To be frank, there hasn’t been a whole lot to fact-check from the Democratic National Convention so far.
We’ve been watching closely. But through the first two nights, major speakers have mostly spoken in generalities or offered subjective opinions – and when they have made assertions of fact, they have largely been accurate.
Still, at least some of their assertions have been debatable or lacking in relevant context.
Here’s a look at some of the Democrats’ claims:
Cuomo and the virus
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo boasted Monday of his state’s efforts to fight the coronavirus, contrasting his government’s approach with how the federal government has handled the pandemic.
Cuomo said that “as they proved their way failed, we proved that our way succeeded.” He added, “And for all the pain and all the tears, our way worked. And it was beautiful.”
Facts First: New York does currently have low levels of coronavirus infection, hospitalization and death compared with other big US cities. However, it is highly debatable whether Cuomo’s overall handling of the pandemic has been a success. He did not mention some important facts and statistics.
Though New York has dramatically flattened its coronavirus curve since its April peak, that initial peak was severe. As of Wednesday, New York still had had more than twice as many total coronavirus deaths as any other US state – more than 32,800, according to Johns Hopkins University data – and was second-highest, behind New Jersey, in deaths per 100,000 people, with 169.
While some of New York’s crisis was undoubtedly caused by bad fortune – as an international travel hub, New York City got hit with the virus before some other major US cities – Cuomo’s approach likely contributed not only to the current successes but also to the initial failures.
Cuomo was initially reluctant to order state residents to stay at home; he issued a stay-at-home order on March 20 (it went into effect on March 22) – four days after a group of California counties issued similar orders and a day after California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, issued such an order for the state. California had fewer confirmed cases than New York at the time.
Cuomo’s early communication about the virus has also been called into question. He said on March 19: “I’m as afraid of the fear and the panic as I am of the virus, and I think that the fear is more contagious than the virus right now. You take a place like New York City, we are at near panic levels, so what you say and how you communicate is very important. Should everybody stay home? Of course. Are we imprisoning people? No. Can you stay inside 24 hours a day? No.”
Seeking to free up hospital beds, Cuomo’s administration also issued a controversial March 25 directive prohibiting nursing homes from denying new or returning residents with the coronavirus. More than 6,400 New York nursing home residents have died from the virus. (The extent to which the March 25 order contributed to the death toll is not clear.)
The Trump administration and ‘cages’
Denouncing the Trump administration, former first lady Michelle Obama said on Monday that America’s children “watch in horror as children are torn from their families and thrown into cages.”
Facts First: The Trump administration did impose a policy of routinely separating migrant children from their parents at the border; separation happened far less frequently under President Barack Obama. However, Michelle Obama didn’t mention that “cages” were also used under her husband’s administration to house migrant children; some of the facilities controversially used to detain children in cages under President Donald Trump were actually built under Barack Obama.
Trump and the ‘hoax’
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said Tuesday about Milwaukee Democrats: “Unlike the President, we’ve never called Covid-19 a hoax.”
Facts First: At a February campaign rally, Trump did call something related to the virus a Democratic “hoax.” The President left it unclear, though, whether he was calling the virus itself a hoax or saying that Democratic criticism of his administration’s handling of the virus was a hoax. When he was asked the next day, he said he was talking specifically about the Democratic criticism.
We can’t call Barrett’s claim false despite Trump’s next-day explanation: The President’s imprecise claim at the rally was open to viewer interpretation. But it’s worth noting that there is certainly a more benign way to view it. For your reference, here’s what Trump said at the rally:
“Very dishonest people. Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. You know that, right? Coronavirus. They’re politicizing it. We did one of the great jobs, you say, ‘How’s President Trump doing?’ They go, ‘Oh, not good, not good.’ They have no clue. They don’t have any clue. … One of my people came up to me and said, Mr. President, they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia. That didn’t work out too well. They couldn’t do it. They tried the impeachment hoax. That was on a perfect conversation. They tried anything, they tried it over and over, they’ve been doing it since she got in. It’s all turning, they lost. It’s all turning, think of it, think of it. And this is their new hoax.”
Iran and nuclear weapons
Former Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday: “We eliminated the threat of an Iran with a nuclear weapon.”
Facts First: We’d let it go as opinion if Kerry had said the Obama administration “reduced” the threat of an Iran with a nuclear weapon, but it’s a stretch to say the administration “eliminated” the threat – which suggests a permanent eradication that the 2015 nuclear agreement did not (and could not possibly) provide.
The agreement, from which Trump announced a US withdrawal in 2018, included strict limits on Iran’s nuclear activities, an Iranian commitment to allow regular inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency and an Iranian promise that the country would not seek, develop or acquire nuclear weapons. Iran remained in compliance with the terms of the agreement into the Trump presidency, according to the IAEA and the Trump administration itself.
However, while the commitment to inspections and the promise of not pursuing weapons did not have an expiration date in the deal, other parts of the agreement had sunset clauses. For example, its limits on the number of first-generation centrifuges Iran can possess and on the research and development of more advanced centrifuges were scheduled to end in 2025. Its 3.67% limit on uranium purity was scheduled to end in 2030.
Also, the deal did not include guaranteed inspector access to Iranian military sites. And, to state the extremely obvious, political winds can change over time; a future Iranian leader could simply repudiate the agreement, just as the new American leader, Trump, did himself. After Trump rejected the deal, Iran stopped complying with some of its provisions.
Social Security and the mail
As Democrats criticized the Trump administration for its handling of the US Postal Service, Eva Longoria Bastón, the actress and activist who hosted Monday’s proceedings, said, “Social Security beneficiaries count on the post office to get their checks.”
Facts First: Though some prominent conservatives have called her wrong, Longoria was right. While 99.1% of Social Security recipients now receive their money via direct deposit, that remaining 0.9% equals 549,818 people receiving checks, according to official data published by the Social Security Administration for this month.
“Nearly 850,000” paper checks go out from the Social Security Administration every month if you include the Supplemental Security Income program, said Social Security Administration spokesman Mark Hinkle. (Supplemental Security Income provides money to elderly, blind or disabled people with low incomes and few resources.) Hinkle said that, if you consider both Social Security and Supplemental Security Income, the breakdown is 98.8% direct deposit, 1.2% checks.
Longoria and other Democrats could certainly be clearer that they are talking about a distinct minority of Social Security recipients who get mailed checks. But that distinct minority is still a large number of recipients.