Fox & Friends tried harder than usual – not especially hard, but harder than usual – to challenge President Donald Trump.
It did not work very well.
Trump ranted dishonestly for much of his 53-minute Friday interview with his favorite morning show, repeatedly refusing to let the show’s co-hosts get in a word in edgewise. When they did manage to make a semi-critical point, Trump brushed them off.
When co-host Steve Doocy asked Trump if he was sure about his claim that the Democratic National Committee had given an important computer server that was hacked in 2016 to Ukraine (they had not), Trump said, providing no evidence and citing no sources, “That’s what the word is.”
When co-host Brian Kilmeade corrected Trump’s claim that European countries haven’t provided aid to Ukraine, Trump didn’t respond. (Kilmeade had quickly moved on to the next question.) When Kilmeade corrected Trump’s claim that he has “pulled out” of Syria, noting that Trump is keeping hundreds of soldiers in the country, Trump again said nothing. (Kilmeade quickly moved on again.)
Trump made at least 18 false claims in the interview – and that’s our initial count. We’re still looking into some other claims.
The list so far:
A factory in Texas
Trump said, “I just got back from Austin, Texas, where I was with Tim Cook. He’s going to be building a $1 billion facility to make whatever he makes. You know, that’s Apple. And he’s gonna build this incredible facility. We toured another facility where they make the Mac Pro, which is phenomenal, which was opening – the reason we, you know – it opened that day.”
Facts First: The plant Trump visited did not open that day. The Flex Ltd. facility has been making Apple’s Mac Pro computers since 2013.
Apple did break ground that day on a $1 billion campus in Austin, about a mile from the plant Trump toured with Cook, but no manufacturing is expected to be done at the campus. You can read a full fact check here.
The Ukraine scandal and impeachment
Trump said that Democrats gave a computer server that was hacked in 2016 to “a company owned by a very wealthy Ukrainian.”
Facts First: The cybersecurity company that investigated the hack, CrowdStrike, is a publicly traded American company co-founded by Dmitri Alperovitch, an American citizen who was born in Russia, not Ukraine. Regardless, such firms do not typically take possession of physical servers to conduct their analysis.
Asked if he is sure the Democrats gave the server to Ukraine, Trump did not cite any specific evidence. He said, “That’s what the word is.”
The accuracy of the whistleblower
Trump said that the whistleblower complaint about his July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “bore no relationship to my call.”
Facts First: The whistleblower’s account of the call has largely been proven accurate.
In fact, the rough transcript released by Trump himself showed that the whistleblower’s three primary allegations about the call were correct or very close to correct.
You can read a full fact check here.
The identity of the whistleblower
Trump said “a lot of people think” that the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, is “essentially the whistleblower.”
Facts First: This is simple nonsense. Schiff is not the whistleblower, “essentially” or otherwise.
The whistleblower is someone who works in the intelligence community. The whistleblower sought guidance from Schiff’s committee before filing their complaint, but there is no evidence Schiff dictated the content of the complaint, much less that Schiff can himself be considered the whistleblower.
The timing of Schiff’s comments
Trump said that Schiff made up what Trump said on the call with Zelensky, but then, when Trump released his rough transcript of the call, everybody was “embarrassed.”
Facts First: Trump can reasonably criticize Schiff for Schiff’s comments at a House Intelligence Committee hearing in September; as we’ve written before, Schiff’s mix of near-quotes from Trump, his own analysis, and supposed “parody” was at the very least confusing. But Schiff spoke the day after Trump released the rough transcript, not before.
Before he started claiming that Schiff did not expect a transcript to be released, Trump had complained that Schiff did not read the transcript available to him.
European aid to Ukraine
Trump said of aid to Ukraine, “Why isn’t Germany putting up money? Why isn’t France putting up money? Why isn’t all of the European nations, why aren’t they putting up?”
Facts First: European countries have provided hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of assistance to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in 2014. (Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade told Trump in this interview that Europe has indeed provided aid.)
Zelensky acknowledged European “help” during his meeting with Trump at the United Nations in September, though he said the world’s efforts had been inadequate so far: “And, I’m sorry, but we don’t need help; we need support. Real support. And we thank – thank everybody, thank all of the European countries; they each help us. But we also want to have more – more.”
You can read a full fact check here.
Obama’s aid to Ukraine
Trump said President Barack Obama sent only “pillows and sheets” in aid to Ukraine, adding, “He wouldn’t send anything else.”
Facts First: Obama did refuse to provide lethal aid to Ukraine, but he didn’t send mere pillows and sheets; he sent counter-mortar radars, drones, armored Humvees and night vision devices, among other things.
You can read a full fact check here.
