US election 2020: Fact-checking Trump and Biden town hall events


By Reality Check team
BBC News

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  • US election 2020

US President Donald Trump takes part in a live one-hour NBC News town hall forum

image copyrightReuters

image captionMr Trump took part in an event in Miami

Presidential Trump and Democratic rival for the White House, Joe Biden took part in separate town hall events last night, taking questions from a moderator and members of the public.

We’ve fact-checked some of their claims.

Trump: “Just the other day, they came out with a statement that 85% of the people that wear masks catch it.”

Verdict: We can find no evidence to support this claim.

The president may have been referring to

a study by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that found adults with Covid-19 were more than twice as likely to have reported eating at a restaurant before getting ill, compared to those without the disease.

The study found that 85% of the 150 respondents with coronavirus said they had always or often wore a mask in the two weeks before getting ill.

So the president misinterprets this – it does not show that 85% of people that wear masks in general, catch coronavirus.

The CDC has said: “The interpretation that more mask-wearers are getting infected compared to non-mask wearers is incorrect.”

image copyrightReuters
image captionJoe Biden was grilled over his plans for the Supreme Court

Biden: “They have more people there now, by the way, than when we left in Afghanistan.”

Verdict: That’s not right. There are fewer US personnel in Afghanistan now than when Mr Obama left office.

President Trump has long called for troops to be brought home from operations abroad and has criticised US military interventions for being costly and ineffective.

At the end of the Obama administration, there were 9,294 active troops in Afghanistan and a total of 12,966 personnel if reserve and civilian numbers are also included, according to the US Department of Defense.

Mr Trump did order a further 3,000 personnel into Afghanistan in 2017, however since then numbers have been substantially reduced.

Earlier this month, national security adviser Robert O’Brien said the US had less than 5,000 troops in Afghanistan.

Trump: “We’ve given you the greatest tax cut in the history of our country.”

Verdict: That’s not right for tax cuts in general – previous ones have been larger. It is right for corporation tax.

We investigated this claim in 2018 shortly after Congress passed sweeping tax reform legislation. According to tax specialists, the cuts were big but not the biggest.

The Committee for a Responsible Budget looked at the numbers and reported that President Trump’s tax cuts would be the eighth-largest in US history, compared to the overall size of the economy.

If you adjust the analysis for inflation, President Trump’s tax cuts rank fourth overall.

However tax experts also assessed Mr Trump’s cut in corporation tax from 35% to 21%. Most said in absolute terms it was the biggest corporate tax cut in history.

Biden: “There were 44 people [health experts working for the US] on the ground [in China]…All those 44 people came home, never got replaced.”

Verdict: The number of personnel working at the CDC office in China has fallen under President Trump, but Mr Biden’s figures aren’t right.

The United States has had a Centres for Disease Control (CDC) office in China for decades. The CDC is the top government body responsible for protecting public health.

Mr Biden is suggesting here that prior to the start of the coronavirus outbreak in China, the CDC office had been significantly depleted.

The overall number of CDC staff in China has come down significantly in recent years, but Mr Biden is not correct that they all left.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionCoronavirus was first identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan towards the end of 2019

The CDC website says that as of March this year there were 14 staff in total working in China – three from the US and 11 employed locally.

That’s down from 47 CDC staff a year earlier, eight of whom were US employees and 39 of whom were locally recruited.

Health Secretary Alex Azar told journalists in late January that the US had offered on 6 January to send a team from the CDC – an offer that was repeated later that month and in February.

Two US experts did get into China as part of a multinational delegation from the World Health Organization, which went in mid-February.

Trump: “GDP is going through the roof.”

Verdict: The latest numbers show a record fall in GDP during the pandemic. However the next set of figures, due out at the end of October, are expected to show a record increase.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the value of goods and services in the economy – and it’s used to measure the size and health of a country’s economy.

In the second quarter of 2020 – the latest available data accounting for April, May and June – the economy contracted by over 30%. That’s more than the previous record 10% fall in 1958.

However, the figures for July, August and September – which are due out at the end of this month – are expected to show record growth but not enough to regain the losses during the pandemic so far.

Prior to the pandemic, during President Trump’s first three years in office, Mr Trump oversaw an annual average growth of 2.5%.

The last three years of the Obama administration saw a similar level of growth (2.3%).

Biden: “My deal is a crucial framework, but not the New Green Deal. The New Green Deal calls for elimination of all non-renewable energy by 2030.”

Verdict: The plan does not call for the elimination of fossil fuels by 2030.

The Green New Deal (GND) (not the “New Green Deal”) is a plan put forward by Democrats on the progressive wing of the party.

Mr Biden is wrong in saying that the GND calls for the elimination of non-renewable energy sources by 2030. It actually calls for net-zero emissions by that date – which is quite different.

‘Net zero’ means greenhouse gas emissions are balanced by absorbing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere by, for example, by preserving forests and promoting renewable energy sources.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionThe Green New Deal calls for an expansion of renewable energy sources such as solar power

The GND resolution says “it is the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.”

At the presidential debate last month, Mr Biden said “I don’t support the Green New Deal”. However, on his campaign website, it says: “Biden believes the Green New Deal is a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face.”

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