In our final fact-checking video of the year with CNN’s “State of the Union,” Jake Tapper looks back at the “biggest whoppers” of 2019.
Our article, “The Whoppers of 2019,” was dominated by President Donald Trump, but also included falsehoods from Democratic president candidates who want to take his job. It offers a preview of likely issues in the 2020 presidential election: immigration, gun control, trade, taxes, climate change and manufacturing jobs.
In the video, Tapper highlights these three claims from Trump and one from former Vice President Joe Biden:
DNC Server Delusion. Refusing to give up on the debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 elections and hacked the Democratic National Committee, Trump repeated the baseless assertion that Ukraine, or a “Ukrainian company,” has a DNC server.
“A lot of it had to do they say with Ukraine. …They have the server, right? From the DNC, Democratic National Committee,” Trump said in a phone interview with the hosts of “Fox & Friends” in November. And he told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a July 25 phone call: “The server, they say Ukraine has it.” But there’s absolutely no evidence of that.
Tom Bossert, a former homeland security adviser for the administration, said he explained to the president that these theories had been “completely debunked.”
The DNC hired CrowdStrike, a U.S.-based cybersecurity firm, to investigate Russia’s hacking of its computer network in 2016, and CrowdStrike said it has “never taken physical possession of any” of the 140 servers the DNC said had to be decommissioned during the process. The company did its analysis by making an exact copy of everything on the DNC’s hard drives through a process called “imaging.” “The images, not the computer’s hardware, provide the evidence,” CrowdStrike has said.
A Bogus Biden-Ukraine Narrative. Trump’s impeachment woes were triggered when he asked Ukrainian President Zelensky in the July 25 phone call to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. But before that, Trump said this in a Fox News interview that aired on May 19: “[Joe] Biden, he calls them and says, ‘Don’t you dare prosecute, if you don’t fire this prosecutor’ — the prosecutor was after his son. Then he said, ‘If you fire the prosecutor, you’ll be OK. And if you don’t fire the prosecutor, we’re not giving you $2 billion in loan guarantees,’ or whatever he was supposed to give.”
That’s a gross distortion of the facts.
Biden, as vice president, did tell Ukrainian leaders that the U.S. would withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees until Ukraine fired its prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin. But Biden did not go rogue. As we wrote, Biden was carrying out the Obama administration’s policy, which had the support of the international community and anti-corruption advocates in Ukraine who viewed Shokin as inept and sought his ouster. Also, there’s no evidence that “the prosecutor was after his son,” Hunter, who was a board member of a Ukraine gas company when his father was vice president.
Sharpiegate. The president made the inaccurate claim in a Sept. 1 tweet that Alabama “will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated” by Hurricane Dorian — a statement that was fact-checked in real time by the National Weather Service.
“Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane #Dorian will be felt across Alabama,” the Birmingham office of the National Weather Service tweeted 20 minutes after the president. That should have been the end of it, but Trump refused to simply admit his mistake and so-called “Sharpiegate” dragged on for several days.
As we wrote, Trump repeatedly defended his faulty forecast. He even displayed an altered forecast map in the Oval Office on Sept. 4 to erroneously make it appear that Alabama was in the path of the storm when he posted his inaccurate tweet. Two days later, NOAA — under pressure from the White House — admonished the Birmingham office for its tweet.
More than a week after Trump’s inaccurate forecast, Louis Uccellini, the director of the National Weather Service, defended the Birmingham office, saying it didn’t know that the president was the source of the “rumors” about Alabama. “[T]hey were correct in clarifying that the threat was very low,” Uccellini said.
Biden Rewrites History on Iraq War. During the second Democratic debate, Biden engaged in revisionist history on one of the defining issues of his career. The former vice president and U.S. senator claimed that despite voting to authorize military force against Iraq in 2002 — a vote he calls a mistake — he opposed the Iraq War from “the moment” it began. That’s not accurate.
Biden consistently criticized the way the Bush administration handled the war, including its efforts at finding diplomatic solutions, enlisting allies and planning for reconstruction of Iraq. Some of his comments proved prescient, including his warnings about the likely cost and length of the war. But Biden never outright opposed military action in Iraq in the immediate days after the start of the invasion. For example, the day the war commenced, Biden told CNN: “There’s a lot of us who voted for giving the president the authority to take down Saddam Hussein if he didn’t disarm. And there are those who believe, at the end of the day, even though it wasn’t handled all that well, we still have to take him down.”
Biden this year acknowledged that he “misspoke” about “how quickly I said I was immediately against the war.”
CNN’s “State of the Union” and FactCheck.org launched a partnership in 2015 to produce online fact-checking videos. Past videos — more than 120 of them — can be found on our website.