decline at all.
A 2016 study published in the Journal of Real Estate Research, for example, analyzed “more than 122,000 home sales, between 1998 and 2012, that occurred near (within 10 miles) 41 turbines in densely populated Massachusetts communities.” The study found “no unique impact on the rate of home sales near wind turbines.”
“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.”
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.
“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.”
Facts First: This is misleading. 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 border 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 bill was ultimately rejected in the Senate following severe opposition from the White House.
“…We will always protect patients with pre-existing conditions, always.”
Facts First: This claim is undercut by Trump’s actions and those of congressional Republicans during his presidency.
We usually don’t fact-check promises, but this one has already proved untrue. 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 currently 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.
“We passed VA Choice and VA Accountability on behalf of our great veterans. They’ve been trying to pass VA Choice for four decades. They couldn’t get it done, we got it done, we got it.”
Facts First: Trump did not get the Veterans Choice program passed, nor had there been an unsuccessful 40-year effort to get it passed. The program was signed into law by Obama in 2014.
In 2018, Trump signed the VA MISSION Act, which expanded and changed the Choice program.
What Veterans Choice does
Trump contrasted the Choice program with the previous situation, in which he noted that veterans had to wait for health care for “three, four, five, six days, for three weeks, for five weeks.”
Trump suggested that this is no longer the case, saying that he had the idea to “let them go outside, go to a private doctor. We’ll pay the bill, they’ll be fixed up all perfect and they can do it immediately.’”
Facts First: Neither the Obama version nor the Trump version of this program allows veterans to avoid waiting days or weeks to see a VA doctor. At present, most veterans can only get reimbursed for private care if they are facing waits of more than 20 days at the VA.
Under the current version of the program, there is an exception to the 20-day rule for people who live more than a 30-minute drive from a VA facility. But people who live within a 30-minute zone are still forced to stay within the VA system if they are facing waits of just under three weeks.
As we noted in the previous fact check, the program was not Trump’s idea. It was created in 2014 under Obama.
“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.”
Facts First: This is false. Trump won 30 states, not 32. Also, this was far from a historic number: Richard Nixon in 1972 and Ronald Reagan in 1984 both 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.
“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.
Facts First: While it’s unclear what subset of migrants Trump is referring to, the majority of migrants appear in court.
In 2017, 89% of asylum seekers appeared in court to receive a decision on their case. Among all kinds of migrants, 72% appeared in court.
“We ended up winning Ohio by close to nine points, which is unheard of…”
Facts First: Trump exaggerated very slightly. He won 51.7% to 43.6%, a margin of just over eight 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.
“One hundred and twenty three thousand more Ohio workers are employed today than when I was elected.”
Facts First: Not quite, at least as of the most recent jobs numbers for June. As of then, the increase from the month of Trump’s election was 77,600 people.
In June, there were 5,637,900 total (non-farm) employed people in Ohio; in November 2016, it was 5,560,300 employed people.
“We need good people. We’re down to 3.5% unemployment.”
Facts First: The unemployment rate for June was 3.7%. The rate for July, released the morning after the rally, was unchanged, holding at 3.7%.
The rate has not hit 3.5% at any point in Trump’s presidency. It was 3.6% in April and May. So Trump was close, but this is not a figure that is usually rounded to the nearest half-point.
“Unemployment has reached the lowest rate in over half a century.”
Facts First: This is close to true, but as he often does when the facts are on his side, Trump is exaggerating.
The unemployment rate over this spring and summer – 3.7% in June, 3.6% in each of May and April – has been the lowest since December 1969, slightly less than 50 years ago.
We might be inclined to ignore this one if it seemed like a one-time slip, but it was not. Trump, a serial exaggerator, habitually turns “almost” into “over” and “more than.”
Trump said of vacancies on federal courts: “And I came in, I had one hundred and forty eight openings. I said – you’re supposed to have none. I said ‘How many do we have?’ ‘One hundred and forty eight.’ I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’”
Facts First: Trump did not enter office with 148 judicial vacancies, and it is not normal for incoming presidents to be told they have “none.”
