Fact check: Donald Trump made 115 false claims in the last two weeks of February
Posted March 9, 2020 2:16 p.m. EDT
CNN — President Donald Trump made 115 false claims over the last two weeks of February, during which he faced a growing crisis over the coronavirus pandemic, visited India, held four campaign rallies and addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Trump made 67 false claims from February 17 through February 23; that was the 11th-highest total of the 34 weeks we've fact checked at CNN. He added 48 false claims from February 24 through March 1; that week ranked 25th out of 34. As usual, many of the false claims were ones he has uttered before.
Trump made 55 of the 115 total false claims at the four rallies: 19 in Las Vegas, 17 in Phoenix, 10 in Colorado Springs and nine in North Charleston, South Carolina. He added 13 false claims in his speech to CPAC, nine in his press conference in New Delhi and six apiece at three events -- one of which was a press conference on the coronavirus.
As concerns about the possible economic impact of the virus mounted, Trump made 27 false claims about the economy. He made 16 about health care, 15 about trade, 14 about China.
Trump is now up to 1,990 false claims since July 8, when we started our counting at CNN. He is averaging about 59 false claims per week.
The most egregious false claim: "Russia, if you're listening"
Trump was at a press conference at his Doral resort in Florida in 2016 when he made his "Russia, if you're listening" request for help obtaining Hillary Clinton emails. The journalists in the room were silent as he spoke.
The fact that there is notorious video footage showing all this has not stopped Trump from making up an alternative history. He told CPAC on February 29 that he said "Russia, if you're listening" as "a joke," in front "25,000 people," and he was "laughing" afterward along with others in the crowd -- but the media cut off the clip "so quick at the end" so that people couldn't hear all of this laughing.
As we've explained before, Trump's version of the story is imaginary.
The most revealing false claim: The flu mortality rate
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, told USA Today on February 17 that the mortality rate for the seasonal flu is "about 0.1%, 0.2% at the most."
On February 26, Fauci appeared with Trump at a White House press conference. There, another doctor, CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, told Trump that the flu has a mortality rate of 0.1%. Trump said, "Correct." But then, moments later, Trump said, "And the flu is higher than that. The flu is much higher than that."
It is not. Trump, though, has preferred during the coronavirus crisis to own the spotlight himself, while frequently providing inaccurate or incomplete information, rather than cede airtime to experts who could convey accurate information.
The most absurd false claim: Ronald Reagan's crowds
Trump's need to exaggerate the size of his crowds and to compare himself favorably to previous presidents combined to produce this doozy of a false claim, made during his rally in Las Vegas on February 21, about Ronald Reagan: "I thought he was a great guy, great president, didn't like his policy on trade, that's OK ... but if he came to Las Vegas, you know, they'd have a ballroom. They'd have 500, maybe a thousand people."
It took one Google search to find out that an estimated 7,000 people attended a Reagan rally at Las Vegas' convention center in 1982.
Here is the full list of 115 false claims, starting with the ones we haven't included in one of these roundups before:
Awareness of Ebola in 2014
Comparing the coronavirus outbreak with the Ebola situation of 2014, Trump said, "At that time, nobody had ever even heard of Ebola." -- February 25 press conference in New Delhi, India
"Nobody knew anything about it. Nobody had ever heard of anything like this." -- February 26 coronavirus press conference
Facts First: Some Americans certainly didn't know a whole lot about Ebola before 2014, but the claims that "nobody" had ever even heard of Ebola and that "nobody" knew anything about it are absurd. Ebola was discovered in 1976. It had been the subject of considerable media coverage in the next three decades, not to mention scientific study.
On two occasions, Trump contrasted the fatality rate for the coronavirus with the fatality rate for the Ebola outbreak of 2014 to 2016, saying "in the other case (Ebola), it was a virtual hundred percent" and that "with Ebola -- we were talking about it before -- you disintegrated. If you got Ebola, that was it."
Facts First: While the Ebola outbreak of 2014 to 2016 certainly had a much higher death rate than the coronavirus, the Ebola rate was never "virtually 100%"; for the entire epidemic, it was about 40% overall in the three African countries at the center of the situation. It was higher in the early stages of the outbreak, but it was never true that every infected person "disintegrated."
There were 28,616 "suspected, probable, and confirmed cases" in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia and 11,310 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of mid-September 2014, World Health Organization (WHO) researchers reported that there was an estimated fatality rate of 70.8%. But the rate "fell later in the epidemic with lessons learned in improving treatment," said Julie Fischer, associate research professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Georgetown University and director of the Elizabeth R. Griffin Program. Still, even at 70.8%, death was never guaranteed for infected people, as Trump suggested when he said "if you got Ebola, that was it."
"It was never 100%. That is just patently untrue," Fischer said.
The flu death rate
Gupta, CNN chief medical correspondent, told Trump at a press conference, "Mr. President, you talked about the flu and then in comparison to the coronavirus. The flu has a fatality ratio of about 0.1%." Trump said, "Correct." But Trump later disputed the figure, saying, "And the flu is higher than that. The flu is much higher than that." -- February 26 coronavirus press conference
Facts First: Even if Trump meant that the flu has a "much higher" fatality rate than 0.1% -- rather than meaning that the flu's mortality rate is "much higher" than that of the novel coronavirus -- he was wrong. The mortality rate for seasonal flu is "about 0.1%, 0.2% at the most," Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health -- who appeared with Trump at this same news conference -- told this to USA Today in mid-February, echoing the comments of other experts and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data since 2010.
Apple and China
"And if you read, Tim Cook of Apple said that they are now in full operation again in China." And: "You probably saw that -- as I mentioned, Tim just came out and he said Apple is back to normal in terms of production in their facilities in China. They've made a lot of progress." -- February 29 coronavirus press conference
Facts First: Trump was overstating what Cook told Fox Business. Cook had not said Apple's production in China was "back to normal" or that plants in China were in "full operation." Rather, he said that plants in China were "getting back to normal."
