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Trump made 33 false claims about the coronavirus crisis in the first two weeks of March

March 22, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

President Donald Trump began March with a barrage of false claims about the coronavirus pandemic -- understating the extent of the crisis, overstating the availability of tests, inaccurately blaming his predecessor and wrongly insisting that the crisis was unforeseen.

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump began March with a barrage of false claims about the coronavirus pandemic -- understating the extent of the crisis, overstating the availability of tests, inaccurately blaming his predecessor and wrongly insisting that the crisis was unforeseen.

Trump made 50 false claims from March 2 through March 8, then 21 false claims from March 9 through March 15.

That is on top of some additional misleading claims from Trump about the coronavirus (we only count the false claims here), plus some false and misleading claims from members of his administration.

On March 6, as doctors and health officials around the country were reporting a shortage of coronavirus tests, Trump said, "Anybody that wants a test can get a test.

During his Oval Office address to the nation about the coronavirus on March 11, Trump, speaking from a script, announced that he was imposing restrictions on travel from Europe -- and then added that "these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval.

While meeting with the prime minister of Ireland on March 12, Trump was asked whether he was fine shaking hands with foreign prime ministers.

Trump said they hadn't shaken hands that day -- then added, "You know, I just got back from India, and I didn't shake any hands there. "

Trump claimed the next day that he had not meant the virus was under control -- that he had meant "we are doing a very good job within the confines of what we're dealing with. " But he had repeatedly made clear on previous occasions that he was talking about the virus when he spoke of "control. " He said in late January, soon after the US announced its first confirmed case, that "we have it totally under control. " He said in late February, when the number of confirmed US cases was in the low dozens, that "we have it very much under control in this country. "

Facts First: The US intelligence community, public health experts and officials in Trump's own administration had warned for years that the country was at risk from a pandemic.

Trump claimed twice that he had reversed an Obama-era decision that had impeded testing for the coronavirus.

On the first occasion, Trump said, "The Obama administration made a decision on testing that turned out to be very detrimental to what we're doing.

Facts First: There is no regulation from President Barack Obama that impeded coronavirus testing.

When asked what Obama administration decision Trump might be referring to, Peter Kyriacopoulos, chief policy officer at the Association of Public Health Laboratories, said: "We aren't sure what rule is being referenced. "

"You may not get a test unless a doctor or public health official prescribes a test," Azar said the day after Trump's remark -- and even some of the people whose doctors wanted them to be tested were not able to obtain a test.

(Azar claimed Trump was using "shorthand" for the fact that "we as regulators, or as those shipping the test, are not restricting who can get tested. ")

Trump responded that this was a mere "one case" and that "frankly, the testing has been going very smooth. " He also claimed: "If you go to the right agency, if you go to the right area, you get the test. " -- March 12 exchange with reporters before meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar

Facts First: It was simply not true that testing had been going smoothly or that, as Trump suggested, it was simple to get a test by contacting the proper authorities.

Facts First: The US had its first confirmed case of the coronavirus on January 21, more than six weeks before Trump spoke here, so it's not true that the US had not really seen even "some possible effects" until three weeks ago.

Facts First: Trump might not have known the number of annual flu deaths in the US, but that doesn't mean "nobody" else did.

Speaking about the flu, Trump said, "I think we went as high as 100,000 people died in 1990, if you can believe that. " -- March 4 interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity

Facts First: While the 1989-1990 flu season was considered bad at the time -- the CDC declared that it was an epidemic -- Trump greatly overstated the number of deaths.

Polling on Trump and the coronavirus

Facts First: Trump does not have a "78% approval rating" for his handling of the coronavirus, nor "the highest rating ever" for a president's handling of an outbreak.

Trump may have been wrongly describing a Gallup poll conducted in early-to-mid-February -- before there were any reported US deaths from the coronavirus -- that found 77% of respondents had confidence in the federal government to handle a coronavirus outbreak.

Polls actually asking about people's approval of Trump's handling of the virus situation at the time found that his approval rating is much lower than 78%.

(Some subsequent polls found Trump's coronavirus-related approval above 50%. ) Conversely, a CNN poll taken in October and November 2009 found that 57% approved of Barack Obama's handling of the H1N1 flu pandemic.

"To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days. . . There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings. . . These restrictions will also not apply to the United Kingdom. " -- March 11 Oval Office address to the nation on the coronavirus

Facts First: Trump was incorrectly describing his own policy.

Facts First: Though he corrected his error in a tweet shortly after his speech, Trump was not actually prohibiting trade and cargo from Europe.

The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal reported that, according to Times sources and a Journal review of drafts of Trump's speech, the text of Trump's speech said the restrictions will not apply to trade and cargo.

Talking about how his campaign has canceled rallies because of the coronavirus, Trump said, "And we had four or five of them that we were thinking about.

