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President Trump town hall fact check: What’s true and what’s false?

PHILADELPHIA — ABC News is fact checking the claims made by President Donald Trump in a televised town hall airing on ABC Tuesday night.

President Donald Trump to face uncommitted voters in ABC News town hall event in Philadelphia

COVID-19

Trump overly optimistic on COVID-19 vaccine timing, exaggerates availability

TRUMP’S CLAIM: “We’re very close to having a vaccine. … We’re within weeks of getting it. You know, could be three weeks, four weeks but we think we have it.”

FACT CHECK: Trump’s timeline is overly optimistic and exaggerates how soon most Americans will be able to get vaccinated.

Several potential COVID-19 vaccines are currently going through phase III of trials, with pharmaceutical companies enrolling tens of thousands of participants to test the vaccines’ safety and efficacy before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will approve their general use.

Top U.S. government public health officials and other experts have said that it’s possible if everything goes well — but unlikely — that vaccine trials will have enough clear and compelling data will be available by the end of October or beginning of November. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s foremost infectious disease expert, has said he thinks there will be a “safe and effective vaccine” by “the end of this calendar year.”

But even once that data becomes available for one or more of the vaccines, it will still need to be reviewed by the FDA and an independent advisory committee.

At that point, if the FDA determines the data shows the vaccine is safe and effective, it’s possible the agency will grant approval for its use, either in a limited manner with an “emergency use authorization,” or for more broad use. At that point, the vaccine is expected to be first given to high-priority groups, like health care workers or those living in nursing homes. It will take months before the wider U.S. general population receives it, according to public health officials.

Trump is wrong to suggest there is no consensus on wearing masks

TRUMP’S CLAIM: “People don’t want to wear masks. There are a lot of people [who] think the masks are not good.”

FACT CHECK: This view does not reflect the scientific consensus.

The recommendation to wear a mask is now almost unanimous among health experts, including some of the president’s own appointees, who have all been very vocal in encouraging the American people to wear masks to curtail the spread of the disease.

Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have issued statements urging people to wear masks in public settings.

“There are people that don’t think masks are good,” Trump said, prompting Stephanopoulos to ask, “Who are those people?”

“Waiters,” Trump said. “They come over and they serve you, and they have a mask. They’re playing with the mask, so the mask is over and they’re touching it, and then they’re touching the plate. That can’t be good.”

But researchers from Stanford University found the opposite.

“Wearing a mask reminds people to continue to be cautious,” they said. “With a mask on, you actually touch your face less.”

In an interview last month on ABC News’ “World News Tonight,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said “a universal wearing of masks is one of five or six things that are very important in preventing the upsurge in infection.”

“We know that during the first wave of the pandemic, those countries that implemented masking early were more successful than others at reducing the spread of the virus,” the Stanford researchers wrote.

Duke University researchers have also concluded that “if 95 percent of people wear cloth masks when within 6 feet of other people in public, it will reduce COVID-19 transmission by at least 30 percent.”

Trump noted that health experts had originally recommended against wearing a mask — but his claim was misleading.

“If you look at Dr. Fauci’s original statement, you look at a lot of people — CDC — they said very strongly, George, [they said], ‘Don’t wear masks,'” Trump said. “Then all of a sudden, they went to ‘wear masks.'”

At the beginning of the pandemic, the CDC and the WHO, as well as Fauci and other top experts, initially discouraged wearing masks because of concerns that masks and other personal protective equipment were in short supply for health care workers who needed them.

While Fauci mainly cited the need to conserve masks, he did say in an interview with “60 Minutes” that wearing a mask may also have unintended consequences, such as leading people to touch their face more often to adjust them, spreading germs from their hands.

In early April, the CDC changed its recommendation about face coverings for the general public, based on evidence that a significant number of people who were asymptomatic or not yet feeling sick were transmitting the virus.

Trump claims he didn’t ‘downplay’ COVID-19 — despite admitting to having done just that

TRUMP’S CLAIM: “I didn’t downplay it. I, actually, in many ways, I up-played it, in terms of action. My action was very strong.”

FACT CHECK: During the town hall, Trump said he “didn’t downplay” the virus — when in fact, he has admitted to just that.

“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump said in a March 19 interview with veteran journalist Bob Woodward, according to CNN, which obtained an audio recording of the interview, and The Washington Post. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

When the audio was first played last week, a reporter asked if he had misled the public in order to reduce panic.

“I think if you said, ‘in order to reduce panic,’ perhaps that’s so,” Trump replied. “I’m a cheerleader for this country.’

After Trump said Tuesday night he “didn’t downplay it,” Stephanopoulos pressed him: “Did you not admit to it yourself saying that you–?”

“Yeah, because what I did was, with China, I put a ban on,” Trump said, referring to limitations he put on travel from China starting on Feb. 2. “With Europe, I put a ban on, and we would have lost thousands of more people had I not put the ban on,” he added; the ban on certain travel from Europe began March 13.

“So that was called ‘action,’ not with the mouth but in actual fact,” Trump said.

COVID-19 is unlikely to go away on its own, despite Trump’s insistence

TRUMP’S CLAIM: COVID-19 is “probably going to go away now a lot faster because of the vaccine. It would go away without the vaccine, George, but it’s going to go away a lot faster with the vaccine.”
George Stephanopoulos: “It will go away without the vaccine?”
Trump: “Sure, over a period of time. Sure, with time it goes away.”