"When you look at the parts that are done in China, we have reopened factories, so the factories were able to work through the conditions to reopen. They're reopening. They're also in ramp, and so I think of this as sort of the third phase of getting back to normal. And we're in phase three of the ramp mode," Cook said.
Who is paying for the border wall
Trump claimed that Mexico is paying for his border wall, saying, without explanation, "Yes, they are, actually. You know what I mean, right? They are paying for it." He added, "And they're OK with it because they understand that's fair."
Facts First: American taxpayers are paying for the border wall.
Bernie Sanders and deportations
"Bernie said he'll never do a deportation. Right? Remember what he said? I better save this stuff. Maybe he won't get the nomination." -- February 29 speech at Conservative Political Action Conference
Facts First: Sanders has not said he will "never do a deportation." He is calling for a temporary deportation freeze, not a permanent ban. While he is also proposing a permanent end to deportations of undocumented immigrants who have been in the US for five or more years, this is just one portion of the undocumented population.
Sanders' immigration plan calls for a "moratorium on deportations until a thorough audit of past practices and policies is complete." (His campaign manager said in late February that the moratorium would not apply to "violent criminals." The plan also says he will use executive authority to allow undocumented immigrants "who have resided in the United States for five or more years to remain free from threat of deportation."
Crowds and rallies
The time of Trump's Las Vegas rally
Trump boasted about the size of the crowd at his rally in Las Vegas and said, "You know this thing was supposed to be for this evening and they said, 'Let me get back to Washington, do it early,' so we gave you almost no notice" -- February 21 campaign rally in Las Vegas, Nevada
Facts First: It's not true that people were given "almost no notice" for the time or date of Trump's rally at noon Las Vegas time on Friday, February 21. Noon was the time the campaign listed when it announced the rally -- six days before the event was held.
Trump's 2015 rally in Phoenix
Trump said of Phoenix: "We won this state, and it was my first -- my first speech as a candidate, as you remember, in the convention center, and it was a tremendous success. So we -- I love this state ... Well, we came and we had 15,000 people, and it held a lot less...And that was actually my first speech as a potential candidate. So it was something very special." -- February 19 interview with Fox 10 Phoenix
Facts First: Though Trump did have a major rally at the Phoenix Convention Center in July 2015, it was not his first speech as a presidential candidate or as a potential candidate; he had launched his campaign nearly a month prior with a speech at Trump Tower in Manhattan, then held a rally in New Hampshire. And the crowd in Phoenix was smaller than "15,000"; the Phoenix Fire Department cut off attendance at 4,169, a spokesperson told PolitiFact in 2015. (There is no evidence for Trump's 2015 claim that the convention center "broke the fire code by allowing 12-15,000 people in 4,000 code room.")
Trump was vague about what he meant by "we had 15,000 people"; he might perhaps have been referring to his campaign's claim that 15,000 tickets had been distributed. In the past, though, he has made clear he was talking about the size of the crowd in attendance. (Media reports said that hundreds of Trump supporters were outside the venue, but there is no evidence 11,000 were outside.)
President Ronald Reagan's crowds in Las Vegas
"There's never been this. You know, Ronald Reagan was great. I thought he was a great guy, great president, didn't like his policy on trade, that's OK ... but if he came to Las Vegas, you know, they'd have a ballroom. They'd have 500, maybe a thousand people." -- February 21 campaign rally in Las Vegas, Nevada
Facts First: About 7,000 people attended a Reagan rally at Las Vegas' convention center in 1982, according to a news report at the time.
Russia, the Russia investigation and criminal justice
"Russia, if you're listening" and the media
"Remember this thing, 'Russia, if you're listening'? Remember, it was a big thing -- in front of 25,000 people. 'Russia if you're ...' It was all said in a joke. They cut it off right at the end so that you don't then see the laughter, the joke. And they said, 'He asked. He asked for help.' Right? 'Russia, if you're listening ...' A very famous -- they cut that thing so quick at the end because they didn't want to hear the laughter in the place and me laughing. It was just 'boom.'" -- February 29 speech at Conservative Political Action Conference
Facts First: Trump's story was comprehensively inaccurate. Trump did not make his famous 2016 "Russia, if you're listening" request -- for help obtaining deleted Hillary Clinton emails -- at an event with "25,000 people," nor did he laugh after he said it; he made the comment at a July 2016 news conference, with a straight face, and there was no audible laughter in the room. News outlets did not deceptively edit the footage.
Roger Stone and the Trump campaign
"Roger Stone, just so you know, never worked -- he didn't work for my campaign. There might've been a time -- way early, long before I announced -- where he was somehow involved a little bit. But he was not involved in our campaign at all." -- February 18 exchange with reporters before Air Force One departure
"Roger was never involved in the Trump campaign for president. He wasn't involved. I think early on, long before I announced, he may have done a little consulting work or something, but he was not involved when I ran for President. And he's a person who, again, he knows a lot of people having to do with politics. His whole life is politics. That's what he is." -- February 20 speech to Hope for Prisoners graduation ceremony
Facts First: Stone officially worked for the Trump campaign until August 2015, about a month and a half after Trump announced his candidacy, when the campaign announced he had been fired. (Stone said he resigned. Regardless, he could not have been ousted if he had never been on the campaign in the first place.) Stone remained an informal adviser after that -- and communicated with top Trump campaign officials in 2016 about the activities of WikiLeaks, according to witness testimony and phone records presented at Stone's trial. Stone also communicated in 2016 with Trump himself.
You can read a longer fact check here.
