During President Donald Trump’s administration, so-called ‘fact-checking’ organizations, most associated with a media outlet, poured a lot of time and resources into examining every single word he uttered for accuracy.
The effort was unprecedented and even surpassed the previous quasi-Republican administration of George W. Bush.
Trump, of course, is prone to hyperbole and exaggeration — that’s not because he is an ‘awful person’ or a ‘serial liar,’ it’s because that’s his personality: Large and bombastic. And let’s be honest, many times when he was ‘fact-checked,’ it turned out that the fact-checkers were wrong, not him (his early claim that his 2016 campaign was “spied on” comes to mind; it most certainly was, we all know now).
In any event, most seasoned politicos believed that the administration of Joe Biden would get a pass because like the Biden White House, most ‘establishment journalists have a “D” behind their names.
That’s especially true about CNN, whose correspondents frequently warred with President Trump and often reported unreliably and incorrectly about him and his administration.
But we’ve been pleasantly surprised: CNN fact-checked Biden like a boss after it hosted a town hall event for the president this week.
According to the network, Biden made misstatements about the minimum wage; the illegal immigrant population; the Chinese workforce; and COVID-19 vaccines.
In that order:
The Minimum Wage: Biden said that the current wage of $7.25 an hour is too low, adding: “For example, if it went — if we gradually increased it — when we indexed it at $7.20, if we kept it indexed by — to inflation, people would be making 20 bucks an hour right now. That’s what it would be.”
This is false; the White House told CNN after the event that Biden got mixed up with another statistic about the minimum wage. Today’s federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, which took effect in 2009, would not be even close to $20 per hour if Congress had decided to link it to inflation. Adjusted for inflation, $7.25 in January 2009 was equal to $8.98 in January 2021.
The Illegal Immigrant Population: Biden said: “The vast majority of the people, those 11 million undocumented, they’re not Hispanics; they’re people who came on a visa — who was able to buy a ticket to get in a plane and didn’t go home. They didn’t come across the Rio Grande swimming…”
Biden was wrong to claim that the majority of undocumented immigrants in the US are not Hispanic. While it is obviously difficult to compile comprehensive statistics on this population group, the Migration Policy Institute think tank estimated in 2018 that 73% of undocumented people in the US speak Spanish at home and 68% are from the Mexico and Central America region, with an additional 7% from South America. The Pew Research Center has found that the Mexican share of the undocumented population has fallen over time, but that people from Latin America still made up 77% of the 2017 undocumented population.
China’s Workforce: Biden talked about how, as vice president, he held talks with President Xi Jinping, then came back to the U.S. and talked about China’s one-child policy. Then he said: “And I came back and said they’re going to end their One China — their one child policy because they’re so xenophobic they won’t let anybody else in, and more people are retired than working. How can they sustain economic growth when more people are retired?”
It is not even close to true that more people in China are retired than working — even today, let alone when Biden was vice president and the Chinese workforce was younger. China reported having about 775 million employed people at the end of 2019; China had a reported 254 million people aged 60 or above, the normal retirement-benefits age for men.
Vaccines: Biden said when “we came into office, there was only 50 million doses that were available.” Moments later, he added, “We got into office and found out the supply — there was no backlog. I mean, there was nothing in the refrigerator, figuratively and literally speaking, and there were 10 million doses a day that were available.”
Biden got at least one of these statistics wrong — in a way that made Trump look better, not worse, so Biden’s inaccuracy appeared accidental, but we’re noting it anyway. A White House official said that Biden’s claim about “10 million doses a day” being available when he took office was meant to be a reference to the 10 million doses a week that were being sent to states as of the second week of Biden’s term, up from 8.6 million a week when they took over.
Also, we’ll add that this vaccine fact-check isn’t complete; both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have strongly suggested or said outright there were no vaccines when they took office. That is patently false; Biden himself got his two vaccines before he was even inaugurated, and Operation Warp Speed put millions of doses in the pipeline.