The Republican National Convention started off with a parade of dishonesty, in stark contrast with last week’s Democratic convention. While CNN also watched and fact-checked the Democrats, those four nights combined didn’t have the number of misleading and false claims made on the first night of the Republicans’ convention.
Here are some of the most noteworthy falsehoods from night one of the RNC.
Trump’s campaign promises
A video that played during the convention began with a clip of Trump saying, “I didn’t back down from my promises, and I’ve kept every single one.”
Facts First: Trump has certainly kept some of his 2016 campaign promises, but not close to all of them. To cite just three examples, he has not gotten Mexico to pay for his border wall, has not succeeded in repealing Obamacare (though he did eliminate its individual mandate requiring people to buy insurance), and has not presided over annual GDP growth of 4 percent or higher.
Fact check website PolitiFact has tracked 100 Trump promises. It has found that 49% of these 100 promises have been broken, 24% kept. There is obvious subjectivity involved in this calculation, but it’s clear that Trump hasn’t kept every single promise.
Government takeover of healthcare
Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley attacked Democratic positions on health care.
“They want a government takeover of health care,” she said at the Republican National Convention on Monday.
Facts First: This is true of some Democrats, but it’s not a policy Joe Biden supports. While he does advocate broadening the government’s involvement in the nation’s health care system, he does not back so-called “single payer” programs like Medicare for All, which were pushed by others in the primary.
While Biden has agreed to back lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 60, from the current 65, as a concession to the party’s progressive wing, he is not a supporter of Medicare for All, which would have essentially replaced the private health insurance system with a single, government-run plan. That idea was pushed by Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
Biden would also increase the federal subsidies in Obamacare so more middle-class Americans could afford to buy coverage.
His running mate, Kamala Harris, shifted her positions during her short campaign – at times strongly backing Medicare for All. But when she eventually unveiled her health care plan, it also included a role for private insurance companies. However, she now supports Biden’s proposal.
Patricia McCloskey, the woman who along with her husband Mark McCloskey pointed a gun at protestors from her St. Louis home in June, claimed that Democrats want to “abolish” suburbs. “They want to abolish the suburbs altogether by ending single-family home zoning,” she claimed.
Facts First: This is false. Democrats are not seeking to abolish suburbs or end single-family home zoning. An Obama-era housing rule meant to address racial segregation does not abolish suburbs in any way.
McCloskey seems to be repeating Trump’s racially coded nonsense from July when he worked to overturn the change the Obama administration made in 2015 to the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH), a decades-old federal requirement aimed to eliminate discrimination and combat segregation in housing.
You can read more about the regulations and Trump’s false claims here.
Some background: The McCloskeys drew national attention in late June after they were seen in a viral video brandishing guns outside their mansion at protesters walking on a private street en route to demonstrate outside the St. Louis mayor’s residence.
The mayor lives on a nearby public street and the protesters were going down a street that doesn’t reach the mayor’s house, a St. Louis city official said. The Missouri couple was charged in July with unlawful use of a weapon, a class E felony.
Multiple speakers — including Rep. Vernon Jones, Rep. Jim Jordan and Mark McCloskey — touted the low unemployment rate America has witnessed under the Trump administration. Both Jordan and McCloskey credited the President for the “lowest unemployment in 50 years,” while Jones said President Trump “built the most inclusive economy ever, with record low unemployment for African Americans.”
Facts First: This is misleadingly outdated, as it ignores the economic destruction caused by the coronavirus pandemic. While the US unemployment rate fell to a seasonally adjusted rate of 3.5% last September – its lowest level since 1969 – the pandemic has put a definitive end to America’s strong jobs market and millions of people remain out of work.
After dropping to a 50-year low in September 2019, the unemployment rate hovered around that level for five months before Covid-19 hit and millions of jobs vanished.
The unemployment rate for Black workers, meanwhile, fell to 5.4% in August of 2019, a record low for the data, which have been collected since 1972. It was mostly driven a drop in the jobless rate for Black women. The Black unemployment rate rose throughout the winter months.
All in all, America’s jobs market was strong when the pandemic hit. The March jobs report was the weakest since 2009. Things got worse in April, when more than 20 million American jobs disappeared amid the pandemic lockdown, by far the most sudden and largest decline since the government began tracking the data in 1939.
The unemployment rate spiked to 14.7% — the highest level since monthly records began in 1948. Joblessness had not been that severe since the Great Depression: The unemployment rate peaked at 24.9% in 1933, according to historical annual estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
While the pandemic affected workers across the country, minorities fared worse than White workers. In July, the overall unemployment rate fell back to 10.2% — still higher than during the worst part of the Great Recession — while the jobless rate for Black Americans was 14.6%.
