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Trump '60 Minutes' interview: President makes at least 16 false or misleading claims

CNN logo CNN 10/26/2020 By Daniel Dale, CNN
Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Robeson County Fairgrounds, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Lumberton, N.C. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) © Evan Vucci/AP President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Robeson County Fairgrounds, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Lumberton, N.C. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump continued his dishonesty blitz in an interview with Lesley Stahl of "60 Minutes."

An edited version of the interview aired on CBS Sunday night. Trump released the full 38-minute interview on Facebook on Thursday, pre-empting the network because he said he was unhappy with Stahl's questioning.

Despite Stahl's persistent efforts to challenge him, Trump made false or misleading claims about several topics on which he has been frequently deceptive in recent months -- most notably the coronavirus pandemic.

We counted at least 16 false or misleading claims in the extended footage Trump posted, 10 of them pandemic-related. Below is the full list. We've noted the instances in which the Trump quote we are checking is from the extended footage the President posted rather than the footage televised by CBS.

Cases and testing

Trump claimed that coronavirus cases are rising simply "because we're doing so much testing."

"If we didn't do testing, cases would be way down," he added in the extended footage.

Facts First: It's not true that the US is only seeing an increase in cases because the number of tests has increased. Trump also used this refrain during previous spikes in the number of cases; it was also false then.

While the number of daily tests has indeed been rising, there is no doubt there has been an increase in the actual spread of the virus, not just that more cases are being captured. One telltale sign is that hospitalizations are also rising, setting records in some states. Also, the percentage of US tests coming back positive has also been rising since late September. And deaths have started to rise again, too, after the usual lag following the spike in cases.

"The corner"

Stahl pointed out that people can see for themselves that it's not true when he repeatedly claims we have "turned the corner" on the pandemic and that it is "disappearing." Trump responded, "That's right, we have turned the corner."

Facts First: Stahl was right, Trump was wrong. Again, US pandemic numbers -- newly confirmed cases, hospitalizations, the test positivity rate, deaths -- are all getting worse, not better. There is just no basis for his vague claim that we are rounding some sort of corner in a positive direction.

Trump's comments about Fauci

Stahl said, "You called Dr. Fauci and other health officials idiots." Trump responded, "Where did I call him an idiot?"

Facts First: This was misleading at best. On a phone call with campaign staff on Monday, with reporters from CNN and other outlets listening in, Trump said, "People are tired of hearing Fauci and these idiots, all these idiots who got it wrong."

Trump could perhaps make an argument that he was distinguishing Dr. Anthony Fauci from the unnamed "these idiots" he was referring to, but that's a stretch. (And Trump went on to tell Stahl that Fauci has "been wrong a lot," which is how he was defining "idiots" in the phone call.)

Trump rallies and masks

Stahl told Trump that she couldn't believe that, after so many people who attended his White House event for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett in September got sick with the coronavirus, Trump still doesn't strongly encourage his rally attendees to wear masks.

Trump correctly noted that masks are handed out at the rallies. But he also said in the extended footage, "Well, have you been looking? Yesterday, take a look at, uh, take a look yesterday in Arizona. Everybody behind me had a mask." When she mentioned his Wisconsin rally, Trump said, "A lot of people had masks and it was outside."

Facts First: Trump's comments were misleading. A large percentage of the people at his two Arizona rallies last Monday and at his most recent Wisconsin rally, in Janesville last Saturday, were not wearing masks. And it's an exaggeration to claim that "everybody" standing behind him in Arizona was wearing a mask; most of those people were, but some weren't.

Reporters who cover Trump rallies also noted that there is often more mask-wearing among the people standing behind him, who will be on camera as he speaks, than there is in the rest of the crowd.

Trump and a "lock her up" chant

Trump repeatedly denied that he had endorsed the idea of locking up Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. He said in the extended footage, "When did I say lock her up? When did I say lock up the governor? I never said lock up the governor." After some back-and-forth with Stahl, which aired in the televised version, he said, "Lesley, that's such a vicious thing you just said. I didn't say lock up the governor of Michigan. I would never say that. Why would I say that?"

