Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Trump and Biden's first presidential speeches in Michigan fact-checked

September 14, 2020
<p>A supporter of former vice president and presidential candidate Joe Biden&#x27;s campaign holds a sign at an event in Detroit (left) and a man waves a Trump flag at the Operation Gridlock protest April 15, 2020 in Lansing (right)<br/><br/><br/></p>

A supporter of former vice president and presidential candidate Joe Biden's campaign holds a sign at an event in Detroit (left) and a man waves a Trump flag at the Operation Gridlock protest April 15, 2020 in Lansing (right)


Correction: This article was updated to fix a typo where 'complementing' was used instead of 'complimenting'

The presidential campaign trail has arrived in Michigan.

Both Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and current President Donald Trump hosted their campaign events last week in Michigan for the upcoming election this year.

Former Vice President Biden announced his 'Made in America' plans and denounced Trump's handling of the COVID-19 outbreak during his speech Wednesday in Warren, Michigan. Biden's speech came one day before the president was scheduled to talk in Freeland, Michigan.

Biden’s two biggest indictments of his opponent in the presidential race came after the report that Trump knew as of Jan. 29 that the coronavirus was “deadly” but only told the public that the virus was no worse than the seasonal flu, according to reports from longtime Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward’s new book “Rage."

In a second indictment, Biden referenced a report from The Atlantic that Trump called veterans who died in the war “losers” and “suckers,” although the president still denies the report because of the unnamed sources that corroborated the statements.

Trump's speech, which spanned for almost two hours, had everything from calling Democratic presidential candidate “sleepy Joe,” touting his impact on the state’s auto manufacturing industry and imploring Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to let the Big Ten play football this fall. 

An estimated 5,500 people attended the president’s speech, according to MLive. Many were not wearing masks or social distancing.

Each candidate made a series of claims. We selected some of the important statements and fact-checked them to verify their accuracy.

We verified these statements by searching for the original reporting and official documentation with credible proof to confirm or deny each claim. Truth isn't simple, but that doesn't mean every source is equally valuable.

Fact check for Biden's speech

Biden started his speech by complimenting Whitmer on her handling of the COVID-19 outbreak in Michigan. Using Whitmer as a contrast, he went on the offensive against Trump’s coronavirus response.

“If he had acted just one week sooner, 36,000 people would have been saved,” he said. "If he acted two weeks sooner, back in March, 54,000 lives would've been spared in March and April alone."

Fact check: Biden is referencing a research analysis from Columbia University, which reported that if the country locked down cities and enforced social distancing two weeks earlier as many as 54,000 fewer people would have died of the virus.

Biden used the location of his speech, a UAW hall in Warren, Michigan, as an opportunity to point out Trump’s promise to the auto industry.

“Trump came here to Warren just a few days before the election,” Biden said. "He said 'if I'm elected, you won't lose one plant.'"

Fact check: Trump did make that promise earlier in his campaign in 2016. In addition, since he took office GM announced the closure of up to five of their North American plants.

Biden, to compare Trump to former President Herbert Hoover, said "he is on track to be the first president since Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression to see the number of jobs in our economy go down, not up."

Fact check: In the last 80 years, the only president that lost jobs during their first term is George W. Bush, who had an overall job loss at the end of his 2004 term. Leaving only Hoover’s presidency in comparison, which coincided with the beginning of the Great Depression.

With economies across the globe in disarray after the coronavirus outbreak, Biden said “(the economy) was already contracting in 2019," disagreeing with Trump's statement that the U.S. economy was the strongest in the country's history before the outbreak.

Fact check: In 2019, the economy reached the end of a decade long economic expansion. The trend continued with Trump’s first two years in office, ending with the COVID-19 outbreak.

Biden also contradicted Trump’s claim that he has put American jobs first.

“Offshoring ... has doubled under Trump," Biden said midway through the speech. "Federal contracts with your tax dollars, they've doubled the number that have been offshored."

Fact check: As of June 8, major contractors had earned $115 billion in contracts and sent 15,000 jobs offshore as of January 2019.

Although more jobs have been brought to the U.S since Trump has taken office, offsetting the difference. 113,000 thousand jobs came back in 2016 and increased to 171,000 thousand in 2017, a 50% jump.  

Fact check for Trump's speech

Trump began his speech by drawing attention to his effect on the state’s auto industry.

“We have brought you a lot of car plants ... over the last three and a half years,” he said.

Fact check: Since Trump has taken office only three new auto assembly plants have been announced in Michigan, according to the Center for Automotive Research.

The president then moved into an offensive stance against his rival saying that Biden, if elected, would increase the amount of refugees coming into the country.

“Biden wants to make a 700% increase in refugees that are allowed in,” Trump said.

Fact check: The Trump administration has set the limit for refugees to 18,000 in the fiscal year of 2020. Biden would set the limit to 125,000. A 700% increase from Trump’s limit. Although in comparison, Biden’s 125,000 figure is only 54% higher than the cap set in Bush’s last year in office. 

The president then moved on to Biden’s son Hunter saying that he assisted in the sale of a Michigan car company overseas.

“Hunter facilitated the sale of a Michigan auto-company to a Chinese defense contractor,” he said.

Fact check: Hunter Biden owns a 10% stake in a private-equity firm called Bohai Harvest RST Equity Investment Fund Management Co. In the past six years, it has spent $2.5 billion on investments in various industries. In 2015, the investment fund co-purchased a Michigan-based company named Henniges Automotive with a Chinese contractor called Aviation Industry Corporation of China. 

For not the first time, the president also criticized Whitmer for not allowing the Big Ten to play football in the fall.

“We want a governor that is going to let Michigan play Big Ten football this year,” Trump said.

Fact check: Whitmer has said that she had nothing to do with the Big Ten’s decision to cancel play in the fall. The governor has allowed high school football and the Detroit Lions both play with guidelines and restrictions. An independently elected board of directors and commissioners that does not answer to the governor controls the Big Ten. 

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