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Fact-checking the Biden-Trump debate

False and misleading statements covered immigration, economy, abortion, taxes and more

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump participate in their first debate of 2024 at CNN's studios in Atlanta on Thursday.
President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump participate in their first debate of 2024 at CNN's studios in Atlanta on Thursday. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

By Robert Farley, Eugene Kiely, D’Angelo Gore, Jessica McDonald, Lori Robertson, Catalina Jaramillo, Saranac Hale Spencer and Alan Jaffe

The much-anticipated first debate of 2024 between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump featured a relentless barrage of false and misleading statements from the two candidates on immigration, the economy, abortion, taxes and more.

  • Both candidates erred on Social Security, with Biden incorrectly saying that Trump “wants to get rid” of the program, and Trump falsely alleging that Biden will “wipe out” Social Security due to the influx of people at the border.
  • Trump misleadingly claimed that he was “the one that got the insulin down for the seniors,” not Biden. Costs were lowered for some under a limited project by the Trump administration. Biden signed a law capping costs for all seniors with Medicare drug coverage.
  • Trump warned that Biden “wants to raise your taxes by four times,” but Biden has not proposed anything like that. Trump was also mostly wrong when he said Biden “wants the Trump tax cuts to expire.” Biden said he would extend them for anyone making under $400,000 a year.
  • Biden repeated his misleading claim that billionaires pay an average federal tax rate of 8 percent. That White House calculation factors in earnings on unsold stock as income.
  • Trump repeated his false claim that “everybody,” including all legal scholars, wanted to end Roe v. Wade’s constitutional right to abortion.
  • Trump falsely claimed that “the only jobs” Biden “created are for illegal immigrants and bounced back jobs that bounced back from the COVID.” Total nonfarm employment is higher than it was before the pandemic, as is the employment level of native-born workers.
  • Biden claimed that Trump oversaw the “largest deficit of any president,” while Trump countered that “we now have the largest deficit” under Biden. The largest budget deficit was under Trump in fiscal year 2020, but that was largely because of emergency spending due to COVID-19.
  • Biden misleadingly said that “Black unemployment is the lowest level it has been in a long, long time.” The rate reached a record low in April 2023, and it was low under Trump, too, until the pandemic.
  • Biden said Trump called U.S. veterans killed in World War I “suckers and losers,” which Trump called a “made-up quote.” The Atlantic reported that, based on anonymous sources. A former Trump chief of staff later seemed to confirm Trump said it.
  • Trump claimed that Biden “caused the inflation,” but economists say rising inflation was mostly due to disruptions to the economy caused by the pandemic.
  • Trump grossly inflated the number of immigrants who have entered the country during the Biden administration — putting the number at 18 million to 20 million — and he said, without evidence, that many of them are from prisons and mental institutions.
  • Trump claimed that “we had the safest border in history” in the “final months” of his presidency. But apprehensions of those trying to cross illegally in the last three full months of his presidency were about 50 percent higher than in the three months before he took office.
  • Biden criticized Trump for presiding over a loss of jobs when he was president, but that loss occurred because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Trump falsely claimed that “some states” run by Democrats allow abortions “after birth.” If it happened, it would be homicide, and that’s illegal.
  • Trump made the unsupported claim that the U.S. border with Mexico is “the most dangerous place in the world,” and suggested that it has opened the country to a violent crime wave. The data show a reduction in violent crime in the U.S.
  • Trump overstated how much food prices have risen due to inflation. Prices are up by about 20 percent, not double or quadruple. 
  • Trump boasted his administration “had the best environmental numbers ever.” Trump reversed nearly 100 environmental rules limiting pollution. Although greenhouse gas emissions did decline from 2019 to 2020, the EPA said that was due to the impacts of the pandemic on travel and the economy.   
  • Biden said he joined the Paris Agreement because “if we reach the 1.5 degrees Celsius, and then … there’s no way back.” Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees would reduce the damages and losses of global warming, but scientists agree that climate action is still possible after passing the threshold.
  • Trump said immigrants crossing the border illegally were living in “luxury hotels.” New York City has provided hotel and motel rooms to migrant families, but there is no evidence that they are being placed in “luxury” hotels. 
  • Trump falsely claimed that there was “no terrorism, at all” in the U.S. during his administration. There were several terrorist acts carried out by foreign-born individuals when he was president.
  • While talking about international trade, Trump falsely claimed that the U.S. currently has “the largest deficit with China.” In 2023, the trade deficit in goods and services with China was the lowest it has been since 2009.
  • Trump wrongly claimed that prior to the pandemic, he had created “the greatest economy in the history of our country.” That’s far from true using economists’ preferred measure — growth in gross domestic product.
  • As he has many times before, Trump wrongly claimed, “I gave you the largest tax cut in history.” That’s not true either as a percentage of gross domestic product or in inflation-adjusted dollars.
  • Trump contrasted his administration with Biden’s by misleadingly noting that when he left office, the U.S. was “energy independent.” The U.S. continues to export more energy than it imports.

