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Fact-Checking Biden’s and Trump’s Claims on Domestic Policy

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President Biden and former President Donald J. Trump will face off Thursday night for the first time in four years, giving each ample opportunity to fling accusations about the other’s positions. Some will hew close to the facts, but there will most likely be ample exaggeration or statements lacking adequate nuance.

The two candidates have not been shy in their critiques and attacks on each other on the campaign trail.

The presumptive nominees have sparred over immigration policy and the state of the economy. Mr. Trump has portrayed the country, hyperbolically, under Mr. Biden as lawless. Mr. Biden has sometimes omitted context while describing Mr. Trump’s views on abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act.

Here’s a fact check of some of their recent claims on domestic issues.

What Was Said

“It’s hard to believe they have some states passing legislation where you can execute the baby after birth.”
— Mr. Trump in an interview on Fox News in June

False. No state has passed a law allowing the execution of a baby after it is born, which is infanticide.

Since the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion, about 20 states have enacted protections enshrining the right in state constitutions and shielding those seeking or providing abortions in the state from restrictions in other states. None of these new laws allow for “executing” the baby after birth.

Karoline Leavitt, a spokeswoman for the Trump campaign, cited broad support among the Democratic Party, including from Mr. Biden, for a bill that guaranteed abortion rights nationwide. Opponents said the bill would allow unfettered access to abortions, including ones that occurred later in pregnancy. The bill does not decriminalize infanticide.

Abortions later in pregnancy in general are very rare: In 2021, less than 1 percent of abortions happened after 21 weeks’ gestation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In even more exceedingly rare cases where the fetus has abnormalities and a low likelihood of survival and labor is induced, the family may ask doctors to provide comfort care, rather than resuscitation, according to guidance from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

What Was Said

“The level of crime in the cities, in these big cities, is out of control. Nobody has ever seen anything like it.”
— Mr. Trump on the “All-In” podcast in June

False. Violent crime and property crime are near the lowest level in decades, despite public perception to the contrary. And while there was an increase in crime during the pandemic, including the first two years of Mr. Biden’s presidency, violent crime was higher in 2020 under Mr. Trump than under Mr. Biden so far.

The violent crime rate was 380.7 per 100,000 people in 2022, according to police agencies’ data gathered by the F.B.I. That was a lower rate than in all but three years — 2013, 2014 and 2015 — since 1985. Preliminary analysis from the F.B.I. suggested that violent crime decreased 15.2 percent in the first quarter of 2024 from the same period in 2023, with an even greater drop of 18 percent in cities with more than one million people.

The property crime rate was 1,954.4 per 100,000 people in 2022. That was 6.6 percent higher than the rate in 2021 and the first time in more than 20 years that the property crime rate had increased — but it was still the second-lowest rate since 1985. Property crime decreased 15.1 percent in the first quarter of 2024 from the same period in 2023, according to the F.B.I.’s preliminary analysis.

The Council on Criminal Justice, a think tank in Washington, has analyzed raw weekly crime reports from 38 cities to try to develop more updated statistics than in the official F.B.I. reports. It found that homicides, assaults and carjackings fell, but shoplifting and motor vehicle theft increased in 2023.

Ms. Leavitt pointed to the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey, which showed an increase in violent and property crime from 2021 to 2022. But the crime rates in 2022 still remain below crime rates from the 1990s and 2000s.

What Was Said

“Listen to what he said in Time magazine article. He said states — quote — ‘States should monitor women’s pregnancies and prosecute those who violate the abortion bans.’ Monitor women’s pregnancies? Prosecute them?”
— Mr. Biden at a May fund-raiser in Atlanta

“He said there has to be ‘punishment’ for women exercising their reproductive freedom.”
— Mr. Biden at an April rally in Florida

This is exaggerated. Mr. Biden is overstating Mr. Trump’s remarks in the first instance and omitting that he retracted his statement in the second.

