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Trust Index: Fact-checking Biden-Trump debate claims about economy, Michigan

Presidential candidates make claims about Detroit automakers during first debate

The economy has been President Trump’s strongest issue and his most trusted area among voters.

Both he and former Vice President Joe Biden made Michigan-specific claims during Tuesday night’s first presidential debate. We ran those claims through the Trust Index to see how factual the statements were.

Biden and the economy

We’ll start with the first mention of Michigan from the President.

“Pennsylvania, Michigan, and a couple of others, you gotta open these states up, it’s not fair, you’re talking about almost it’s like being in prison. And you look at what’s going on with divorce, look at what’s going on with alcoholism and drugs, it’s a very, very sad thing. And he’ll close down the whole country,” said Trump.

Hyperbole aside, we’re calling the President’s claim about what Biden would do true. But there is a bit to unpack. Biden has said repeatedly that he would shut down the economy if it was under the advice of scientists and medical experts.

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Alcohol, drug abuse and divorce claims

When it comes to alcohol and drug abuse, a July report from the American Association of Medical Colleges shows a series of studies showing an increase in both alcohol and drug abuse.

On divorce, the President is likely pulling from a widely shared summer survey from a company that creates legal documents which said those seeking divorce papers was up 34 percent.

It's True

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Auto industry claims

Here are two claims from Biden on the state of the automakers and his role in the auto bailout.

“I was asked to bring back Chrysler and General Motors, we brought them right back right here in the state of Ohio and Michigan. He blew it, they’re gone. He blew it,” said Biden.

The first claim here we’re calling true, but there’s more to the story. Biden did play a role in the auto bailout but things were already in motion when he and President Obama entered the White House.

It's True

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On his second claim, that’s not true: The Big Three are still in Michigan. The former vice president exaggerates the losses automakers have suffered under the President, although auto jobs were declining and auto companies lost billions in the U.S. trade war with China.

Not True

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That leads to this last claim from the President:

Michigan had the best year they’ve ever had. Many car companies came in from Germany and Japan, went to Michigan,” said Trump.

We’re calling the President’s claims here not true for a few reasons. While it’s a little unclear what he means by Michigan having its “best year,” the automakers lost about 11 percent in operating revenue in 2019 and auto sales dipped by $17 million, far from the best year.

Finally, no German or Japanese car manufacturing companies moved to Michigan in 2019.

We’ve tested claims made by both Biden and Trump on the auto industry before. Find that Trust Index here.

Not True

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