The debate was hosted by CNN in Atlanta on June 27.

Social Security

Biden claimed that Trump “wants to get rid” of Social Security, even though the former president has consistently said he will not cut the program and has advised Republicans against doing so.

Earlier this year, Biden and his campaign based the claim on Trump saying in a March 11 CNBC interview that “there is a lot you can do in terms of entitlements in terms of cutting and in terms of also the theft and the bad management of entitlements.” As we’ve said, in context, instead of reducing benefits, Trump was talking about cutting waste and fraud in those programs — although there’s not enough of that to make the program solvent over the long term.

“I will never do anything that will jeopardize or hurt Social Security or Medicare,” Trump later said in a March 13 Breitbart interview. “We’ll have to do it elsewhere. But we’re not going to do anything to hurt them.”

During the GOP presidential primary, Trump also criticized some of his Republican opponents for proposing to raise the retirement age for Social Security, which budget experts have said would reduce scheduled benefits for those affected.

Some critics of Trump have argued that he cannot be expected to keep his promise because of his past budget proposals. But, as we’ve written, Trump did not propose cuts to Social Security retirement benefits.

Meanwhile, Trump claimed during the debate that Biden “is going to single-handedly destroy Social Security” because of illegal immigration. “These millions and millions of people coming in, they’re trying to put them on Social Security. He will wipe out Social Security,” Trump said of Biden.

As we and others have explained before, immigrants who are not authorized to be in the U.S. aren’t eligible for Social Security. In fact, because many such individuals pay into Social Security via payroll taxes but cannot receive benefits, illegal immigrants bolster rather than drain the finances of the program.


In referring to what seniors pay for insulin, Trump misleadingly claimed, “I heard him say before, ‘insulin.’ I’m the one that got the insulin down for the seniors. I took care of the seniors.” Insulin costs went down for some beneficiaries under a limited project under Trump; Biden signed a more expansive law affecting all seniors with Medicare drug coverage.

Under Trump, out-of-pocket costs were lowered to $35 for some Medicare Part D beneficiaries under a two-year pilot project in which some insurers could voluntarily reduce the cost for some insulin products. KFF, a nonpartisan health policy research organization, explained earlier this month that under this model, in effect from 2021 to 2023, “participating Medicare Part D prescription drug plans covered at least one of each dosage form and type of insulin product at no more than $35 per month,” and “less than half of all Part D plans chose to participate in each year.”

But in 2022, Biden signed a law that required all Medicare prescription drug plans to cap all insulin products at $35. The law also capped the out-of-pocket price for insulin that’s covered under Medicare Part B, which covers drugs administered in a health care provider’s office. The caps went into effect last year.

STAT, a news site that covers health care issues, reported that the idea for a $35 cap for seniors initially came from Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical company, which proposed it in 2019.

Trump on Biden tax plan

“He’s the only one I know he wants to raise your taxes by four times,” Trump said of Biden. “He wants to raise everybody’s taxes by four times. He wants the Trump tax cuts to expire. So everybody … [is] going to pay four to five times — nobody ever heard of this before.”

Trump regularly warns of massive tax hikes for “everybody,” should Biden be reelected. That doesn’t jibe with anything Biden has proposed.

In his more than three years as president, Biden’s major tax changes have included setting a minimum corporate tax rate of 15 percent and lowering taxes for some families by expanding the child tax credit and, for a time, making it fully refundable, meaning families could still receive a refund even if they no longer owe additional taxes.

As we wrote in 2020, when Trump made a similar claim, Biden proposed during that campaign to raise an additional $4 trillion in taxes over the next decade, although the increases would have fallen mainly on very high-income earners and corporations. The plan would not have doubled or tripled people’s taxes at any income level (on average), according to analyses of Biden’s plan by the Penn Wharton Budget Modelthe Tax Policy Center and the Tax Foundation.

