Fact-checking the first Biden-Trump debate ahead of 2024 U.S. presidential election

Fact-checking the first Biden-Trump debate ahead of 2024 U.S. presidential election

By: nikolaj kristensen&
emilia stankeviciute&
June 28 2024

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Fact-checking the first Biden-Trump debate ahead of 2024 U.S. presidential election

(Source: Emily Elconin/Reuters)

On June 27, 2024, former U.S. President Donald Trump and incumbent President Joe Biden faced off against one another on CNN in the first presidential debate prior to the election in November. 

Moderated by CNN's Dana Bash and Jake Tapper, the debate, sometimes hostile and personal, covered subjects including the economy, jobs, inflation, healthcare, and immigration, among others. 

Logically Facts has unpacked some of the falsehoods and misleading claims stated by the presidential candidates during the debate. 

Job creation

President Biden highlighted his administration's success in job creation, noting the addition of 15,000 new jobs and nearly 800,000 new manufacturing jobs during his time in office. According to data from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), approximately 789,000 manufacturing jobs have been added in his four-year tenure. This is a noteworthy achievement, especially given the long-term decline in manufacturing employment since the late 1970s.

Historically, the manufacturing sector has faced challenges due to automation and offshoring. The Biden administration's policies, including incentives for domestic production and substantial investments in infrastructure, have helped reverse this trend and spurred job growth in this sector.

"Manufacturing is vital to our economy, and we've made it a priority to bring jobs back to American soil," Biden stated in a September 9, 2022 speech. "Through initiatives like the CHIPS and Science Act, we've secured significant investments that are creating thousands of high-paying jobs."

The CHIPS and Science Act, signed by President Biden in 2022, aims to boost U.S. semiconductor manufacturing and innovation. The Act allocates $52.7 billion for research, development, and workforce training, with $39 billion specifically for manufacturing incentives. This funding supports the expansion and modernization of semiconductor facilities to reduce dependence on foreign suppliers and enhance national security. The Act also promotes the creation of high-paying jobs and partnerships with educational institutions to develop skilled workers in the semiconductor industry.

Broadly, job creation under Biden has been substantial. Since January 2021, the U.S. economy has added about 14.2 million jobs. This figure includes both the recovery of jobs lost during the COVID-19 pandemic and new job creation beyond pre-pandemic levels. The administration's economic policies have facilitated this job growth, focusing on recovery and boosting employment.

Jobs and immigration

Former President Trump claimed that the jobs created by the Biden administration were primarily for illegal immigrants and merely a bounce back from the pandemic. However, this assertion is misleading. While a significant portion of job gains can indeed be attributed to recovery from the pandemic-induced recession, there has also been notable net job creation beyond recovering lost jobs. This broader context of economic recovery and growth under Biden's tenure is essential to consider.

Moreover, there is no substantial evidence to support the claim that the majority of jobs created under Biden were for illegal immigrants. While the immigration system has faced challenges, attributing job creation primarily to illegal immigrants is speculative and unsupported by concrete data.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that from February 2021 to February 2024, native-born employment rose by almost 5.7 million workers, which was a larger increase than the 5.1 million for foreign-born workers. This indicates that a substantial portion of job growth also benefited native-born Americans.

The employment levels for native-born workers increased from approximately 124.6 million in January 2021 to 130.4 million in May 2024.

Abortion regulations

Biden addressed the evolving landscape of abortion laws in the United States, referencing the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade.

He summarized its framework for abortion access across the three trimesters: "I supported Roe v. Wade, which had three trimesters: the first time is between the woman and the doctor, the second time is between the doctor and an extreme situation, the third time is between the woman and the state."

While Biden's summary captures the essence of Roe v. Wade, it simplifies and slightly misrepresents the case details. The Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade established a woman's right to choose an abortion based on the right to privacy protected by the 14th Amendment. The Court devised a trimester framework to balance this right against the state's interests.

During the first trimester, the decision to terminate a pregnancy is strictly between the woman and her physician, with no state interference. This aspect of Biden's statement is accurate, reflecting the Court's view that the state's interest in regulating abortions is not compelling during this period.

