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A real fact-check of Trump's appearance on Meet the Press
Kristen Welker's tenure as the new host of NBC's Meet the Press began on Sunday with an interview with former President Donald Trump. NBC News promoted Trump's appearance as his "first broadcast network interview since leaving office."
Since leaving office, however, Trump has relentlessly promoted brazen lies about the 2020 election, the 91 felony criminal charges he faces in state and federal court, and a variety of other topics. The interview could have been an opportunity to confront Trump about these lies and hold him to account for his public dishonesty.
But Welker spent minimal time calling out Trump's lies. Most of Trump's false claims were simply ignored by Welker during the interview. When Welker did make an effort to correct Trump, she missed opportunities to establish the facts and sometimes validated Trump's false premise.
For example, Trump claimed that former Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) supports killing babies "after the baby is born." Welker responded, "Democrats writ large are not talking about that." But Northam did not support infanticide. He expressed support for an existing Virginia law that allows for third-trimester abortion when three doctors certify that carrying the pregnancy to term would "likely" kill the mother. He also said he would sign legislation to reduce the number of doctors required to make the certification from three to one. During an interview, he said the decision of whether to attempt to resuscitate a non-viable infant after birth would be a discussion between the mother and the doctor. Welker, however, allowed Trump's specific claims about Northam to go unchallenged.
Instead, the emphasis was on making the interview — and by extension, Trump's 2024 candidacy — appear as normal as possible. For Welker, that meant covering a typical number of topics over the course of the interview. That means no matter how many times Trump lied, Welker only spent a very limited amount of time attempting to fact-check Trump's claims. Eleven times during the interview, often as Trump repeated falsehoods, Welker told Trump it was time to "move on" to the next topic.
The interview was pre-taped on Thursday, giving NBC News ample time to provide viewers with a full fact-check during or immediately after the interview. But that would have made the Trump interview appear abnormal. So instead, Welker interspersed "context" about just three of Trump's claims prior to commercial breaks. Then, at the conclusion of the interview, she announced that there is "a fact check available and much more reporting at nbcnews.com."
The unmistakable message was fact-checking Trump was less important than the spectacle of Trump and, therefore, relegated to the website. NBC also published a list of the "11 top moments" from Trump's interview. None of those moments highlighted any of the false statements by Trump.
"The television event also highlighted a problem that traditional news outlets have faced since Trump emerged as a potent figure on the political scene in 2016," LA Times TV critic Lorraine Ali wrote. "Treating the former reality TV star like any other presidential candidate or victor before him assumes that he’s playing by the same set of rules as his predecessors. News flash: He’s not."
After airing the interview, Welker transitioned into the standard Meet The Press roundtable discussion. Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times, noted that Trump was "a bulldozer, shoveling falsehoods and lies throughout your interview." Baker, however, claimed that Welker was "fact-checking him all along the way."
The truth is that most of Trump's lies were not addressed by Welker or the online fact-check that likely reached a tiny fraction of the viewing audience. Popular Information has identified at least 10 false claims by Trump that were ignored by NBC News during the interview and in the online fact check.
Trump falsely claimed that no one who rioted in Portland or Minneapolis was charged with a crime
The claim: Trump claimed that “nothing happened to” people who were engaged in protests in Portland, Oregon, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, in response to the murder of George Floyd in late May 2020. “How many people were charged for destroying Portland? How many people were charged for burning down the police precinct and the courthouse in Minneapolis?” Trump said.
The facts: It is not true that people were not charged in connection to the protests that occurred in Portland and Minneapolis. As of 2021, “nearly 100 people have faced felony charges in connection to the unrest” in Minneapolis. In Portland, at least 96 cases were filed by the U.S. attorney’s office in 2020, “charging protesters with federal crimes, including assaulting federal officers, civil disorder, and failing to obey.”
Trump falsely claimed he was 22,000 votes away from winning the 2020 election
The claim: Trump alleged that he only needed 22,000 more votes to win the 2020 election. “If I would’ve had another 22,000 votes over the whole,” Trump said. “If you look at all of the statistics, all of the votes, they say 22,000 votes. Over millions and millions of votes, 22,000 votes.”
The facts: In reality, most estimates of the amount of votes it would have taken Trump to win the election are much higher. According to NPR, “44,000 votes in Georgia, Arizona and Wisconsin separated Biden and Trump from a tie in the Electoral College.” The Washington Post estimated that “[f]lipping just a little more than 81,139 votes in four states would have changed the winner of” the 2020 election.
Trump falsely claimed that a Congresswoman advocated murder
The claim: Trump claims Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) “calls for people’s death.”