In March 2023, the TPC’s Howard Gleckman wrote that Biden proposed a 2024 budget that would, on average, increase after-tax incomes for low-income households and “leave them effectively unchanged for middle-income households.” The Tax Policy Center noted, “The top 1 percent, with at least roughly $1 million in income, would pay an average of $300,000 more than under current law, dropping their after-tax incomes by 14 percent.”

This March, Biden released his fiscal year 2025 budget, which contains many of the same proposals and adds a few new wrinkles. But it still does not contain any “colossal tax hikes” on typical American families, as Trump has said.

Biden’s latest plan proposes — as he has in the past — to increase the corporate income tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent, and to restore the top individual tax rate of 39.6 percent from the current rate of 37 percent. It would also increase the corporate minimum tax rate from 15 percent to 21 percent for companies that report average profits in excess of $1 billion over a three-year period. And the plan would impose a 25 percent minimum tax on very wealthy individuals. The plan also proposes to extend the expanded child tax credit enacted in the American Rescue Plan through 2025, and to make the child tax credit fully refundable on a permanent basis.

Trump is also mostly wrong that Biden “wants the Trump tax cuts to expire.”

As he has said since the 2020 campaign, Biden’s fiscal 2025 budget vows not to increase taxes on people earning less than $400,000.

In order to keep that pledge, Biden would have to extend most of the individual income tax provisions enacted in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that are set to expire at the end of 2025. And that’s what Biden says he would do — but only for individual filers earning less than $400,000 and married couples making less than $450,000. (In order to pass the TCJA with a simple Senate majority, Republicans wrote the law to have most of the individual income tax changes expire after 2025.)

The Biden budget plan “would raise marginal income tax rates faced by higher earners and corporations while expanding tax credits for lower-income households,” according to a Tax Foundation analysis of the tax provisions in Biden’s budget. “The budget would redistribute income from high earners to low earners. The bottom 60 percent of earners would see increases in after-tax income in 2025, while the top 40 percent of earners would see decreases.”

Biden on taxes paid by billionaires

In arguing that wealthy households should pay a minimum tax, Biden repeated his misleading claim that billionaires pay an average federal tax rate of 8 percent.

“We have a thousand … billionaires in America, and what’s happening?” Biden said. “They’re in a situation where they in fact pay 8.2 percent in taxes.”

That’s not the average rate in the current tax system; it’s a figure calculated by the White House and factors in earnings on unsold stock as income. When only considering income, the top-earning taxpayers, on average, pay higher tax rates than those in lower income groups, as we’ve written before.

The top 0.1 percent of earners pay an average rate of 25.1 percent in federal income and payroll taxes, according to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center in October 2022 for the 2023 tax year.

The point that Biden tried to make is that earnings on assets, such as stock, currently are not taxed until that asset is sold, which is when the earnings become subject to capital gains taxes. Until stocks and assets are sold, the earnings are referred to as “unrealized” gains. Unrealized gains, the White House has argued, could go untaxed forever if wealthy people hold on to them and transfer them on to heirs when they die.

Roe v. Wade

As he has before, Trump wildly exaggerated the popularity of ending Roe v. Wade — even going so far as to claim that it was “something that everybody wanted.”

“51 years ago, you had Roe v. Wade and everybody wanted to get it back to the states,” he said, referring to the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that established a constitutional right to abortion, which was overturned in 2022.

Trump: Everybody, without exception: Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives. Everybody wanted it back — religious leaders. And what I did is I put three great Supreme Court justices on the court and they happened to vote in favor of killing Roe v. Wade, and moving it back to the states. This is something that everybody wanted. Now 10 years ago or so they started talking about how many weeks and how many this and getting into other things. But every legal scholar throughout the world — the most respected — wanted it brought back to the states. I did that.

In fact, a majority of Americans have disagreed with ending Roe v. Wade, including plenty of legal scholars, as we’ve explained before. While some scholars criticized aspects of the legal reasoning in Roe, it did not necessarily mean they wanted the ruling overturned. Legal experts told us that Trump’s claim was “utter nonsense” and “patently absurd.”

Trump wrong on jobs

After Biden talked about job creation during his administration, Trump falsely claimed that “the only jobs [Biden] created are for illegal immigrants and bounced back jobs that bounced back from the COVID.”

In fact, as of May, total nonfarm employment in the U.S. had gone up about 6.2 million from the pre-pandemic peak in February 2020, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The increase is about 15.6 million if you count from when Biden took office in January 2021 until now — but that would include some jobs that were temporarily lost during the pandemic and then came back during the economic recovery.

