President Donald Trump held a relatively brief “news conference” at the White House on Tuesday. He still made a bunch of false and misleading claims.
Trump misleadingly cited recent increases in reported European coronavirus cases to suggest the US is doing better than European countries whose case levels are far lower. He falsely claimed former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden committed “treason.”
He made a baseless blanket declaration that college football players would not have serious problems with the coronavirus because they are very fit. He falsely suggested New York City has recently fired a large number of police officers. And he wrongly suggested that he has signed an executive order that prevents evictions.
The situation in Europe
Trump spoke about how the number of new coronavirus cases is rising in many European countries, while it is falling in the US.
“Last week France and Germany both recorded their highest daily number of new cases in three months,” he said. “The seven-day case average for Germany has increased by 62% since last week, unfortunately. And that is truly unfortunate. It’s increased 82% in France.”
The President continued by citing increases in Spain, the United Kingdom and other European countries.
Facts First: While it is true that the number of daily reported new cases in the US is declining and the number of cases in many European countries is rising, Trump was misleading by omission: didn’t mention that the European countries still have far fewer cases than the US even after their recent increases and even adjusting for population.
In Germany, for example, the recent spike brought its seven-day average up to 859 new cases as of August 10, according to the New York Times’ tracking.
On August 3, Germany’s average was 720 new cases. That’s a 19% increase, not a 62% increase. (Trump wasn’t clear about when exactly he was starting and stopping his calculation; it’s possible to get an increase as big as the one he cited by starting the clock in July.)
The increase is certainly of concern. Yet the US seven-day average as of August 10 was 53,750, per Times data. Even taking population differences into account – the US has about 330 million people, Germany about 83 million – the US is doing far worse than Germany even after its decline from the August 3 average of 60,209.
In France, similarly, the seven-day average as of August 10 was 1,528. A week prior, it was 1,174. That is about a 30% increase – not the 82% Trump cited, but substantial. (Again, it’s possible to get an increase as big as Trump’s by starting the clock in July.) Still, even adjusting for population – France has about 67 million people – the US is not faring nearly as well.
The President falsely said that New York City fired police officers without justification.
“Mayor Bill de Blasio should immediately hire back all of the police who were fired without justification. They were fired. I guess that’s part of defund the police by the Democrats. They should hire New York city’s finest back,” Trump said.
Facts First: New York City police officers were not systematically fired from their jobs.
The New York City Council agreed to a budget in late June that cut or transferred about $1 billion from the NYPD budget as part of a larger city budget shortfall as a result of the pandemic, as well as efforts to restructure policing in the city. This included canceling the hiring of over 1,000 new officers. In a separate move, units of plainclothes officers were disbanded and reassigned to other units in June.
Trump’s claim that the New York police were fired is false. He is conflating the decision to cancel a new class of recruits with the firing of active officers.
The new class of recruits that was canceled had been set to start the next month, and the cancellation was a part of a citywide hiring freeze. Another new class of recruits is currently scheduled for October.
While discussing the coronavirus and getting schools to reopen, Trump also mentioned his desire to get college football up and running and said that the players won’t have “a big problem” with the coronavirus.
“These are young strong people, they won’t have a big problem with the China virus,” Trump said of the players. Trump also said he hoped student athletes “would be able to fight [the virus] off” and said that “most of them will never get it, statistically.”
During a radio interview that morning Trump made similar comments about college football, saying the “disease has very little impact on young people, the immune system, and plus, they’re in great health.”
Facts First: While some studies have found young people are less likely to contract or die from the coronavirus than older demographics, no age is immune. Additionally, some college football players have a heart condition that could be linked to the virus. This is one of the reasons several conferences are concerned about starting the season and some have already cancelled their seasons.
As ESPN reported, “[a] rare heart condition that could be linked with the coronavirus is fueling concern among Power 5 conference administrators about the viability of college sports this fall.” The Power 5 conferences include the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big Ten Conference, Big 12 Conference, Pac-12 Conference and Southeastern Conference.
The condition has been found “in at least five Big Ten Conference athletes and among several other athletes in other conferences,” according to ESPN sources. The potential health risks associated with the heart condition have fueled meetings in conferences throughout the US, ESPN reported.
The Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences announced Tuesday that they would postpone the season, with the Big Ten citing “ongoing health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Professional teams across sports have struggled to prevent outbreaks between players, imposing strict quarantine rules that have often been broken. It’s unclear how much better colleges would fare at safely allowing student athletes to play again.
The US has seen a recent uptick in the number of children who have contracted cases. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, almost 100,000 kids tested positive for the virus in the last two weeks of July. The top age to define a child varies by state, ranging from 14 to 24 years old. Still, this group represents only 0% - 0.4% of all Covid-19 deaths, according to the report.
During the press conference, Trump also repeated several false claims.
Asked about the millions of people facing potential eviction, Trump said, “We are not allowing that to happen. … We’re not going to let people – the Democrats, maybe they don’t care, but I care. And we signed an executive offer – you know, executive order – you know that, right. And we are not letting people be evicted.”
Facts First: Trump’s executive order does not prevent anyone from being evicted. Rather, it simply directs administration officials to “consider” whether “any measures temporarily halting residential evictions of any tenants for failure to pay rent are reasonably necessary to prevent the further spread of COVID-19…”
When he said, “we are not letting people be evicted,” Trump may have been making a future promise rather than simply describing his executive order. But he at least left open the impression that the order itself prevents evictions.
In addition, Democrats do support measures to prevent evictions. House Democrats proposed a $100 billion rental assistance program and supported extending the eviction moratorium that expired July 24.
Obama, Biden and “treason”
For the second consecutive news conference, Trump suggested that former President Barack Obama committed treason for supposedly spying on his campaign. This time, Trump added former Vice President Joe Biden to the list.
“We caught Joe Biden, President Obama, the whole group,” Trump said, adding, “This was an illegal act like no other illegal act. This was treason. This was at the highest level of treason. And Obama and Biden got caught spying on my campaign.”
Facts First: Nothing related to the investigation into the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia comes remotely close to meeting the Constitution’s definition of treason. There is no evidence Obama or Biden did anything illegal. And there is no evidence that Obama or Biden personally directed the FBI to surveil people in the Trump campaign.
Also, FBI Director Christopher Wray, who was appointed by Trump, has said he would not use the word “spying” to describe what he called “surveillance activity.” But that is more subjective.