In this week’s presidential debate, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden went head to head in-person for the first time in this election cycle. By most accounts, the debate was a major breakdown in communication between the Republican and Democratic candidates for president. In particular, there were several moments that caught the attention of listeners as claims that seemed markedly untrue. We’re breaking down a few of those claims and taking a look at the accuracy of the statements.
Trump’s claims about health care, the Supreme Court, and Roe v. Wade
Claim: 100 million people in the United States do not have what would be qualified by insurance companies as pre-existing conditions.
- Context: Biden suggested that if the Affordable Care Act is overturned by a new conservative majority in the Supreme Court, 100 million people with pre-existing conditions would be subject to significantly increased premiums and deductibles. Trump suggested that this figure was significantly higher than the number of Americans who actually live with pre-existing conditions.
- Fact-check: According to the Department of Health and Human services, somewhere between 50 and 129 million non-elderly Americans live with pre-existing conditions. One of the main features of the Affordable Care Act is that it protects those Americans from being penalized financially for having previously lived with asthma, diabetes, or other common conditions. As Biden noted in last night’s debate, some insurance companies even qualify having previously been pregnant as a ‘pre-existing condition’ in order to raise prices.
Claim: U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett does not intend to overturn Roe v. Wade, and that there is no reason to think that this could happen in the near future.
- Context: When Biden challenged Trump to defend Barrett as his choice to fill the vacancy in the U.S. Supreme Court that resulted from the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, he specifically pointed to Barrett’s beliefs regarding abortion, suggesting that her place on the court could leave Americans vulnerable to Roe being overturned. In response, Trump noted that Barrett does not wish to overturn Roe, and that “nothing is at play” that could make that a possibility.
- Fact-check: Trump himself has recently noted that overturning Roe is very much a possibility if Barrett is confirmed. Currently, there are 17 cases that could make their way to the U.S. Supreme Court that could result in either further restrictions in abortion access across several states, or a full repeal of Roe v. Wade. In 2016, Trump also noted that he would only appoint justices to the court who would pledge to overturn Roe if given the opportunity.
Claim: Trump has shared a comprehensive health care plan that could replace the Affordable Care Act if it’s overturned or dismantled.
- Context: When discussing the possibility of Barrett’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court, Biden noted that a significant consequence could be the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Trump has continuously attacked the legitimacy of the Affordable Care Act throughout his presidency, and suggested that he has a much better plan that he has outlined to replace it.
- Fact-check: Though Trump has released several individual executive orders regarding health care and supported specific pieces of legislation curtailing the power of the Affordable Care Act, Trump has not yet released a single comprehensive health care plan.
Claim: There’s no indication that COVID-19 outbreaks can be tied back to in-person Trump rallies.
- Context: In discussions about Trump’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump’s support of in-person rallies in several states with sustained outbreaks of the virus was discussed by both candidates. While Biden attacked Trump’s decision to move forward with in-person rallies this year, Trump suggested that because the rallies were outside they follow CDC recommendations and guidelines. Trump also claimed that no outbreaks have been linked to his in-person rallies.
- Fact-check: Though some of Trump’s rallies have been held outdoors, which is certainly safer than indoor events, without a mask requirement or enforced social-distancing, the events still have the potential to be super-spreader events. In Tulsa, where Trump held an in-door rally, health experts suggest that Trump’s rally earlier this summer was likely the cause in a spike of confirmed COVID-19 cases following the event. After speaking at Trump’s rally in Tulsa, former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain contracted COVID, and later passed away due to complications from the virus.
Biden’s claims about wearing masks and Barrett’s view on the Affordable Care Act
Claim: The CDC says that if everyone wears masks between now and January, we could save up to 100,000 lives.
- Context: When discussing the best steps to protect Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic, Biden cited the CDC in saying that if everyone wears masks between now and January, we could save up to 100,000 lives. This point came in contrast to Trump’s lackluster enthusiasm for mask mandates and waffling on whether or not masks should be required in public during the debate.
- Fact-check: Researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation have said that if 95% of Americans wear masks, 100,000 lives could be saved by Jan. 1.
Claim: Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s recent nominee for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, wrote that she believes that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional prior to her appointment as a federal judge in 2017.
- Context: In conversations about the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court left by the passing of former Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Biden noted that Trump’s nominee Amy Coney Barrett wrote in an essay that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. This was one of the primary concerns that Biden shared about the possibility of Barrett being confirmed to the court.
- Fact-check: While Barrett has certainly shared critiques of the Affordable Care Act, none of her public comments have outrightly stated that the legislation is unconstitutional. She did, however, publish an essay in 2017 during her time as a professor at Notre Dame that stated that Chief Justice Roberts “pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute.” This essentially points to Barrett’s discontent with the current standing of the Affordable Care Act, and the possibility that she would likely not stand with Chief Justice Roberts if it was brought back to the Supreme Court.