Debunking claims of the final presidential debate of 2020

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a New Hampshire Democratic Party fund-raiser Sunday night in Manchester, New Hampshire. April 30th, 2017. Photo by Gaelen Morse/BU News Service

By Saumya Rastogi
BU News Service

President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden locked horns at Belmont University, Tennessee, in the final presidential debate on Thursday. Moderated by NBC’s Kristen Welker, the debate rules were changed to avoid the interruptions that plagued the first debate. Still, personal attacks and cross-talk were present, one side more than the other. 

The debate covered several topics: the on-going pandemic, the Iranian threat, healthcare, and more. A lot of statements were made, which were misleading or inaccurate. Read on for BU News Service’s debunking of the claims made during the debate. 

On the coronavirus

“2.2 million people modeled out were expected to die.”


This is misleading. Trump is citing a model published on March 17 by Imperial College London, which predicted 2.2 million people in America could die from the virus. This was only if no mitigation forces were in place.

“We have a vaccine that’s coming; it’s ready. It’s going to be announced within weeks, and it is going to be delivered…And we expect to have 100 million vials as soon as we have the vaccine.”


This is misleading. This week, the FDA approved Remdesivir as the first treatment for COVID-19. A key element of preparing vaccines for the world is the containers that shots will be packaged in once approved. It’s not that easy. Glass vials vary in size; labeling is an important part of meeting local regulations in different countries. That means production for COVID-19 vaccine vials hasn’t started.

“The coronavirus spikes are in red states.”


This is false. COVID-19 cases are increasing in more than 40 US states, including both Republican and Democratic-controlled states. According to the New York Times, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Wisconsin have seen the most coronavirus cases in the last week. Republican governors run the Dakotas, but Montana and Wisconsin both have Democratic governors. However, these four states voted for President Trump in 2016.

On foreign policy

“Joe got $3.5 million from Russia. And it came through because he was very friendly with the former mayor of Moscow.”


This is false. A partisan investigation conducted by Senate Republicans’ report was released this month. It alleged that Elena Baturina, a Russian businesswoman and the wife of late Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov, sent $3.5 million in 2014 to a firm named Rosemont Seneca Thornton and that the payment was recognized as a “consultancy agreement.” 

The report did not present any further details about the transaction.

“He has caused the deficit of China to go up, not down.”


This is misleading. The trade deficit with China, the gap between what America exports to China and what it imports, has gone both up and down, depending on how you calculate it.

The trade deficit in China’s goods reduced between 2018 and 2019, as Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods cut trade between the world’s largest economies. China’s trade deficit is below last year’s levels, as the U.S. imports fewer goods amid the coronavirus.

The trade deficit in goods with China was $347 billion in 2016 compared to $345 billion in 2019. Deficits with other nations have grown as America has shifted to buying goods from other low-cost countries. The overall trade deficit is again trending up.

On healthcare

“He wants socialized medicine.” 


This is false. Despite Trump’s claims, Biden has stated multiple times that private health insurance will not be eliminated under his proposed health care plan.

“He tried to get rid of Social Security, years and years ago, go back and look at the records.”


This is misleading. This is not a complete picture of Biden’s record, which has changed over time

As vice president during the Obama administration, Biden focused on protecting Social Security and opposed privatizing Social Security.

“Nancy Pelosi does not want to approve it (relief bill).”


This is misleading. Democratic-controlled House passed a relief package in May that would have pumped $3 trillion more into Trump’s economy. When Republicans maintained that $3 trillion was too generous, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi went back, cut millions of dollars, and her caucus passed a $2.2 trillion compromise.

Republicans still said no. The White House negotiating position before Tuesday was that Trump wouldn’t accept anything more than $1.6 trillion, and it’s not clear whether Senate Republicans would be willing to pass any new stimulus at all. 

However, Trump promised on Twitter to pass “a major Stimulus Bill” after he wins.

On the minimum wage

“How are you helping small businesses when you’re forcing wages…What’s going to happen, and what’s been proven to happen, is when you do that these small businesses fire many of their employees?”


This is uncertain. The CBO predicted a median loss of 1.3 million jobs, although it also confirmed vagueness in that figure. “Findings in the research literature about how changes in the federal minimum wage affect employment vary widely,” the agency said.

Other studies show that raising the minimum wage would not have a negative impact on unemployment or the wider economy.

On immigration

“Children are brought here by coyotes and lots of bad people, cartels.”


This is misleading. Studies have shown a vast majority of detained children came with one or both of their parents. However, with tighter immigration policies, many would-be migrants feel they have no choice but to use coyotes to lead them across the border.

“Catch and release is a disaster; a murderer would come in, a rapist would come in.” “And then you say they come back, less than 1% of the people come back.”


This is false. Foreign nationals who are caught crossing the border and released waiting for immigration hearings are what he refers to as “catch and release.”

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are required under the Immigration Nationality Act, Section 236 (c), to hold certain criminals.

The Department of Justice reported that in the second quarter of this year, 53% of removal orders were issued when foreign nationals failed to appear in initial case completions.

On racial justice

“He never did a thing except in 1994. When he did such harm to the black community, he called them super predators.”


This is false. Trump has repeatedly said that Biden used the term “super predators” about criminals during the 1994 crime bill debate. Biden never used the word, however. Hillary Clinton used it, then the first lady.

“With an exception of Abraham Lincoln, nobody has done what I have done for criminal justice reform.” “Not since Abraham Lincoln has anybody done what I’ve done for the black community.”


Analysts have taken issue with this claim. They said other presidents in modern times had made greater progress with civil rights, notably Lyndon B Johnson, who saw the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Fair Housing Act in the 1960s.

On climate change

“We have had the best carbon emission numbers that we’ve had in 35 years under this administration.”


This is false. Trump has cut funding to EPA and gotten rid of more than 70 environmental regulations, weakening climate protections. “The U.S. saw the biggest spike in carbon emissions in 2018 since 2000, which was under Trump,” NBC reported.

“They want to spend $100 trillion. That is their real number: $100 trillion. They want to knock down buildings and build new buildings with tiny small windows and many other things.”


Biden has never offered a full endorsement of the progressive climate plan known as the Green New Deal. Still, his own climate plan does align with many of the Green New Deal’s goals.

The Green New Deal calls for billions in spending on social programs.

Analyst Brian Riedl of the conservative Manhattan Institute has tweeted that the Green New Deal’s cost could reach that high. The institute receives some funding from energy interests.

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