Trump using Facebook ads to lie about his Democratic opponents

The Trump campaign has launched a series of new Facebook ads that blatantly lie about the policy positions of several Democratic candidates for president. One ad, for example, claims that Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, and Andrew Yang support eliminating private insurance. 

The ad shows the three candidates, along with Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris, raising their hands with the caption "DEMOCRATS RAISE THEIR HANDS FOR SOCIALISM." The ad goes on to claim that the candidates are raising their hands in support of a proposal to "kick nearly 200 million Americans off their current private healthcare plans." 

During this debate, moderator Lester Holt did ask the candidates, through a show of hands, to indicate whether they supported eliminating private insurance. 

Let’s talk about healthcare. And this is going to be a show of hands question...Many people watching at home have health insurance of their employer. Who here would abolish their private health insurance in favor of a government-run plan? 

This is an actual screenshot of how the candidates responded. 

Buttigieg was given a chance to answer in more detail and specifically said that he would maintain the private insurance market and allow a "public option" to compete with commercial offerings.

I would call it Medicare for All Who Want It. you take something like Medicare, a flavor of that, and you make it available on the exchanges it. People can buy in. And then if people like us are right that that will be not only a more inclusive plan, but a more efficient plan than any of the corporate answers out there, then it will be a very natural glide path to the single-payer environment. 

Biden also responded in more detail and said he also would offer a public option while also maintaining the private insurance market. 

The fact of the matter is that the quickest, fastest way to do it is build on Obamacare, to build on what we did. And secondly, secondly, to make sure that everyone does have an option. Everyone, whether they have private insurance, employer insurance or no insurance, they, in fact, can buy into the exchange to a Medicare-like plan. And the way you do that, you can do it quicker look, urgency matters. 

The Trump ad, however, falsely claims that Biden and Buttigieg both support eliminating private insurance.

Facebook's ad policies prohibit "false and misleading" ads. But the company has not consistently enforced this policy against the Trump campaign, its largest political advertiser.

Facebook did not respond to request for comment.

Kamala Harris said after the debate that she misunderstood the question and does not support eliminating private insurance. Of the Democratic candidates, only Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Bill DeBlasio support eliminating private health insurance. 

The issue is not whether attributing this view to certain Democratic candidates is politically advantageous to Trump. It might not be. But if Trump is allowed to use the unprecedented reach of Facebook to spread lies about his opponents, it represents a fundamental threat to the integrity of the 2020 election. 


This is a special report from the Popular Information newsletter. Subscribe to get original research, reporting, and analysis on political issues that really matter.