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FACT FOCUS: Here’s a look at some of the false claims made during Biden and Trump’s first debate

In this combination of photos, President Joe Biden speaks on Aug. 10, 2023, in Salt Lake City, from left, former President Donald Trump speaks on July 8, 2023, in Las Vegas.

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump traded barbs and a variety of false and misleading information as they faced off in their first debate of the 2024 election.

There’s no comparing the volume of false and misleading claims Trump has deployed throughout his campaigns and presidency with Biden, who tends to lean more on exaggerations and embellishments rather than outright lies. Here’s a look at the false and misleading claims by the two candidates.
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ECONOMY

TRUMP: We had the greatest economy in history.”

THE FACTS: That’s not accurate. First of all, the pandemic triggered a massive recession during his presidency. The government borrowed $3.1 trillion in 2020 to stabilize the economy. Trump had the ignominy of leaving the White House with fewer jobs than when he entered.

But even if you take out issues caused by the pandemic, economic growth averaged 2.67% during Trump’s first three years. That’s pretty solid. But it’s nowhere near the 4% averaged during Bill Clinton’s two terms from 1993 to 2001, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In fact, growth has been stronger so far under Biden than under Trump.

Trump did have the unemployment rate get as low as 3.5% before the pandemic. But again, the labor force participation rate for people 25 to 54 — the core of the U.S. working population — was higher under Clinton. The participation rate has also been higher under Biden than Trump.

Trump also likes to talk about how low inflation was under him. Gasoline fell as low as $1.77 a gallon. But, of course, that price dip happened during pandemic lockdowns when few people were driving. The low prices were due to a global health crisis, not Trump’s policies.

Similarly, average 30-year mortgage rates dipped to 2.65% during the pandemic. Those low rates were a byproduct of Federal Reserve efforts to prop up a weak economy, rather than the sign of strength that Trump now suggests it was.

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ABORTION

TRUMP: “The problem they have is they’re radical because they will take the life of a child in the eighth month, the ninth month, and even after birth, after birth.”

THE FACTS: Trump inaccurately referred to abortions after birth. Infanticide is criminalized in every state, and no state has passed a law that allows killing a baby after birth.

Abortion rights advocates say terms like this and “late-term abortions” attempt to stigmatize abortions later in pregnancy. Abortions later in pregnancy are exceedingly rare. In 2020, less than 1% of abortions in the United States were performed at or after 21 weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Abortions later in pregnancy also are usually the result of serious complications, such as fetal anomalies, that put the life of the woman or fetus at risk, medical experts say. In most cases, these are also wanted pregnancies, experts say.

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COVID-19

BIDEN: Trump told Americans to “inject bleach” into their arms to treat COVID-19.

THE FACTS: That’s overstating it. Rather, Trump asked whether it would be possible to inject disinfectant into the lungs.

“And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in one minute,” he said at an April 2020 press conference. “And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning, because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it’d be interesting to check that, so that you’re going to have to use medical doctors with, but it sounds interesting to me. So, we’ll see, but the whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute. That’s pretty powerful.”

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MIGRANTS

TRUMP, referring to Biden: “He’s the one that killed people with a bad border and flooding hundreds of thousands of people dying and also killing our citizens when they come in.”

THE FACTS: A mass influx of migrants coming into the U.S. illegally across the southern border has led to a number of false and misleading claims by Trump. For example, he regularly claims other countries are emptying their prisons and mental institutions to send to the U.S. There is no evidence to support that.

Trump has also argued the influx of immigrants is causing a crime surge in the U.S., although statistics actually show violent crime is on the way down.

There have been recent high-profile and heinous crimes allegedly committed by people in the country illegally. But FBI statistics do not separate out crimes by the immigration status of the assailant, nor is there any evidence of a spike in crime perpetrated by migrants, either along the U.S.-Mexico border or in cities seeing the greatest influx of migrants, like New York. Studies have found that people living in the country illegally are less likely than native-born Americans to have been arrested for violent, drug and property crimes. For more than a century, critics of immigration have sought to link new arrivals to crime. In 1931, the Wickersham Commission did not find any evidence supporting a connection between immigration and increased crime, and many studies since then have reached similar conclusions.

Texas is the only state that tracks crimes by immigration status. A 2020 study published by the National Academy of Sciences found “considerably lower felony arrest rates” among people in the United States illegally than legal immigrants or native-born.

Some crime is expected given the large population of immigrants. There were an estimated 10.5 million people in the country illegally in 2021, according to the latest estimate by Pew Research Center, a figure that has almost certainly risen with large influxes at the border. In 2022, the Census Bureau estimated the foreign-born population at 46.2 million, or nearly 14% of the total, with most states seeing double-digit percentage increases in the last dozen years.

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Associated Press writers Josh Boak, Elliot Spagat, Christina Cassidy and Melissa Goldin contributed to this report.

Picture of Associated Press

Associated Press

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