We are still reviewing some of Trump’s comments at the daily White House coronavirus briefing. We’ll update this article with additional fact checks.
The Food and Drug Administration recently gave doctors emergency authorization to use the medicines, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, to treat Covid-19 in hospitals but not at home. The FDA has not fully “approved” the drugs for Covid-19, which requires a much higher scientific standard.
“You are not going to die from this pill,” Trump said, before acknowledging that he isn’t a doctor but has reviewed some of the medical studies, adding, “I really think it’s a great thing to try.”
Facts First: There is no conclusive scientific evidence to support what Trump is saying. Clinical trials are underway, but the FDA and top public health officials have not endorsed Trump’s view that the drugs are already known to be effective against Covid-19 and can be taken safely.
Over the past few weeks, there has been a glaring messaging gap between Trump and top public health officials about these drugs. While Trump touts them as miracle drugs that are on the brink of saving lives, the medical experts are cautiously waiting for scientific evidence.
Some medical research suggests that the drugs could work against coronavirus, but the study most commonly cited by Trump was incredibly small and didn’t follow typical procedures for randomized trials. A more robust, large-scale clinical trial is underway now in New York.
On Tuesday, Trump also referenced a Democratic state lawmaker in Michigan who tested positive for the coronavirus but recovered, and now credits hydroxychloroquine for her success.
The lawmaker’s story is compelling, but anecdotal. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has said that at this point, there is only anecdotal evidence that the drugs work.
Revisionist history on the flu
“You said I said it was just like a flu. So the worst pandemic we ever had in this world was a flu, and it was called — you know that — it was in 1917, 1918. And anywhere from 50 (million) to a hundred million people died. That was a flu. OK. So you could say that I said it was a flu, or you could say the flu is nothing to — sneeze at,” he said.
Facts First: Trump was inaccurately portraying his own comments. When he likened the coronavirus to the flu in February and March, he was saying or strongly suggesting that the virus was like a conventional flu — a “regular flu” or “common flu” — not warning Americans that they could be facing something equivalent to the catastrophic flu pandemic of 1918 and 1919.
“You can’t compare this to 1918 where close to 100 million people died,” he said.
European travel ban
Trump claimed Tuesday that he had “closed it down to Europe” and then that he had “closed it down to all of Europe.”
Facts First: Trump never closed the US to travelers from “all of Europe.” Rather, he imposed restrictions on travel from most European countries but exempted others. And his restrictions did not apply to some people traveling from Europe: US citizens, permanent US residents, certain family members of both citizens and permanent residents and some other groups of travelers.
Trump’s restrictions initially applied to the 26 countries in the Schengen Area, a European zone in which people can move freely across internal borders without being subjected to border checks. Trump later added the United Kingdom and Ireland. That still left out some European countries, including Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Ukraine and Russia.
The World Health Organization
During Tuesday’s White House coronavirus task force briefing, Trump claimed that the World Health Organization downplayed the coronavirus and criticized his January 31 order restricting most travel between the United States and China.
“Take a look, I mean go through step by step, they said there’s no big deal, there’s no big problem, there’s no nothing, and then ultimately when I closed it down they actually said that I made a mistake in closing it down, and it turned out to be right.”
Facts First: Trump is correct that the World Health Organization organization didn’t support his travel restrictions with China — the WHO opposes most international travel restrictions and sees them as ineffectual — but he overstated the case when he insinuated that the WHO downplayed the virus.
Trump overstates when he insinuates that the WHO knew about the global threat the virus posed, but downplayed it. The WHO defines an emergency of international concern as “an extraordinary event” that constitutes a “public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease” and “to potentially require a coordinated international response,” meaning that the organization recognized that the virus posed an international threat beyond China.
Trump denies something he had just said
Facts First: Trump was denying something he had plainly said. Though he had originally announced he would look into US spending on the WHO, he then announced he would impose a “very powerful hold” on the spending.
Trump opens new front in lies about voter fraud
Trump used Tuesday’s briefing to launch baseless attacks against voting-by-mail, which many experts say is one fair and effective solution to holding a presidential election amid a pandemic.
