It’s not exactly news to hear the same old digs and distortions from Trump
“I don’t think there’s ever been a president elected who in this short period of time has done what we’ve done.”
—President Trump, news conference, Feb. 16, 2017
We can’t quite fact-check the statement above — it’s certainly open to debate what counts as achievements — but we can factcheck some of the dubious claims, false statements and inaccurate information spouted by the president during his 77-minute news conference. This is summarized from a longer online list written with my colleague Michelle Ye Hee Lee.
“A new Rasmussen poll just came out just a very short while ago, and it has our approval rating at 55 percent and going up.”
Trump has a tendency to focus only on polls that are good for him. Rasmussen has a rightleaning bias and earns a C-plus grade from FiveThirtyEight.com. Other polls show Trump with significantly lower approval ratings, such as Gallup (40 percent) and Pew Research Center (39 percent).
“Trump’s overall job approval is much lower than those of prior presidents in their first weeks in office,” Pew said. “Nearly half (46 percent) strongly disapprove of his job performance, while 29 percent strongly approve.”
“The stock market has hit record numbers.”
This is a flip-flop for Trump. Before he was elected, he dismissed the stock market performance under President Barack Obama as “artificial” and “a bubble.”
“Plants and factories are already starting to move back into the United States, and big league — Ford, General Motors, so many of them.”
Trump keeps giving himself credit for business decisions made before he became president. Ford’s decision has more to do with the company’s long-term goal — particularly its plans to invest in electric vehicles — than with the administration.
“To be honest, I inherited a mess. It’s a mess. At home and abroad, a mess.”
Trump indicated he was backing up this statement by noting that “jobs are pouring out of the country . . . . The Middle East is a disaster. North Korea.”
The state of foreign policy is open to interpretation, but the economy was in pretty good shape when Trump became president, especially compared with the economic crisis that Obama inherited in 2009.
In January 2009, coinciding with the last labor report of the George W. Bush administration, nearly 800,000 jobs disappeared, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, compared with the nearly 230,000 jobs added in January 2017. (Trump has given himself credit for the January numbers, but the data was collected when Obama still held office.)
“We got 306 [electoral college votes] because people came out and voted like they’ve never seen before, so that’s the way it goes. I guess it was the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan.”
This statement is wrong on several levels.
Trump did get more raw votes than any other Republican candidate in history — but he also earned 2.9 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton. An additional 8 million people voted for third-party or write-in candidates. Moreover, turnout of the voting-age population (54.6 percent) was lower than in the elections of 2012, 2008 and 2004.
Finally, Trump was wrong on the size of his electoral college win. Of the nine presidential elections since 1984, Trump’s electoral college win ranks seventh. When a reporter pointed out his error, Trump first indicated that he was talking about Republican candidates. But George H.W. Bush received 426 electoral votes in 1988. Trump’s response: “I don’t know, I was given that information.”
“In fact, we had to go quicker than we thought because of the bad decision we received from a circuit that has been overturned at a record number. I have heard 80 percent . . . . I think that circuit is in chaos and that circuit is frankly in turmoil.”
Trump is referring to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which ruled against reinstating his travel ban. But there are other ways to slice the data, and it’s important to put this number into context. None of the data supports Trump’s contention that the court is “in chaos” and “in turmoil.”
First of all, most cases that are reviewed by the Supreme Court are reversed.
Each appeals court’s reversal rate changes every year, so it’s easy to cherry-pick this data. Under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., the 9th Circuit did not set a “record” for reversals. The 9th Circuit’s reversal rate was usually higher than the average, but not always the highest. In the 2014-2015 term, the 9th Circuit’s reversal rate was 63 percent, below the average rate of 72 percent. In the 2015-2016 term, the latest year of data available, the 9th Circuit court’s reversal rate was 80 percent, and the average rate was 67 percent.
“You [the media] have a lower approval rate than Congress. I think that’s right.”
Trump indicated that he wasn’t sure if this assertion is correct. It is not. The public’s trust in the media has certainly fallen over the years. But a 2016 Gallup poll shows that Congress is viewed positively by 9 percent of respondents, compared with 20 percent for newspapers and 21 percent for television.
That’s not a high confidence level — besides Congress, only “big business” ranks lower than the media — but it’s enough to make Trump’s claim incorrect.
“Nobody mentions that Hillary received the questions to the debates.”
Trump overstates the disclosure about Clinton reportedly getting a single debate question. During the Democratic primaries, a debate was held in Flint, Mich., to focus on the water crisis. Donna Brazile, then an analyst with CNN, sent an email to the Clinton campaign saying that a woman with a rash from lead poisoning was going to ask what Clinton as president could do to help the people of Flint.
There’s no indication Clinton was told this information, but in any case it’s a pretty obvious question for a debate being held in Flint. In her answer, Clinton committed to remove lead from water systems across the country within five years. LeeAnne Waters, who asked the question, later said Clinton’s answer “made me vomit in my mouth” because that was too long to wait in Flint.
“You know, they say I’m close to Russia. Hillary Clinton gave away 20 percent of the uranium in the United States. She’s close to Russia.”
Trump repeated this claim, worthy of Four Pinocchios, several times during the news conference.
An entire chapter is dedicated to this uranium deal in Peter Schweizer’s “Clinton Cash.” In the book, Schweizer reveals ties between the Clinton Foundation and investors who stood to gain from a deal that required State Department approval.
Trump’s claim suggests the State Department had sole approval authority, but the department is one of nine agencies in the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States to vet and sign off on all U.S. transactions involving foreign governments. There is no evidence Clinton got involved in the deal personally, and it is highly questionable that this deal even rose to the level of the secretary of state. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission also needed to approve, and did approve, the transfer.
“You go to some of these inner-city places and it’s so sad when you look at the crime . . . . They’re living in hell.”
“Inner cities” is not a category by which crime is measured, and Trump often uses this term to refer to large urban areas. In 2016, there was an uptick in the homicide rate in the 30 largest cities. One outlier city — Chicago — was responsible for 43.7 percent of the total increase in homicide rates in 2016. Overall, violent crime is on a decades-long decline, since the height of the crack cocaine epidemic in the early 1990s.