Facts First: There was no "sold out" Trump rally in Tampa, Florida.

While Trump's campaign was in the process of planning a Tampa rally, the event had not been publicly announced and no tickets had been publicly offered, so it simply does not make sense that the event was "sold out" or that there had been "over 100,000 requests for tickets. " The Associated Press reported that Trump's claim was "an impossibility" and that the campaign had declined to comment; the campaign also did not respond to our inquiry.

Facts First: Google declined to comment on the substance of any call between CEO Sundar Pichai and the Trump team, but it's not true that the press did not call Google or that the press reported "fake news" about Trump's announcement that Google was helping to develop a coronavirus website, to be completed "very quickly," that would "determine whether a test is warranted and to facilitate testing at a nearby convenient location. " Journalists contacted Google and accurately reported the company's initial response, which made clear that Trump had exaggerated.

After Trump made the announcement, Google issued a statement on behalf of its sister company Verily, which said, "We are developing a tool to help triage individuals for Covid-19 testing.

(The first two deaths in the state were announced on March 14, 10 days after Trump spoke here. )

Facts First: The number of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths in Italy was continuing to increase at the time Trump made this comment.

As of Saturday, March 7, the day after Trump spoke here, Italy had 5,883 confirmed cases and 233 deaths; as of Monday, March 9, there were 9,172 cases and 463 deaths.

Facts First: Trump was exaggerating.

Referring to the Grand Princess cruise ship that had been kept in limbo over coronavirus concerns before being allowed to dock in Oakland, Trump said on March 10, "So, the UK is taking their people, their citizens back, and Canada is about 600 people; they're coming back.

Facts First: Trump's number was wrong.

Trump said, of the Grand Princess cruise ship that was being kept in limbo over coronavirus concerns, "We do have a situation where we have this massive ship with 5,000 people and we have to make a decision. " He later amended the claim slightly, saying, "It's close to 5,000 people. " -- March 6 exchange with reporters at signing of coronavirus appropriations bill

Facts First: Trump was overstating the number of passengers on the ship.

Facts First: Numerous media outlets, including CNN, reported on Trump's announcement that he had "waived interest on all student loans held by federal government agencies, and that will be until further notice. " (Outlets noted that the administration had not immediately provided important details of the plan and that borrowers might not see a reduction in their current monthly payments, but they were indeed covering the announcement. )

Facts First: Trump did not explain what he meant by "the borders are automatically shut down. " His travel restrictions at the time, on China and Iran, did not constitute complete closures of the border; they make exceptions for American citizens, permanent residents and some of their family members.

When a reporter noted that an American could bring back the coronavirus even with Trump's new travel restrictions on some European countries, Trump said, "Sure.

We have a tremendous testing set up where people coming in have to be tested. " -- March 12 exchange with reporters before meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar

Facts First: It's not true that Americans or others returning from Europe "have to be" tested for the coronavirus -- and no system is being set up to actually test these returning travelers.

Facts First: Trump was filmed shaking hands repeatedly in India, as Indian news website ThePrint pointed out.

Trump said of H1N1, also known as swine flu: "And they didn't do anything about it. " -- March 4 interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity

They started thinking about testing when it was far too late. " -- March 13 coronavirus press conference

And Scranton has the lowest and best unemployment numbers they've -- and employment numbers too -- that they've ever had, by far. " -- March 5 Fox News town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania

Facts First: Trump simply did not "save" Social Security and Medicare, which still face uncertain financial futures, and there is no evidence Democrats intend to cut either program.

(Trump also told Fox News earlier in March that "we'll be cutting" entitlement programs, though he did not say which ones.

All they do is sell us cars for no tax coming into the -- to the country. " -- March 5 Fox News town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania

In prepared remarks in October, Trump himself said the deal "sets standards on the $40 billion in digital trade between the United States and Japan. " In other words, he suggested himself that it contained provisions addressing $40 billion in trade, not that it was a $40 billion payment.

Facts First: It is simply not true that China has no "drug problem," though Trump did not define what he meant by "drug problem. " Joe Amon, director of global health at Drexel University and a clinical professor of community health and prevention, said the statement is "definitively" false.

Trump called the whistleblower who complained about his dealings with Ukraine a "phony whistleblower" and claimed this person had described "a call that didn't exist. " -- March 5 Fox News town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania

Facts First: The whistleblower's account of Trump's July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been proven substantially accurate.

Trump claimed that, before Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden was appointed to the board of directors of Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings, Hunter Biden "didn't have a job. " -- March 5 Fox News town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania

Trump claimed that last year was the "first time in 51 years that drug prices, prescription, have come down. " -- March 2 exchange with reporters at meeting with Colombian President Iván Duque

Facts First: The decline -- shown in the Consumer Price Index, but not some other measures -- happened in 2018, not "last year. " And Trump was exaggerating how long it had been since the 2018 decline; it had been 46 years, not 51.