China and Biden
Donald Trump Jr. referenced a report from the US intelligence community in claiming that China preferred Biden for the presidency because he would weaken the US economy, “Beijing Biden is so weak on China that the intelligence community recently assessed that the Chinese Communist Party favors Biden. They know he’ll weaken us both economically and on a world stage.”
Facts First: While Trump Jr. might be asserting his opinion here, his characterization of a recent assessment from the US intelligence community is misleading. The US intelligence community did not determine that China preferred Biden because he would economically or otherwise weaken the US. Rather, it outlined that China preferred that President Donald Trump lose the election because he was “unpredictable” and because of the many actions he has taken against China.
William R. Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, in a statement on Aug 7 updating the election threat landscape heading into the election noted that “China prefers that President Trump – whom Beijing sees as unpredictable – does not win reelection.”
The statement went on to note that China has been critical of Trump’s “COVID-19 response, closure of China’s Houston Consulate” and “actions on Hong Kong, TikTok, the legal status of the South China Sea, and China’s efforts to dominate the 5G market.” Evanina’s report makes no mention of China preferring Biden because he would weaken the US economy.
In praising his father Monday night, Donald Trump Jr. pushed the idea that the middle class has benefitted from President Donald Trump’s economic policies. “After eight years of Obama and Biden’s slow growth, Trump’s policies have been like rocket fuel to the economy and especially the middle class,” he said at the Republican National Convention.
Facts First: Actually, middle class income grew in the final years of the Obama administration but has stagnated under Trump. Median household income stayed essentially flat in 2018, at $63,200, breaking a three-year streak of increases, according to the most recent Census Bureau data.
Median income ticked up only 1.8% in 2017, Trump’s first year in office, and then plateaued despite a strong job market and very low unemployment, according to the latest Census data, which predates the pandemic and this year’s recession.
In the last two years of former President Barack Obama’s administration, median income rose more sharply – increasing 5.2% in 2015 and 3.2% in 2016. However, the middle class has not advanced much, if at all, over the past decade. Median income in 2018 was not statistically different than in 2007 or 1999, which was the high point.
Democrats and guns
Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan claimed that Democrats were trying to confiscate US citizens’ guns.
“They’re also trying to take away your guns,” Jordan said.
Facts First: Some Democrats have supported a mandatory gun confiscation buy-back. Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, instead supports a voluntary buy-back program.
Along with banning the “manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines,” Biden’s plan includes mandating that people who own assault weapons either sell theirs to the federal government or properly register them with the authorities.
Donald Trump Jr. claimed that Joe Biden had called President Donald Trump a racist and xenophobe for having imposed travel restrictions on China.
Facts First: Biden did accuse Trump of “xenophobia” in an Iowa campaign speech the same day, Jan. 31, that Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced the Trump administration’s travel restrictions on China – but it was not clear if Biden was even aware of the travel restrictions at the time, and his campaign says he wasn’t. Biden first took a firm position on the travel restrictions in early April, when he expressed support for them.
Biden said on Jan. 31 that “this is no time for Donald Trump’s record of hysteria and xenophobia — hysterical xenophobia — and fear-mongering to lead the way instead of science.” But he did not specifically mention the travel restrictions in that address.
China travel ban
While the President has come under fire for his administration’s response to the coronavirus, two speakers at the Republican convention Monday night praised the travel restrictions he had imposed on China.
Natalie Harp, an advisory board member for the Trump campaign, spoke about the Trump-supported Right to Try legislation and its role in her fight against bone cancer. Harp commended Trump for fighting for Americans, saying that if not for him, “In January, there would have been no China travel ban. Millions would have died.”
Donald Trump Jr. said that after the coronavirus came to the US, “The President quickly took action and shut down travel from China.”
Facts First: These comments are misleading on two counts: Trump imposed partial restrictions on travel from China, not a complete ban, and they were announced in January but effective February 2. There is no evidence that the travel restrictions on China saved millions of lives.
You can read a longer fact check here.
After weeks of increasing political furor over recent cuts at the US Postal Service, President Donald Trump on Monday said he would not support agency cuts.
“We’re taking good care of our postal workers. That I can tell you,” the President said on the first night of the Republican National Convention. “Believe me, we’re not getting rid of any our postal workers, you know.” He went on to claim, “If anyone does it’s the Democrats, not the Republicans.”
Facts first: This is false. Internal USPS documents obtained by CNN contradict the President’s statement. Before Postmaster General Louis DeJoy suspended many changes until after the election, the USPS was planning to drastically cut work hours in at least one district. Also, Democrats have not proposed laying off postal workers.
