President Donald Trump’s dishonesty is getting worse.
Trump has been reliably deceptive for his entire presidency, filling his speeches and tweets with lies and other false statements.
The frequency and magnitude of his deception tends to accelerate, however, during campaign season – when he complements his usual ad-libbed inaccuracy with a barrage of inaccurate statements that are written into his speech scripts.
For fact checkers, the period from Friday through Sunday was one of the most challenging of Trump’s entire presidency: he made at least 66 separate false or misleading claims over that three-day span. In other words, it was 66 false or misleading claims without even counting all the times he repeated some of those same 66 claims over the course of the three days.
Trump did have a packed schedule. On Friday, he made a speech to Florida seniors and held rallies in Florida and Georgia; on Saturday, he held rallies in Wisconsin and Michigan; on Sunday, he held a rally in Nevada.
Still, though, this was an egregious stretch for the President, no matter how much he was talking. Here is a list of the false and misleading claims we counted:
Voting and the election
In Georgia, Trump continued to suggest that mail-in voting was rife with fraud, saying that “unsolicited” ballots – where states send a ballot to every eligible registered voter – are a “big con job.”
Facts First: “Unsolicited” ballots are not a “con job.” Fraud is exceedingly rare in US elections – whether with in-person voting, mail voting in states where voters have to request ballots or mail voting in states where all eligible registered voters are sent ballots without having to make requests.
Voters in nine states and the District of Columbia are being sent mail ballots this year without needing to request them. However, five of those states – Colorado, Oregon, Utah, Hawaii and Washington – have held their elections primarily by mail since before the pandemic, and there has not been any significant incidence of fraud.
Ballots and a river
As supposed proof of his allegations about mail-in voting, Trump said in Michigan, “Did you see they found 50,000 ballots in like a river?”
Facts First: This is totally baseless. We could not find any examples of 2020 general election ballots being found in a river, let alone “50,000” of them. (Trump has previously claimed that ballots were found in rivers without saying it was “50,000.”)
Ballots and Virginia
After he baselessly alleged in Georgia that ballots were found in a river, Trump said, “They find ‘em – I think 500,000 ballots in Virginia.”
Facts First: Trump was wrongly describing what happened in Virginia. About 500,000 voters were sent inaccurate absentee ballot applications – not ballots themselves – by a non-profit group that aimed to promote voting. One of the main errors was that many of the return envelopes the group included in the mailing had incorrect addresses; for example, voters in Fairfax County were sent return envelopes with the address of the election office in the city of Fairfax.
This was a significant error, but it was not fraud, and it did not affect ballots themselves. Virginia authorities said they would make sure that the correct office received any applications sent to an incorrect office.
Ballots in a New York primary
Trump claimed in Georgia that there were “ballot schemes” in a New York Democratic congressional primary involving Rep. Carolyn Maloney.
Facts First: This is false. There has been no evidence to date of fraud or any “ballot schemes” in this primary in New York’s 12th District. There was a legal dispute about the fact that a large number of ballots were rejected for non-fraud reasons. And while the ballot-counting was slow because the state has had administrative problems – ranging from insufficient staffing to outdated technology – in trying to count a much larger than usual number of absentee votes, a slow count is not evidence of anything nefarious.
The candidate Maloney defeated, Suraj Patel, tweeted after Trump made a previous version of this claim that “Trump lied about what happened here,” saying that the issue in the race was “disenfranchisement” of voters whose ballots had been rejected, “not voter fraud.”
Supposed voter fraud in California
Trump told a story in Michigan that suggested ballots were being cast in California in the name of dead people. He added, “You have plenty of them in Los Angeles, you know, they had many people, they were over a hundred years old. Every one of ‘em voted for years. Then they got to be 110, they kept voting and then people said, ‘Well this is getting to be like record territory, you know.’ When you have hundreds of them voting, nah, it’s a lot of corrupt stuff going on…”
Facts First: This story is inaccurate; there is no evidence of mass fraud in Los Angeles or anywhere else involving people casting ballots in the name of dead people. While some people do remain on the voter rolls for some time after they die, that is not evidence of fraud.
Trump has made repeated false assertions about supposed fraudulent voting in California, citing a legal settlement between a conservative group, the state and Los Angeles County. But that settlement isn’t about voter fraud at all; rather, it is simply an agreement to remove inactive voters from the rolls.
Michigan’s governor and ballots
Trump, continuing to baselessly warn about election fraud, told voters in Michigan to “be careful” of Michigan’s Democratic governor and attorney general, “because you know, they’re like in charge of the ballot stuff. Right? So how the hell do I put my political and our country’s political life in the hands of a pure partisan like that, right.”
Facts First: Michigan’s secretary of state, not its governor and attorney general, is in charge of the election there.
“Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson here. I’m like, in charge of the ballot stuff,” Benson, also a Democrat, tweeted in response to Trump’s claim, adding a hand-wave emoji as if to say hello to Trump. “Along with 1600 clerks. We work to ensure that every voter can trust that their vote will count. Judging from the fact that 1.5mil+ have already voted, I’d say we’re doing a good job.”
Presidential history in Michigan
Trump said in both Michigan and Georgia that, prior to 2016, no Republican presidential candidate had won Michigan in “38 years.” (At his rally in Michigan, he said it was “like 38 years or something,” conveying some uncertainty.)
Facts First: Trump was exaggerating or just mistaken. He was the first Republican presidential candidate to win Michigan since George H.W. Bush in 1988 – 28 years prior, not 38.
The coronavirus pandemic
The state of the pandemic
Trump claimed in Florida, “Even without the vaccine, the pandemic’s going to end. It’s gonna run its course. It’s gonna end. They’ll go crazy. He said ‘without the vaccine’ – watch, it’ll be a headline tomorrow. These people are crazy. No, it’s running its course. We’re rounding the turn. You see the numbers, and we’re rounding the turn.”
Facts First: The numbers – newly confirmed cases, hospitalizations, the test positivity rate – were all getting worse, not better, at the time Trump spoke. There was no basis for his vague claim that we were “rounding the turn.”
Cases and testing
Trump tweeted that “The United States shows more CASES than other countries, which the Lamestream Fake News Media pounces on daily, because it TESTS at such a high (and costly) level.” He added, “The more you TEST, the more CASES you will be reporting. Very simple!”
Facts First: The US is indeed doing a lot of coronavirus testing, but it’s not true that the US is only seeing an increase in cases, or is reporting more cases than other countries, because of this testing. (Trump also used this refrain during previous spikes in the number of cases; it was also false then.)
While the number of daily tests has been rising, there is no doubt there has been an increase in the actual spread of the virus, not just that more cases are being captured. One telltale sign: hospitalizations are also rising, sharply in some states. Also, again, the percentage of US tests coming back positive has also been rising since late September.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who served under Trump as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, noted on Twitter that demand for tests rises as more people experience symptoms of the virus: “Most tests are people with symptoms or those exposed to sick contacts. As the epidemic worsens, demand for tests will rise.”
Trump’s crowds and masks
Challenged in a Wisconsin television interview about his decision to hold rallies during a spike in coronavirus cases, Trump noted that the events are outdoors, then claimed the crowds at his three events the day prior “largely” wore masks.
Facts First: It’s just not true that Trump’s events the day prior – one in Georgia and two in Florida – were “largely” masked, as Trump claimed. And one of the Florida events, a speech to seniors, was indoors.
While there were a substantial number of people wearing masks at the seniors event, a clear majority of attendees at his rally