Facts First: The number of Hispanic homeowners had indeed increased by more than 500,000 during Trump's presidency, according to data provided by the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals -- it rose by 176,000 in 2017, 365,000 in 2018, 277,000 in 2019.

Facts First: It's not true that median household income gains under Trump were almost $10,000 in three years.

Facts First: Ivanka Trump has obviously not created more than "15 million jobs. " Before the coronavirus crisis, roughly 7 million jobs had been created during the entire Trump presidency.

Facts First: Trump was exaggerating, though the February unemployment rate was indeed impressive.

Trump said women had the lowest unemployment rate "in 71 years. "=- March 4 interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity

I got them built: a $10 billion plant in Louisiana. . . " -- March 5 Fox News town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania

Facts First: The $10 billion LNG facility Trump visited in Louisiana in 2019 was granted its key permits under Obama, and its construction also began under Obama.

Facts First: Trump has not eliminated the federal estate tax.

Facts First: Venezuela was not the wealthiest country in Latin America 20 years ago, as Trump has claimed previously, and certainly not one of the wealthiest countries in the world, as Trump has also claimed previously.

Facts First: Mexico has deployed around 27,000 troops, but Trump exaggerated how many are being stationed near the US border in particular; Mexico's defense minister said in October that it was about 15,000 on the US border, about 12,000 on Mexico's own southern border.

I wish the first time it was done correctly. " The day after the invasion in March 2003, he said, "It looks like a tremendous success from a military standpoint. " Trump did not offer a definitive position on the looming war in a Fox News interview in January 2003, saying, "Either you attack or don't attack. "

(Trump has previously claimed, falsely, that this one-car limit is included in the Democrats' Green New Deal environmental proposal. ) And while some prominent Democrats, such as presidential candidate Joe Biden, want to implement policies they believe will reduce the number of cars on the road, they are not proposing to get rid of cars by any kind of government prohibition.

Trump discussed a conversation he claimed he had with President Barack Obama about North Korea and its leader Kim Jong Un. Trump said, "And I have a good relationship with him (Kim).

But called many times, and Kim Jong Un did not want to talk to him. " -- March 5 Fox News town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania

"This is a total fabrication," Susan Rice, who served as Obama's national security adviser, said on Twitter in response to a previous version of this Trump claim.

"Obama never called Kim. Not once," Ben Rhodes, former deputy national security adviser to Obama, said on Twitter after this new claim on March 5.

There's also no evidence for Trump's previous claim that Obama begged Kim for a meeting.

After touting the criminal justice reform bill he signed in 2018, Trump appeared to criticize the 1994 crime bill signed into law by President Bill Clinton and supported by then-senator Joe Biden -- and suggested Barack Obama, who was not yet in elected office of any kind, had something to do with it: "And, again, this was a Biden/Obama law that was -- this was -- and, obviously, it was -- it was really a Hillary -- this was a Bill Clinton and a Hillary.

Obama was -- somebody said he was talking about it, but he had to be pretty young, if that were the case. " -- March 4 interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity

Facts First: Trump seemed to realize partway through this claim that it did not make sense to blame Obama for a bill signed into law before Obama was even elected to the Illinois state Senate -- but even though he eventually conceded Obama was "pretty young" at the time, he did not make clear that Obama had nothing at all to do with the bill.

On separate occasions, Trump claimed that overdose deaths have declined for the first time "in 31 years" or "in nearly 31 years. "

Facts First: This was yet another of Trump's signature exaggerations of numbers that are already impressive.

Facts First: The Trump administration has repeatedly supported bills that would weaken Obamacare's protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

And our conditions now are much better than they were three years ago. " -- March 5 Fox News town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania

Facts First: By several measures, US air was cleaner under Obama than it has been under Trump.

Facts First: Trump's deal with China reduces, though does not eliminate, some of the US tariffs on imported Chinese products.

Trump said of Chinese agricultural purchases: "You know, the highest ever was $16 billion. " -- March 3 speech to the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference

Trump claimed that revenue from his tariffs on imported Chinese products is "paid for by China" and that it is "money from China. " -- March 3 speech to the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference

Billions of dollars. " -- March 5 Fox News town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania

Trump claimed that the US used to have "$500 billion a year" trade deficits with China.

Talking about the federal judiciary, Trump said, "But the bottom line is, President Obama gave me 142 openings when I first got there. " -- March 5 Fox News town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania

Facts First: This is Trump's usual exaggerated figure.

Trump claimed that "normally," presidents are left "no opening" on the federal judiciary; "if you have one, it's like you got lucky. " -- March 5 Fox News town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania

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