Furthermore, there is no evidence that only “illegal immigrants” have seen employment gains.

Since Biden became president in January 2021, employment of U.S.-born workers has increased more than employment of foreign-born workers, a category that includes anyone who wasn’t a U.S. citizen at birth, as we’ve written before. BLS says the foreign-born population includes “legally-admitted immigrants, refugees, temporary residents such as students and temporary workers, and undocumented immigrants.” There is no employment breakdown for just people in the U.S. illegally.

In looking at employment since the pre-pandemic peak, the employment level of foreign-born workers was up by about 3.2 million, from roughly 27.7 million in February 2020 to nearly 30.9 million in May. Employment for the U.S.-born population increased by about 125,000 — from nearly 130.3 million in February 2020 to 130.4 million, as of May.

Conflicting budget deficit claims

Biden and Trump accused each other of presiding over the largest budget deficit in the U.S.

After talking about Trump’s plans for additional tax cuts, Biden said Trump already had the “largest deficit of any president in American history.” When he got a chance to respond, Trump said, “We now have the largest deficit in the history of our country under this guy,” referring to Biden.

Biden is correct: The largest budget deficit on record was about $3.1 trillion in fiscal year 2020 under Trump. However, that was primarily because of trillions of dollars in emergency funding that both congressional Republicans and Democrats approved to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic, the largest budget deficit under Trump was about $1 trillion in fiscal 2019.

Meanwhile, the most recent budget deficit under Biden was about $1.7 trillion in fiscal 2023. As of June, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected that the deficit for fiscal 2024, which ends on Sept. 30, would be about $2 trillion.

Black unemployment

Biden boasted that on his watch, “Black unemployment is the lowest level it has been in a long, long time.”

It’s true that the unemployment rate for Black or African American people reached a record low of 4.8 percent in April 2023, but it is currently 6.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which has data going back to 1972.

Also, the unemployment rate was low under Trump, too, until the pandemic.

Under Trump, the unemployment rate for Black Americans went down to 5.3 percent in August 2019 — the lowest on record at that time. It shot up to 16.9 percent in April 2020, when the economic effects of the pandemic took hold. When Trump left office in January 2021, amid the pandemic, the rate was 9.3 percent.

The rate has been 6 percent or less in only 29 months since 1972, and it happened only under two presidents: 21 times under Biden and eight times under Trump.

‘Suckers and losers’

Biden said Trump called U.S. veterans killed in World War I “suckers and losers,” which Trump called a “made-up quote … that was in a third-rate magazine.”

It was first reported by a magazine — The Atlantic — but Trump’s former chief of staff, John F. Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general, later seemed to confirm it.

Biden was referring to a trip Trump made to France in November 2018, where he reportedly declined to visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near the location of the Battle of Belleau Wood. “He was standing with his four-star general and he told him, ‘I don’t want to go in there because they’re a bunch of losers and suckers.’”

The Atlantic wrote about this alleged incident in 2020, citing unnamed sources. The magazine wrote that Trump made his remark about “losers” when he declined to visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, and his remark about “suckers” during that same trip.

The Atlantic, Sept. 3, 2020: In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed.

In October 2023, Kelly — who was on that trip and visited the Aisne-Marne Cemetery — gave a statement to CNN that seemed to confirm those remarks. CNN published Kelly’s statement.

CNN, Oct. 3, 2023: “What can I add that has not already been said?” Kelly said, when asked if he wanted to weigh in on his former boss in light of recent comments made by other former Trump officials. “A person that thinks those who defend their country in uniform, or are shot down or seriously wounded in combat, or spend years being tortured as POWs are all ‘suckers’ because ‘there is nothing in it for them.’ A person that did not want to be seen in the presence of military amputees because ‘it doesn’t look good for me.’ A person who demonstrated open contempt for a Gold Star family — for all Gold Star families — on TV during the 2016 campaign, and rants that our most precious heroes who gave their lives in America’s defense are ‘losers’ and wouldn’t visit their graves in France.”

Trump said, “We had 19 people who said I didn’t say it.” One of those who said that he didn’t hear Trump make those remarks is John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser who was also on the trip and said he was there when the decision was made not to visit the cemetery.

“I didn’t hear that,” Bolton told the New York Times in 2020 after the magazine story first appeared. “I’m not saying he didn’t say them later in the day or another time, but I was there for that discussion.”

Biden misleads on jobs

Biden ignored the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic when he criticized Trump for employment going down over Trump’s time in office.

