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Fact check: Trump has spent far more time at golf clubs than Obama had at same point

CNN logo CNN 5/25/2020 By Daniel Dale and Holmes Lybrand, CNN
a man in a green field: U.S. President Donald Trump swings a golf club during a round of golf, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Sterling, Virginia, U.S., May 24, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner © Tom Brenner/Reuters U.S. President Donald Trump swings a golf club during a round of golf, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Sterling, Virginia, U.S., May 24, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

Criticized for golfing twice on a Memorial Day weekend during which the US coronavirus death toll approached 100,000, President Donald Trump responded Sunday and Monday by drawing attention, again, to former President Barack Obama's golfing.

Trump denounced the media, which he called "sick with hatred and dishonesty," for supposedly failing to mention that Saturday was his first time golfing in three months. (CNN, among other outlets, did note that it was his first golf outing since March 8.) Trump also accused the media of failing to talk about "all of the time Obama spent on the golf course, often flying to Hawaii in a big, fully loaded 747, to play. What did that do to the so-called Carbon Footprint?"

"Barack was always playing golf," he said in one of his five golf-related tweets.

Facts First: Trump has spent much more time playing golf than Obama did through this point of the term -- after repeatedly attacking Obama's golfing and claiming he would not play if he got elected himself. Just Trump's airplane trips to his Mar-a-Lago Club and residence in Florida, from which he has often taken a motorcade ride to a nearby golf course he owns, have required far more air travel than Obama's once-a-year Hawaii vacations did through this point in the term.

Obama vs. Trump: Golf by the numbers

Obama played 98 rounds of golf through this point in his presidency, according to data provided to CNN by Mark Knoller, a veteran CBS News White House correspondent who is known for tracking presidential activities. By contrast, Knoller said, Trump has spent all or part of 248 days at a golf course.

CNN's own count has Trump at 266 days spending some time at a Trump golf course.

Since Trump and his aides often refuse to confirm that he actually played golf during a visit to a golf club, even when he has been spotted in golf attire, it is not possible to definitively say how many times Trump has golfed as President. And some of Trump's rounds, like when he plays with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, mix leisure with official business.

Regardless, it is clear that Trump has spent more time golfing than Obama. And Trump's own golf-related "carbon footprint" has been bigger than Obama's even if you count only air travel.

Through this point in his first presidential term, Obama had made three vacation trips to his birth state of Hawaii for a total of 29,978 miles in the air, Knoller tweeted, while Trump has made 30 trips to Palm Beach, Florida, the home of Mar-a-Lago, for a total of 51,540 miles.

Obama played 333 rounds during his eight years as president, according to Knoller. In other words, Obama played golf once every 8.77 days as president. Trump, conversely, has been at a golf club once every 4.92 days so far.

It's also worth noting that Trump's trips -- like his Saturday and Sunday visits to the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia -- have almost exclusively been to resort properties and golf courses his company owns.

In addition to the promotional value of these trips by a president, Trump's company has generated hundreds of thousands in revenue from charges to the Secret Service, according to Washington Post reporting.

Trump's history of criticizing Obama's golfing

Trump, now lashing out against criticism of his own golfing, was a vocal critic of Obama's golfing. He promised that he would be different as president.

"I don't have time for that. I love golf. I think it's one of the greats. but I don't have time. Two-hundred-fifty rounds -- that's more than a guy who plays on the PGA Tour plays. He played more golf last year than Tiger Woods," Trump said at a December 2015 campaign rally. "No, think of it. We don't have time for this. We don't have time for this. We have to work. We have to work, OK?"

Trump said at an August 2016 campaign rally that he may never see his properties again if he was elected, explaining, "Because I'm going to be working for you, I'm not going to have time to go play golf." And in an October 2016 speech, Trump said Obama's struggles to pass legislation were a result of excessive golfing.

"Everything's executive order because he doesn't have enough time because he's playing so much golf. He doesn't have enough time to convince Congress to do it. This guy plays more golf than people on the PGA Tour," Trump said.

Obama and James Foley

In one of his Sunday tweets, Trump criticized Obama for "once even teeing off immediately after announcing the gruesome death of a great young man by ISIS!"

This was accurate. Obama did golf in 2014, while on vacation in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, minutes after condemning the murder of journalist James Foley. Obama conceded in an interview the next month that the golfing was a bad idea, saying, "I should've anticipated the optics."

Obama said the "theater" component of the presidency doesn't come naturally to him, "but it matters."

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