Thursday, January 21, 2021

Fact-checking President Biden's inauguration speech

President Biden "delivered a traditional speech at his inauguration that offered little for fact-checkers," says. "When he did offer us some facts to check, the 46th president of the United States largely hit his marks on domestic threats, Covid-19 and the Woman Suffrage Parade of 1913." 

Biden said there has been a rise in "political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism." He's correct about the rise in political extremism, FactCheck says. The Department of Homeland Security's Homeland Threat Assessment report in October said as much. As for white supremacy, the Southern Poverty Law Center said in 2019 that the number of white nationalist group chapters had increased from 100 in 2017 to 148 in 2018. The Federal Bureau of Investigation reported a 19.5% increase in hate crimes from 2016 to 2019, and noted that hate-crime perpetrators were increasingly white: In 2016, 46.3% of known hate offenders were white; that rose to 52.5% in 2019. In September, FBI Director Christopher Wray said "racially motivated violent extremism" made up the largest share of domestic terrorism, especially white supremacist movements.

Biden said the coronavirus pandemic has "taken as many lives in one year as America lost in all of World War II." FactCheck acknowledges being nit-picky on this one, but says "Biden would have been on firmer ground had he said there have been more Covid-19 deaths than 'battle deaths' from WWII. As of Biden's speech, 402,997 had died in the U.S. from Covid-19. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 405,399 soldiers died in World War II, but 113,842 of them were not in battle.

Biden said millions of jobs have been lost and hundreds of thousands of business have closed during the pandemic. Though the U.S. has 9.8 million fewer jobs now than in February 2020, the total number of businesses that have permanently closed due to the pandemic is unknown. "Hundreds of thousands" is likely correct though, according to several different estimates.

The president also referenced the Woman Suffrage Parade of 1913, during which he said "thousands of protesters tried to block brave women marching for the right to vote." That's accurate, FactCheck reports: "On March 3, 1913, the day before President-elect Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration, more than 5,000 marchers paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue in support of women’s right to vote." Crowds of men, mostly in town for Wilson's inauguration, blocked and harassed marchers. "In all, 100 marchers were injured and taken to the hospital, and a troop of cavalry from Virginia was called in to control the crowd, according to the Library of Congress essay," FactCheck reports.

For extra reading, The Washington Post has created an annotated version of Biden's speech that analyzes key statements.

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