A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Trump Campaign Takes Pelosi’s Words Out of Context


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in an April 14 interview that the Paycheck Protection Program was “very important,” and with a second round of funding, she wanted to “open this up to many more people,” specifically the “underbanked.” But that context is missing from a Trump campaign video.

The video, posted on Twitter by Brad Parscale, campaign manager for President Donald Trump’s reelection effort, leaves the false impression that Pelosi opposes replenishing funding for the small business loan program — a $349 billion coronavirus relief initiative that ran out of funding on April 16.

The video uses select quotes from Pelosi that appear to show her dismissing $250 billion in additional funding proposed by Republicans. But that’s not the whole story.

In the campaign video, Pelosi says: “They asked for a quarter of a trillion dollars in 48 hours. I said, well, I don’t think so.” In the April 14 interview on MSNBC, however, Pelosi prefaced that remark by asking, “Well, what happens to our underbanked folks?” Her next sentence after the quote in the video: “Let’s see how we can open this up to many more people.”

The video then shows on screen the words, “Americans Are Losing Their Jobs,” and Pelosi is heard saying, “they objected and I congratulate the Senate Democrats.” In the interview, those comments aren’t made in succession. Instead, Pelosi said, “I congratulate the Senate Democrats, they went to the floor when Mitch McConnell went in for his 250, and they said they objected.” Pelosi then said, “And then they said, we have another proposal which opens the door to the underbanked.”

In the interview, Pelosi was asked by host Chris Hayes about Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desire to pass a clean $250 billion bill that just provided additional funds for the Paycheck Protection Program.

Here are Pelosi’s remarks in context:

Hayes, MSNBC interview, April 14: Why do you not want to just do that? What is — what are your priorities for this next piece of legislation?

Pelosi: Well, let me say that CARES One — we’re getting ready for CARES Two, but CARES One was a bill that had many good features. We were successful working together House and Senate Democrats in changing it from the corporate trickle down bill to a worker’s first pull up bill. Part of it is a Paycheck Protection Program, which is very important.

However, I will not allow anything to perpetuate the disparity and access to capital that exists in our country. And so what they said, first come first serve, ‘Oh we’re just serving the customers that we know at the bank.’ Well, what happens to our underbanked folks? So last week, when they came, they asked for a quarter of a trillion dollars in 48 hours. I said, well, I don’t think so. Let’s see how we can open this up to many more people.

So Chuck Schumer and I, and this all happened on the Senate side, and I congratulate the Senate Democrats, they went to the floor when Mitch McConnell went in for his 250, and they said they objected. And then they said, we have another proposal which opens the door to the underbanked. There’s $60 billion, 10% of what they were asking for to be used for community development, financial institutions [that] know the neighborhood, know the language, know the culture, know the people, know the businesses to enable them to participate in the Paycheck Protection Program.

In addition to that, we still gave them half the money, $125 billion, but we use some other for this initiative, and also for the grant and other loan programs that benefited everyone. OK, so then we also said, while we’re at it what we desperately need is support for state and local government as well as for hospital. This is urgent. And they just said no. They only were going for the 250. We said, let’s negotiate. Let’s see how we can come to some conclusion that will benefit all of the needs, the underbanked, the hospitals, the state and local governments who are carrying enormous burdens.

And also the hospitals still talking about testing with the imperative for us to have the data, the racial data that is in there so that we see how this is affecting everyone in our community. So we were not going to let all this money that is spent because of the coronavirus crisis which is heartbreaking, the number of people who have died or others have lost their loved ones and the rest. But we could not allow the big money that was put to fight it to perpetuate disparity and access to capital and access to care.

The original $349 billion for the small business loan program was part of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES, which Trump signed into law on March 27 and included other measures such as increased unemployment benefits, refundable tax credits and grants to states. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office explained that the paycheck protection loan program was designed to help businesses maintain their payrolls for eight weeks.

“The full principal amount and any accrued interest on a PPP loan may be forgiven, although that forgiveness will be diminished if a borrower either decreases the number of employees on its payroll or reduces employees’ compensation. Amounts that are not forgiven must be paid back to lenders within two years at an interest rate of 1 percent,” CBO said in its analysis of the legislation.

