President Donald Trump keeps wrongly describing what his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, said about the idea of imposing a “shutdown” to combat the coronavirus.
In his Thursday speech accepting the Republican presidential nomination, Trump said, “Instead of following the science, Joe Biden wants to inflict a painful shutdown on the entire country.” He said Biden’s supposed shutdown would cause health problems, like alcohol addiction and depression, and “economic devastation.”
In a rally speech the next night in New Hampshire, Trump said, “And now the other day, Joe Biden came up with a plan to impose a blanket shutdown.”
Trump had made a similar claim on Twitter on August 22, saying that, despite the large job gains of recent months (which came after much larger job losses), “Joe Biden said, ‘I would shut it down’, referring to our Country. He has no clue!”
Facts First: All of these claims are wrong. It’s not true that Biden wants to ignore “the science,” or that he has presented any “plan” for a “blanket shutdown,” or that, as Trump seemed to suggest in the tweet, that Biden has declared he wants to shut down the country right now. Rather, Biden said in an interview that he would follow the advice of scientists if they advised him to shut down the country if the combination of the coronavirus and the flu created a severe crisis in 2021.
In fact, the context for Biden’s remark was his promise that his pandemic response as president would be shaped by scientists’ opinions.
Biden made the comment in question during an ABC interview that was taped on August 21. A little after Biden alleged that Trump “hasn’t listened to the scientists,” ABC “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir asked him, “You talk about the science. If you’re sworn in come January, and we have coronavirus and the flu combining, which many scientists have said is a real possibility, would you be prepared to shut this country down again?”
Biden said, “I would be prepared to do whatever it takes to save lives. Because we cannot get the country moving until we control the virus. That is the fundamental flaw of this administration’s thinking to begin with. In order to keep the country running and moving and the economy growing, and people employed, you have to fix the virus, you have to deal with the virus.”
Muir pressed: “So if the scientists say, ‘Shut it down?’”
Biden responded, “I would shut it down. I would listen to the scientists.”
It’s worth noting that presidents cannot single-handedly “shut down” the country. Trump’s administration issued pandemic guidelines, but it was individual governors, mayors and other officials who made the decisions to impose social and economic restrictions on their residents to fight the virus.