Trump and Biden’s first presidential debate of 2024, fact checked

 

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Here’s the running fact check of some of the statements made by President Biden and former President Donald Trump during the first 2024 presidential debate, which is taking place in Atlanta on Thursday, June 27, at 9 p.m. ET.Follow CBS News’ live coverage of the debate.

Trump claims “we had the greatest economy in the history of our country”: False

Trump: “We had the greatest economy in the history of our country. And we have never done so well. Every- everybody was amazed by it. Other countries were copying us.” 

Details: Trump’s claim is false that during his presidency the U.S. had the greatest economy in the history of the country by many of the common metrics used to judge economic performance. The claim struggles when looking at GDP. If the 2020 pandemic is excluded, growth after inflation under Trump averaged 2.67%, according to figures from the World Bank. This is far from the GDP growth under Democratic President Bill Clinton of 4%, according to World Bank data. Including the time period after COVID spread, that average drops to 1.45%.

Trump’s claim also falls short when compared to historical figures. Growth between 1962 to 1966 ranged from 4.4% to 6.6%. In 1950 and 1951, GDP ranged between 8.7% and 8%.

Under Mr. Biden, annual GDP growth is averaging 3.4%, according to the Associated Press.

Unemployment

Trump’s claim is also false even when evaluating the unemployment rate.  In February 2020, a month before the COVID pandemic affected the economy, the unemployment rate stood at 3.5% — which was the lowest since December 1969 — but not the lowest ever. When Trump’s term ended, the unemployment rate was 6.3%.

In 1953, the unemployment rate fell as low as 2.5%. Under Mr. Biden, the unemployment rate is 4%, according to the most recent data from May 2024.

In January 2023 and again in April 2023, the unemployment rate was 3.4%, lower than the best month during Trump’s term.

Stock market performance

On Jan. 19, 2021, the S&P 500-stock average closed at 67.8% above where it had been the day before Trump was inaugurated in 2017.

According to Investopediaat the end of President Barack Obama’s first term in office, the S&P closed 84.5% higher. Additionally the S&P gained 79% during President Bill Clinton’s first term, and 70% during President Dwight Eisenhower’s first term. So far, under President Biden, the S&P 500 has increased almost 40%, according to calculations on June 13.

By Laura Doan and Hunter Woodall 


Biden claims he’s the only president this century that doesn’t have troops dying anywhere in the world: False

Biden: “I’m the only president this century that doesn’t have any — this decade — that doesn’t have any troops dying anywhere in the world.” 

Details: At least 16 U.S. service members have died while serving overseas during Mr. Biden’s presidency. Thirteen U.S. service members died in an attack at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan in August 2021. Three soldiers were killed in an attack in Jordan in January of this year.

By Layla Ferris


Trump claims he did not refer to U.S. soldiers who were killed as “suckers and losers”: False

Trump: “First of all, that was a made-up quote. ‘Suckers and losers,’ they made it up.”

Details: Current and former U.S. military service members have detailed to CBS News multiple instances when Trump made disparaging remarks about members of the U.S. military who were captured or killed, including referring to the American war dead at the Aisle-Marne American Cemetery in France in 2018 as “losers” and “suckers.”

A senior Defense Department official and a former U.S. Marine Corps officer with direct knowledge of what was said detailed how Trump said he did not want to visit the cemetery because it was “filled with losers.” These accounts were backed independently by two other officials — a former senior U.S. Army officer and a separate, former senior U.S. Marine Corps officer.

In another conversation on the trip, Trump referred to the 1,800 Marines who died in the World War I battle of Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed.  The Atlantic was first to report Trump’s comments in 2020. His former chief of staff John Kelly later confirmed to CNN the essence of what Trump had said.

By James LaPorta and Sierra Sanders 


Biden claims 40% fewer people are crossing border illegally, better than when Trump was in office: Partially true

Biden: “I’ve changed it in a way that now you’re in a situation where there 40% fewer people coming across the border illegally; it’s better than when he left office.”

Details: Since Mr. Biden issued a proclamation banning most migrants from asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border in early June, illegal crossings there have dropped. In the past week, daily illegal border crossings have averaged roughly 2,000, according to internal Department of Homeland Security data obtained by CBS News. That’s a 47% drop from the 3,800 daily average in May.

During the height of a spike in migration faced by the Trump administration in 2019, Border Patrol recorded an average of 4,300 daily illegal crossings, government data show. But there were months during the Covid-19 pandemic when the Trump administration averaged fewer than 2,000 illegal border crossings.

By Camilo Montoya-Galvez


Trump claims migrants coming to U.S. and “killing our citizens at a level…we’ve never seen before”: Misleading

Trump: “People are coming in and killing our citizens at a level like we’ve never seen before.” 

Details:  Some migrants who are believed to have entered the U.S. along the southern border in recent years have been charged with murder and other heinous crimes in different parts of the country. They include the suspect in the high-profile murder of Georgia nursing student Laken Riley.

But while the data on this question is not comprehensive, available studies have found that migrants living in the country illegally do not commit crimes at a higher rate than native-born Americans.

Government statistics also show a very small fraction of migrants processed by Border Patrol have criminal records in the U.S. or other countries that share information with American officials.

By Camilo Montoya Galvez


On COVID, Trump claims more people died under Biden administration than his: True, but needs context

Trump: “Remember, more people died under his administration — even though we had largely fixed it — more people died under his administration than our administration, and we were right in the middle of it, something which a lot of people don’t like to talk about. But [Biden] had far more people dying in his administration.”

Details: More than 460,000 people had died from COVID-19 by the end of the week that Biden was inaugurated in 2021, while more than 725,000 have died in the three years since then, according to data from the CDC. However, research has found that the counts of COVID-19 deaths, especially in the early days of the pandemic, were likely undercounted.

By Julia Ingram and Jui Sarwate


In discussing abortion, Trump claims former Virginia governor, a Democrat, supported killing babies: False

Trump: “If you look at the former governor of Virginia, he was willing to do this — he said ‘we’ll put the baby aside and we’ll determine what we’ll do with the baby’...meaning we’ll kill the baby.”

Details: In a 2019 radio interview then-governor of Virginia Ralph Northam, in discussing late-term abortions,  addressed a hypothetical scenario in which a fetus was severely deformed or wasn’t otherwise viable. He said, “the infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable, the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired.”

Northam did not say the fetus should be killed. Killing a newborn baby — or infanticide — is illegal in every state, and not a single state is trying to change that.

By Laura Doan and Daniel Klaidman

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