“He’s the only president other than Herbert Hoover that lost more jobs than he had when he began,” Biden said.

Job growth during Trump’s term was positive until the economy lost 20.5 million jobs in April 2020, as efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus led to business closures and layoffs. By the time Trump left office in January 2021, employment had partly rebounded, but was still 9.4 million jobs below the February 2020 peak, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Trump repeatedly claimed that Biden “caused the inflation” and that “I gave him a country with no essentially no inflation. It was perfect. It was so good.”

It’s true that inflation was relatively modest when Trump was president. The Consumer Price Index rose 7.6 percent under Trump’s four years — continuing a long period of low inflation. And inflation has been high over the entirety of Biden’s time in office. The Consumer Price Index for all items rose 19.3 percent between January 2021 and May.

For a time, it was the worst inflation in decades. The 12 months ending in June 2022 saw a 9 percent increase in the CPI (before seasonal adjustment), which the Bureau of Labor Statistics said was the biggest such increase since the 12 months ending in November 1981.

Inflation has moderated more recently. The CPI rose 3.3 percent in the 12 months ending in May, the most recent figure available.

Although Trump claims that Biden is entirely responsible for massive inflation, economists we have spoken to say Biden’s policies are only partly to blame. The economists placed the lion’s share of the blame for inflation on disruptions to the economy caused by the pandemic, including supply shortages, labor issues and increased consumer spending on goods. Inflation was then worsened by Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which drove up oil and gas prices, experts told us.

Indeed, inflation has been a worldwide problem post-pandemic.

However, many economists say Biden’s policies — particularly aggressive stimulus spending early in his presidency to offset some of the economic damage caused by the pandemic — played a modest role.

Jason Furman, a former economic adviser to President Barack Obama and now a Harvard University professor, told us in June 2022 that he estimated about 1 to 4 percentage points worth of the inflation was due to Biden’s stimulus spending in the American Rescue Plan — a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief measure that included $1,400 checks to most Americans; expanded unemployment benefits; and money for schools, small businesses and states. Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s — whose work is often cited by the White House — said the impact of the stimulus measure now “has largely faded.”

Economists note that the American Rescue Plan came after two other pandemic stimulus laws enacted under Trump that were worth a total of $3.1 trillion. That spending, too, could have contributed to inflation.

Immigrants entering U.S. under Biden

Trump grossly inflated the number of immigrants who have entered the country during the Biden administration — putting the number at 18 million to 20 million. The number, by our calculation, is about a third of that. Trump also claimed, without evidence, that many of those immigrants are from prisons and mental institutions.

“It could be 18, it could be 19, and even 20 million people,” Trump said of the immigrants who have entered the U.S. during the Biden administration. Later in the debate, Trump asked Biden why there had been no accountability “for allowing 18 million people, many from prisons, many from mental institutions” into the country.

That’s a greatly exaggerated number. We took a deep dive into the immigration numbers in February, and again in mid-June, and we came up with an estimate of at most a third of Trump’s number.

Here’s the breakdown:

Department of Homeland Security data show nearly 8 million encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border between February 2021, the month after Biden took office, and May, the last month of available statistics. That’s a figure that includes both the 6.9 million apprehensions of migrants caught between legal ports of entry — the number typically used for illegal immigration — and nearly 1.1 million encounters of migrants who arrived at ports of entry without authorization to enter the U.S.

DHS also has comprehensive data, through February, of the initial processing of these encounters. That information shows 2.9 million were removed by Customs and Border Protection and 3.2 million were released with notices to appear in immigration court or report to Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the future, or other classifications, such as parole. (Encounters do not represent the total number of people, because some people attempt multiple crossings. For example, the recidivism rate was 27 percent in fiscal year 2021, according to the most recent figures from CBP.) 

As we’ve explained before, there are also estimates for “gotaways,” or migrants who crossed the border illegally and evaded the authorities. Based on an average annual apprehension rate of 78 percent, which DHS provided to us, that would mean there were an estimated 1.8 million gotaways from February 2021 to February 2024. The gotaways plus those released with court notices or other designations would total about 5 million.

There were also 407,500 transfers of unaccompanied children to the Department of Health and Human Services and 883,000 transfers to ICE. The ICE transfers include those who are then booked into ICE custody, enrolled in “alternatives to detention” (which include technological monitoring) or released by ICE. We don’t know how many of those were released into the country with a court notice. But even if we include those figures, it still doesn’t get us to anywhere near 18 million to 20 million.

