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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Groundhog Friday

Here is our latest edition of Groundhog Friday, an occasional feature highlighting false or misleading claims that we have flagged in the past, but which keep cropping up. Follow the links to our original articles for more information on our debunking of the claims.

Groundhog2Donald Trump on Obama “apology tour,” June 13 speech in Manchester, New Hampshire: “We’ve tried it President Obama’s way, doesn’t work. He gave the world his apology tour. We got ISIS and many other problems in return. That’s what we got. Remember the famous apology tour? ‘We’re sorry for everything.'”

Accusing President Obama of having gone on an international “Apology Tour” was a frequent attack line from Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential campaign — indeed the title of Romney’s book “No Apology” is a play on that theme. But as we wrote then, a couple times, we read through all of the speeches in question and concluded that “we didn’t see that any of them rise to the level of an actual apology.”

In a speech in Cairo, in June 2009, for example, Obama spoke about tensions between the U.S. and the Muslim world, and placed blame on both sides. And then he called for a “new beginning.” That’s not the same as saying, “We’re sorry for everything.” Our fact-checking colleagues at PolitiFact and the Washington Post Fact Checker reached the same conclusion: Obama never apologized.

For more: “Romney’s Sorry ‘Apology’ Dig,” Aug. 31, 2012

Trump on people celebrating 9/11, June 13 tweet: “I thought people weren’t celebrating [9/11]? They were cheering all over, even this savage from Orlando. I was right.”

Trump claimed in November 2015 that he saw on TV “thousands and thousands” of people cheering on Sept. 11, 2001, in New Jersey, “where you have large Arab populations.” This is just as untrue today as it was when we first reported it. As we noted then, a number of news organizations looked into these claims shortly after the 9/11 attacks, and their investigations turned up “little or nothing.”

As for Trump’s reference to Omar Mateen, the gunman in the mass shooting in Orlando, it may be true that he made favorable comments about the 9/11 attacks, but, as the original Washington Post report on Mateen’s reaction to 9/11 notes, “The recollections of Mateen’s actions could not be independently verified, and the memories could be clouded by the years that have passed.” Even if Mateen did celebrate 9/11, Trump still has provided no evidence that “thousands and thousands of people were cheering” in New Jersey when the damaged World Trade Center collapsed.

For more: “Trump, Carson on 9/11 ‘Celebrations,’” Nov. 24, 2015



Trump on the trade deficit, June 15 rally in Atlanta, Georgia: “They don’t want to have trade deals where China has got a trade deficit—we do with China—of $505 billion a year. Where we have trade deficits, massive trade deficits, with Mexico, with Japan, with Vietnam, with India, with everybody, folks.”

Trump made a similar claim at a June 14 rally in Greensboro, North Carolina: “We have a trade deficit [with China], 505 billion dollars a year. Mexico, 58 billion dollars a year.”

Trump exaggerated the trade deficit with China, as he has multiple times before. It was $367 billion last year, far from the $505 billion figure Trump has claimed. The U.S. trade deficits with Mexico, Japan, Vietnam and India are much smaller, at $61 billion, $69 billion, $31 billion and $23 billion, respectively.

It’s also not true that the U.S. has “massive trade deficits” with “everybody.” The U.S. had positive trade deficits with a number of countries last year, including Brazil, the Netherlands, Belgium, Singapore, Australia and Argentina.

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



Trump on Clinton’s gun stance, June 13 speech in Manchester, New Hampshire: “Her plan is to disarm law abiding Americans, abolishing the Second Amendment, and leaving only the bad guys and terrorists with guns.”

June 14 rally in Greensboro, North Carolina: “Hillary Clinton effectively wants to abolish the Second Amendment. She wants to take your guns away.”

Trump distorts the facts. Clinton’s gun violence prevention proposal would, among other things, expand background checks and reinstate a federal ban on certain military-style, semi-automatic firearms. It does not call for taking away guns from current gun owners or repealing the Second Amendment. In upholding the gun rights in District of Columbia v. Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that “the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited,” and that “reasonable” restrictions can be imposed. That is essentially what Clinton on multiple occasions has said she would do. For example, Clinton in South Carolina said, “I know we are a smart enough nation to figure out how you protect responsible gun owners’ rights and get guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.”

For more: “Trump Distorts Clinton’s Gun Stance,” May 10



Bernie Sanders on wealth inequality, June 16 online video (5:45 mark): “[T]he 20 wealthiest people own more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans, half our population.”

That statistic is correct, according to an analysis by a left-leaning think tank, but it lacks context. The Institute for Policy Studies also found that the bottom 40 percent of Americans have a combined negative net worth, due to a high negative net worth of only the bottom 12 percent. This skews that total net worth of the 40 percent, and therefore, the bottom half of Americans, too. And it means that anyone with a positive net worth — including Sanders — has more wealth than the bottom 40 percent combined.

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



— Robert Farley, Lori Robertson, Caroline Wallace, Ilana Nathans and Zachary Gross