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PolitiFact FL: Guide to Biden, Trump talking points ahead of the first presidential debate

This combination of photos from Sept. 29, 2020, show then-President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden debating in Cleveland, Ohio. The pair will meet again June 27 during the first presidential debate of 2024.
AP
This combination of photos from Sept. 29, 2020, show then-President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden debating in Cleveland, Ohio. The pair will meet again June 27 during the first presidential debate of 2024.

WLRN has partnered with PolitiFact to fact-check Florida politicians. The Pulitzer Prize-winning team seeks to present the true facts, unaffected by agenda or biases.

When former President Donald Trump talks about the cost of chicken and eggs, he has often been accurate. But Trump is also prone to exaggerating inflation's wallop under President Joe Biden.

Biden acknowledges inflation in his speeches, but he often says wages have outpaced inflation — which all depends on when you start.

Many media outlets will cover the first presidential debate, hosted June 27 by CNN, by zeroing in on the best zingers. PolitiFact will focus on the substance, helping voters discover the truth, or lack thereof, in the candidates’ statements.

We monitor the appearances of Biden and Trump for new and repeated claims every day. So far this year, we have published about five dozen fact-checks of the candidates. (We also fact-check Robert F. Kennedy Jr, who is running as an independent; he did not qualify for the CNN debate.)

Based on their patterns, we think we have a good idea of how Biden and Trump might answer questions on important voter topics, including the economy, immigration and health care.

On immigration, for instance, Trump makes baseless statements that provoke fear, including the Pants on Fire claim that immigrants are coming from other countries’ prisons and mental institutions. Biden plucks out decreases over a short time period that don’t tell the full story about record encounters during his presidency.

Inoculate yourself from the spin of these talking points and more with this fact-checked guide.

Economic claims: Listen for specific time frames, remember COVID-19 impacts

Trump has said that under Biden the United States has had "record kinds of inflation."

Inflation peaked around 9% in June 2022 before falling to its current level of about 3% — still higher than voters (and economists) would like, but below the 12% to 15% annual increases in the 1970s and early 1980s. Trump also places all the blame on Biden for rising gasoline prices, even though the price at the pump is beyond a president’s control.

Biden has noted that inflation has dropped on his watch and adds that it has been exceeded by wage increases. That’s accurate for some time measurements but not others. Since Biden’s inauguration, inflation is outpacing wage growth by a few percentage points. However, wages have outpaced inflation over the past year, the past two years and compared with where they were prepandemic.

Nevertheless, Biden has exaggerated some aspects of inflation. He has falsely said inflation "was 9% when I came into office." When Biden was inaugurated, year-over-year inflation was about 1.4%. Overall, Biden makes a lot of Half True statements on the economy.

Biden said Trump is the first president since Herbert Hoover, who was president when the Great Depression began, to see a net loss in jobs. This is numerically accurate — but it disingenuously omits the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic impact during Trump’s fourth year.

Here’s another example using numbers to tell a deceptive story: Biden said the Trump administration "added more to the national debt than any presidential term in American history." This is accurate — but only until Biden’s own one-term debt total exceeds the amount accumulated under Trump. By the time he leaves office, Biden is projected to have overseen a debt increase larger than Trump's.

Then there are taxes, which the candidates couldn’t see more differently. Trump often says, falsely, that Biden wants to "quadruple your taxes." Biden proposed a tax increase of about 7% over the next decade, almost exclusively on the wealthiest Americans and corporations, not the 300% that Trump said.

Biden has frequently said the average federal tax for billionaires is 8.3%, but that’s False. Under the current tax code, the richest Americans pay an effective tax rate of more than 20% on income the government counts. Biden’s 8% figure compares their tax payments with an amount that includes income that is not currently taxed under law, making it a theoretical figure.

Immigration: What to know about Trump's tactics, Biden's metrics

A man stands among barbed wire.
Eric Gay
/
AP
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump talks with Maj. Gen. Thomas Suelzer, Adjutant General for the State of Texas, at Shelby Park during a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, in Eagle Pass, Texas.