The jury foreperson in the Roger Stone trial
Trump accused the foreperson of the jury in Roger Stone's trial of bias. He added, "And you know how they caught her? When he was convicted and then a statement was made, she started jumping up and down screaming, 'Yes, yes.'" -- February 21 campaign rally in Las Vegas, Nevada
Facts First: While Stone's legal team has also accused the foreperson of bias -- Judge Amy Berman Jackson held a hearing on Stone's request for a new trial and will issue a decision -- it is not true that the foreperson jumped up and down screaming upon Stone's conviction or at any other point in the proceedings.
Stone's legal team challenged the juror on a tweet she issued, featuring hearts, fists and a link to a Facebook post that is no longer available, in the hours before the jury announced its guilty verdict on November 15, 2019. The foreperson said under questioning, "I don't know what this was in reference to" and that she was "absolutely not" celebrating the coming verdict. Regardless of what she meant, though, a tweet is not the same as a juror jumping up and down screaming in court as Trump suggested.
Navy sailor Kristian Saucier
Trump told the story of Navy sailor Kristian Saucier, who pleaded guilty in 2016 to one count of unauthorized possession and retention of national defense information after he took photos in 2009 of classified areas of the nuclear-powered attack submarine he worked on. (Trump pardoned Saucier in 2018.) Trump claimed: "And they had these pictures, and they put him in jail. He sent them to his mother and to his friend." Trump first said the photos were "considered classified," but, later in his comments, said that "what he did was, it was 'confidential.' 'Confidential' is a much lower class than 'classified.'" -- February 20 speech to Hope for Prisoners graduation ceremony
Facts First: Trump was minimizing the severity of Saucier's acts by falsely claiming that "confidential" is a "much lower class than classified." In fact, "confidential" material is classified; "confidential" is a level of classification, not a separate, lesser thing. ("Confidential" is a lower level of classification than "secret" and "top secret," but prosecutors said it is "the highest level of classification of nuclear related equipment found aboard a nuclear submarine.") In addition, Saucier was not accused of sending the photos to his mother. The photos were discovered on a cell phone he had discarded in 2012 at a garbage dump in Connecticut; prosecutors said they later learned Saucier had shown them to someone he had served with and a woman he had lived with, and that his (former) wife had also seen them.
This was not a one-time slip about how classification levels work. Trump also told Fox News' Sean Hannity in 2019: "I remember he had confidential information which is a much, much lower standard than classified."
The FBI and "go get him"
Trump appeared to reference a report issued in 2019 by the Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz about Comey's conduct in releasing information from his memos about conversations he had with Trump in 2017. Trump said: "And if you would have read the report written about Comey -- 78 pages of kill, with a reference of 'Go get him.' They really said it: 'Go get him.'" -- February 20 speech to Hope for Prisoners graduation ceremony
Facts First: There is no mention of anyone saying the words "go get him" in this 2019 report. Nor do those words appear in Horowitz's 2018 report on actions taken by the FBI and Justice Department in advance of the 2016 election or Horowitz's 2019 report on aspects of the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia.
Trump was vague here about what he was referring to when he invoked the phrase "go get him." But the best clue comes from a 2019 interview in which Trump claimed that former FBI official Peter Strzok meant "we're gonna go get him" -- go get Trump -- when Strzok texted colleague Lisa Page in 2016 about having "an insurance policy" for what Strzok saw as the unlikely event Trump would win the election against Hillary Clinton.
Strzok and Page have testified that the "insurance policy" meant that they needed to probe Trump and his team over their dealings with Russia so that, if anything nefarious was occurring and Trump did become president, the country could be protected. Trump and his allies argue that Strzok meant something more biased. Regardless, there is no evidence he said "go get him."
Bloomberg's endorsers and campaign finance law
"What Mini Mike is doing is nothing less than a large scale illegal campaign contribution. He is 'spreading' money all over the place, only to have recipients of his cash payments, many former opponents, happily joining or supporting his campaign. Isn't that called a payoff? Mini is illegally buying the Democrat Nomination." -- February 18 tweet
"Is corrupt Bloomberg News going to say what a pathetic debater Mini Mike is, that he doesn't respect our great farmers, or that he has violated campaign finance laws at the highest and most sinister level with 'payoffs' all over the place?" -- February 19 tweet
"And there are a lot of campaign finance violations there. There's no way you can do what he's doing. You know, you go into a town, you give somebody a contribution, two days later the guy comes, 'I'd like to support Mini Mike Bloomberg.' There's something strange with that whole deal." -- February 29 speech at Conservative Political Action Conference
Facts First: There is no evidence that former Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg has broken campaign finance law either with his heavy campaign spending or by previously having donated to the political campaigns or favored causes of people who have now endorsed him. (We know of no cases in which someone endorsed Bloomberg this year "two days" after receiving some sort of contribution from him.) There is no legal limit on how much someone can spend on their own presidential campaign. It is also not illegal for someone who has benefited in the past from political or charitable contributions from someone to later endorse that person for office.
"So long as we are talking about campaign contributions within statutory limits made without an explicit promise to do or not do something, there is nothing illegal going on," said Richard Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine and an expert on elections law.
Chuck Schumer and Trump's deal with China
Trump claimed on three occasions that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had falsely claimed Trump's "phase one" trade deal with China involved Trump taking off tariffs.
Facts First: Trump's deal with China reduces, but does not eliminate, some of the US tariffs on imported Chinese products. Schumer accurately described the tariff changes in a January letter in which he argued that Trump had given away leverage "with a temporary deal of some reduced tariffs in exchange for American goods and vague promises of reform."
After Trump made a previous version of this accusation on January 15, Schumer responded the same day: "I know what's in the deal. I'm not sure the president does. If he knows what's in the deal -- he should throw it away and take China back to the negotiating table. I will cheer him on if he does."