In April interviews with Time magazine, Mr. Trump repeatedly said abortion restrictions should be left to the states. He did not endorse or oppose possible efforts by states to prosecute violations of abortion bans. Asked whether states should monitor women’s pregnancies and prosecute violators, Mr. Trump didn’t say that they should. He said that “they might do that” and that “the states are going to say.” His views are “totally irrelevant,” he added, because the states make those decisions.

The Biden campaign argued that Mr. Trump’s statements amounted to approval.

Mr. Biden also evoked comments Mr. Trump made in a March 2016 town hall on MSNBC when a host repeatedly pressed him on his views about punishments for women who get abortions in states where the procedure is banned.

“The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment,” Mr. Trump eventually replied.

The host, Chris Matthews, asked, “For the woman?”

“Yeah, there has to be some form,” Mr. Trump responded.

Hours later, Mr. Trump walked back his remarks in a statement. If abortion were illegal in a state or nationally, he said, then “the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman. The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb.”

The next day, Mr. Trump suggested that he misspoke and said he was talking about the Catholic Church’s views.

In the years since those comments, Mr. Trump has not again endorsed punishments for women. Asked by Time magazine this April whether he was comfortable with states punishing women who access abortions after a ban, Mr. Trump said that “the states are going to have to be comfortable or uncomfortable, not me.”

James Singer, a spokesman for Mr. Biden’s campaign, pointed to Mr. Trump’s praise for the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn a federal right to abortion and that “the abortion bans he unleashed are punishing women nationwide.”

Ms. Leavitt from the Trump campaign called Mr. Biden’s claims a “desperate attempt to scare voters” and reiterated that Mr. Trump believes that states, and voters in those states, should decide abortion laws.

What Was Said

“He still wants to get rid of the Affordable Care Act.”
— Mr. Biden at a June fund-raiser in Connecticut

This needs context. Mr. Trump campaigned in 2016 on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, but failed to do so. Though Mr. Trump continues to criticize the health care law as an expensive “disaster,” he has recently suggested he might improve it rather than repeal the law altogether.

The Biden campaign pointed to earlier statements from Mr. Trump. In November, he said that he wants to “replace” the Affordable Care Act and that the Republican Party “should never give up” in their efforts to seek an alternative.

But at a rally in January in Iowa, Mr. Trump promised “much better health care at a lower price for you, and that will be either working on Obamacare or doing something new.”

In March, he renewed the vow, saying on social media, “I’m not running to terminate the ACA.” He added that he was running to make the health care law “much, much, much better for far less money.”

Mr. Trump has not released any details on what this would entail. His current proposals for health care are vague, and he has repeatedly broken promises to reveal a plan.

On his campaign website, he pledged to “stop all Covid mandates and restore medical freedom, end surprise medical billing, increase fairness through price transparency, and further reduce the cost of prescription drugs and health insurance premiums.” He also promised to protect “patients with pre-existing conditions.”

What Was Said

“Low INSULIN PRICING was gotten for millions of Americans by me, and the Trump Administration, not by Crooked Joe Biden. He had NOTHING to do with it.”
— Mr. Trump in a June social media post

This is exaggerated. The Trump administration started a Medicare pilot program in 2020 under which insurers could offer plans that capped the price of insulin at $35 a month. In 2022, Mr. Biden signed into law a provision that required the cost limit and expanded it to far more Medicare plans.

The Trump administration’s program was voluntary and applied only to Medicare prescription drug coverage plans, known as Part D. KFF, a health care nonprofit formerly known as the Kaiser Family Foundation, estimated that about a third of plans chose to participate in 2022, covering about 800,000 enrollees.

The Inflation Reduction Act, the climate change, health and tax law Mr. Biden signed in 2022, expanded the $35 cap to all Medicare Part D plans, covering about 3.3 million enrollees, and also added a $35 cap to co-pays under Medicare Part B, which provides medical coverage. The Department of Health and Human Services estimated that about 1.5 million enrollees stood to benefit from the law.