In documents obtained by CNN, USPS managers held a “stand up talk,” around July 13, telling workers they would be cutting roughly 100,000 to 124,000 work hours across the district, in all sectors — retail, delivery and processing. It was unclear how management would be implementing the changes. The USPS planned on cutting so many work hours in mail processing operations — 124,000 — the documents say it would be the equivalent of closing all processing plants in the Appalachian district for 29 days or eliminate an entire shift of workers for 86 days.
Delivery in urban areas would be reduced by 110,983 work hours. The documents equated the work hour cuts to: not delivering mail for 13 days, or stopping 43 city routes, or ending mail delivery by 25 minutes every day.
It also included clerk and retail operations, which management was going to cut by 112,475 work hours. That’s the equivalent of shutting post office retail operations for 90 days, district wide, according to the documents.
The initiative to cut work hours has since stopped because DeJoy paused them after intense public scrutiny. But union officials CNN has spoken to fear the changes will be brought back after the 2020 election.
They also are concerned because past work hour cuts have led to job cuts.
In his congressional testimony, DeJoy alluded that significant changes are still coming to the USPS, they’re just coming after the election now.
DeJoy operates independently of the President, but has significant ties to him as a mega-donor and the former finance chair for the Republican National Committee. In recent weeks, the President has pushed baseless accusations that sought to undermine trust in the USPS and has said he opposed funding the USPS because of mail-in voting.
Top Congressional Republicans attacked the Democrats on police funding.
Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan implied Democrats want to “defund the police” and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise said “The left wants to defund the police.”
Facts First: While some Democrats have joined calls for a radical shift in police policy, including a reduction in police budgets, top congressional Democrats and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden have not supported calls to “defund the police.”
Biden’s published criminal justice plan called for a $300 million investment in community policing efforts – including the hiring of more officers.
On June 8, Biden told CBS, “No, I don’t support defunding the police,” Rather, he said, “I support conditioning federal aid to police based on whether or not they meet certain basic standards of decency and honorableness. And, in fact, are able to demonstrate they can protect the community and everybody in the community.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat of Maryland, told CNN, “Defunding police departments are not the answer.” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline and Karen Bass have also spoken out about the phrase, CNN reported in June.
It’s worth noting that the slogan “defund the police” means different things to different activists – from the dissolution of police forces to partial reductions in funding.
Trump’s campaign has seized on a single comment Biden made to a progressive activist in a July video chat. In that conversation, Biden repeated his opposition to defunding police. When pressed, he did say he “absolutely” agrees that some funding can be redirected to social services, mental health counseling and affordable housing, but he immediately transitioned to his previous proposal to deny federal funding to specific police departments that do not meet certain standards. Biden said in early June that decisions about funding levels should be made by local communities, since some have too many officers but some don’t have enough.
Trump and coronavirus efforts
An RNC video played during the convention contrasted President Trump as a “decisive leader” on coronavirus while suggesting that Democrats and media outlets “got it wrong” by downplaying the pandemic.
Facts First: This suggestion is inaccurate. Trump continued to downplay the virus into March. Trump declared in February that the number of cases in the US would go “within a couple of days” from 15 to “close to zero,” and he predicted that the virus might “disappear” through a “miracle” or something of the sort. In late February, he was still likening the virus to the flu; in March, he suggested that the virus did not require the country to take more severe measures than the flu requires.
During the opening remarks of the Republican National Convention, Charlie Kirk, founder of the youth-oriented conservative group Turning Point USA, claimed that “bitter, deceitful, vengeful activists…have us locking up pastors.”
Facts First: This connection is not true. Pastors in the US have been arrested for disobeying state and local social distancing orders during the pandemic by holding in-person church services.
One of the first instances of a pastor being arrested in the US happened in late March when a Florida pastor held two church services that disobeyed state health emergency rules. The pastor turned himself in at the time, the Associated Press reported. CNN could not find instances of pastors being arrested because of “bitter, deceitful, vengeful activists.”
Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz said on Monday, “‘Settle for Biden,’ that’s the hashtag promoted by AOC and the socialists.”
Facts First: While New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has criticized Biden in the past, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was her first choice to be the party nominee, she has never professed or encouraged others to “settle” for Biden.
A review of Ocasio-Cortez’s Twitter and Instagram posts dating back to the start of the primaries did not reveal any use of a hashtag “#SettleforBiden” or “#SettlingforBiden.” Her only Instagram post referring to Biden during that time appeared to be from Tuesday, congratulating Biden for winning the Democratic nomination.
A review of the congressional and campaign Twitter accounts for Reps. Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley – fellow members of The Squad, a group of progressive Democrats, along with Ocasio-Cortez – also did not reveal any uses of such a hashtag or phrase.
While the hashtag appears to have been used dozens of times, dating back to as early as the day after Sanders dropped out of the race and Biden became the presumptive nominee, it does not appear to be common among high-profile progressive Democrats.
This story has been updated.