Biden's debate claim about guns
"Sleepy Joe Biden also said that guns killed 150 million Americans last year..." -- March 1 tweet
Facts First: Biden did make a gaffe -- but Trump was inaccurately describing what Biden inaccurately said. Biden said at the Democratic debate in Charleston, South Carolina, that 150 million people had been killed by guns since 2007, not that this many people had been killed "last year." (Biden's campaign said he had meant to say 150,000, which is roughly accurate.)
Trump claimed Hunter Biden, the son of Biden, "didn't have a job until his father became vice president." -- February 21 campaign rally in Las Vegas, Nevada
Facts First: Hunter Biden had several jobs before Joe Biden became vice president in 2009. Hunter Biden, a lawyer who graduated from Yale Law School, became a partner at a law and lobbying firm in 2001. (He stopped lobbying late in the 2008 campaign.) Before that, he had worked for financial services company MBNA, rising to senior vice president, and for the US Commerce Department. And President George W. Bush appointed him to the board of directors of Amtrak.)
At the time Hunter Biden was appointed to the board of Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings in 2014, he was a lawyer at the firm Boies Schiller Flexner, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University's foreign service program, chairman of the board of World Food Program USA, and chief executive officer and chairman of Rosemont Seneca Advisors, an investment advisory firm. He also served on other boards.
None of this is to say that Hunter Biden's name was not a factor in his career advancement. He has acknowledged that he would "probably not" have been asked to be on the Burisma board if he were not a Biden. But Trump's repeated portrayal of him as an unemployed man is inaccurate.
Tom Steyer's performance in New Hampshire
Trump mocked now-former Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer for his poor performance in Iowa and New Hampshire after spending heavily on his own campaign, saying, "He got one-third of 1% in Iowa. And in New Hampshire, he did much better. He got less than 3%." -- February 19 campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona
Facts First: Trump was correct about Steyer's Iowa showing but understated Steyer's New Hampshire showing. Steyer got 3.6% of the vote in the New Hampshire primary, not "less than 3%."
Trump said of Mark Kelly, a Democratic Senate candidate in Arizona: "He wants to raise your taxes, open your borders, give away free health care to illegal immigrants, and he wants to obliterate your Second Amendment." -- February 19 campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona
Facts First: Trump was misrepresenting Kelly's immigration positions.
While Kelly does oppose Trump's tax cuts for wealthy people, he does not support "open borders": "I'm not for open borders. I think we need border security. We also have to treat people fairly," Kelly said in response to Trump's comments at this rally. Kelly is also opposed to free health care for undocumented immigrants, saying in 2019 that the US is having a hard enough time providing health care for Americans.
The claim that Kelly would "obliterate" the Second Amendment is vague, but Kelly says he is the owner of multiple guns and supports the Second Amendment, though he wants "common sense" policy changes to keep people safer.
Kelly, a former astronaut and Navy pilot, is married to former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot and seriously wounded in 2011. Kelly has become a prominent advocate of universal background checks for gun purchasers. He also supports some other gun control measures, like "red flag" laws that allow guns to be temporarily taken from people deemed a danger to others or themselves.
Media coverage of Trump donating his salary
Trump talked about how he donates his presidential salary, then said, "I never had a story -- I don't think I've had a story that I give it. But I guarantee if I was ever late -- because it comes in quarterly -- if I was ever late, it would be a front-page story..." -- February 27 remarks in meeting with black leaders
Facts First: It's not even close to true that there has never been a story about Trump donating his salary. You can read some of the CNN stories about Trump's quarterly donations here, here, and here.
California water rules
"Now that they're rationing water for people, they're saying you're going to get, very shortly -- I heard the governor saying you get 50 gallons. Fifty gallons sounds okay. People tell me it's like nothing. By the time you do with your showers, and your hands, and your tissues, and everything, 50 gallons is very, very little. Can you imagine a state being rationed, when you have millions and millions and millions of gallons being poured out into the Pacific Ocean that you could have? And you'd have more water than knew what to do with. It's crazy. Crazy. Crazy." -- February 19 remarks to rural stakeholders on California water accessibility
Facts First: California is not rationing water for people. Trump was mischaracterizing new state laws that set targets for water utilities but do not impose any limits on individuals or businesses.
In 2030 -- 10 years from now, not immediately -- the target for water utilities will be 50 gallons per capita of indoor water use for their customers. Water suppliers can be fined if they do not meet the target, but no individual person, household or company will face fines or cut-offs for using too much water. (The target system will come into effect in 2023 at a target of 55 gallons, then get more stringent.)
When Qasem Soleimani was killed
"So we took out Al-Baghdadi, and then, we just took out two weeks ago, the world's top terrorist Qasem Soleimani of Iran and his evil reign of terror forever." -- February 21 campaign rally in Las Vegas, Nevada
Facts First: Soleimani was killed on January 3, seven weeks before Trump spoke here. We might let this go if it were a one-time slip, but, intentionally or unintentionally, Trump has habitually moved the dates of his accomplishments much closer to the present.
A labor dispute in 2016
"Last time I had a strike in my building during the election. The only reason -- we would've won this state. Like brilliantly -- to save three cents. I could have settled the strike before the election. I wanted to save two dollars. Total. That was a brilliant move ... But we almost won the state despite I had a big strike." -- February 21 campaign rally in Las Vegas, Nevada
Facts First: There was a dispute between Trump and labor unions in Las Vegas during the 2016 election, and workers did picket his hotel, but there was not a strike; workers did not walk off the job, and Trump's company had not recognized the union in the first place.
The dispute centered around an effort by Trump's company, the Trump Organization, to fight a unionization effort by hotel employees; the company had refused to negotiate a collective agreement despite a worker vote to unionize. Though the workers protested, they did not cease working.
Trump's company settled the dispute after his election, agreeing to a four-year contract.