Facts First: This was highly misleading. At Trump's rally in Michigan last Saturday, his criticism of Whitmer prompted the crowd to chant "lock her up." He interjected during the chant to say, "Lock 'em all up."

So while he did not explicitly say the words "lock up the governor of Michigan," he at least strongly suggested that he was endorsing the idea.

Whitmer and a lockdown

Trump claimed of Whitmer, "They're not liking her so much cause she's got everybody locked down."

Facts First: That's not true. While Whitmer still has some significant pandemic-related restrictions, she is not currently imposing anything that can fairly be described as a "lockdown." Whitmer lifted her stay-at-home order on June 1.

The Detroit Free Press published a handy rundown on what happened next: "Bars and restaurants across the state reopened shortly after the order was lifted followed by barbershops, spas and hair and nail salons in mid-June. Casinos in Detroit were allowed to reopen in early August. Schools across the state reopened this fall for in-person learning. And Whitmer allowed gyms to reopen in early September and movie theaters and bowling alleys to reopen in early October."

There are still capacity limits on various kinds of Michigan establishments. For example, restaurants and bars are capped at 50% of the usual limit for indoor seating.

Earlier in October, Michigan's Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional an emergency law from 1945 that Whitmer had relied on to impose pandemic orders. But her administration then imposed similar orders under the state's public health code.


Video: Covid-19 task force members contradict Trump (CNN)

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Coronavirus restrictions in Pennsylvania and North Carolina

In the extended footage, Trump also accused the Democratic governors of Pennsylvania and North Carolina of imposing a lockdown on their residents.

Facts First: Neither state is locked down.

Since July 3, all 67 counties in Pennsylvania have been in the third stage, "green," of Gov. Tom Wolf's three-stage pandemic plan. The green phase includes significant restrictions on many businesses -- such as 50% occupancy limits for bars, restaurants, barbershops, gyms and malls -- but these businesses are up and running, not shut down.

And school districts are permitted to decide for themselves whether to have in-school or remote instruction.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper moved the state to "Phase 3" on October 2, easing his previous restrictions.

There are, as in other states, restrictions still in effect. Mass gatherings are limited to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors; restaurants are limited to 50% capacity; bars are limited to 30% outdoor capacity or 100 people, whichever is less; gyms are limited to 30% capacity. But it's inaccurate to call this a lockdown.

"The Governor has implemented a dimmer switch approach to easing restrictions responsibly that allows people to get back to work and move our economy forward while keeping people safe," press secretary Dory MacMillan said in an email.

Job creation

Trump boasted about what he described as record job creation of 11.4 million jobs in the last five months.

Facts First: This is misleading. While it's true that the 11.4 million jobs added over five months is a record, Trump left out the fact that there was a much larger record loss of about 22.2 million jobs over the two months prior. In other words, as of August, the country was still down more than 10.7 million jobs since March. (And as of September, the economy was down about 3.9 million jobs since the beginning of Trump's presidency.)

Also, many of the 11.4 million jobs "added" since May simply represent people returning to their previous jobs, from which they had been temporarily laid off. And the pace of the jobs recovery slowed significantly in September, with 661,000 jobs added -- down from about 1.5 million in August.

A death estimate

Defending his handling of the pandemic, Trump, in the extended footage, repeated his false claim that "2.2 million people were supposed to die."

Facts First: Trump wrongly described this 2.2 million statistic.

Trump was likely citing a report published in March by scholars from the Imperial College in London that predicted that a total of 2.2 million Americans could die from Covid-19 if no preventative measures were taken by any US government or individual to try to stop the spread of the virus.

In other words, this figure was an extreme, worst-case scenario if the authorities did absolutely nothing to address the virus, not an expectation.

Trump's travel restrictions

In the extended footage, Trump again said of his travel restrictions on China and Europe: "I closed it very early from China, heavily infected, and even from Europe, heavily infected."

Facts First: Trump was exaggerating. While Trump did restrict travel from China and from much of Europe, neither policy was an actual "ban." Both policies made exemptions for travel by US citizens, permanent residents, many of the family members of both groups, and some others -- and the restrictions on Europe exempted entire European countries.

The New York Times reported April 4 that nearly 40,000 people had flown to the US from China since the restrictions went into effect in early February.

