FactCheck.org is a non-partisan non-profit organization that will hold candidates and key figures accountable during the 2016 presidential campaign. FactCheck.org will check facts of of speeches, advertisements and more for NBC.
In advance of the Republican National Convention, which begins July 18 in Cleveland, FactCheck.org presents a wrap-up of some of the more egregious falsehoods from Donald Trump, who is set to accept his party’s nomination for president later this week.
FactCheck.org focused on claims most relevant for the general election and those that Trump has repeated, or that could likely be repeated by him or others this week. For more on each statement, follow the links to our full stories. And all of their articles on Trump can be found here.
Claims About Clinton
Trump repeatedly has claimed in stump speeches and interviews that Hillary Clinton is going to “raise your taxes very substantially.” But almost all of the tax increases she has proposed would apply to the top 10 percent of taxpayers, according to analyses by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center and pro-business Tax Foundation. “[T]he bottom 95 percent of taxpayers would see little or no change in their taxes,” the TPC said.
Trump told a group of evangelical Christian leaders that there’s “nothing out there” about Clinton’s religion. That’s false. Her religious practice as a Methodist has been well-documented in news reports, by Clinton herself and even in a book. “In fact, we know enough about Hillary’s faith that I was able to write a 334-page book titled God and Hillary Clinton way back in 2007,” author Paul Kengor, executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at the conservative Grove City College, told us in an email.
Trump falsely claimed that U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens “was left helpless to die as Hillary Clinton soundly slept in her bed.” In an NBC interview, Trump later acknowledged he had no evidence to support his claim, saying, “who knows if she was sleeping … she might have been sleeping.” Two emails from Clinton show that she was awake after she knew of Stevens’ death from the 2012 attack in Benghazi.
He also wrongly said Clinton would “end virtually all immigration enforcement and thus create totally open borders for the United States.” She supported the 2013 Senate immigration bill that would have created a path to citizenship for those in the country illegally, but also would have invested in border security. Clinton’s campaign website says she would “focus enforcement resources on detaining and deporting those individuals who pose a violent threat to public safety.”
Trump distorted Clinton’s gun control plan, claiming she “wants to take your guns away” and “abolish the Second Amendment.” She proposes restrictions, including a ban on semi-automatic “assault weapons,” but doesn’t call for a ban on all guns. Clinton also calls for expanded background checks. She has talked repeatedly about the need to respect the “constitutional rights of responsible gun owners.”
Trump claimed that “Hillary Clinton received a classified intelligence report stating that the Obama administration was actively supporting Al Qaeda in Iraq, the terrorist group that became the Islamic State.” Michael Morell, the deputy director and acting director of the CIA from 2010 to 2013, who also served under the Bush administration, called Trump’s claim “an old conspiracy theory … that has no place in our public discourse.”
Foreign Policy and Trade
Trump has repeatedly claimed that he opposed the Iraq War before it began on March 19, 2003, but there’s no evidence of that. In a February debate, Trump claimed, “I said it loud and clear, ‘You’ll destabilize the Middle East,'” and in a September 2015 debate he said he could provide “25 different stories” to prove his opposition. More recently, in June, Trump told CNN, “I think there is evidence. I will see if I can get it.” But his campaign has yet to produce one such example, and we couldn’t find any. In fact, Trump in September 2002 told radio shock jock Howard Stern, “Yeah, I guess so,” when asked if he supported going to war with Iraq. It wasn’t until a few months after the war began that Trump expressed concern about the war and, at that time, it was about the cost of the war, not the stability of the region.
In a June interview on CNN, Trump wrongly claimed that Iran is “taking over the oil” in Iraq. Experts told us Iran doesn’t control any Iraqi oil fields. “Iraq’s oil is still the property of the people of Iraq,” said Jim Krane, a fellow at the Center for Energy Studies at Rice University and an expert in geopolitical aspects of energy. In fact, Iraq produced and exported a record amount of crude oil last year.
In a late April speech on foreign policy, Trump claimed that “now ISIS is making millions and millions of dollars a week selling Libya oil.” Claudia Gazzini, a senior analyst for Libya with the International Crisis Group, told us there’s no evidence of that. Gazzini said that the Islamic State’s strategy thus far has largely been to disrupt oil operations in Libya rather than to try and make a profit off of them. (Syria is a different story: In December, the State Department estimated ISIS was making $500 million a year on oil from fields it controlled in Syria.)
Early in his campaign, Trump got two facts wrong about birthright citizenship — a provision of the 14th Amendment that grants citizenship to babies born in the United States even if their parent or parents are living illegally in the country. Trump claimed Mexico doesn’t have a policy like that, but indeed it does. “Mexico currently has a system that is nearly identical to that of the United States,” Emilio Kourí, director of the Katz Center for Mexican Studies at the University of Chicago, told us. “What we call birthright citizenship, their constitution calls nationality.”