What Was Said

“We finally got to the point where, for example, those of you who know someone who has diabetes and needs — and need the insulin, it used to cost an average 400 bucks a month. It now costs $35 a month.”
— Mr. Biden at a June campaign event

This is exaggerated. The Health Care Cost Institute, a research nonprofit, estimated that per person spending on insulin doubled from 2012 to 2016, to $5,705 a year, or about $475 a month. But that is an estimate for all people with Type 1 diabetes, not just Medicare beneficiaries, and it does not include drug rebates or coupons.

Patients’ out-of-pocket spending on insulin was $434 on average for all of 2019 — not per month — and $449 per year for Medicare enrollees, according to the Health and Human Services Department.

The agency estimated that on average, beneficiaries could save about $500 annually under the Inflation Reduction Act’s expanded price cap — a substantial reduction, but not the thousands of dollars Mr. Biden suggested.

What Was Said

“They kill the birds. They kill the whales. But on the ocean floor, surveys for their construction are causing tremendous problems with the fish and the whales and everything else.”
— Mr. Trump at a May rally in New Jersey

This lacks evidence. Mr. Trump has long been an ardent critic of wind turbines and insisted, hyperbolically, for more than a decade that they are a top driver of avian deaths. Now, he has claimed with no evidence the turbines are killing whales, too.

By one estimate, as many as 328,000 birds die each year flying into wind farms, but other things — inanimate and living — pose a far greater threat. Cats kill as many as four billion birds annually in the United States, fossil fuel power plants 14.5 million and collisions with buildings as many as 988 million.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and marine biologists have said they are unaware of any whale deaths caused by offshore wind turbines, surveys or construction.

“There are no known links between large whale deaths and ongoing offshore wind activities,” the agency said in a recent F.A.Q.

Patrick Halpin, a professor of marine geospatial ecology at Duke University, reiterated that point. “There has been no evidence presented to date that indicates that offshore wind development on the U.S. Atlantic shelf is directly or indirectly contributing to increased whale mortalities,” he said.

An unusually large number of Atlantic humpback whales — more than 220 — have died between Maine and Florida since 2016.

Ms. Leavitt, from the Trump campaign, noted that the first offshore wind farm in Rhode Island became operational in 2016.

But that is correlation and does not prove causation. Recent research suggests that vessel strikes and ship movements in areas where whales forage — not offshore wind farms — are the main driver.

There are three operational offshore wind farms on the east coast, in Rhode Island, Virginia and New York. Permits have been approved for seven other projects, and construction largely began in 2023 or later. Whales have died in both states with wind farms undergoing construction as well as in states that do not have any projects under construction, such as New Jersey, North Carolina and Maine.

Mr. Trump’s claims that surveys assessing offshore feasibility are causing deaths is also unsupported.

The sonar used to map the ocean floor and sound emitting from turbines are not strong enough to damage whales, said Robert Kenney, a marine research scientist emeritus at the University of Rhode Island who has researched endangered whales for decades. Although construction noises can disturb whales, energy companies are required to mitigate the impact and mute the noise. Dr. Kenney has also noted that noises from oil exploration can be much louder than wind farm surveys.

What Was Said

“They say that the seas will rise over the next 400 years, one-eighth of an inch, which means basically you have a little more beachfront property, OK?”
— Mr. Trump in a June interview on Fox News

False. Mr. Trump is vastly understating the impact of climate change. Sea levels have risen eight to nine inches since 1880 and by an eighth of an inch per year over the last three decades.

How exactly rising sea levels will impact coastlines and islands is difficult to predict. Still, scientists estimate that under a worst-case scenario, sea levels could rise by as much as 10 meters, or nearly 33 feet, by 2300 — more than 3,100 times what Mr. Trump said.

Angelo Fichera contributed reporting.

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