Hunter Biden’s career
Trump said that Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden managed to get business opportunities during Joe Biden’s vice-presidency even though Hunter Biden “never made 10 cents in his life.”
Facts First: This is an exaggeration. While it’s certainly fair for Trump to raise questions about how qualified Hunter Biden was for the positions he secured while Joe Biden was vice-president, Hunter Biden did have prior professional experience.
Hunter Biden has acknowledged that he probably would not have gotten a seat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, if his dad were not Joe Biden. However, it’s not true that he had never made “10 cents.” Hunter Biden, a lawyer, had worked prior to Joe Biden’s vice-presidency as a bank executive, at the Department of Commerce and as a lobbyist. He had also served on the board of Amtrak.
Prosecutor Viktor Shokin
Trump said that the Ukrainian prosecutor Joe Biden had pushed to oust, Viktor Shokin, was “prosecuting” the company where Hunter Biden sat on the board, Burisma.
Facts First: Shokin was not prosecuting Burisma.
While there had been an investigation of the company, Shokin’s former deputy, Vitaliy Kasko, has said that it was dormant at the time of Joe Biden’s intervention. (The former US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, George Kent, testified in Trump’s impeachment inquiry that Shokin was corrupt; the US and its allies had made a coordinated effort to oust him.)
Zelensky and Marie Yovanovitch
Trump said of former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch: “By the way, when I was talking to President Zelensky, it’s right on the phone, you can read it. He didn’t like her. He brought up her name and he didn’t like her at all.”
Facts First: The rough transcript of the July phone call shows that Trump, not Zelensky, was the one who brought up Yovanovitch: “The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that,” Trump said. Zelensky responded, “It was great that you were the first one who told me that she was a bad ambassador because I agree with you 100%.”
Zelensky did criticize Yovanovitch, saying, “Her attitude towards me was far from the best as she admired the previous President and she was on his side. She would not accept me as a new President well enough.” But he had been prompted by Trump, not disparaging her on his own.
Marie Yovanovitch and Trump’s photo
Trump claimed about Yovanovitch: “This ambassador that everybody says is so wonderful, she wouldn’t hang my picture in the embassy. … She’s in charge of the embassy. She wouldn’t hang it. It took like a year and a half, or two years, for her to get the picture up.”
Facts First: There is no evidence that Yovanovitch refused to hang Trump’s photo. It took the Trump administration more than nine months after his inauguration to distribute an official photo of Trump to government buildings such as embassies, CNBC reported in 2017. More than seven months into the term, the White House told The Washington Post that Trump had not yet sat for the photo.
A State Department official who has recently served in Kiev said Yovanovitch never sought to prevent Trump’s photo from being put up at the embassy. The official said the photo did not arrive until late 2017.
Yovanovitch’s legal team did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment, but NBC received this response from a person “connected to her legal team”: “The Embassy in Kyiv hung the official photographs of the president, vice president, and secretary of state as soon as they arrived from Washington, D.C.”
The treatment of veterans
Trump said, “The vets: for years you would turn on your television, every night you’d see a story about the vets and how badly they’re being treated, it’s a horror show. You don’t hear that anymore.”
Facts First: We can’t speak for what Trump himself has seen on television, but it’s just not true that the rest of us no longer hear about veterans being treated badly at VA facilities.
Merely since August, there have been news stories about “11 suspicious deaths at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center,” “how Veterans Affairs failed to stop a pathologist who misdiagnosed 3,000 cases” and wasn’t fired until 2018, how “a Veterans Affairs medical center in West Virginia is being investigated over allegations that one of its physicians sexually assaulted more than a dozen patients,” and how a veteran at a VA facility in Georgia was allegedly bitten by ants “100 times before his death.”
Trump claimed to have been the one who passed the Veterans Choice health care program.
Facts First: The Choice bill, a bipartisan initiative led by senators Bernie Sanders and the late John McCain, was signed into law by Barack Obama in 2014. In 2018, Trump signed the VA Mission Act, which expanded and changed the program.
The US presence in Syria
Trump said: “I’m pulling back. I just pulled out of Syria, except I kept the oil, if it was okay with you.”
Facts First: Trump did not “pull out” of Syria. While he did withdraw US troops from the northeastern region, in advance of a Turkish offensive in that region, he has kept hundreds of troops in the country – as Kilmeade noted to Trump, responding, “You have 600 guys there, right?”
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said two weeks ago that there would be “probably in the 500-ish frame. Maybe 600” soldiers left in northeast Syria (he said the number would definitely be less than 1,000), in addition to the separate force of more than 100 soldiers stationed in southern Syria near Jordan.
Military leaders have said that the US will not keep any revenue from the Syrian oil fields they are securing, but Trump has continued to suggest that the US is seizing the oil for itself.