FACT CHECK: This statement is misleading.
The virus is unlikely to go away definitively even with a vaccine. Similar to what has happened with past pandemic influenza viruses and the more mild human coronaviruses that cause “colds,” experts believe that as the pandemic wanes, it may synchronize to a seasonal pattern with diminished severity over time due to mutations and reinfection.

Even so, its trajectory is difficult to predict as the virus is still being studied.

HEALTH CARE AND THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

Trump is suing to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which guarantees coverage for preexisting conditions, and has not proposed an alternative

TRUMP’S CLAIM: “We’re going to be doing a health care plan, very strongly, and protect people with preexisting conditions.” // “We have other alternatives to Obamacare that are 50% less expensive and that are actually better.”

FACT CHECK: While President Trump and Republicans have repeatedly insisted on protecting preexisting conditions, the Trump administration is currently in court seeking to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which guarantees coverage for Americans with preexisting medical conditions.

Republicans, urged on by Trump, sought to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017, falling several votes short in the Senate. They sought to replace the program with an alternative that experts said offered skimpier preexisting condition protections than Obamacare.

Republicans, urged on by Trump, sought to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017, falling several votes short in the Senate. They sought to replace the program with an alternative that included multiple options, which experts said offered skimpier preexisting condition protections than Obamacare.

These short-term and association health plans, alternatives promoted by the Trump administration, while cheaper, have fewer benefits for consumers, including weaker preexisting condition protections.

Trump has also repeatedly promised his own health care proposal that has failed to materialize; in June of 2019, he told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos it would be unveiled within two months, and said as recently as last month that it would be released in “two weeks.”

Trump again claimed the health care plan was forthcoming – but offered no specific details or timeline.

“I have it already, and it’s a much better plan for you,” he said on Tuesday.

Trump claims to run Obamacare well — but cut funding, added limits

TRUMP’S CLAIM: “We have run it so much better than Obama ran it.”

FACT CHECK: This claim grossly misrepresents how the Trump administration has administered the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, which the administration is currently in court seeking to dismantle.

Trump has cut funding for Obamacare advertising and navigators that help people obtain health care coverage, and limited enrollment periods for Americans.

The administration in March decided against opening up a window for people to sign up for health care at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

POLICE VIOLENCE AND RACIAL INEQUALITY

Trump doesn’t tell full story of crime by focusing on cities’ Democratic leadership

TRUMP’S CLAIM: “This is a Democrat problem, George. … This is largely a Democrat problem if you just take a look at the list. Every Democrat city — almost, not all, but a lot of them, certainly in the top 25, even if you go the top 50 — almost every city is run by the Democrats. People don’t respect our police.”

FACT CHECK: Trump repeatedly argued that cities experiencing surges in violent crime are all run by Democratic leaders and that crime is “largely a Democrat problem.”

The 20 cities with the highest rates of violent crime per capita are currently led by Democratic mayors, with the exception of Jacksonville, Florida, which is run by a Republican, and two other cities that are run by independents, according to a review of the FBI’s uniform crime report from the first six months of 2019, the most recent national data set focusing on violent crime reports.

It is misleading to state, however, as Trump did in the town hall, that rising crime is primarily driven by the Democratic leadership in their respective states.

Cities with higher population and urban areas are certainly represented predominantly by Democrats, but the rise in violent crime across the nation has not been restricted to those that are run by Democrats. The insinuation of a Democratic leader as the cause of the rising crime is not an accurate claim. High population areas and urban areas, run by leaders on both ends of the political spectrum, have historically had higher reported instances of violent crime.

For instance, the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks mass shootings nationwide, last month reported that the country was on pace for nearly 600 mass shootings, which would be the highest total tallied by the group in its history. That predicted total was not a summation of only Democratic-run cities but as a result of the rising crime rate nationwide, including cities and towns led by Republican officials.

Black-white income gap persisted before pandemic, and Trump does not have ‘tremendous African American support’

TRUMP’S CLAIM: Trump claimed that he had “tremendous African American support” and that, “had we not been hit by this horrible disease … we would be in a position where I think income inequality would be different. It was really getting there. We were really driving it down — I can only compare it to the past. The African American, the Black community, was doing better than it had ever done by far, both in terms of unemployment, homeownership, so many different statistics.”

FACT CHECK: The income gap between Black and white Americans has persisted since 1970, despite Trump’s comment that it had improved before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Median Black household income was 61% of median white household income in 2018, according to the Pew Research Center.

The homeownership gap between Black and white individuals was also at the widest level in 50 years in 2017, according to a 2019 report from the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan think tank.

The president, in his pitch to the Black community, also said, “We have tremendous African American support. You’ve probably seen it in the polls, we’re doing extremely well with African Americans.”

But his claim runs counter to recent polling, in which he garners between 5% to 11% support among Black likely voters, according to polls from Fox News and Quinnipiac University.

The most recent polling is similar to where Trump stood in 2016, when 8% of African American voters supported him, according to exit polls. Trump saw slightly higher support in 2016 among this demographic compared to Mitt Romney when he ran on the Republican ticket for president in 2012, and received 6% of the Black vote.

This article will be updated as the town hall continues

Copyright © 2020 ABC News Internet Ventures.

Source: ABC7 Chicago

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