Biden and health care

Trump claimed in the extended footage that, under a Biden administration, "180 million people will lose their health care" from private insurers.

Facts First: This is false. Former Vice President Joe Biden has been a vocal opponent of the "Medicare for All" single-payer proposals that would eliminate most private insurance plans. In fact, Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, a leading proponent of single-payer health care, clashed repeatedly on the issue during the Democratic primary. Biden is proposing a "public option" that would allow people to voluntarily move to a Medicare-style government program.

It's possible that, over time, a popular public option would affect private insurers' willingness to offer some private plans. But Trump is suggesting Biden is actively proposing to wipe out private insurance, and that's not the case at all.

The individual mandate

Trump boasted in the extended footage about how he "terminated" Obamacare's individual mandate, saying that this "actually makes Obamacare not Obamacare." He continued, "So Obamacare essentially was terminated, as we know it. Now we have the carcass of Obamacare."

Facts First: This is false. The individual mandate, which required Americans to obtain health insurance, was indeed a key part of Obamacare -- but key parts of the law remain in effect. For example, Trump has not eliminated Obamacare's protections for people with pre-existing conditions, its expansion of the Medicaid insurance program for low-income people, the federal and state marketplaces that allow people to shop for coverage, or the consumer subsidies that help many of them make the purchases.

In addition, Trump has not literally eliminated the mandate. Rather, in his 2017 tax overhaul, he reduced the penalty for violating the mandate to $0. This might seem pedantic, but the existence of a tax penalty that does not raise any revenue is a central issue in the legal case in which Trump's administration is trying to get the Supreme Court to strike down the entirety of Obamacare as unconstitutional.

Trump's health care plan

Trump promised, as he has in the past, that he will introduce a great health care plan to replace Obamacare, which he is trying to get the courts to invalidate. When Stahl asked why we haven't seen this plan, Trump said in the extended footage, "You have seen it. I've been putting out pieces all over the place."

Facts First: This is false. As Trump acknowledged at other moments of the interview, he has not yet released a plan.

Seeking to assure Americans who benefit from Obamacare's protections for people with pre-existing conditions, Trump signed an executive order in September declaring that it is US policy "to ensure that Americans with pre-existing conditions can obtain the insurance of their choice at affordable rates." But this order does not have any practical force. And the health care "vision" he introduced in September, in which he laid out other broad principles, is also not even close to a comprehensive plan.

Biden and the suburbs

Trump claimed in the extended footage, "I'm saving suburbia. He's gonna destroy suburbia. He's got a regulation, which I terminated, that he would put back, and even worse, that will destroy -- that will bring low-income housing projects into suburbia."

Facts First: Trump was exaggerating again. The Obama-era regulation Trump was referring to would not destroy the suburbs; the rule, known as Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing, is an update to a decades-old federal requirement aimed to eliminate discrimination and combat segregation in housing. It does not mandate low-income housing to be built in suburban areas.

Trump's plea to suburban women

Stahl told Trump, "You said the other day to suburban women, 'Will you please like me? Please?" She used a pleading tone of voice in repeating Trump's comment.

Trump responded, "Oh, I didn't say that. You know, that's so misleading the way -- I say jokingly, 'Suburban women, you should love me because I'm giving you security. And I got rid of the worst regulation.'" He repeated that he had made the comment "kiddingly," not as if he was "begging."

Facts First: Stahl did exaggerate in her tone -- Trump didn't make this October 13 remark in quite such a sad-sack voice -- but there was no indication Trump was kidding at the time.

He said at a rally in Pennsylvania: "So can I ask you to do me a favor. Suburban women, will you please like me?" The crowd cheered, and Trump said, "Please. Please." You can watch the clip here.

Trump has a history of claiming that his past serious remarks were mere jokes or sarcasm.

Obama, Biden and spying

After Stahl asked Trump if he wants to lock up former President Barack Obama, Trump said in the extended footage, "No, I don't wanna lock him up, but he spied on my campaign. Obama and Biden spied on my campaign."

Facts First: This is baseless. There is no evidence Biden or Obama had any personal role in ordering the FBI surveillance of Trump's campaign, which came as part of its investigation of the campaign's relationship with Russia.

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