Waivers for military athletes
Trump touted his decision to give athletes from US military academies who have a chance to play professional sports the right to apply for a waiver allowing them to delay their active-duty service. He said, "They'd been after the waiver ... I did the rule and we got it through Congress and you don't have to serve. You go directly into the major leagues, into the NFL, and you serve your time after when you get out ... And we did it. They'd been trying to get that for so many years." -- February 20 campaign rally in Colorado Springs, Colorado
Facts First: The waiver policy was not achieved "through Congress"; it was created with a memo from Defense Secretary Mark Esper. And it's not true that people had been trying to get waivers allowed for "so many years"; a similar policy was put in place by the Obama administration in 2016, but Trump's first defense secretary, James Mattis, rescinded it in 2017.
The Muslim population of India
Trump said of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi: "And, as far as Muslims are concerned, as he told me, I guess they have ... 200 million Muslims in India. And a fairly short while ago, they had 14 million." -- February 25 press conference in New Delhi, India
Facts First: We can't know what Modi might have told Trump in private, but it's not true that there were 14 million Muslims in India at any point that can reasonably considered a "fairly short while ago." After the partition of British India in 1947, which created the modern states of India and Pakistan, the Muslim population that remained in India was about 35 million, noted Muqtedar Khan, professor of Islam and global affairs in the department of political science and international relations at the University of Delaware. When asked about Trump's claim, Christophe Jaffrelot, professor of Indian politics and sociology at the King's India Institute at King's College London, said it is "truly ridiculous!"
Trump's 200 million figure for the present Muslim population is about right.
The ratings of 'The Apprentice'
Trump claimed that "The Apprentice," his reality television show, steadily climbed in ratings all the way to the very top: "And then the show goes -- started at 10, went to eight, went to seven, went to five, went to four, went to two, it went to one. I had the number one show in all of television. Number one." -- February 21 campaign rally in Las Vegas, Nevada
Facts First: Trump had it backward: "The Apprentice" performed best in the ratings in its first season, then steadily declined. Trump has a long history of making the false claim that "The Apprentice" was the top-rated show on TV. (When he made this claim about "Celebrity Apprentice" at an event with television critics in January 2015, he was mocked by the critics on Twitter and greeted with laughter in the room -- eventually claiming, when challenged, that he had merely "heard" it was number one.)
Chicago Tribune culture journalist Steve Johnson wrote in 2016: "'The Apprentice' was a genuine hit in that first season, ending as the seventh-most-watched TV show of the year, averaging almost 21 million viewers a week," but "its ratings declined steadily each year after that, to 11th place overall in its second season, then 15th, then 38th. When, after its sixth season in 2007, it finished as the 75th-most-watched show (with 7.5 million viewers on average), NBC decided to scrap real people as contestants and bring on celebrities...The celebrity show did better, but it has been middle of the pack all the way, with finishes ranking from 46th to 84th before Trump announced his candidacy and NBC replaced him with Arnold Schwarzenegger."
There are various ways to slice and dice television ratings, so Trump might be able to point to some specific night, time slot, show category or viewer group in which "The Apprentice" was number one. But it certainly wasn't the top-rated show in all of TV, as he has long suggested.
Here are the repeat false claims we have previously included in one of these roundups:
The estate tax
Trump claimed four times that he had eliminated the estate tax.
Facts First: Trump has not eliminated the federal estate tax. His 2017 tax law raised the threshold at which the tax must be paid, from $5.5 million to $11.2 million for an individual, but did not get rid of the tax entirely.
Apple and factories
Trump said of Apple: "...they're building plants. I just left one -- they just opened one in Texas; I just left it. And they're building another one, and a lot of things are happening."
Facts First: Trump did not visit a newly opened Apple plant in Texas; the facility he visited in Texas in November 2019, owned by Flex Ltd., had been making Apple's Mac Pro computers since 2013. And there is no public indication that Apple is "building another one" in the United States.
It is perhaps possible that Trump was genuinely confused about the facility he visited in Texas, though he has made this claim before. Apple announced the same day of Trump's visit that it had broken ground on a new $1 billion campus in Austin. Trump accurately made reference to this campus in a tweet the morning after his visit.
The steel industry
Trump claimed that, before him, "The steel industry was dead. Absolutely dead in the United States."
Facts First: While some American steel companies were struggling before Trump took office and before he imposed his tariffs on steel imports in 2018, others were thriving. And Trump has regularly overstated how well American steel companies have done since his tariffs; the stock prices of major steelmakers, including Nucor, Steel Dynamics and US Steel, have fallen substantially since then.
Trump claimed to have "ended the war on American energy," then said, "The US is now the number one producer of oil and natural gas in the entire world, by far."
Facts First: The US has not just "now" become the world's top energy producer: it took the top spot in 2012, according to the US government's Energy Information Administration -- under the very Obama administration Trump is accusing of perpetrating a "war" on the industry.
Trump said wages are rising for the "first time in 21 years."
Facts First: Wages have been rising since 2014, using one common measure.
Median usual weekly warnings went from $330 per week in the second quarter of 2014 to $349 per week in the fourth quarter of 2016.
The Dow's starting point under Trump
Trump touted gains in the Dow Jones Industrial Average during his presidency, saying, "And we started off at 16,000..."
Facts First: The Dow didn't start the Trump era at 16,000 points -- whether you're looking at its level on Trump's first day in office or whether you go back to the day after his election, as he sometimes argues we should. The Dow opened and closed above 19,700 points on Trump's inauguration day in January 2017; the Dow opened above 18,300 the day after Trump's election in November 2016.
Trump claimed three times that the women's unemployment rate is the lowest in "71 years."
Facts First: It had been just over 66 years, not 71 years, since the women's unemployment rate was as low as it was in January 2020, 3.5%; it hit that level in late 1953. It was also 3.5% or 3.4% during previous months of Trump's presidency, but we'll ignore those for fairness to Trump.
