President Donald Trump and his Democratic opponent Joe Biden have spent the past few months attacking each other on several fronts. While Trump has leveled numerous baseless accusations against Biden, often exaggerating for effect, Biden has also made misleading and false claims about Trump, at times taking the President’s words out of context.
In preparation for Tuesday’s debate, here’s a look at 10 attacks Biden and Trump have previously made about each other that are false, misleading or require some context.
Trump has repeatedly said that Biden, if elected, plans to shut down the entire country to combat the coronavirus.
Facts First: This is wrong and needs context. Trump is referring to an interview where Biden was answering a question about a hypothetical scenario, not proposing a national shutdown.
During an ABC interview on August 21, Biden was asked what he would do if experts told him to shut down the country if he were president. Biden said, “I would shut it down. I would listen to the scientists.”
Biden was not suggesting the US should be shut down right now. Additionally, presidents can’t unilaterally shut down the country. They can offer guidance and take other measures, but their power to control what restrictions states put in place is limited.
You can read the full exchange here.
At a campaign speech in North Carolina, Trump claimed Biden has cheered on rioters by referring to them as “peaceful protesters.”
Facts First: This is false. Biden has correctly noted that many protesters have been peaceful; he has not argued that the violent protesters are peaceful. Rather, he has repeatedly denounced violence, rioting and looting.
Both Trump and his allies have accused Biden of wanting to defund the police or cut their funding.
Facts First: Biden has expressly not supported calls to “defund the police.” Part of his criminal justice plan includes a renewed investment in community policing initiatives. He has also suggested some funding could be redirected to social services, mental health counseling and affordable housing, but in July comments he made to an activist, Biden then immediately transitioned to his previous proposal to deny federal funding to specific police departments that do not meet certain standards.
You can read more here.
Hiding in the basement
Over the summer, Trump began insinuating that Biden was holed up in his basement and had only been campaigning from there since the start of the pandemic.
Facts First: This is an exaggeration. While Trump continued to travel for campaign purposes amidst the pandemic, Biden did campaign entirely from his home from mid-March through May, holding regular digital campaign events from his basement or living room. However, the former vice president has made multiple trips since late May.
After more than two months without public events due to the coronavirus pandemic and state stay-at-home orders, Biden emerged to lay a Memorial Day wreath on May 25.
Biden also attended a June 1 community meeting at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Delaware, delivered a June 2 speech in Philadelphia about racism and leadership and a June 5 economic address in Delaware, met with the family of George Floyd on June 8 in Houston, and held a June 11 economic roundtable in Philadelphia. He has made numerous campaign stops in the intervening months.
Trump has used Biden’s stance on fracking, a drilling method used to extract natural gas and oil, to attack him on two fronts. According to Trump, Biden repeatedly said he was going to ban fracking but has since flip-flopped on the issue.
At a recent campaign rally in Pennsylvania, Trump claimed Biden said, “We’re going to ban fracking and he said that for a year. Then all of a sudden he said, well, maybe we’ll have some fracking.”
A few days later, Trump said Biden’s “taking everything back, he’s taken anti-fracking back.”
Facts First: Trump’s characterization is misleading. Biden’s written plan never included a full ban on fracking. However, there is at least some basis for Trump’s claim: During the Democratic primary, Biden sometimes suggested he was proposing to get rid of all fracking, creating confusion over his stance. He has since explicitly said he does not support a nationwide fracking ban (though in part because he doesn’t believe such a ban would pass).
You can read more about Biden’s past comments on fracking here.
During his campaign’s highest week of ad spending, Biden tweeted out an ad attacking President Donald Trump for comments he has made over the pandemic. Specifically, the ad suggests that Trump has called the virus a hoax.
The 25-second ad begins with a clip of Trump at a campaign rally on February 28 in South Carolina. The ad plays a quick clip of Trump saying “the coronavirus” then it cuts to him saying “and this is their new hoax.” Text on the ad reads, “Trump in public: ‘Hoax.’”
Facts First: This is a misleading attempt to suggest that Trump specifically called the coronavirus a hoax. While Trump’s comments were a bit confusing, Biden’s ad leaves out important context and dishonestly edits the two soundbites together.
Taken in totality, Trump’s comments at the February 28 rally indicate that he is deriding Democrats for attacking his performance on the coronavirus. A full 56 seconds pass between the two clips the campaign ad edited together.
You can read more here.
During a CNN town hall on September 17, Biden attacked Trump for posing for pictures while holding a Bible in front of a church after protesters were forcibly removed from a park across from the White House. Biden suggested that Trump held the Bible upside down, and then retreated back to a bunker.
Biden said the protesters were removed so Trump could “walk across to a Protestant church and hold a Bible upside down – I don’t know if he ever opened it – upside down, and then go back to a bunker in the White House.”
Facts First: Biden gets two facts wrong here. Trump did not hold a Bible upside down and his visit to the bunker was a few days before this event.
On May 29, Trump was briefly taken to a White House bunker amid intense protests that evening. This was three days before the visit outside of St. John’s.
While posing in front of the church, Trump held a Bible out for the cameras. Photos and videos show that Trump held the Bible right side up.
In a campaign speech in Michigan, focused on manufacturing and his support for unions, Biden claimed that the US trade deficit has hit a record high under the current administration.
“Under President Trump, US trade deficit has grown,” Biden said. “It’s hit an all-time high. Let me say that again. US trade deficit is at an all-time high, under Trump in the last three years.”
Facts First: Biden is wrong. While the trade deficit has grown under Trump, measuring for both goods and services, the overall trade deficit has not hit an all-time high under Trump. Measured by just goods however, Biden is correct. However, he did not specify that he was talking only about goods.
The total trade deficit hit a record $763.5 billion in 2006 under George W. Bush. By the end of Barack Obama’s term it had fluctuated and fallen to $481.2 billion in 2016, according to the Census Bureau.
The deficit rose under Trump, hitting $576.9 billion in 2019, despite Trump’s promises during the 2016 campaign that he’d reduce it.
You can read a longer fact check here.
In a June 16 interview on Instagram with actress and musician Keke Palmer, Biden claimed that Trump has not acknowledged the problem of White supremacy.
Facts First: Trump has condemned White supremacy but only recently said “there probably is some” systemic racism in the US.
Following the mass shootings in Ohio and Texas in August 2019, Trump in prepared remarks said that “in one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and White supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America.”
Two days after the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, during which Heather Heyer was killed, Trump issued a statement condemning racism, specifically “the KKK, neo-Nazis, White supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
This statement came a few days after Trump suggested there were “very fine people on both sides” of the rally and protest, a statement for which he has been sharply criticized by Biden and others.
Trump has also been criticized for not being as forceful or persistent in criticizing White supremacist violence as he has about terrorism by Islamic extremists or crime by undocumented immigrants – and he has himself used racist rhetoric.
Regardless, it’s not true that he has not acknowledged the problem of White supremacy at all.
Social Security confusion
Biden has often attacked Trump for his “plan” to eliminate a tax that funds most of Social Security.
Facts First: While Trump hasn’t issued any formal plan, he has made confusing comments about permanently “eliminating” the payroll tax that he has not clarified or corrected. His aides have argued that Trump is not proposing to eliminate the tax, but rather to forgive those payroll taxes that are currently being deferred.
You can read more about the debate on this issue and what Trump has said here.