Immigration officials have stopped people trying to enter the U.S. illegally 9.5 million times under Biden’s administration, fueling attacks on the president’s immigration record and forcing him to act.

Biden issued a directive June 4 to limit the number of migrants seeking asylum at the southern U.S. border. He took some credit for a recent decline in migrants.

"Due to the arrangements that I've reached with (Mexican) President (Andrés Manuel López) Obrador, the number of migrants coming … to our shared border unlawfully in recent months has dropped dramatically," Biden said.

U.S. Border Patrol data shows immigrant encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border have dropped in recent months. Immigration officials encountered people illegally crossing the border about 128,900 times in April compared with about 250,000 in December. That’s a 48.4% decrease. The numbers of encounters at ports of entry have also dropped. But immigration experts said it’s difficult to pinpoint a single reason for any change in border crossing counts.

Trump uses scare tactics when describing immigrants illegally crossing the U.S. border, telling Americans that immigrants will destroy Social Security benefits, take union jobs and sign up to vote. Those statements are various shades of wrong.

Trump’s statement about jobs of native-born Americans disappearing, for example, focused on one month, obscuring the overall trend under Biden, which showed an increase of 6.2 million jobs for native-born Americans between his inauguration in January 2021 and February 2023.

Only U.S. citizens can vote in federal elections.

Trump falsely and frequently says foreign countries including Venezuela and Congo are releasing immigrants from jails or prisons into the U.S. Local experts and experts on prisons say there is no evidence to back up Trump’s statements.

Health care: Biden paints dire warnings about Trump's approach to COVID-19 and Affordable Care Act

Trump hasn’t spoken in detail about his health care plans, which has opened the door for Biden to attack his record.

Biden accused Trump of wanting to "terminate" the Affordable Care Act. Trump has floated replacing the Affordable Care Act for years, but Biden left out that Trump recently backtracked.

Trump promised in a Truth Social post to make the Affordable Care Act "much better, stronger, and far less expensive," without explaining how. Trump’s inconsistency makes it hard to predict what actions he would take if elected.

Biden has spoken more accurately about his own administration’s health care policies, such as lowering prescription drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries.

If a CNN host asks about COVID-19, you might hear Biden bring up bleach. Biden frequently says that Trump told Americans to "inject bleach," which we’ve rated Mostly False. Trump mused aloud with doctors in the room about the possibility during an April 2020 press conference about potential treatments for the disease; but he didn’t instruct Americans to do it. Trump and his press secretary tried to clarify his words amid criticism the next day.

Abortion: Trump distorts Democrats' position on abortion while Biden cherry-picks Trump's statements

For years, Democrats have spotlighted Trump’s 2016 comment that "there has to be some form of punishment" for women who have abortions, which Trump retracted the same day; he said he meant that physicians should be held legally responsible.

Trump’s abortion comments in Time magazine in April gave the Biden campaign more material, but Biden mischaracterized them in a May campaign speech. In the interview, Trump said states may decide to monitor women for legal compliance with abortion laws, and he didn’t share his opinion on whether that was a good idea. Biden told supporters Trump said states "should" monitor women’s pregnancies.

Trump has said that Democrats support abortion measures that allow the "execution" of babies "after birth," which is False. What Trump describes would be infanticide and is illegal. Situations resulting in a fetal death in the third trimester are rare and typically involve fetal anomalies or life-threatening medical emergencies affecting the pregnant woman.

Israel and Gaza: Trump and Biden highlight their support for Israel

After the Biden administration paused one shipment of 3,500 bombs to Israel, hoping to prevent a full-scale attack on Rafah, a city in Gaza, Trump said, "Biden wants to immediately stop all aid to Israel." That’s False.

Biden signed legislation in April that provides billions of dollars in supplemental aid to Israel, on top of billions the U.S. already provides annually to Israel. Israel also continues to have access to the U.S.’ foreign military financing program.