The unemployment rate
Trump claimed three times that the unemployment rate is at its lowest level in "over 51 years."
Facts First: This was a very small exaggeration, but an exaggeration nonetheless. (Trump habitually exaggerates even legitimate accomplishments.) The unemployment rate for January 2020, 3.6%, was the lowest since December 1969 if you don't count previous months under Trump when it was 3.5%. That is 50 years and one month prior, not "over 51 years."
Ivanka Trump and jobs
Trump claimed twice that Ivanka Trump is responsible for "15 million jobs" or more through the Pledge to America's Workers initiative.
Facts First: Ivanka Trump has obviously not created over 15 million jobs; at the time, roughly 7 million jobs had been created during the entire Trump presidency. As of March 2, 2020, the Pledge website said companies had promised to create 15.7 million opportunities -- but many of these opportunities are internal training programs, not new jobs. Also, as CNN has previously reported, many of the companies had already planned these opportunities before Ivanka Trump launched the initiative.
The Waters of the United States and puddles
Trump claimed of the Obama-era Waters of the United States rule: "They took away their rights. If you had a puddle in the middle of your farm, they said it was a lake, it was a river, it was a -- I mean, they virtually said it was an ocean, right? You had no right; you couldn't get anywhere near it."
Facts First: Puddles were not covered by the Obama-era Waters of the United States environmental regulation; the rule explicitly says puddles do not qualify as one of the waters in question.
Trump said: "Here's a case where a country was wealthy 15 years ago and very wealthy 20 years ago. Very, very wealthy. The wealthiest in all of Latin, South America. The wealthiest and -- by far. Not even a contest."
Facts First: Venezuela was not the wealthiest country in Latin America or South America either 15 or 20 years ago.
"Venezuela was one of the richest countries in the world 60 years ago. The richest in Latin America 40 years ago. But not 20 years ago," Ricardo Hausmann, a former Venezuelan planning minister and central bank board member, said in response to a previous version of this Trump claim. Hausmann, now a Harvard University professor, was chief economist of the Inter-American Development Bank from 1994 to 2000.
Venezuela's per capita gross domestic product in 2005 ($5,420) was lower than that of Mexico ($8,189) and Chile ($7,600), according to International Monetary Fund figures from 2019. Venezuela's per capita gross domestic product in 2000 ($4,824) was lower than that of Argentina ($8,387), Mexico ($7,016), Uruguay ($6,817) and Chile ($5,072).
Trade and China
Who is paying for Trump's tariffs on China
Trump claimed three times that the revenue from his tariffs on Chinese imports "came from China."
Facts First: Study after study has shown that Americans are bearing the vast majority of the cost of the tariffs. And it is Americans who make the actual tariff payments.
The trade deficit with China
On two separate occasions, Trump claimed that the US used to have a trade deficit with China of $500 billion or "more than $500 billion."
Facts First: The US has never had a $500 billion trade deficit with China.
China's peak agricultural spending
Trump said three times that China had never spent more than $16 billion on US agricultural products in a year.
Facts First: China spent $25.9 billion in 2012, according to figures from the Department of Agriculture.
The size of Trump's trade agreement with China
Trump claimed that his trade agreement with China was the "biggest trade deal ever made."
Facts First: It is not. Alan Deardorff, a University of Michigan professor of international economics who focuses on trade, said the China deal is smaller, in terms of the volume of trade covered, than both the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiated by the Obama administration and the Uruguay Round that created the World Trade Organization. You can read a longer fact check here.
The US record at the World Trade Organization
Trump touted a recent US victory in a World Trade Organization case over illegal European subsidies to aerospace company Airbus, then claimed that, before he made it clear that he would withdraw from the WTO if the US was not treated more fairly, "We weren't winning anything." He added, "All of a sudden, we're winning all these cases."
Facts First: The US has long won cases at the World Trade Organization, and there is no evidence that WTO adjudicators have suddenly changed their behavior. Trump's own Council of Economic Advisers said in a report in February 2018 that the US had won 86% of the cases it has brought since 1995. The global average was 84%. A Bloomberg Law review in March 2019 found that the US success rate in cases it brings to the WTO had increased very slightly since Trump took office, from 84.8% in 2016 to 85.4%.
The history of tariffs on China
Trump claimed that, prior to his tariffs on China, "we didn't get 10 cents forever from China."
Facts First: Again, Americans, not China, are paying most of the cost of Trump's tariffs. Aside from that, it's not true that the Treasury had never received "10 cents" from tariffs on China. FactCheck.org reported that the US generated an "average of $12.3 billion in custom duties a year from 2007 to 2016, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission DataWeb."
China's economic performance
Trump said China had its worst economic year "in the last 67 years."
Facts First: China's officially reported 2019 growth rate, 6.1%, was the lowest since 1990, 29 years prior. While China's official figures are unreliable, there is no basis for the "67 years" claim; Trump has habitually exaggerated how long it had been since China's growth was as slow as it was in 2019, steadily inflating the figure over time.
Trump claimed four times that he will always protect patients with pre-existing conditions.
Facts First: We don't usually fact check promises, but this one has already proved untrue. The Trump administration and congressional Republicans have repeatedly put forward bills and filed lawsuits that would weaken Obamacare's protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
The Obamacare website
Trump claimed twice that the Obamacare website, Healthcare.gov, was so problem-plagued that it cost "$5 billion."
Facts First: The site did have major problems when it was unveiled in 2013, but "$5 billion" is an exaggeration. In May 2014, the Obama administration said the website cost $834 million. A September 2014 analysis by the information service Bloomberg Government, which looked at contracts related to the website, put the total at $2.1 billion.
Right to Try
On two separate occasions, Trump claimed that, before he signed a Right to Try bill in 2018, others had tried to get this done "for 44 years" and "for 51 years."
