LIVE: Fact-check of the first Trump-Biden 2020 presidential debate

  • President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will face off on Tuesday in the first 2020 presidential debate.
  • The event takes place amid a devastating pandemic that's killed more than 200,000 Americans and a contentious fight over the Supreme Court seat that was recently vacated by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
  • Scroll down to follow along as Business Insider fact checks the debate in real time.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Joe Biden are participating in the first of three 2020 presidential debates on Tuesday night. 

The highly anticipated debate, which is taking place in Cleveland, involves two candidates who have made no secret of their disdain for one another. 

Biden has a lead over Trump in the national polls and in a number of swing states, making this debate a potentially pivotal moment in the 2020 election cycle.

The debate takes place amid a pandemic that's killed over 200,000 Americans and left millions unemployed. It also comes as the Trump administration gears up for a contentious fight to fill the Supreme Court recently vacated by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

In the months leading up to the debate, Trump repeatedly made false comments about Biden and the voting process in the US, offering a preview of what to expect when the candidates take the stage on Tuesday night. 

Biden, who has long been considered gaffe-prone, has reportedly prepared for a barrage of personal attacks from the president.

The debate is set to focus on six main topics: Trump and Biden's records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, the economy, race and violence in American cities, and the integrity of the election.

Here's a live fact-check of the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden:

The Supreme Court

What they said: While discussing Trump's push to fill Ginsburg's Supreme Court seat, Biden attacked Trump for trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Trump then accused Biden of working to "extinguish 180 million people with their private healthcare that they're very happy with."

"That's simply not true," Biden said.

"Well, you're going socialist," Trump said, adding, "That's not what you said and that's not what your party said. Your party wants to go socialist medicine and socialist healthcare, and they're going to dominate you, Joe, you know that."

"I am the Democratic Party right now," Biden shot back. "The platform of the Democratic Party is what I, in fact, approved of."

Fact check: Trump and other Republican lawmakers have repeatedly claimed that Biden and other establishment Democrats caved to progressive lawmakers like New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Last week, one White House spokesperson described Biden as "a prisoner of the radical, extreme, socialist left."

In fact, Biden often comes under attack from his progressive rivals for his centrist record and long history of collaborating with Republicans. Though he adopted some positions endorsed by progressives, he has not embraced the benchmark policy proposal they've advocated: Medicare for All.

Biden opposes universal healthcare, and has instead pushed to expand the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). The former vice president also pushed back on the "socialist" label, saying during the debate that he "defeated the socialist," referring to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who describes himself as a democratic socialist.

COVID-19

What they said: Trump claimed that Biden opposed his decision to ban certain types of travel from China early on during the US outbreak of the disease. He said of travel from China, "We closed it down." Trump also said the US is "weeks away" from a COVID-19 vaccine.

Fact check: Biden's campaign said in April that he supported Trump's decision to restrict travel. Trump also did not impose a complete ban on travel from China, and thousands of people traveled to the US from China after the restrictions were announced. The restrictions were also implemented after the virus had gained a foothold in the US. 

Regarding a coronavirus vaccine, CDC director Robert Redfield recently told Congress: "If you're asking me when is it going to be generally available to the American public so we can begin to take advantage of vaccine to get back to our regular life, I think we're probably looking at third … late second quarter, third quarter 2021."

What they said: Biden tore into Trump for saying that the virus outbreak would be gone by Easter and the early summer. He also attacked the president for suggesting during a coronavirus task force briefing that "maybe you could inject some bleach in your arm and that would take care of it."

"That was said sarcastically, and you know it," Trump shot back.

Fact check: Here's what the president said during the April task force briefing, according to a transcript and video recording of his remarks:

"So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether its ultraviolet or just very powerful light, and I think you said, that hasn't been checked but you're gonna test it. And then I said, supposing it brought the light inside the body, which you can either do either through the skin or some other way, and I think you said you're gonna test that too, sounds interesting. And I then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in one minute, and is there a way you can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it'd be interesting to check that. So you're going to have to use medical doctors, but it sounds interesting to me, so we'll see. But the whole concept of the light, the way it goes in one minute, that's pretty powerful."

What they said: Biden said the US has "5 percent — 4 percent — of the world's population, 20 percent of the deaths."

Fact check: This is true. According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, 1,005,394 people around the world have died from COVID-19. The US consists of 205,996 of those deaths.

The economy

What they said: Biden claimed that Trump will "be the first president in history to leave office with fewer jobs than when he came in."

Fact check: Former President George W. Bush "inherited 4.2 percent unemployment in January 2001. That rate had grown to 7.8 percent when he left office eight years later," Vox reported. When Trump took office, he inherited a 4.2 percent unemployment rate from former President Barack Obama. The current unemployment rate is 8.4 percent.

What they said: Debate moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump about a recent bombshell New York Times investigation that found he paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017. Trump replied that he paid "millions of dollars" in income taxes, and Biden called on Trump to "show us your tax returns." Trump said he would when the IRS was done auditing them.

Fact check: The president has indeed paid millions in taxes, but not in federal income taxes, as The Times reported. There is also no rule prohibiting individuals from disclosing their tax returns when they're under audit, as Trump has claimed for years.

What they said: Biden claimed that the US has a higher deficit with China now "than we did before."

Fact check: This is a misleading claim, according to The New York Times, which reported that the trade deficit with China "fell sharply" between 2018 and 2019 as Trump's trade war took a significant toll on commerce between the US and China.

What they said: Trump attacked Biden's son, Hunter, over his work for the board of the Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings and his business activities in China. The president accused Joe Biden of trying to have the Ukrainian prosecutor general ousted when he was vice president in order to shut down an investigation into Burisma and protect Hunter Biden. Trump also alleged that Hunter Biden received "$3.5 million from Moscow."

Fact check: It is true that Biden, when he was vice president, pushed hard for the Ukrainian government to fire Viktor Shokin, the prosecutor general at the time. However, Biden was acting in his official capacity as part of the Obama administration when pushing for Shokin's firing because the prosecutor did not make a concerted effort to fight corruption. The US's western allies and institutions, including the World Bank, supported the move. Also, by the time Biden started pushing for Shokin's dismissal, the probe into Burisma was dormant, according to Bloomberg.

Trump's claim that Hunter Biden received $3.5 million from Moscow refers to allegations from a Republican Senate report last week that said confidential documents showed an investment firm linked to Hunter Biden took in $3.5 million from Yelena Baturina, the widow of the late Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov. 

Biden's lawyer, George Mesires, told Politico in a statement that the Senate report held no merit because Hunter Biden  Biden did not have any "interest in" and was not the "co-founder" of the investment firm, Rosemont Seneca Thornton, "so the claim that he was paid $3.5 million is false."

Race and violence in American cities

What they said: Trump repeatedly accused the far-left group antifa of orchestrating violence connected to nationwide protests against police brutality. Biden replied that Trump's own FBI director, Chris Wray, said "antifa is an idea, not an organzation, not [a] militia."

"Well, then, you know what, he's wrong," Trump interjected.

Fact check: It's true that Wray has said antifa is an ideology and not an organization. "It's not a group or an organization. It's a movement or an ideology," he said. Wray added, however, that antifa activists and far-right extremists were a serious concern for the bureau and that the FBI has launched "any number of properly predicated investigations into what we would describe as violent anarchist extremists."

What they said: Trump claimed Portland Sheriff Mike Reese supports him.

Fact check: This is untrue, according to Reese, who tweeted, "In tonight's presidential debate the President said the 'Portland Sheriff' supports him.  As the Multnomah County Sheriff I have never supported Donald Trump and will never support him."

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