Trump also said “birthright citizenship” is the “biggest magnet for illegal immigration.” Actually, research shows the biggest magnet is economic opportunity, or jobs. Estimates on the number of immigrants in the U.S. illegally also reflect the economy, with the number rising or falling along with shifting economic conditions.
Trump said he “got to know” Russian President Vladimir Putin “very well because we were both on ’60 Minutes,’ we were stablemates, and we did very well that night.” Both men were interviewed for the Sept. 27, 2015, episode, but separately, in different countries — Putin in Moscow and Trump in his Manhattan penthouse. Trump also has claimed repeatedly that Putin had called him a “genius.” Russian language experts told us in May that Putin used a word meaning “colorful” or “bright,” depending on the translation. Putin clarified in June that he called Trump “flamboyant.”
On trade, Trump has continuously exaggerated the U.S. trade deficit with China, saying it’s $505 billion. It’s not — the trade deficit with China was $367 billion for 2015. Trump’s figure is close to the $532 billion net trade deficit with all countries. He also has repeatedly, and falsely, said that the U.S. has a negative trade balance with every country with which it does business. The U.S. has positive trade balances with Brazil, Netherlands, Belgium, Singapore, Australia and Argentina, among others.
Trump has called the North American Free Trade Agreement “Bill Clinton’s disastrous and totally disastrous NAFTA” and said that Clinton “signed it” and it was “his baby.” Actually, the agreement was negotiated and signed by President George H.W. Bush. President Clinton later signed the bill enabling NAFTA in 1993, but it took Republican congressional support to get the legislation to his desk.
Trump also claimed that NAFTA “literally emptied our states of our manufacturing and our jobs,” but economic studies say NAFTA’s net impact on U.S. jobs has been small. A 2015 report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, for instance, called the net impact “relatively modest,” noting that it was difficult to gauge the overall impact due to other economic factors.
Trump has made several false claims about Syrian refugees. Nearly 5 million Syrians have been displaced by the civil war that began in March 2011, . The Obama administration plans to accept up to 10,000 this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
Trump suggested in a radio interview in November that the federal government sends Syrian refugees to states with Republican governors, saying, “They send them to the Republicans, not to the Democrats, you know, because they know the problems.” But the government doesn’t place refugees — nongovernmental agencies, such as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, do, basing the decision on family ties or employment. “The idea that there’s some sort of conspiracy here [to relocate based on the politics of a state], that’s just not the case,” Matthew Soerens, a spokesman for World Relief, an evangelical organization that also resettles the refugees, told us. The stats didn’t back-up Trump, either: We found on average, states with Republican governors had just over 41 Syrian refugees each, and states with Democratic governors had just over 36.
Trump has said that Syrian refugees are entering the U.S. with “no documentation” and “no paperwork.” Some may lack paperwork, but the head of the refugee affairs division of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services told Congress that “in general they have many, many documents.” The State Department says the process to admit a refugee to the U.S. takes 18 to 24 months on average.
In a January debate, he also said the Syrian refugees were mostly “strong, powerful men,” but at the time, most registered with the United Nations were female (50.7 percent) and males under the age of 12 (20 percent). That breakdown largely holds:Figures as of July 4 say women are 49.7 percent and males under 12 are 20.2 percent.
It may be his best-known falsehood: In a Nov. 21 speech in Alabama, Trump claimed that he saw on TV “thousands and thousands” of people in New Jersey cheering the fall of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. A day later, he again said he saw this and emphasized that in New Jersey, “you have large Arab populations.” But there’s no evidence of such a widespread celebration, or related TV footage. In fact, news organizations in New Jersey and New York tried to track down rumors of celebrations at the time and came up empty. Trump then doubled down on the claim, demanding an apology and citing as support a Washington Post story about an alleged celebration that was unattributed and unverified, and not televised.
In March, Trump wrongly claimed that a Pew Research Center survey found that “27 percent, could be 35 percent” of the world’s Muslims “would go to war” against the U.S. The Pew Research Center told us it had conducted no survey that asks such a question, and experts we consulted didn’t know of any such survey, either.
Pew Research Center surveys prove another Trump claim wrong: He said that assimilation among Muslim immigrants in the U.S. is “pretty close” to “nonexistent.” But Pew concluded in 2011 — based on detailed phone interviews with more than 1,000 U.S. Muslims — that “Muslim Americans appear to be highly assimilated.”
After the mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub in June, Trump said “many people” thought the shooter, Omar Mateen, “was a whack job,” but they didn’t report him. Not true. Mateen’s co-workers in 2013 reported that he boasted of having terrorist ties, and the FBI opened a 10-month investigation. Also, a week after Trump made his claim, a Muslim friend of Mateen stepped forward to say he had reported Mateen to the FBI in 2014.