Facts First: There had not been a 44-year effort to get a federal Right to Try law, which aims to make it easier for terminally ill patients to access medications that have not been granted final approval. Trump signed the bill in 2018; similar laws have been passed at the state level only since 2014, after the Goldwater Institute, a libertarian think tank, began pushing for them.
Ukraine and impeachment
The whistleblower's accuracy
Trump claimed twice that the whistleblower who filed a complaint about his dealings with Ukraine was "fake," saying both times that the whistleblower's account of his July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was shown to be highly inaccurate when he released a (rough) transcript of the call.
Facts First: The whistleblower's account of the call has been proven largely accurate. In fact, the rough transcript Trump released showed that the whistleblower's three primary allegations about the call were correct or very close to correct. You can read a full fact check here.
The second whistleblower
Trump claimed that there was "supposed to be a second whistleblower," but "as soon as I released the transcripts, the second whistleblower was gone."
Facts First: The existence of a second whistleblower related to Trump's dealings with Ukraine was revealed after, not before, Trump released the rough transcript of his July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky; it's not true that this person vanished after he "released the call." In addition, the second whistleblower's lawyers had always said that this person never planned to file a separate whistleblower complaint, merely to offer corroborating information in private.
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and the rough transcript
Trump claimed the transcript of the Zelensky call is "now 100% accurate, even according to Lieutenant Colonel Vindman."
Facts First: Vindman testified that two "substantive" changes he suggested to the rough transcript were not made, though also he said "I didn't see that as nefarious" and didn't see it as "that big a deal." You can read a longer fact check here.
Popularity and accomplishments
Trump's approval with Republicans
Trump claimed that he has a "95% Approval Rating in the Republican Party, a Record."
Facts First: Though his approval rating with Republicans in some polls has crept up to around 95% -- he was at 93% with Republicans in the latest Gallup poll, 94% in the Gallup poll before that -- that is not a record. George W. Bush hit 99% in Gallup polling after the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001, and his father, George H.W. Bush, hit 97% at the end of the Gulf War in 1991.
Trump's crowd in New Jersey
Trump claimed there were "tens of thousands of people" outside of his January rally in Wildwood, New Jersey.
Facts First: Trump was exaggerating. Ben Rose, director of marketing and public relations for the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority, told CNN that the authority estimates there were between 3,000 and 3,500 people in the parking lot outside Trump's rally venue and between 2,000 and 2,500 people at a park across the street. Trump was given an inflated number during the rally by Rep. Jeff Van Drew, but nonetheless, it was wrong.
Trump claimed at two rallies that there has never been an empty seat at one of his events since he launched his campaign in 2015.
Facts First: There have been empty seats at various Trump rallies, including an October 2019 rally Minneapolis, a July 2019 rally in Greenville, North Carolina, an October 2018 rally in Houston and an April 2017 rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, according to journalists on the scene.
Presidents and handshakes
Trump told a story about how he shook the hand of every graduate in the Air Force Academy class to which he gave a commencement address in 2019 -- all "1,156 cadets." He said he was told by a general that other presidents did not shake every hand -- only 30, 40 or 50, or "the top 10 out of the class."
Facts First: There were 989 graduates in the class Trump spoke to, not 1,156. And while we don't know what a general may or may not have told Trump, previous presidents have also shaken every hand at service academy graduations; contemporaneous news reports about Barack Obama and George W. Bush, for example, noted that they shook every hand at the graduations they attended.
Trump claimed five times to have been the one who got the Veterans Choice health care program created.
Facts First: The Veterans Choice bill, a bipartisan initiative led by senators Bernie Sanders and the late John McCain, was signed into law by Barack Obama in 2014. In 2018, Trump signed the VA Mission Act, which expanded and changed the program.
Prescription drug prices
Trump claimed twice that "last year was the first year in 51 years where prescription drug prices went down."
Facts First: The decline -- shown in the Consumer Price Index, but not in some other measures -- happened in 2018, not "last year." And Trump was exaggerating how long it had been since the 2018 decline; it had been 46 years, not 51. You can read a longer fact check here.
Electoral votes in 2016
Trump claimed to have beaten Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College by a margin of "306 to 223."
Facts First: Clinton earned 232 electoral votes in 2016, not 223. This was not a one-time slip; Trump has habitually said 223.
At three rallies, Trump claimed that overdose deaths have declined "for the first time in nearly 31 years," "for the first time in nearly 32 years" and "for the first time in 34 years."
Facts First: This was another of Trump's little exaggerations. The 2018 decline in overdose deaths was the first since 1990, 28 years prior.
Trump claimed that, at the event he held in 2017 to sign an executive order rolling back the Waters of the United States rule, "I had a lot of people -- a lot of farmers and construction workers and a lot of people behind me. And these are people that didn't cry when they were babies. They would -- never cried in their life, and they were crying."
Facts First: We checked the video of this 2017 event, and nobody in the vicinity of Trump was crying.
The history of the President donating his salary
Trump said that "they don't think any other president" has ever donated his salary; he added that to "the best of our knowledge, we have not found another president that gave."
Facts First: Trump does donate his salary, but the rest of his claim was inaccurate. He is not the only president to have donated the official salary; both John F. Kennedy and Herbert Hoover did so.
Median household income
Trump claimed twice that median household income has increased by $10,000 during his presidency. On one of these occasions, he said it was "$10,000 a year."
Facts First: It's not true that there have been $10,000 in median household income gains under Trump, let alone "$10,000 a year." A firm called Sentier Research says real median household income, pre-tax, was $65,666 in December 2019, the last month for which Sentier has figures -- up from $61,496 in the month Trump was inaugurated, January 2017, a difference of $4,170. Trump is adding an additional $5,000-plus for reasons that do not make sense mathematically -- and $10,000 "a year" is simple nonsense. You can read a longer fact check here.
