Friday, October 23, 2020
Trump and Biden touched on rural concerns like fracking and pandemic in last debate; prompted lots of fact-checking
President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden squared off at Belmont University in Nashville last night for the final presidential debate of the 2020 election. The debate covered six topics: the coronavirus pandemic, American families, race in America, climate change, and leadership. The tone was markedly more civil than the first debate on Sept. 29, though both candidates were eager to take shots at each other. The candidates covered some familiar ground, sometimes on topics with rural resonance, but President Trump frequently repeated often-debunked claims and Biden made a few misleading or false claims.
Here are some of the topics they touched on with rural resonance, as well as fact-checking.
Moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News noted that coronavirus infection rates are soaring (though she didn't note that this is happening disproportionately in rural areas). Trump said that 2.2 million people were expected to die from covid-19, but that the "excess mortality rate is way down, and much lower than almost any other country." That 2.2 million figure is incredibly misleading, and comes from an incredibly unlikely worst-case scenario, FactCheck.org reports. Moreover, the U.S. has a higher per capita excess mortality rate than 30 out of 34 countries in the Human Mortality Database.
Trump also implied that his administration has kept U.S. health-care providers well supplied with medical equipment such as personal protective equipment and ventilators, but rural hospitals have had a difficult time obtaining such equipment.
Trump said the nation is "rounding the turn" on the pandemic, but covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths are increasing, especially in rural areas, and Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said the pandemic is far from over. FactCheck notes.
"Biden misquoted Sen. Mitch McConnell as saying, 'Let them go bankrupt,' about cities and states that have lost revenue as a result of the pandemic. McConnell said bankruptcy should be a legal option for states with unrelated money woes," FactCheck reports.
Trump claimed that Democrat-run states are having the worst time in the pandemic, but Biden said red states in the Midwest and Upper Midwest are seeing significant spikes. Biden is correct about this, when measured by per-capita infection rates, according to fact-checkers at The Washington Post.
Also, Trump blamed shut-downs in Democrat-run states for slowing economic recovery, but the economy is faring poorly even in places with few restrictions, like Iowa, Ben Casselman and Jim Tankersley report for The New York Times.
On energy and the environment, Trump said the U.S. is energy-independent. That's "flat-out false," the Post reports, since the U.S. imported about 9.14 million barrels of oil per day in 2019. However, the nation became a net exporter of energy last year.
Biden said he wants to transition away from the oil industry to help slow climate change, prioritizing renewable energy sources. After the debate he clarified that he didn't want to end the entire fossil-fuel industry, but instead get rid of subsidies for fossil fuels, Matthew Choi reports for Politico.
"Trump was not lying" about Biden’s statements on fracking, Daniel Dale of CNN says. He adds that when Biden would make "broad, anti-fracking statements" in the primary, his staff would clarify that his stance was against it only on federal land.
Biden claimed the U.S. trade deficit with China went up, not down, under Trump. But in 2019 it was lower than in Biden's last year as vice president, FactCheck.org reports.
Trump said he gave farmers $28 billion in trade aid and that China paid for it. Biden said that American taxpayers footed the bill. Biden is essentially correct, the Post reports.