Like Trump, his predecessors entered office with dozens of vacancies. According to Russell Wheeler, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution who tracks judicial appointments, there were 103 vacancies on district and appeals courts on Jan. 1, 2017, just before Trump took office; 53 vacancies on Jan. 1, 2009, just before Barack Obama took office; 80 vacancies on Jan. 1, 2001, just before George W. Bush took office; 107 vacancies on Jan. 1, 1993, just before Bill Clinton took office. So Trump had the most judges to appoint since Clinton, but, clearly, other presidents also had appointing to do.
“Last year was the first time in 51 years that drug pricing for prescription drugs actually came down.”
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.
Obama and energy
“The previous administration tried to shut down American energy…”
Facts First: This is false. Obama did encourage the use of renewable energy sources rather than fossil fuels, but he didn’t try to “shut down” fossil fuel production – which increased significantly during his tenure.
For example, field production of crude oil increased in each of Obama’s first seven years in office before declining in his last year, reversing a steady decline that had begun in the mid-1980s. CNN reported in 2015: “The greatest oil boom in this nation’s history has occurred during the tenure of self-proclaimed environmentalist Barack Obama.”
In his 2013 State of the Union address, Obama called for the US to go “all in on clean energy,” but he immediately added, “Now, in the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. We need to encourage that. And that’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. That’s got to be part of an all-of-the-above plan.”
Trump said the Obama administration tried to end the use of “American, clean, beautiful coal.”
Facts First: Obama did try to reduce the use of coal – but nothing about coal is “clean.”
“Clean coal” is an industry term for particular technologies that attempt to reduce the many environmental harms caused by coal, a particularly dirty source of power. The term is not meant to be used to broadly describe coal itself, though that is what Trump generally does.
“To protect America’s security I withdrew the United States from the horrible Iran nuclear deal, a horrible stupid deal. We gave Iran $150 billion.” Trump went on to claim that the US also gave Iran $1.8 billion “in cash.”
Facts First: The second figure is roughly correct, but the first is exaggerated.
The Iran nuclear deal allowed the country to access tens of billions in its own assets that had been frozen in foreign financial institutions because of sanctions; experts say the total was significantly lower than $150 billion.
Trump did not invent the $150 billion figure out of thin air: Obama himself mused in a 2015 interview about Iran having “$150 billion parked outside the country.” But experts on Iran policy, and Obama’s own administration, said that the quantity of assets the agreement actually made available to Iran was much lower.
In 2015, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew put the number at $56 billion. PolitiFact reported that Garbis Iradian, chief economist at the Institute of International Finance, put it at about $60 billion.
Adam Szubin, a senior Treasury Department official, testified to Congress in 2015 that the “usable liquid assets” would total “a little more than $50 billion.” The rest of Iran’s foreign assets, he said, were either tied up in “illiquid” projects “that cannot be monetized quickly, if at all, or are composed of outstanding loans to Iranian entities that cannot repay them.”
As Trump regularly notes, the Obama administration did send Iran $1.7 billion to settle a decades-old dispute over a purchase of US military goods Iran made before its government was overthrown in the Islamic Revolution of 1979. The administration also used the timing of when this cash payment was delivered as leverage against Iran to release several American prisoners.
While criticizing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement from which he withdrew the US, Trump claimed that Obama had said “you can’t produce manufacturing jobs anymore in the United States.”
Facts First: Obama didn’t say you can’t produce manufacturing jobs in the United States. At a town hall event on PBS in 2016, he said some manufacturing jobs were gone for good, often due to automation, but he boasted of how many were being created, and his administration’s investment in new technologies to attempt to create new manufacturing sectors.
