As part of its “fact check” of the first presidential debate, CNN claimed President Donald Trump’s accusation that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden called his China travel ban “xenophobic” at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic was “lacking context.”
“Defending his response to the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump referenced the travel restrictions his administration imposed on foreign nationals who had been in China, then attacked Biden for remarks he had made the same day,” CNN wrote. “Addressing his opponent, Trump said, ‘I closed it, and you said, ‘He’s xenophobic. He’s a racist and he’s xenophobic,’ because you didn’t think I should have closed our country.’”
To explain how Trump’s claim lacked context, CNN reported:
It’s not clear Biden even knew about Trump’s China travel restrictions when he called Trump xenophobic on the day the restrictions were unveiled; Biden has never explicitly linked his accusation of xenophobia to these travel restrictions.
The campaign says Biden’s January 31 accusations – that Trump has a record of “hysterical xenophobia” and “fear mongering” – were not about the travel restrictions at all. The campaign says Biden did not know about the restrictions at the time of his speech, since his campaign event in Iowa started shortly after the Trump administration briefing where the restrictions were revealed by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
Given the timing of the Biden remarks, it’s not unreasonable for Trump to infer that the former vice president was talking about the travel restrictions. But Biden never took an explicit position on the restrictions until his April declaration of support.
CNN uses a narrow timeline “on the day the restrictions were unveiled” to shield Biden. Perhaps Biden’s allegations of “xenophobia” weren’t aimed at the travel restrictions on that day, but CNN’s later claim that “Biden never took an explicit position on the restrictions until his April declaration of support” is wrong.
On March 18 — a month before Biden’s “April declaration of support,” Biden did exactly what Trump accused him of — calling him “xenophobic” for the travel restrictions. On that day, Trump tweeted: “I always treated the Chinese Virus very seriously, and have done a very good job from the beginning, including my very early decision to close the “borders” from China – against the wishes of almost all. Many lives were saved. The Fake News new narrative is disgraceful & false!”
In a tweet quoting Trump’s, Biden’s official Twitter account said: “Stop the xenophobic fear-mongering. Be honest. Take responsibility. Do your job.”
Stop the xenophobic fear-mongering. Be honest. Take responsibility. Do your job. https://t.co/nQ5aLVrpyb
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) March 18, 2020
There is no mention of this tweet on CNN’s fact check or the link provided to a previous “fact check” of the claim. The tweet from Biden is still up for anyone to find.
Trump didn’t narrow his comments about Biden’s allegations to January 31, but CNN did, avoiding the fact that Biden directly responded to a Trump tweet about the restrictions by saying the president was “xenophobic.”