Trump may remind voters that he moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and that Israel and a few Arab countries in 2020 signed the Abraham Accords. But those accords did not address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Trump's legal battles: He blames Biden, Biden stayed mum during trial

Biden largely avoided discussing the criminal and civil investigations involving the former president until after he was convicted. Trump has falsely said that Biden is leading investigations against him, including the Manhattan business records case that resulted in Trump’s felony convictions.

When Trump said Biden "directed" the Manhattan case, we rated that False. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg hired a former Justice Department prosecutor who investigated Trump when he worked for the New York attorney general. It’s not uncommon for seasoned prosecutors to move among federal, state and local offices, and it doesn’t prove Biden directed the investigation that began before his presidency.

Trump also falsely said he "cooperated far more" than Biden in the classified documents investigations. The special counsel in Biden’s classified documents case said Biden had been cooperative, but the special counsel in Trump’s case found Trump’s cooperation so poor that he sought and obtained indictments on multiple counts for obstructing the investigation.

Biden reaches out to Black and Latino voters with statistics

Biden tells Black voters that he remembers "who brung me to the dance" — a nod to Black voters who helped him win the 2020 nomination. Many of his statements about his own record highlight positive economic metrics about the Black community (and metrics for Latinos).

Biden has spoken accurately about cutting the 2021 Black child poverty rate, about Black employment and expanding health insurance coverage for Black Americans. But he’s on weaker ground when he says "the racial wealth gap is the smallest it’s been in 20 years," given that it depends on the measurement used.

Biden and Trump have sparred over who has produced better results for Black Americans on employment. On this statistic, each has good news. The record low Black unemployment rate was set under Biden in April 2023, at 4.8%. It has risen modestly since then to 6.1% in May 2024, but that’s still lower than it was for much of the first two years under Trump. Still, when Biden set the record, the record he was breaking was Trump’s: 5.3% in August and September 2019.

Crime: Understanding crime trends, and how COVID-19 factors in

Republican allies of Trump have argued that Biden is responsible for high levels of crime. Biden counters that violent crime has fallen on his watch.

Putting aside the question of a president’s influence on crime trends, Biden has a point that "violent crime is near a record 50-year low," as he said in May. The FBI’s violent crime rate for 2022, the last year with available data, was 370 per 100,000 population. Since 1972, only two years have had lower violent crime rates: 2014 and 2019.

Biden left out important context when he said that the Trump administration "oversaw the largest increase in murders ever recorded." The increase in the number of murders from 2019 to 2020 was the largest one-year increase since data was systematically recorded in the early 1960s, but this was largely beyond Trump’s control; experts say the spike stemmed from a confluence of the coronavirus pandemic and the societal upheaval after George Floyd’s murder that year.

Trump has urged voters not to trust data showing falling violent crime because he says the analyses don’t include 30% of cities. This is False: The FBI did struggle with data collection in 2021, but coverage has been back to normal since 2022.

Voting: Here's what Trump might say about the transition of power

CNN hosts Jake Tapper or Dana Bash may challenge Trump about his recurring Pants on Fire denials about the 2020 election results, his efforts to lean on officials in Georgia (where the debate is taking place), or his actions to downplay the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack.

If Trump doubles down on his election claims, know that elections are administered in thousands of local areas nationwide, each with safeguards, making any attempt to "rig" a national election all but impossible.

Trump has also said that Democrats "used COVID to cheat." Many states made voting by mail easier during the pandemic, and it was available to all voters — not just Democrats — and is not cheating.

Trump has repeatedly called the Jan. 6 defendants "hostages" or "warriors" and he promised to pardon defendants who stormed the Capitol. He later suggested that he would "consider" doing it. More than 1,457 defendants have been charged in the storming of the U.S. Capitol, including about 500 people who were charged with assaulting, resisting or impeding officers or employees.

PolitiFact Staff Writers Samantha Putterman and Maria Ramirez Uribe contributed to this article.