Trump and Biden town halls fact-checked

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden faced inquisitive voters on separate stages in different cities in a substitute for the debate that was meant to be.

Here’s how some of the rhetoric Thursday night compared with the facts in the prime-time events and a day of campaigning:

ECONOMY

TRUMP, answering questions in Miami on NBC: “We had the greatest economy in the history of our country.”

THE FACTS: The numbers show it wasn’t the greatest in U.S. history.

Did the U.S. have the most jobs on record before the pandemic? Sure, the population had grown. The 3.5% unemployment rate before the recession was at a half-century low, but the percentage of people working or searching for jobs was still below a 2000 peak.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Romer looked at Trump’s economic growth record this month. Growth under Trump averaged 2.48% annually before the pandemic, only slightly better than the 2.41% gains achieved during Barack Obama’s second term. By contrast, the economic expansion that began in 1982 during Ronald Reagan’s presidency averaged 4.2% a year.

So Trump is wrong.

ELECTION FRAUD

TRUMP: “When I see thousands of ballots dumped in a garbage can and they happen to have my name on it? I’m not happy about it.” — from Miami.

THE FACTS: Nobody has seen that. Contrary to Trump’s repeated, baseless attacks on voting security, voting and election fraud is vanishingly rare. No cases involving thousands of ballots dumped in the trash have been reported in this election.

Trump has cited a case of military ballots marked for him being thrown in the trash in Pennsylvania as evidence of a possible plot to steal the election. But he leaves out the details: County election officials say that the seven ballots, along with two unopened ones, were accidentally tossed in an elections office in a Republican-controlled county by a single contract worker and that authorities were swiftly called.

The Brennan Center for Justice in 2017 ranked the risk of ballot fraud at 0.00004% to 0.0009%, based on studies of past elections.

In the five states that regularly send ballots to all voters, there have been no major cases of fraud or difficulty counting the votes.

CRIME

BIDEN, answering questions in Philadelphia on ABC: “The crime bill itself did not have mandatory sentences, except for two things, it had three strikes and you’re out, which I voted against in the crime bill.”

THE FACTS: That’s misleading. He is understating the impact of the bill and the influence he brought to bear in getting it passed into law.

Biden wrote and voted for that sweeping 1994 crime bill, which included money for more prisons, expanded the use of the federal death penalty and called for a mandatory life sentence for three-time violent offenders – the so-called three strikes provision.

He did call the three-strikes rule “wacko” at one point, even as he was helping to write the bill. Whatever his reservations about certain provisions, he ultimately voted for the legislation, which included the three-strikes rule and has come to be seen in the Black Lives Matter era as a heavy-handed and discriminatory tool of the justice system.

30 PHOTOSTrump and Biden on the campaign trailSee GalleryTrump and Biden on the campaign trailABC NEWS – 10/15/20 ABC News will host a town hall with Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday, October 15, 2020 in Philadelphia.The primetime event , “The Vice President and the People” will be moderated by ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos and will allow voters to ask questions of the candidate.The live, 90-minute special edition of 20/20 airs on ABC at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.(Photo by Heidi Gutman/ABC via Getty Images)JOE BIDEN, AUDIENCEPresident Donald Trump sits during a break in an NBC News Town Hall, at Perez Art Museum Miami, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, in Miami. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – OCTOBER 15: Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden prepares for a live ABC News town hall format meeting at the National Constitution Center October 15, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The second presidential debate was originally scheduled for this day but was cancelled due to President Donald Trump’s refusal to participate in a ‘virtual’ debate. Trump had tested positive for the coronavirus and was hospitalized for three days. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)President Donald Trump speaks during an NBC News Town Hall, at Perez Art Museum Miami, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, in Miami. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden participates in a town hall with moderator ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)President Donald Trump talks with voters after an NBC News Town Hall, at Perez Art Museum Miami, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, in Miami. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden (L) and moderator George Stephanopoulos participate in an ABC News town hall event at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on October 15, 2020. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 15: President Donald Trump is seen through a television at a takeout pizza shop in the U street corridor as he speaks during a town hall on October 15, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden both participated in simultaneous presidential town halls in Miami and Philadelphia, after the cancellation of the second presidential debate. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – OCTOBER 15: Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden prepares for a live ABC News town hall format meeting at the National Constitution Center October 15, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The second presidential debate was originally scheduled for this day but was cancelled due to President Donald Trump’s refusal to participate in a ‘virtual’ debate. Trump had tested positive for the coronavirus and was hospitalized for three days. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)Supporters cheer as President Donald Trump departs a campaign rally at John P. Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport in Johnstown, Pa., Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at Southwest Focal Point Community Center in, Pembroke Pines, Fla., Tuesday Oct. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020, in Johnstown, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden speaks during a drive in rallyin Miramar, Florida on October 13, 2020. – Joe Biden headed for Florida to court elderly Americans who helped elect Donald Trump four years ago but appear to be swinging to the Democratic candidate for the White House this time around amid the coronavirus pandemic. Biden, at 77 the oldest Democratic nominee ever, is to “deliver his vision for older Americans” at an event in the city of Pembroke Pines, north of Miami, his campaign said. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)Supporters cheer as President Donald Trump departs a campaign rally at John P. Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport in Johnstown, Pa., Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)PEMBROKE PINES, FLORIDA – OCTOBER 13: Wearing a face mask to reduce the risk posed by the coronavirus, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden poses for a socially-distanced selfie after delivering remarks about his ‘vision for older Americans’ at Southwest Focal Point Community Center October 13, 2020 in Pembroke Pines, Florida. With three weeks until Election Day, Biden is campaigning in Florida. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)President Donald Trump moves to the song YMCA as he finishes a campaign rally at John P. Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport in Johnstown, Pa., Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)Supporters look on as Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden speaks during a drive in rally in Miramar, Florida on October 13, 2020. – Joe Biden headed for Florida to court elderly Americans who helped elect Donald Trump four years ago but appear to be swinging to the Democratic candidate for the White House this time around amid the coronavirus pandemic. Biden, at 77 the oldest Democratic nominee ever, is to “deliver his vision for older Americans” at an event in the city of Pembroke Pines, north of Miami, his campaign said. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)Supporters listen as President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020, in Johnstown, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) wears a mask depicting Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden as he speaks during a drive in rally in Miramar, Florida on October 13, 2020. – Joe Biden headed for Florida to court elderly Americans who helped elect Donald Trump four years ago but appear to be swinging to the Democratic candidate for the White House this time around amid the coronavirus pandemic. Biden, at 77 the oldest Democratic nominee ever, is to “deliver his vision for older Americans” at an event in the city of Pembroke Pines, north of Miami, his campaign said. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)President Donald Trump throws face masks into the crowd during a campaign rally at John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020, in Johnstown, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)The Florida state flag hands behind Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden as he speaks at Southwest Focal Point Community Center in, Pembroke Pines, Fla., Tuesday Oct. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at John P. Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport in Johnstown, Pa., Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020.(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)While maintaining social distance, people try to make a selfie as Jill Biden, center, waves to supporters after she was introduced by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, left, with Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Texas, looking while campaigning for her husband and former Vice President Joe Biden in a parking lot event at Fair Park Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)Supporters cheer as President Donald Trump departs a campaign rally at John P. Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport in Johnstown, Pa., Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)Wendy Nelson holds up posters of Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden as she waits for she waits for motorcade to arrive, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020, at Miramar Regional Park in Miramar, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)Supporters cheer as President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally at John P. Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport in Johnstown, Pa., Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at Miramar Regional Park in Miramar, Fla., Tuesday Oct. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)A crowd of fans cheer on President Donald Trump during a Make America Great Again campaign rally at the John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport in Johnstown, Pa., Tuesday, Oct.13, 2020. (John RucoskyMIRAMAR, FLORIDA – OCTOBER 13: Wearing a face masks and sitting in their cars to reduce the risk posed by the coronavirus, supporters listen to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden delivers remarks during a drive-in voter mobilization event at Miramar Regional Park October 13, 2020 in Miramar, Florida. With three weeks until Election Day, Biden is campaigning in Florida. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)President Donald Trump tosses face masks into the crowd as he arrives for a campaign rally at John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020, in Johnstown, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)Up Next