And we should note that these figures do not reflect whether a migrant may ultimately be allowed to stay or will be deported, particularly since there is a yearslong backlog of immigration court cases.

Also, as we have written repeatedly, Trump has provided no credible support for his incendiary claim that countries are emptying their prisons and mental institutions and sending those people to the U.S. Experts tell us they have seen no evidence to substantiate it.

Earlier this month, we looked into Trump’s claim as it relates to Venezuela, because Trump has repeatedly cited a drop in crime there to support his claim about countries emptying their prisons and sending inmates to the U.S. Reported crime is trending down in Venezuela, but crime experts in the country say there are numerous reasons for that — including an enormous out-migration of citizens and a consolidation of gang activity — and they have nothing to do with sending criminals to the U.S.

“We have no evidence that the Venezuelan government is emptying the prisons or mental hospitals to send them out of the country, whether to the USA or any other country,” Roberto Briceño-León, founder and director of the independent Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, told us.

Border under Trump

Trump claimed that “we had the safest border in history” in the “final months” of his presidency, according to Border Patrol. But according to data provided by Customs and Border Protection, apprehensions of those trying to cross illegally into the U.S. in the last three full months of Trump’s presidency were about 50 percent higher than in the three months before he took office.

In fact, as we wrote in our piece, “Trump’s Final Numbers,” illegal border crossings, as measured by apprehensions at the southwest border, were 14.7 percent higher in Trump’s final year in office compared with the last full year before he was sworn in.

But these statistics tell only part of the story. The number of apprehensions fluctuated wildly during Trump’s presidency, from a monthly low of 11,127 in April 2017 to a high of 132,856 in May 2019.

Back in April, we wrote about a misleading chart that Trump showed to the crowd during a speech in Green Bay, Wis. “See the arrow on the bottom? That was my last week in office,” Trump said. “That was the lowest number in history.” But Trump was wrong on both points.

The arrow was pointing to apprehensions in April 2020, when apprehensions plummeted during the height of the pandemic.

“The pandemic was responsible for a near-complete halt to all forms of global mobility in 2020, due to a combination of border restrictions imposed by countries around the world,” Michelle Mittelstadt, director of communications for the Migration Policy Institute, told us.

After apprehensions reached a pandemic low in April 2020, they rose every month after that. In his last months in office, apprehensions had more than quadrupled from that pandemic low and were higher than the month he took office.


Trump falsely claimed that “some states” run by Democrats allow abortions “after birth.” As we have written, that’s simply false. If it happened, it would be homicide, and that’s illegal.

“No such procedure exists,” the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says on its website.

The former president has wrongly said that abortions after birth were permitted under Roe v. Wade — the Supreme Court ruling that established a constitutional right to abortion until it was reversed in 2022. It was not.

Under Roe, states could outlaw abortion after fetal viability, but with exceptions for risks to the life or health of the mother. Many Republicans have objected to the health stipulation, saying it would allow abortion for any reason. Democrats say exceptions are needed to protect the mother from medical risks. We should note, late-term abortions are rare. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than 1 percent of abortions in the U.S. in 2020 were performed after 21 weeks gestational time.

In June 2022, after Trump had appointed three conservative justices to the Supreme Court, the court overturned Roe in a 5-4 ruling. Biden supports restoring Roe as “the law of the land,” as he said in his State of the Union address in March.

Trump calls border ‘the most dangerous place’

In his focus on the U.S. border with Mexico, Trump made the unsupported claim that it is “the most dangerous place in the world.”

It’s true that unauthorized border crossings can be dangerous — 895 people died while doing so in fiscal year 2022, which is the most recent year for which the Customs and Border Protection has data. Most of those deaths were heat related.

And the International Organization for Migration called calendar year 2022 “the deadliest year on record” for migration in the Americas, with a total of 1,457 fatalities throughout South America, Central America, North America and the Caribbean. The organization began tracking deaths and disappearances related to migration in 2014.

“Most of these fatalities are related to the lack of options for safe and regular mobility, which increases the likelihood that people see no other choice but to opt for irregular migration routes that put their lives at risk,” the organization said in its 2022 report.

Trump suggested that the border crossings imperil Americans when he went on to say, “these killers are coming into our country, and they are raping and killing women.”

But, as we’ve written before, FBI data show a downward trend in violent crime in the U.S., and there’s no evidence to support the claim that there’s been a crime wave driven by immigrants.