“Mail ballots, they cheat, people cheat,” he said. “Mail ballots are very dangerous thing for this country because they’re cheaters. They go and collect them. They’re fraudulent in many cases.”
He added, “the mail ballots are corrupt, in my opinion,” and said that “you get thousands and thousands of people sitting in somebody’s living room signing ballots all over the place.”
Facts First: Trump is lying about voter fraud. Multiple studies over the years have confirmed that there is no widespread voter fraud in this country. Additionally, Democratic and Republican state officials routinely oversee elections where millions of people vote-by-mail without systematic problems.
Trump has long embraced conspiracy theories about voter fraud. After taking office, Trump set up a commission to investigate the issue, but the panel disbanded without uncovering any evidence supporting Trump’s claims that millions voted illegally in 2016.
An expansive study in 2017 from the Brennan Center for Justice, a liberal-leaning think tank, found that the rate of voter fraud in the United States was somewhere between 0.00004% and 0.0009%.
Voting-by-mail has become increasingly popular in US federal elections, and nearly a quarter of all voters cast mail ballots in 2016, according to the Election Assistance Commission. This year, the solid Republican state of Utah will conduct all-mail elections, which undercuts Trump’s claims.
It’s true that voting-by-mail poses some risks that don’t exist with in-person voting, which Trump noted on Tuesday. But the most recent example of absentee ballot fraud involved Republican operatives in North Carolina who allegedly rigged an election for the House of Representatives in 2018.
Trump cast an absentee ballot last month in the Florida Republican primary, per local reports. Asked about this contradiction, Trump said it was OK “because I’m allowed to” vote by mail.
The vote-by-mail discussion came up at the White House briefing because of Tuesday’s elections in Wisconsin, where the Democratic governor tried unsuccessfully to delay the vote, but was thwarted by the GOP-led legislature and the state Supreme Court’s conservative majority.
In addition to the presidential primaries, there is a general election for a spot on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Trump has backed an incumbent justice who was appointed by Republican.
At the briefing, Trump said, “All I did was endorse a candidate,” but that’s not a complete portrayal of his involvement in the Wisconsin elections. He tweeted four times in the past few days about the judicial race and urged people to vote Tuesday, saying, “Wisconsin, get out and vote NOW.”
Public health experts have warned that the election could put voters and poll workers at risk.
Joe Biden and Trump’s travel restrictions on China
Trump claimed Tuesday that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden admitted having been incorrect in his initial stance on Trump’s travel restrictions on China.
“In all fairness to Joe Biden, he called me xenophobic, like I don’t like China. I like China. Like, the Chinese people are phenomenal people. So I was called xenophobic, I was called racist, how could I do a thing like this? Now since then, Joe said that he was wrong and he said that I was right,” Trump said.
Despite the campaign’s explanation, we can’t say that Trump’s claim that Biden called the restrictions xenophobic was inaccurate; Biden left his words open to interpretation. But Trump was incorrect when he said Biden has acknowledged having been wrong.
Trump touts small business lending program
The President claimed the progress of the small business lending program — the Payroll Protection Program — was “way ahead of schedule” and touted figures that ignored serious challenges the program is facing. He said the Small Business Administration (SBA) has “processed more than $70 billion in guaranteed loans and will provide much needed relief for nearly a quarter of a million businesses already.”
Some lenders claim the Treasury Department and SBA didn’t give banks all the tools and guidance they need to make the loans available quickly. Some big banks have made little to no progress disbursing funding to small businesses as of Tuesday night.
For example, although Wells Fargo has processed some applications, it hasn’t yet funded any companies, according to a person familiar with the bank’s activity. Chase has funded “a number” of companies through PPP, but that number is so small relative to the number of requests it’s not worth citing, according to a person familiar with Chase’s activity. Citi has processed a “limited number” of applications but hasn’t yet funded any businesses through PPP, said a person familiar with Citi’s activity.
As for the $70 billion in loans Trump and other administration officials keep citing, that number only represents the amount of loans approved and doesn’t reflect actual cash advanced to businesses.
CNN’s Cristina Alesci contributed to this report.