There’s also no evidence for Trump’s claim about Muslims being complicit in the Dec. 2, 2015, shooting in San Bernardino, California. He said that “many people,” including neighbors of the shooters, saw “bombs all over the floor” of the couple’s apartment, but declined to report it because of concerns about racial profiling. One friend of a neighbor said the neighbor noticed a lot of packages arriving at the house, and that the couple had been doing a lot of work in their garage — and the neighbor didn’t report it due to racial profiling concerns.
Trump claimed that his tax plan, unveiled Sept. 28, is “revenue neutral,” but tax experts say that’s not the case — not by a long shot. Even when the pro-business Tax Foundation assumed the tax cuts in the plan would promote economic growth, it estimated that federal revenues would be reduced by more than $10 trillion over 10 years.
Trump said he “heard” the unemployment rate was really 42 percent. It’s nowhere close to that. The unemployment rate was 4.9 percent when Trump made the claim in February, and it still is today. Trump’s figure would include retirees, teenagers, stay-at-home parents and anyone else who doesn’t need or want to work. If Trump wanted to include part-time workers wanting full-time work and those who have given up looking for a job but had searched for one in the past year, he could use 9.9 percent for the unemployed and underemployed rate.
Trump claimed the government could save “hundreds of billions of dollars in waste” through negotiating prescription drug prices. But Medicare, which isn’t allowed to negotiate drug prices now, spent well under that — an estimated $77 billion total — on its prescription drug program in 2015. When Fox News’ Chris Wallace pointed out during a debate that Medicare’s drug spending was well under the $300 billion a year savings figure Trump had cited in the past, Trump said he was talking about “saving through negotiation throughout the economy.” But Trump had claimed several times that he could save $300 billion a year through negotiating drug prices. That would be the total amount spent on retail prescriptions, by the government, insurers and consumers in 2014.
In California in June, Trump suggested “there is no drought” in the state, because it has “plenty of water.” California is in its fifth year of a severe “hot” drought, so named by scientists for both the dry and high temperature conditions that are made more likely by global warming. Trump also said water was being shoved “out to sea” to “protect a certain kind of three-inch fish.” Officials primarily release water from reservoirs to prevent salt water from contaminating agricultural and urban fresh water supplies.
Trump was wrong when he called Common Core “education through Washington, D.C.” and said the education standards had been “taken over by the federal government.” The standards — for what children in grades K-12 should know in math and English — were developed by state officials, and curriculum is still controlled at the state and local school level. As for the federal government, federal money has been used to develop standardized tests for Common Core, and the Obama administration gave states that voluntarily adopted the standards advantages in competing for education grants. That’s far from a federal takeover.
In late November, Trump retweeted a bogus graphic purporting to show homicide data delineated by race. He told Fox News the graphic came from “sources that are very credible,” but nearly every number in the graphic is wrong. Among the gross inaccuracies: The graphic said 81 percent of white murder victims were killed by blacks; the real figure is 14.8 percent, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports data for 2014.
Trump on Trump
Trump claimed that he “predicted Osama bin Laden” in his 2000 book, “The America We Deserve,” saying “I said in that book that we better be careful with this guy named Osama bin Laden” and that the U.S. “better take him out.” There are no such passages in the book. The lone mention of bin Laden in the book refers to him escaping a U.S. jetfighter attack in August 1998, ordered by President Clinton in response to bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that month.
Unlike many other 2016 presidential candidates, Trump has not released his tax returns and claimed “there’s nothing to learn” from them. But experts told us there’s plenty of information to glean from a candidate’s tax returns, including sources of income, effective tax rates, charitable giving habits, conflicts of interest and more. Every major party nominee since the late 1970s has released tax returns before Election Day.
The Better Business Bureau rating for Trump University was a “D-” in 2010, a fact the BBB confirmed in a statement. That was the last year the school accepted new students. But Trump repeatedly insisted it got an “A” rating, even posting a video to YouTube in which he holds up a sheet of paper with an “A” rating. That meaningless rating was for The Trump Entrepreneur Initiative, which was launched in 2010 when Trump University had to change its name since it wasn’t a licensed university. The BBB reviews are based on the last three years of complaints and information, so the “A” rating would have been from 2014, years after the school stopped taking new students.
Trump said he started his business career with only $1 million from his father. That undervalues his father’s contributions, which included “considerable financial and political clout,” Gwenda Blair, author of “The Trumps: Three Generations of Builders,” told us. Fred Trump co-guaranteed a construction loan and lent millions on another occasion, Blair said.
Trump claimed Ford changed its plans to build new manufacturing facilities in Mexico because of his criticism of the deal on the campaign trail, which included the threat of putting a high import tax on the company. But Ford said it hadn’t changed its plans at all. One of Trump’s tweets pointed to a story on a separate deal, credited to Ohio Gov. John Kasich and dating to 2011, to move some production from Mexico to Ohio.