Obama mocked Trump for not specifying how he would bring back the jobs that had been lost to other countries. But Obama was not saying that it was impossible to produce manufacturing jobs at all. He said: “Well, in fact, we’ve seen more manufacturing jobs created since I’ve been president than any time since the 1990s. That’s a fact. And you know, if you look at just the auto industry as an example, they’ve had record sales and they’ve hired back more people over the last five years than they have for a very long, long time. We actually make more stuff, have a bigger manufacturing base today than we’ve had in most of our history.”
“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 three and he went to 70. That’s a pretty good increase.”
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 Trump issued a “full” endorsement in June 2018. He was at 17% in a Fox News poll just before the endorsement.
“And don’t let them tell you – the fact is, China devalues their currency. They pour money into their system, they pour it in and because they do that you’re not paying for those tariffs, China’s paying for those tariffs.”
Facts First: American importers make the actual tariff payments, and economic studies have found that Americans, not people and companies in China, have borne most of the cost.
A March paper from economists at Columbia, Princeton and the New York Federal Reserve found that the “full incidence” of Trump’s tariffs have fallen on domestic companies and consumers – costing them $3 billion a month by the end of 2018. The paper also found that the tariffs led to a reduction in US income, by $1.4 billion a month.
A separate academic paper also found that the tariffs led to higher consumer prices. It estimated that the tariffs will result in a $7.8 billion per year decline in income.
A Chinese supplier might take on some of the burden of the tariff by reducing its prices to maintain a market in the United States, but these studies show that the burden heavily falls on US consumers and companies.
The White House’s Economic Report of the President also acknowledged that American consumers do pay some of the cost of these tariffs. Domestic producers, according to the report, benefit from price increases from the tariffs, but “offsetting these benefits are the costs paid by consumers in the form of higher prices and reduced consumption.”
“We’re building the wall faster and better than ever.”
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.
Right to Try
“They had no hope. For 44 years, they’ve been trying to get Right to Try … I got it approved and it wasn’t easy.”
Facts First: There had not been a 44-year push for a federal Right to Try law, experts said.
The law tries to make it easier for terminally ill patients to access experimental medications that have not received FDA approval for widespread use. Similar laws have been passed at the state level only since 2014, after the Goldwater Institute, a libertarian think tank, began pushing for them.
“I have no idea what ‘they’ve been trying to get’ for 44 years. The Right to Try law was a creation of the Goldwater Institute, and it first became state law in 2014 (in Colorado), relatively soon after it was first conceived of,” said Alison Bateman-House, assistant professor of medical ethics at New York University’s Langone Health.
Before Right to Try
Trump said that, before the Right to Try program came into effect, terminally ill patients “couldn’t get medicine.” He said, “They couldn’t get anything – they’d travel to Asia, if they had money. They’d travel to Europe, they’d travel all over the world hoping for a cure. If they had no money, they’d just go home, they’d die. They had no hope.”
Facts First: It is not true that terminally ill patients “couldn’t get anything” or would simply have to go home and die until Trump signed the Right to Try law in 2018. Prior to the law, patients did have to ask the federal government for permission to access experimental medications – but the government almost always said yes.
Scott Gottlieb, who served as Trump’s FDA commissioner until April, told Congress in 2017 that the FDA had approved 99% of patient requests. “Emergency requests for individual patients are usually granted immediately over the phone and non-emergency requests are generally processed within a few days,” he testified.
“You couldn’t fire anybody. If they were treating our vets badly, you couldn’t fire him for anything. People could steal, they could be sadistic to our vets. … You couldn’t fire anybody for almost anything.”
Facts First: While Trump might be exaggerating here for effect, it’s not true that “you couldn’t fire anybody” prior to the Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, which he signed in 2017.
In the years before the law was enacted, the VA fired on average approximately 2,300 employees annually from 2005 to 2016 based on data collected by the Office of Personnel Management. However, the Clarion-Ledger found several instances where VA employees who were registered sex offenders or had been indicted for killing patients, for example, retained their jobs. The legislation Trump signed simplified and expedited the process of terminating VA employees, so that problem employees are quickly dealt with.