AP FACT CHECK: A look at statements made by Trump, Biden during town halls

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President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden faced inquisitive voters on separate stages in different cities Thursday night in a substitute for the debate that was meant to be.

Posted: Oct 15, 2020 9:44 PM
Updated: Oct 15, 2020 10:13 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden faced inquisitive voters on separate stages in different cities Thursday night in a substitute for the debate that was meant to be.

Here's how some of the rhetoric compared with the facts in the prime-time events and a day of campaigning:

ECONOMY

TRUMP, answering questions in Miami on NBC: “We had the greatest economy in the history of our country.”

THE FACTS: The numbers show it wasn’t the greatest in U.S. history.

Did the U.S. have the most jobs on record before the pandemic? Sure, the population had grown. The 3.5% unemployment rate before the recession was at a half-century low, but the percentage of people working or searching for jobs was still below a 2000 peak.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Romer looked at Trump’s economic growth record this month. Growth under Trump averaged 2.48% annually before the pandemic, only slightly better than the 2.41% gains achieved during Barack Obama’s second term. By contrast, the economic expansion that began in 1982 during Ronald Reagan’s presidency averaged 4.2% a year.

So Trump is wrong.

___

ELECTION FRAUD

TRUMP: “When I see thousands of ballots dumped in a garbage can and they happen to have my name on it? I’m not happy about it.” — from Miami.

THE FACTS: Nobody has seen that. Contrary to Trump’s repeated, baseless attacks on voting security, voting and election fraud is vanishingly rare. No cases involving thousands of ballots dumped in the trash have been reported in this election.

Trump has cited a case of military ballots marked for him being thrown in the trash in Pennsylvania as evidence of a possible plot to steal the election. But he leaves out the details: County election officials say that the seven ballots, along with two unopened ones, were accidentally tossed in an elections office in a Republican-controlled county by a single contract worker and that authorities were swiftly called.

The Brennan Center for Justice in 2017 ranked the risk of ballot fraud at 0.00004% to 0.0009%, based on studies of past elections.

In the five states that regularly send ballots to all voters, there have been no major cases of fraud or difficulty counting the votes.

___

CRIME

BIDEN, answering questions in Philadelphia on ABC: “The crime bill itself did not have mandatory sentences, except for two things, it had three strikes and you’re out, which I voted against in the crime bill.”

THE FACTS: That's misleading. He is understating the impact of the bill and the influence he brought to bear in getting it passed into law.

Biden wrote and voted for that sweeping 1994 crime bill, which included money for more prisons, authorized the federal death penalty and called for a mandatory life sentence for three-time violent offenders – the so-called three strikes provision.

He did call the three-strikes rule “wacko” at one point, even as he was helping to write the bill. Whatever his reservations about certain provisions, he ultimately voted for the legislation, which included the three-strikes rule and has come to be seen in the Black Lives Matter era as a heavy-handed and discriminatory tool of the justice system.

___

CORONAVIRUS

TRUMP: "Just the other day they came out with a statement that 85% of the people that wear masks catch it so ... that’s what I heard and that’s what I saw.” — town-hall event in Miami.

TRUMP, on his rallies: “What I do is outside is a big thing. And if you look at those, people, they really are wearing masks. I’ll tell you, I looked last night in Iowa — there were many, many people wearing masks. But then you see CDC comes out with a statement that 85% of the people wearing masks catch it.” — Fox Business interview.

TRUMP, looking out over his crowd: “Look at all the masks. You know, they keep saying, ‘nobody wears a mask, wear the mask.’ Although then they come out with things today. Did you see CDC? That 85% of the people wearing a mask catch it, OK?” — remarks at rally during the day in Greenville, North Carolina.

THE FACTS: He's misrepresenting the study's findings, repeatedly. The study cited, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, did not find that 85% of mask wearers catch COVID-19. If that were the case, the majority of Americans would be infected.

It found something quite different: that 85% of the small group of COVID-19 patients surveyed — about 150 on this question — reported they had worn a mask often or always around the time they would have become infected.

The group's exposure to potentially infected people in the community varied. Most reported shopping or being in a home with multiple people. But they were twice as likely to have eaten at a restaurant, where masks are set aside for the meal, than were uninfected people in a control group.

Most studies have shown that wearing masks reduces the transmission of the virus by blocking respiratory droplets. Several studies have also shown that masks could offer some protection for the people who wear them.

The findings were in a CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published last month.

___

TRUMP, reacting to the news that people associated with the Biden campaign on a recent flight with Harris tested positive for COVID-19: “We extend our best wishes, which is more than they did to me, but that’s OK.” — Greenville rally.

THE FACTS: That’s false.

Hours after Trump’s early morning announcement on Oct. 2 that he had tested positive, both Biden and Harris sent their wishes for a quick recovery via Twitter.

“Jill and I send our thoughts to President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump for a swift recovery,” Biden wrote. “We will continue to pray for the health and safety of the president and his family.”

Harris tweeted a similar message “wishing President Trump and the First Lady a full and speedy recovery. We’re keeping them and the entire Trump family in our thoughts.”

The Biden campaign at the time also announced it would stop running negative ads, with the candidate tweeting that “this cannot be a partisan moment” after the news that Trump was going to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for treatment of his coronavirus infection. Biden’s camp resumed the advertising after Trump was released from Walter Reed.

At least three people connected to Biden’s campaign have tested positive for the coronavirus, leading the campaign to suspend in-person events for Harris through Monday.

New York Coronavirus Cases

County data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 488506

Reported Deaths: 33371
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Queens755437288
Kings737667374
Bronx546284980
Nassau488642204
Suffolk482342016
Westchester396941460
New York352493192
Rockland17453680
Richmond168601092
Orange13258502
Erie12574708
Monroe6850300
Dutchess5366163
Onondaga5121207
Albany3460136
Broome306083
Oneida2617128
Ulster242895
Niagara1986101
Putnam175563
Sullivan169448
Schenectady151650
Chemung13813
Saratoga122917
Rensselaer104742
Steuben89857
Chautauqua84513
Columbia65938
Ontario60335
Oswego5994
Tompkins5630
Madison54117
Greene48218
Tioga47825
Cortland4510
Warren44133
Cattaraugus4346
Wayne3935
Orleans37654
Herkimer37410
Genesee3725
St. Lawrence3724
Otsego3695
Fulton36024
Chenango3377
Cayuga3322
Washington32614
Montgomery2574
Livingston2568
Allegany2241
Clinton2205
Essex1940
Jefferson1930
Wyoming1725
Delaware1617
Seneca1313
Schuyler1040
Schoharie1010
Yates997
Franklin780
Lewis620
Hamilton160
Unassigned023
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