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TROOPS

BIDEN in Philadelphia, on U.S. troops in Afghanistan: “They have more people there now, by the way, than when I left, when we left in Afghanistan.”

THE FACTS: Not so.

The U.S. now has about 5,000 troops in Afghanistan. The troop level did not dip below 8,400before President Barack Obama left office. The U.S. had about 8,500 troops in Afghanistan during Trump’s first several months in office.

The number of troops in Afghanistan reached 100,000 in 2010, before Obama took office. Obama did withdraw thousands of troops during his two terms, but he was unable to fulfill promises to decrease the number of troops to 5,500 toward the final years of his presidency.

CORONAVIRUS

TRUMP: “Just the other day they came out with a statement that 85% of the people that wear masks catch it so … that’s what I heard and that’s what I saw.” — town-hall event in Miami.

TRUMP, on his rallies: “What I do is outside is a big thing. And if you look at those, people, they really are wearing masks. I’ll tell you, I looked last night in Iowa — there were many, many people wearing masks. But then you see CDC comes out with a statement that 85% of the people wearing masks catch it.” — Fox Business interview.

TRUMP, looking out over his crowd: “Look at all the masks. You know, they keep saying, ‘nobody wears a mask, wear the mask.’ Although then they come out with things today. Did you see CDC? That 85% of the people wearing a mask catch it, OK?” — remarks at rally during the day in Greenville, North Carolina.

THE FACTS: He’s botching the study’s findings, repeatedly. The study cited, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, did not find that 85% of mask wearers catch COVID-19. If that were the case, the majority of Americans would be infected.

It found something quite different: that 85% of the small group of COVID-19 patients surveyed — about 150 on this question — reported they had worn a mask often or always around the time they would have become infected.

The group’s exposure to potentially infected people in the community varied. Most reported shopping or being in a home with multiple people. But they were twice as likely to have eaten at a restaurant, where masks are set aside for the meal, than were uninfected people in a control group.

Most studies have shown that wearing masks reduces the transmission of the virus by blocking respiratory droplets. Several studies have also shown that masks could offer some protection for the people who wear them.

The findings were in a CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published last month.

TRUMP, reacting to the news that people associated with the Biden campaign on a recent flight with Harris tested positive for COVID-19: “We extend our best wishes, which is more than they did to me, but that’s OK.” — Greenville rally.

THE FACTS: That’s false.

Hours after Trump’s early morning announcement on Oct. 2 that he had tested positive, both Biden and Harris sent their wishes for a quick recovery via Twitter.

“Jill and I send our thoughts to President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump for a swift recovery,” Biden wrote. “We will continue to pray for the health and safety of the president and his family.”

Harris tweeted a similar message “wishing President Trump and the First Lady a full and speedy recovery. We’re keeping them and the entire Trump family in our thoughts.”

The Biden campaign at the time also announced it would stop running negative ads, with the candidate tweeting that “this cannot be a partisan moment” after the news that Trump was going to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for treatment of his coronavirus infection. Biden’s camp resumed the advertising after Trump was released from Walter Reed.

At least three people connected to Biden’s campaign have tested positive for the coronavirus, leading the campaign to suspend in-person events for Harris through Monday.

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