Crime analyst Jeff Asher, co-founder of the New Orleans firm AH Datalytics, told us in May that there’s no evidence in the data to indicate a migrant crime wave.

Similarly, Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told the New York Times in February there was no evidence of a migrant crime wave in New York City after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott began busing migrants there in April 2022.

“I would interpret a ‘wave’ to mean something significant, meaningful and a departure from the norm,” Butts said at the time. “So far, what we have are individual incidents of crime.”

Also, it’s worth noting that the Institute for Economics and Peace’s Global Peace Index — which measures the safety of 163 countries based on 23 indicators, including violent crime, deaths from internal conflict and terrorism — said the “least peaceful country” is Afghanistan, followed by Yemen, Syria, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Food costs

In discussing inflation, the former president embellished the degree to which food prices have increased.

“It’s killing people. They can’t buy groceries anymore,” Trump said. “You look at the cost of food, where it’s doubled, tripled and quadrupled. They can’t live.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Consumer Price Index for food has gone up 17.5 percent — not 100 percent to 300 percent — since January 2021. The Consumer Price Index specifically for groceries, or “food at home,” has risen 20.8 percent.

Climate change

During a short exchange about climate change, Trump boasted that during his tenure “we had the best environmental numbers ever.” It is not clear what he was referring to exactly, but he said if elected president he wanted to have “absolutely immaculate clean water and I want absolutely clean air — and we had it.” He might have been referring to a talking point that Andrew Wheeler, Trump’s former EPA administrator, had recommended Trump mention during the debate: “CO2 emissions went down” during his administration, as the Hill reported

Greenhouse gas emissions, which are responsible for global warming, did decline from 2019 to 2020. But that was “largely due to the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on travel and economic activity,” according to the EPA. Emissions increased by 5.7 percent from 2020 to 2022, once the economy started getting reactivated again, the agency said. 

According to an analysis by the New York Times, Trump’s administration reversed nearly 100 environmental rules, including 28 regulations on air pollution and emissions, and eight rules that limited water pollution. Reportedly, Trump recently asked oil executives and lobbyists to donate to his campaign, promising he would roll back other environmental rules that hurt fossil fuel interests. 

“He’s not done a damn thing for the environment,” Biden said in response, pointing out that Trump had pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement. “I immediately joined it because if we reach the 1.5 degrees Celsius … there’s no way back,” Biden said. 

As we’ve reported, although reaching 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, of warming comes with a number of very serious impacts, it is not a point of no return. Scientists agree that every increment of global warming increases these negative impacts, but 1.5 degrees is not a magic number after which everything is doomed, they say. 

Immigrants living in hotels

During the debate, Trump mentioned twice that while immigrants crossing the border illegally were “living in luxury hotels,” in New York City and other cities “our veterans are living in the street.”

While it is true that New York City has provided hotel rooms to migrant families as a temporary shelter solution, there is no evidence that immigrants are being placed in “luxury” hotels. 

In 2023, Mayor Eric Adams signed a $275 million contract with the Hotel Association of New York City to house 5,000 migrants. The deal was intended to help struggling hotels impacted by the pandemic and did not expect to include luxury hotels. “There are no gold-plated rooms that are being given away contrary to any reports that you may have seen,” the association president told NY1 at the time. In January, the city signed another $77 million contract to shelter migrant families in hotels. 

In April, social media posts falsely claimed immigrants had stormed New York City Hall to demand luxury hotel accommodations. But as the Associated Press reported, the immigrants were there for a hearing about racial inequities in shelter and immigrant services. 

In 2023, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness increased 7.4 percent from 2022, according to data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. But homelessness among veterans has been declining in recent years, with a 4 percent overall reduction within the last three years alone. 

Terrorist attacks under Trump

While talking about Iran and terrorism, Trump falsely claimed that “you had no terror, at all, during my administration.” As we’ve written, there were several acts of terrorism carried out by foreign-born individuals when Trump was in office.

For example, in October 2017, Sayfullo Saipov used a truck to run down people in New York City. He killed eight people, including Americans and tourists, in an attack carried out on behalf of the Islamic State.

Then in December 2017, Akayed Ullah detonated a homemade pipe bomb he was wearing inside a New York City subway station. Ullah told authorities he did it in response to U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria and other places.

Then in December 2019, Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, a member of the Royal Saudi Air Force, shot 11 people at Florida’s Naval Air Station Pensacola, killing three U.S. sailors. Trump’s own attorney general, William Barr, called it an act of terrorism in January 2020. “The evidence shows that the shooter was motivated by jihadist ideology,” Barr said in a statement.

