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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Groundhog Friday

In an effort to hold politicians accountable, repeatedly, for reiterating the same false claims, over and over again, we launch Groundhog Friday, an occasional wrap-up of recent repeats.

Follow the links to our articles for more information on our debunking of the claims.

Donald Trump on the trade deficit, May 5 rally in West Virginia: “Every single country in the world that does business with us beats us on trade. We’re losing over $500 billion a year, trade deficit with China.”

Groundhog2The U.S. doesn’t get beat by “every single country” on trade: The U.S. had positive trade balances in 2015 with Brazil, Netherlands, Belgium, Singapore, Australia and Argentina, among others. And Trump continues to be wrong about the trade deficit with China: It was $366 billion last year. Trump’s $500 billion figure is actually close to the net trade deficit with all countries, which was $532 billion in 2015.

Trump also made the claim about China in a May 18 interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, saying, “When China is ripping us to — you know, you look at trade deficits of $500 billion a year, who’s negotiating this deal?”

For more: “FactChecking the 11th GOP Debate,” March 4




Trump on tax returns, May 18 interview on Fox News’ “Hannity”: “So for [Hillary Clinton] to be talking about tax returns, where, by the way, you learn nothing.”

There’s plenty to learn from a candidate’s tax return, despite Trump’s repeated claim that there’s nothing to learn from his returns — which he says he won’t release until an audit is complete. Experts told us we can learn details about sources of income, effective tax rates, charitable giving habits, conflicts of interest and how a candidate handles his financial affairs.

For more: “Trump’s Tax Returns,” May 12



Trump on the war in Iraq, May 18 interview: “And, you know, we got into a war in Iraq that I was totally opposed to.”

There’s no record of Trump opposing the war in Iraq before it started on March 19, 2003. Our timeline of his public statements on the war in 2002 and 2003 includes one instance of mild support, in fact. Trump was asked by radio shock jock Howard Stern in September 2002 if he supported going to war with Iraq, and Trump responded, “Yeah, I guess so.”

Trump had a financial interest in opposing the war in the weeks leading up to it, but the first definitive instance we could find of Trump opposing it was on Sept. 11, 2003, about six months after the war started.

For more: “Donald Trump and the Iraq War,” Feb. 19



Hillary Clinton on the economy under Democrats, May 11 rally in New Jersey: “I think it’s accurate to say, although the Republicans hate it when I do, the economy does better when we have a Democrat in the White House.”

That’s misleading. A report by two Princeton economists, which looked at economic measures such as gross domestic product, unemployment and inflation over 64 years, found that the economy has performed “much better when a Democrat is president than when a Republican is.” However, they didn’t find that Democratic fiscal policies were behind the difference in economic outcomes. They say in their report, “[O]ur empirical analysis does not attribute any of the partisan growth gap to fiscal or monetary policy.” Instead, they found the difference was mainly due to shocks in oil prices, changes in productivity levels, growth in defense spending, foreign economic growth and differences in consumer expectations.

For more: “Clinton: Economy Better Under Democrats,” Oct. 20, 2015



Clinton on wages, May 16 rally in Kentucky (8:25 mark): “The average American hasn’t gotten a raise since my husband left office.”

The last time we fact-checked Clinton’s version of this claim — “Americans haven’t had a raise in 15 years” — figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed real average weekly earnings for production and nonsupervisory employees were 9.2 percent higher than they were 15 years earlier. Little has changed since then. If we measure from January 2001, the month Bill Clinton left office, the increase is 9.3 percent.

For more: “FactChecking the Sixth Democratic Debate,” Feb. 12



Clinton on the auto bailout, May 16 rally (9:25 mark): “I voted to save the auto industry. [Sen. Bernie Sanders] voted not to.”

That distorts the facts. Sanders voted for a Jan. 15, 2009, measure that would have blocked the Treasury Department from gaining access to the second half of a $700 billion Wall Street bailout package, which Sanders opposed. That sum included an additional $4 billion that President Bush had promised to automakers.

In the end, the Obama administration used nearly $80 billion for the auto industry, but it wasn’t clear that would happen at the time of the vote. Sanders had previously voted to advance a $15 billion auto bailout package that died in the Senate.

For more: “FactChecking the Seventh Democratic Debate,” March 7



Bernie Sanders on wealth, May 18 rally in San Jose: “The wealthiest 20 people own more wealth than the bottom half of America — 150 million people. … [T]he wealthiest family in America — the Walton family of Walmart — owns more wealth than the bottom 42 percent of the American people.”

That’s true, according to an analysis from a left-leaning think tank, but Sanders himself has more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of Americans. That’s because the analysis found the bottom 40 percent have a combined negative net worth, due a high negative net worth of only the bottom 12 percent, which skews the combined number.

That means any single individual with a positive net worth has more wealth than the bottom 40 percent combined.

For more: “Sanders’ Wealth Inequality Stat,” Jan. 8



Viral Spiral

We also see from time to time the return of old, bogus viral claims that are repackaged and recirculated on social media.

Obama’s “sealed” records: Trump has been criticized by some for saying he will not release his tax returns because they are being audited. In response, some of President Obama’s critics are recirculating the bogus claim that Obama’s records, such as his college transcripts, are “sealed.” But most of the 16 claims in the old image are either false or distorted.

For more: “Obama’s ‘Sealed’ Records,” July 31, 2012



— Lori Robertson, Eugene Kiely, Robert Farley and D’Angelo Gore