In the second trimester, the state may regulate abortion procedures to protect maternal health but cannot prohibit abortions outright. Biden's mention of an "extreme situation" is misleading, as the regulations broadly pertain to maternal health rather than specific situations.

In the third trimester, once the fetus reaches viability, the state's interest in protecting potential human life becomes compelling. States can regulate or prohibit abortions, except when necessary to protect the woman's life or health. Biden's statement that it's between "the woman and the state" oversimplifies the ruling, which mandates health exceptions even in the later stages of pregnancy. The Roe framework allows increasing state regulation as pregnancy progresses but always with protections for the woman's health and life, particularly in the third trimester.

The debate over abortion has intensified in recent years, especially with the Supreme Court's decision in 2022 to overturn Roe v. Wade in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. This decision has led to a patchwork of state laws, with some states enacting strict abortion bans and others reinforcing protections for abortion rights. The ruling, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, is beyond President Biden's authority due to the separation of judicial and executive branches of government.

Late-term abortion

Trump refuted Biden's claim, stating that Democrats support abortion measures that result in "taking the life of a child in the eighth month, the ninth month, and even after birth."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the vast majority of abortions in the United States occur early in pregnancy. In 2021, 93.5 percent of abortions were performed at or before 13 weeks of gestation. Abortions performed at or after 21 weeks, considered late-term, account for less than 1 percent of all procedures.

The rare instances of late-term abortions typically involve severe fetal anomalies or serious health risks to the mother. These situations involve complex medical and ethical considerations, often when the fetus has no chance of survival or the mother's life is in danger.

Roe v. Wade allowed states to regulate or prohibit abortions after fetal viability, typically around 24 weeks, except when necessary to protect the life or health of the mother. This legal framework does not support the notion of elective abortions being performed in the eighth or ninth month of pregnancy.

The idea that infants are killed after birth, as suggested by Trump, equates to infanticide, which is illegal in all states. No legislation supports or permits the killing of infants after birth. Such claims are inflammatory and misleading.

Inflation

Trump also claimed that Biden inherited almost no inflation from the Trump presidency and that Biden subsequently caused inflation to rise.

Inflation has been a significant issue during President Biden's tenure, reaching multi-decade highs. In 2022, inflation soared to 8.5 percent, marking its highest rate since 1982. This surge was influenced by various factors, including the economic dislocation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain disruptions, and substantial fiscal and monetary stimulus measures implemented to sustain household incomes and the liquidity of financial institutions​. However, recent data shows that inflation rates have been declining and are now closer to pre-pandemic levels, around 3 percent.

Immigration and social security

Discussing social security and immigration, Trump claimed that Biden was destroying social security as he was including "millions of people pouring into the country" in the program. 

However, undocumented immigrants are not legally permitted to receive social security benefits. Though some undocumented immigrants might use other's social security numbers or fake ones to receive benefits, a 2013 report done by the Social Security Administration found that "earnings by unauthorized immigrants result in a net positive effect on Social Security financial status generally."

Trump also claimed that Biden had "allowed" 18 million people, presumed to be undocumented immigrants given he was discussing the border, into the U.S. during Biden's presidency. However, an April 2024 report from the Department of Homeland Security estimated the unauthorized immigrant population of the U.S. to be around 11 million in 2022, similar to previous years. In 2023, there were around two million illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border, down from 2.2 million in 2022—the highest one-year total of Biden's presidency. 

Charlottesville

In reference to a 2017 Charlottesville white nationalist rally that saw one person killed after a car ran into a group of counter-protesters, Biden claimed Trump had referred to the "Nazis coming out of fields, carrying torches, singing antisemitic bile, carrying swastikas" as "fine people." Trump countered by saying the story had been debunked everywhere. 

A few days after the rally in Charlottesville incident in 2017, Trump did say of attendees that there were "people that were very fine people, on both sides." However, he also said of the white nationalist rally that "you had some very bad people in that group," and that the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists "should be condemned totally," clarifying that there had been "many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists."

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