China trade deficit

When discussing U.S. trade relations with China, Trump said “we have the largest deficit with China.” That’s false, as we’ve written.

In 2023, the U.S. had a trade deficit with China in goods and services of roughly $252 billion, according to revised figures the Bureau of Economic Analysis released in early June. The deficit in goods trading was about $279 billion which was partially offset by a roughly $27 billion surplus in the trading of services — which can include travel, transportation, finance and intellectual property.

The trade gap with China last year was the lowest it had been since 2009, when it was $220 billion.

In fact, according to BEA data going back to 1999, the highest total U.S.-China trade deficit in goods and services was about $378 billion in 2018 — when Trump was president. Under Biden, the highest trade deficit with China was $366 billion in 2022.

Not ‘greatest economy’ under Trump

Trump falsely said that prior to the pandemic, the U.S. had “the greatest economy in the history of our country. … Everything was locked in good.”

Trump’s boast about creating the “greatest economy in history” is ubiquitous in his campaign speeches. And it’s not true, at least not by the objective measure typically used to gauge the health of the economy.

As we have written, economists generally measure a nation’s health by the growth of its inflation-adjusted gross domestic product. Under Trump, growth was modest. Real GDP in Trump’s four years grew annually by 2.5 percent in 2017, 3 percent in 2018 and 2.5 percent in 2019 — before the economy went into a tailspin during the pandemic in 2020, when real GDP declined by 2.2 percent, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

So, in the best year under Trump, U.S. real GDP grew annually by 3 percent. By contrast, the nation’s economy grew at a faster annual rate 48 times and under every president before and after Trump dating to 1930, except Barack Obama and Herbert Hoover. The economy grew at more than 3 percent six of Ronald Reagan’s eight years, including 7.2 percent in 1984, and it grew 5 percent or more 10 times under Franklin D. Roosevelt, including 18.9 percent in 1942. Under Biden, the GDP grew by 5.8 percent in 2021 — a post COVID-19 bounce-back — by 1.9 percent in 2022 and 2.5 percent in 2023.

Trump’s was not largest tax cut in history

As he has many times before, Trump wrongly claimed, “I gave you the largest tax cut in history.” But saying this over and over, as Trump has for years, doesn’t make it any more true.

As we have been writing even before the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was enacted into law, while the law provided tax relief to nearly all Americans, it was not the largest tax cut in U.S. history either as a percentage of gross domestic product (the measure preferred by economists) or in inflation-adjusted dollars.

According to a Tax Policy Center analysis, the law reduced the individual income taxes owed by Americans by about $1,260 on average in 2018. It also reduced the top corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, beginning in January 2018.

The law signed by Trump was initially projected to cost $1.49 trillion over 10 years, according to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation. It could end up costing substantially more if individual tax provisions are extended past 2025. Over the first four years, the average annual cost was estimated to be $185 billion. That was about 0.9 percent of gross domestic product in 2018.

That’s nowhere close to President Ronald Reagan’s 1981 tax cut, which was 2.89 percent of GDP over a four-year average. That’s according to a 2013 Treasury Department analysis on the revenue effects of major tax legislation. Five more tax measures since 1940 had an impact larger than 1 percent of GDP, and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget includes a 1921 measure as also being larger than the 2017 plan. That’s eighth place for Trump’s “biggest tax cut in our history.”

In inflation-adjusted dollars, the Trump-era tax cut is also less than the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which comes in at No. 1 with a $320.6 billion cost over a four-year average. And it’s less than tax reductions in 2010 ($210 billion) and 1981 ($208 billion).

Energy independence

Trump boasted, as he often does, that “on Jan. 6 [2021], we were energy independent,” implying that’s no longer the case under Biden. But by Trump’s definition, the country remains energy independent.

To be clear, under Trump, the U.S. never stopped importing sources of energy, including crude oil, from other countries. What he likely means is that the country either produced more energy than it consumed, or exported more energy than it imported. During Trump’s presidency, after years trending in that direction, the U.S. did hit a tipping point where exports of primary energy exceeded energy imports from foreign sources in 2019 and 2020 — the first times that had happened since 1952, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. 

But contrary to Trump’s suggestion, that has continued in the Biden presidency. The U.S., during Biden’s presidency, has exported more energy, including petroleum, than it imported, and it has produced more energy than it consumed. Also, the U.S. is producing record amounts of oil and natural gas under Biden.

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