The facts: This statement is false. Trump is misquoting remarks Waters had made during a protest over the killing of Daunte Wright. Waters, who sided with protestors, encouraged the crowd to “fight for justice” and “get more confrontational.” At the time, “numerous Republicans …denounced Waters’ remarks and claimed they were a call to violence.” But Waters explained that she was talking “about confronting the justice system” and “about speaking up.”
Trump falsely claimed judges refused to review evidence of voter fraud in court
The claim: Trump alleged that “judges didn’t want to hear” challenges to the 2020 election. “But if this were ever before a court, we would win so easy. There is so much evidence that the election was rigged,” Trump said. “They wouldn’t hear it, based on all sorts of crazy – they wouldn’t hear it. … Judges would look at stuff, say, ‘I’m not getting involved.’ They didn’t want to get involved.”
The facts: While Welker did state that “there’s no evidence” of the election being “rigged,” she did not correct Trump’s allegation that judges refused to review his challenges to the election. According to Reuters, "state and federal judges dismissed more than 50 lawsuits presented by then President Donald Trump and his allies challenging the election or its outcome." These lawsuits were “largely dismissed by judges due to a lack of evidence.” According to the Washington Post, the lawsuits filed by Trump’s team largely focused on smaller complaints instead of “alleg[ing] widespread fraud or an election-changing conspiracy.’”
Trump falsely claimed he had a deal with Chinese President Xi to stop "fentanyl from coming in"
The claim: Trump says that had he been elected, Chinese President Xi Jinping would have stopped “fentanyl from coming in.” Xi would have also used China’s death penalty against fentanyl suppliers, Trump asserts.
The facts: These claims, which Trump has made before, are not supported by evidence. In 2018, AP News reported that Trump claimed “victory in getting China to designate fentanyl a controlled substance,” despite the fact that “China took that step against the deadly opioid years ago.” At the time, the Chinese foreign ministry pledged to “designate all ‘fentanyl-like substances’ as controlled substances.” But, China was slow to enforce this policy, and experts noted that “enforcement grew progressively weaker.”
Trump also previously called on China to use the death penalty against fentanyl “distributors and pushers,” arguing that the results “will be incredible.” According to CNBC, China never confirmed “what penalties the government would seek.” In 2022, when Trump repeated the claim that China executes all drug dealers found guilty, a Washington Post fact check clarified that “it is wrong to suggest that all drug dealers in China receive the death sentence.”
Moreover, although U.S. authorities “have detected or seized almost no shipments of fentanyl” since 2019 from China, it’s unclear how much of an impact the policy has had on curbing the fentanyl crisis. According to the Washington Post, “the State Department says traffickers simply switched tactics, and as a result of ‘ineffective oversight,’ China remains a major source of precursor chemicals used to manufacture fentanyl in Mexico for shipment to the United States.”
Trump falsely claimed President Zelensky told reporters Trump "did absolutely nothing wrong" during a phone call about Biden.
The claim: Trump stated that President Volodymyr Zelensky told reporters that Trump “did absolutely nothing wrong.”
The facts: Zelensky never said this, according to FactCheck.org.
Trump is distorting a comment made by Zelensky during a 2019 interview with Time Magazine. Asked about Trump’s decision to withhold military aid to Ukraine, Zelensky replied that he “never talked to the President from the position of a quid pro quo.” In the interview, Zelensky described Trump's position as unfair. "We’re at war. If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us," Zelensky said. "I think that’s just about fairness."
Trump misrepresented the price of crude oil during his presidency and today
The claim: Trump says had his policies been kept in place, oil would be “at $40 a barrel,” instead of $100 a barrel.
The facts: This assertion is misleading. On Trump’s first and last days in office, crude oil prices hovered around $52 a barrel, Reuters reports. Additionally, the current price of oil is not $100 a barrel—data released last week shows that it’s closer to $87 a barrel.
Three additional Trump lies identified by CNN and ignored by NBC News
CNN also identified three other false claims that were not addressed by NBC News during the interview or in the online fact check.
1. Trump claimed he "didn't say" he would use special forces to inflict "maximum damage" on drug cartels. He did, and Trump promotes the policy on his website.
2. Trump claimed he filled up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and now "we have nothing left" because Biden emptied it. But "the reserve actually contained fewer barrels of crude oil when he left office in early 2021 than when he took office in 2017." It currently contains 350.6 million barrels of crude.
3. Trump claimed he "stopped [the] Nord Stream 2" pipeline. Trump imposed sanctions on companies building the gas pipeline from Russia to Germany three years into his presidency after it was 90% complete. After the sanctions were imposed, the Russian oil company backing the project said it would complete the pipeline itself. Nord Stream 2 was halted by the German government as Russia began amassing troops to invade Ukraine.