President Joe Biden made numerous false or misleading statements during his address to Congress on Wednesday night, a speech that critics panned as extreme and divisive.
Here are five of the most obvious false or misleading claims that Biden made (this list is not exhaustive):
1. Lies about travel with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
What Biden said: “I spent a lot of time with President Xi, traveling over 17,000 miles.”
Biden has repeatedly made this claim and The Washington Post debunked it, awarding it three Pinocchios. The Post said it “could not get the travel to add up to anything close to 17,000 miles.”
2. Makes false and misleading claims about guns.
What Biden said: “In the ’90s we passed universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that hold 100 rounds that can be fired off in seconds. We beat the N.R.A. Mass shootings and gun violence declined, check out the report, over 10 years. … We need a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. And don’t tell me it can’t be done. We did it before and it worked.”
Left-wing ProPublica reported:
A definitive study of the 1994 law – which prohibited the manufacture and sale of semiautomatic guns with “military-style features” such pistol grips or bayonet mounts as well as magazines holding more than ten rounds of ammunition – found no evidence that it had reduced overall gun crime or made shootings less lethal. “We cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence,” the Department of Justice-funded study concluded in 2004. “Should it be renewed, the ban’s effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement.”
What Biden said: “We need a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. … Talk to most responsible hunters and gun owners. They’ll tell you there’s no possible justification for having 100 rounds in a weapon. … These kinds of reasonable reforms have overwhelming support from the American people, including many gun owners.”
The Washington Post fact-checked a similar claim that Biden made 10 days ago when Biden said at a press conference: “The folks who own weapons, the folks who own guns, they support universal background checks. The majority of them think we should not be selling assault weapons.”
The Post reported:
Numerous surveys show that a vast majority of Americans, including gun owners, support enhanced background checks. But Biden went too far in claiming that a majority of gun owners also support a ban on assault weapons. The White House could not point to a poll that supported the claim, while a recent Post poll found that a narrow majority opposed it. The president earns Two Pinocchios.
What Biden said: “From the very beginning, there were certain guns, weapons that could not be owned by Americans. Certain people could not own those weapons, ever. We’re not changing the Constitution. We’re being reasonable.”
National Review senior writer David Harsanyi, who is a Second Amendment expert, disputed a nearly identical comment that Biden made 10 days ago.
I can’t even begin to imagine what rickety basis there is for making such a claim. I mean, I wrote a book on the history of American guns, and never once did I run across any law that restricted Americans from owning any weapons they desired (unless we’re talking about blacks or Indians; because most gun restrictions in U.S. history have been employed to unarm the people who need weapons most). The idea of the federal government conducting any kind domestic “gun policy” whatsoever would have been a completely alien concept to anyone before the 1930s. Even then, no specific types of guns were banned from use. It wasn’t really until 1986 that that fully automatic guns were effectively banned by the federal government.
3. Biden tries to claim too much credit for the vaccinations that are happening.
What Biden said: “When I was sworn in, less than 1% of seniors were fully vaccinated against COVID-19. One hundred days later, nearly 70% of seniors are fully protected.”
The Washington Post said that Biden’s claim is a “misleading statistic,” adding:
When Biden took office, vaccinations had been given for only about a month. Moreover, health-care workers, residents of long-term care facilities, front-line essential workers and people over the age of 75 were in line to be the first to be vaccinated, which is why a relatively small percentage of people over 65 had been fully vaccinated.
4. Biden makes misleading claims about illegal aliens.
What Biden said: “Over 11 million undocumented folks, the vast majority of here overstaying visas.”
The Washington Post noted that while visa overstays have outpaced migrants that have illegally entered the U.S. at the border in recent years, he “was wrong to say the ‘vast majority’ overstayed their visas.”
The Post reported:
The issue here is that Biden was speaking about the entire undocumented population accumulated over time. He didn’t limit his comments to the migration dynamics seen in recent years. When looking comprehensively across decades, border-crossings are still the top driver of undocumented migration. In fact, the recent surge at the border in 2019 and in Biden’s early months may have substantially changed the percentages.
5. Economist pushes back on claim Biden makes about billionaires becoming wealthier during the pandemic.
What Biden said: “Twenty million Americans lost their job in the pandemic, working- and middle-class Americans. At the same time, roughly 650 billionaires in America saw their net worth increase by more than $1 trillion, in the same exact period. Let me say it again. Six hundred fifty people increased their wealth by more than $1 trillion during this pandemic and they’re now worth more than $4 trillion.”
Brian Riedl, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, responded: “President Biden seems to be using the debunked statistic about soaring billionaire wealth during the pandemic that uses the starting point of the S&P 500 trough rather than the actual beginning of the pandemic.”
Background: Billionaire wealth is up, but the amounts are exaggerated using a manipulated starting date.https://t.co/5pQ8zflUo9
— Brian Riedl 🧀 (@Brian_Riedl) April 29, 2021
In a piece that he wrote at National Review last July, Riedl explained:
The source of this claim is a “study” from the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a liberal think tank, titled “US Billionaire Wealth Surges to $584 Billion, or 20 Percent, Since the Beginning of the Pandemic.” Every few weeks, the organization updates the data and receives another round of media headlines announcing that the pandemic has coincided with a massive surge in billionaire wealth. …
Yet the claim that billionaire wealth has surged “since the beginning of the pandemic” is flatly untrue. The Institute for Policy Studies estimates billionaire wealth using constantly updated estimates from Forbes’s “Real Time Billionaires List,” which relies mostly on the growth of the S&P 500 and individual stocks held by the CEOs of top companies. The problem is that IPS seems to have deliberately narrowed the pandemic timeframe to support a dishonest claim.
The S&P 500 began the year at 3,230, before peaking at 3,380 on Thursday, February 20. The following Monday, pandemic fears slammed the stock market (CNBC: “Dow plunges 1,000 points on coronavirus fears”), and the S&P continued falling to 2,436 by the close of March 17. A few days later, it began rebounding to 3,113 through June 17, after which it dipped back to 3,009 through June 26.
A fair analysis of the stock market and the pandemic would roughly cover the time from February 20 to the present. Instead, IPS completely ignored the pandemic-driven 944-point drop between February 20 and March 17 and counted only the 677-point rebound that occurred between March 18 and June 17. There is no intellectual justification for manipulating the timeframe in this way. …
The authors manipulated the timing window to build the dishonest narrative that the pandemic has made America’s billionaires $584 billion wealthier. It is the equivalent of saying the Cleveland Browns went 6–0 last season if you don’t count the ten losses.
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