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From coronavirus cases to the NFL: Fact-checking Trump's dishonesty-filled day of interviews

Posted June 18, 2020 11:43 a.m. EDT

— President Donald Trump made a speech and did at least four television interviews on Wednesday -- and, as usual, littered his comments with false claims about his Democratic opponents, the coronavirus pandemic and a variety of other subjects.

Some of his false claims on Wednesday were new, though a number were things he has repeated continuously over the past few months.

Here's a look at what he said and the facts behind them:

Biden's campaigning

Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity that presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has been in the basement of his home (in Wilmington, Delaware) "for a long time." Trump added, "They are leaving him there, and at some point he is going to have to come out for air."

Facts First: Since late May, Biden has repeatedly left his home to campaign -- and, in fact, made a campaign trip to Pennsylvania earlier this same day. At the very moment in the interview when Trump claimed Biden's campaign was leaving him in the basement, Hannity's show was running footage of Biden delivering an afternoon economic speech in Darby, Pennsylvania.

Biden, like Trump, has been forced by the pandemic to reduce his campaign travel. But the former vice president has made multiple trips out of his home since he emerged to lay a Memorial Day wreath on May 25 after more than two months without public events. For example, Biden attended a June 1 community meeting at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Delaware, delivered a June 2 speech in Philadelphia about racism and leadership and a June 5 economic address in Delaware, met with the family of George Floyd on June 8 in Houston, and held a June 11 economic roundtable in Philadelphia.

Roger Goodell's statement on racism

Trump criticized NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for making a June 5 video statement in which Goodell condemned racism, admitted the NFL was wrong for not listening to players earlier, and encouraged players to speak out and peacefully protest. Trump claimed that "nobody was even asking for" Goodell to make the statement.

Facts First: It's not true that nobody was asking Goodell to make such a statement; prominent NFL players, among others, had pressured him to do so. In fact, Goodell's statement included, word for word, two of the sentences that a group of players had said that they wanted to hear the NFL say: "We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people" and "We, the National Football League, believe that black lives matter."

The pandemic

Gray Television's Jacqueline Policastro noted to Trump that the number of coronavirus cases is rising in Oklahoma, where he is scheduled to have a campaign rally on Saturday, and in numerous other states. She asked if he is worried about people getting sick.

Trump responded: "No, because if you look, the numbers are very minuscule compared to what it was. It's dying out."

Facts First: The virus is not "dying out" in the US; 10 states, including Oklahoma, are currently seeing their highest seven-day average of new coronavirus cases per day since the crisis began, according to a CNN analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. While the country is seeing fewer deaths per day than it did at the peak of the crisis, the current number -- more than 700 deaths on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University data -- is far from "miniscule" by any reasonable standard.

"It's not true. The numbers don't lie here. Look at any metric you want," CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said Wednesday on "CNN Tonight with Don Lemon." He added, "It's not going away, it's just sort of moved around the country, which was exactly what was expected. It's not dying away."

According to the Johns Hopkins data, Arizona averaged about 1,556 new cases per day over the past week, an increase of about 55% over the week before; Alabama's new case counts for the past week more than doubled from the past week; Oklahoma saw a 91% increase, Oregon 70%, South Carolina 69%, Florida 65%. Texas had a 41% increase is positive cases and hit a new record for hospitalizations, with 2,793 coronavirus patients in hospitals as of Wednesday -- an 85% increase since Memorial Day.

Obama and policing

As he did in a speech on Tuesday, Trump told Hannity that President Barack Obama's administration, like other administrations, "did nothing" on the issue of police reform.

Facts First: Obama and his administration took multiple significant steps to try to improve policing. Trump's claim is "absolutely wrong," Samuel Walker, an expert on policing policy and a professor emeritus of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, said Tuesday.

Obama's Department of Justice initiated "pattern-or-practice" investigations into troubled police departments and secured court-enforceable consent decrees or other agreements in which cities including Baltimore, Cleveland, Portland and Miami formally agreed to make changes. Among other initiatives, Obama also launched a task force that made dozens of recommendations for change, secured federal funding for departments to purchase body cameras, and limited the transfer of surplus military gear to police.

That's in addition to the Obama administration's efforts to reform the criminal justice system more broadly. You can read a full fact check here.

Biden and policing

Trump said to Hannity that "you'd be abolishing police" if Biden got elected, suggesting that radical Biden allies, not Biden himself, would really be running the country.

Facts First: We can't definitively predict what would happen during a hypothetical Biden presidency, but Biden has never said anything to suggest he supports abolishing the police. Biden explicitly opposes the idea of defunding the police, and his published criminal justice plan called for a $300 million investment in community policing efforts -- including the hiring of more officers.

Veterans Choice

Trump also made a notable false claim at a Wednesday event on preventing suicide among veterans. Trump criticized Obama and Biden for their handling of the veterans' health system, then took credit, again, for the creation of the Veterans Choice health care program: "They've been trying to get it for decades and decades and decades. And we got it. We got it done."

Facts First: Obama signed the Veterans Choice bill into law in 2014; it was a bipartisan initiative led by Sen. Bernie Sanders and the late Sen. John McCain. In 2018, Trump signed the VA Mission Act, which expanded and changed the Choice program.

Trump also repeated some other familiar false and misleading claims:

China and trade

To Hannity, Trump repeated his familiar claim that China had never paid the US even 10 cents before he came along.

Facts First: Americans, not China, pay Trump's tariffs on Chinese products. There were tariffs on China long before Trump's presidency. And if Trump was talking about China buying US goods, China purchased tens of billions in US products per year before Trump's presidency.

Travel restrictions

Trump claimed again to Hannity that he banned people from traveling in from China and Europe because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Facts First: Both of Trump's travel restriction policies exempted citizens, permanent residents, and many of their family members -- and the restrictions related to Europe exempted entire European countries, including Romania, Croatia, Serbia and Ukraine.

The border wall

Trump told Hannity that he would be going to the Mexican border to celebrate the construction of 200 miles of his border wall, adding that the actual number was now 212 miles.

Facts First: As of May 22, just three miles, out of 194 total, had been erected where no barrier had existed before; the rest was replacement or reinforcement barrier.

Polls

Trump told Policastro that opinion polls are "suppression polls" designed to take away the enthusiasm of his supporters.

Facts First: There is just no evidence for this claim.

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