Democrats and borders
Trump said four times that the Democrats support "open borders."
Facts First: Even the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates who advocated the decriminalization of the act of illegally entering the country, such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, do not support completely unrestricted migration, as Trump suggests.
Mexican soldiers and the border
Trump claimed three times that Mexico has deployed "27,000 soldiers" to the US border.
Facts First: Mexico has deployed around 27,000 troops, but Trump exaggerated how many are being stationed near the US border in particular; Mexico's defense minister said in October that it was about 15,000 on the US border, about 12,000 on Mexico's own southern border.
Deportations to Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico
Trump claimed that Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico used to refuse to accept back people the US wanted to deport, but now has stopped doing that. (Facts First: Trump was mixing up two separate issues. While the Trump administration does have new agreements with all four countries, those agreements are related to the handling of people who have come or are trying to come to the US seeking asylum, not criminals the US is seeking to deport. In 2016, prior to Trump's presidency, none of the four countries was on the list of countries that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) considered "recalcitrant" (uncooperative) in accepting the return of their citizens from the US. You can read a longer fact check here.)
Hillary Clinton's campaign spending
Trump claimed Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign spent "at least three times more than we did" and spent "like $2 billion on negative ads."
Facts First: Clinton's campaign spent about $563 million total, not $2 billion on ads alone, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a money-in-politics watchdog group. If you add in spending by outside groups supportive of Clinton's candidacy, the total is still just under $770 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Clinton did outspend Trump, but by less than double, not "at least three times."
Obama and AIDS
Trump claimed he has "started" the process of ending the AIDS epidemic in America, then said the Obama administration "didn't start it."
Facts First: It's not even close to true that the Obama administration did not try to stop HIV/AIDS in the United States, experts say and budget data proves. The Obama administration spent more than $5.5 billion per year on the three primary domestic programs to combat HIV/AIDS, according to figures provided by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which closely tracks health care spending. Obama also introduced a comprehensive national strategy on combating HIV/AIDS. And experts note that the Affordable Care Act helped people with HIV gain health insurance coverage. You can read a longer fact check here.
A quote from Rep. Al Green
Trump said Democratic Rep. Al Green had said, "We can't beat him, so we have to impeach him."
Facts First: Trump was at least slightly exaggerating Green's comments. In May, Green said this: "I'm concerned that if we don't impeach this President, he will get reelected." In September, when Trump previously claimed Green had said "we can't" beat Trump without impeachment, Green told CNN, "I never said we can't beat the President."
A story about Van Jones
Trump twice repeated a previous false story about CNN host Van Jones. He said Jones asked him to help with criminal justice reform, but then, after Trump signed a criminal justice reform bill, Jones then gave an address, televised on MSNBC, in which Jones thanked the Rev. Al Sharpton and others for the bill but never thanked Trump. (In one of the two new versions of the story, Trump said Jones had been "actually in tears" when he had asked Trump for help with justice reform.)
Facts First: Aside from the fact that Jones did seek Trump's help with criminal justice reform, Trump's story is fictional.
Jones is a CNN host who does not make speeches on MSNBC. Jones has habitually given Trump credit for the justice reform bill, and he says he has never given an address in which he has thanked Sharpton for it and not Trump. Jones also says he has never cried when speaking with Trump about criminal justice reform. ("100 percent fantasy," Jones said in a text message.)
Jones says Trump might have confused him with entertainer John Legend, who did participate in an MSNBC town hall on justice reform. You can read a full fact check here.
At two rallies, Trump referred to CNN as "fake news," then claimed that CNN turned off its camera at the rally immediately upon him doing so.
Facts First: CNN's photojournalists at Trump's rallies do not turn off their cameras when Trump criticizes CNN. Also, no CNN light suddenly went off as Trump criticized CNN in either of these cases: CNN's photojournalists at Trump rallies have the "tally" lights on their cameras set permanently to off. This false claim is a regular part of Trump's repertoire for rally speeches.
The Russia investigation
Robert Mueller's 2017 meeting with Trump
Trump claimed: "Even Mueller's statement to Congress that he did not see me to become the FBI Director (again), has been proven false."
Facts First: It has not been proven that Mueller had been seeking the job of FBI director when he met with Trump in May 2017. Mueller's testimony to Congress -- that he met with Trump because he had been asked to provide advice on the vacant job of FBI director, not because he was seeking the job again -- has been corroborated by former senior Trump aide Steve Bannon. You can read a longer fact check here.
Trump claimed to have "caught the dirty cop on top" of the FBI, former FBI director James Comey.
Facts First: We give Trump wide latitude to express opinions about public figures, but there is no evidence Comey was "dirty." The December report from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz presented no evidence that Comey was corrupt in any way. Horowitz found significant errors in FBI work connected to the Russia investigation, and rejected Comey's claim of vindication, but he did not make any finding accusing Comey of deliberate malfeasance.
The legality of the Mueller investigation
On separate occasions, Trump claimed that "the whole Mueller investigation was illegally set up" and that it was "illegally started."
Facts First: The Mueller investigation was not illegal. Multiple federal courts have upheld the legality of Mueller's appointment and endorsed actions he took. Horowitz conducted an exhaustive review and determined in the report released in December that the FBI had a legitimate basis for opening the Russia investigation in July 2016, prior to Mueller's appointment in May 2017, though his report also criticized some FBI officials for how they had handled other aspects of the investigation.
Trump's past position on the war in Iraq
Trump repeated his claim that he had opposed the invasion of Iraq.
Facts First: Trump did not publicly oppose the invasion until after it began. Trump was tentatively supportive of the war when radio host Howard Stern asked him in September 2002, "Are you for invading Iraq?" He responded: "Yeah, I guess so. I wish the first time it was done correctly." You can read a full fact check here.