Trust Index: Fact-checking the final Trump, Biden debate

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The News4Jax Trust Index Team is fact-checking statements made during the final presidential debate on Thursday night between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.

In response to a question about the president’s plan moving forward fighting the coronavirus, Trump said America is “turning the curve on the COVID-19.”

“It will go away. And as I say, we’re rounding the turn. We’re rounding the corner. It’s going away,” Trump said.

Is America rounding the curve on the coronavirus pandemic a little more than a week before the election?

The president’s statement is at odds with the latest data from Johns Hopkins University showing an increase in COVID-19 in many states particularly in the Upper Midwest where cold weather is starting to take hold.

As of Thursday, 31 states have added more new COVID-19 cases this week – compared to the previous week.

The Dakotas are reporting more new cases on a per capita basis than any other state.

And in Boston, the Public Schools system suspended all in-person instruction starting Thursday as the citywide coronavirus positivity rate jumped to 5.7% last weekend.

“There was a spike in Florida. It’s now gone,” Trump also said.

But Florida COVID-19 cases jumped 5,557 in the past day, with 57 additional deaths. That was the highest single day since Sept. 1.

A new study does reveal declining mortality rates nationwide, as Trump noted, but researchers say it’s not clear if that’s the result of changes in who is getting sick or if care is improving.

But to the statement that America is “rounding the curve” on the coronavirus, The News4Jax Trust Index Team rates this statement as “Not True,” based on the rising number of new infections.

Not True

After review, we've found this information is Not True.

What is the Trust Index?

Trump on China

The final presidential debate featured a fiery exchange between Trump and Biden over foreign policy in China.

Trump was asked about his assertion that China will “pay a big price” for its role in the coronavirus pandemic.

The candidates were asked specifically how and if they are going to make China pay.

“They’re paying billions and billions of dollars,” Trump said. “I just gave $28 billion to our farmers.”

Biden chimed in saying it was “taxpayer money.”

“You know who the taxpayer is, it’s called China,” Trump shot back.

According to PolitiFact, Trump’s claim is false.

Trump has said the billions in farm aid is being funded “out of the tariffs that we’ve gotten from China.”

But Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue told the Associated Press that China is “indirectly” paying for the aid, but he “acknowledged tariffs are sent to the Treasury Department without being earmarked for any specific purpose.”

“More significantly, Trump’s claim simply does not reflect how tariffs work,” Politifact wrote in 2019.

The tariffs imposed by Trump have been paid almost entirely by U.S. importers, who pass much of that on to consumers through price increases.

The News4Jax Trust Index Team rates this statement as “Not True."

Not True

After review, we've found this information is Not True.

What is the Trust Index?

Biden on Climate Change

During the portion of Thursday night’s debate that focused on climate change, Biden claimed that we’re 10 years away from the “point of no return” for the environment.

“Global warming is an existential threat to humanity,” Biden said. “We have a moral obligation to deal with it. I’m told by all the leading scientists in the world that we don’t have much time. We’re going to pass the point of no return within the next eight to ten years.”

Analysts have attributed this claim to a 2018 United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.

The “point of no return” identified in the report is the global temperatures increasing by 1.5 degrees, which would cause irreversible climate disruptions.

While the report stresses the urgency of cutting carbon dioxide emissions in half by 2030, it doesn’t assign a deadline to the “point of no return.”

Because of this, the News4Jax Trust Index advises caution with Biden’s “10 years” statement.

Be Careful

After reviewing this topic, we've found some issues - Be Careful.

What is the Trust Index?

Biden on Social Security

In one exchange, Biden went after Trump on Social Security.

“If in fact, [Trump] continues his plan to withhold the tax on Social Security, Social Security will be bankrupt by 2023 with no way to make up for it,” Biden said.

It’s a claim that Biden has made before in campaign ads.

According to PolitiFact, the Social Security chief actuary “did say that if the Social Security portion of the payroll tax were eliminated, the program would run out of money in three years.”

But he also said he was not aware of any plans to end the payroll tax and the Trump campaign has said there is no plan to do so.

Trump did pledge in August to go after a permanent cut to the payroll taxes if he wins reelection in November, the Washington Post reported, but Trump has said he would look to Congress to keep Social Security going and draw from general revenues.

The News4Jax Trust Index Team rates this statement as “Not True."

Not True

After review, we've found this information is Not True.

What is the Trust Index?

Trump on Super Predators

During the debate, Trump said Biden called Black Americans “superpredators” during the crafting of his controversial 1994 crime bill.

In a 1993 speech on the U.S. Senate floor, then-Senator Biden warned that young people from broken homes with no supervision will potentially “become the predators 15 years from now.”

The comments didn’t specify any particular race of young people.

Hillary Clinton, Trump’s opponent in the 2016 election, did use the term “superpredators” to describe a “gang of kids” in 1996, but again, did not mention a specific race.

Biden also called the 1994 crime bill “a mistake” during the debate.

Trump’s claim that Biden used the “superpredators” to describe Black Americans is not true.

Not True

After review, we've found this information is Not True.

What is the Trust Index?

Biden on private health insurance

When was asked about what he would do as president if the Affordable Care Act is ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, Biden said Obamacare would soon become Biden Care, saying this about Americans and their private insurance.

“Not one single person with private insurance would lose their insurance under my plan, nor did they under ‘Obamacare,’" Biden said "They did not lose their insurance unless they chose they wanted to go to something else.”

Biden was referring to former President Barack Obama’s promise that if you liked your health insurance, you’d be able to keep it under the Affordable Care Act -- a promise that turned out not to hold true for every American.

When Obamacare took effect in 2014, several million people lost individual health insurance plans that no longer met the minimum standards established by the law. The Obama administration faced backlash for the broken promise.

Even though there were far fewer uninsured Americans under Obamacare, based on the fact that millions of Americans did lose their insurance under Obamacare, we rank Biden’s statement as not true.

Not True

After review, we've found this information is Not True.

What is the Trust Index?

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About the Authors:

McLean is a reporter with WJXT, covering education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.