The loan program proved so popular that it ran out of funding. A “small business” is defined as one with fewer than 500 employees, and restaurants with fewer than 500 workers per location met that definition. Some publicly traded companies secured millions in those loans, leading to criticism that it didn’t benefit the very small businesses that needed the money.

Shake Shack, which employs 8,000 in 189 restaurants, ended up returning the $10 million it had received, “so that those restaurants who need it most can get it now,” the founder and CEO said in a statement, explaining that the company was “able to access the additional capital we needed to ensure our long term stability through an equity transaction in the public markets.”

Democrats and Republicans have disagreed over the need to include additional measures — more funding for states and hospitals, sought by Democrats — in new legislation that would add funds for the Paycheck Protection Program. In her weekly press conference on April 16, Pelosi reiterated what she had said in that April 14 MSNBC interview.

“We want to make sure that these people have access – everybody in the small business arena has access to credit,” she said in the press conference. “We do not want the billions of dollars spent in the CARES 1 Act, which we fully support, but we do not want it to perpetuate the disparity of access to credit for some of our businesses.”

Plus, she spoke of “the need for us to have more funding for the hospitals and for the health – the state and local governments, whether talking about health care workers, police and fire, EMS, food delivery – all of that.”

The Trump campaign told us the video didn’t suggest that Pelosi had opposed the program overall, but that she supported delaying the funding in order to negotiate, a move Republicans clearly oppose. The campaign pointed to comments by Karen G. Mills, head of the Small Business Administration from 2009 to 2013, during the Obama administration, who said in an April 16 interview with Roll Call, “Congress has to act as soon as possible.”

“Complexity is not our friend here,” Roll Call quoted Mills as saying. “Things that have to be implemented quickly can’t have a lot of bells and whistles, or else there will be too many unintended consequences — one of which is delay. And we don’t have time to delay.”

Zach Parkinson, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, told us: “It’s undeniable that Nancy Pelosi was proud of Democrats blocking more funding for the Paycheck Protection Program when American small businesses and workers desperately need a lifeline. While the Trump Administration successfully processed the equivalent of 14 years’ worth of paycheck loans in just 14 days, Pelosi’s opposition resulted in good, decent Americans getting hung out to dry.”

It’s a matter of opinion whether Democrats should have pushed to negotiate rather than agree to a $250 billion funding increase. But the video doesn’t make clear that Pelosi supported the Paycheck Protection Program overall. In fact, she said in the MSNBC interview that the Democrats “fully support” it.

The campaign video goes on to juxtapose clips of Pelosi on “The Late Late Show with James Corden” showing off her stockpile of candy and ice cream with clips about Americans being out of work and having trouble affording food.

At one point, Pelosi is shown laughing and eating ice cream after a TV news anchor says, “there are 22 million people out of work.” The president, and others, have criticized Pelosi for the optics of the ice cream segment at a time of economic hardship for many Americans. We leave it to readers to form their own opinions on that. But the editing of the video makes Pelosi appear indifferent to those out of work, contrary to her support for legislation to help those same people. 

On April 21, lawmakers and the White House reached a deal for $484 billion in funding, including $310  billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, with $60 billion of that specifically for community-based lenders and small- and medium-sized banks. A statement by Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the legislation included $50 billion more for SBA emergency disaster lending and also funding for hospitals and coronavirus testing.

The Senate passed the bill, and the president said on Twitter that he would sign it.

A day earlier, while negotiations were still ongoing, Trump touted the fact that the bipartisan compromise would include more than the $250 billion that the Republicans originally sought.

“Look, we’re getting the paycheck plan. It’s — already $350 billion was approved, essentially unanimously. And we have another 250, which I think you’re going to find out is going to be a higher number than that. Okay? I won’t say it now, because I don’t know if they’ve released it or not, but it’s going to end up being more than $250 billion,” Trump said. “And this is going to small businesses and it’s going to workers. And these are really bipartisan plans. It’s a great thing that’s happening. So I think the fact that we’re able to do all of this in a bipartisan way is great.”

Editor’s Note: FactCheck.org does not accept advertising. We rely on grants and individual donations from people like you. Please consider a donation. Credit card donations may be made through our “Donate” page. If you prefer to give by check, send to: FactCheck.org, Annenberg Public Policy Center, 202 S. 36th St., Philadelphia, PA 19104.