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Fact-checking the presidential candidates' comments on the coronavirus pandemic

Trump and Biden campaigned in Michigan this week

DETROIT – A lot of things were brought up during the last two days while President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden campaigned in Michigan.

Several earned a run through ClickonDetroit’s Trust Index including comments made about the state of the pandemic, auto industry jobs, COVID-19 in the military and Biden’s son Hunter.

LIVES LOST AND COVID THE VACCINE

“We’re rounding the turn, you see what’s happening, you see the numbers of plunging,” Trump said during his speech at a Freeland airfield hanger Thursday.

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It’s unclear what the president means by “rounding the turn.” Last month the Director of the CDC Robert Redfield, said he thinks death rates will drop as cases level out in southern states, but just a week before that he said the fall could be “the worst ever” if people don’t take COVID-19 guidance seriously.

As for the numbers, that also depends on your definition of plunging, but cases have dropped both nationwide and in the state of Michigan since their spikes in July.

Here’s one from former vice president Joe Biden’s visit on Thursday at a United Auto Workers lodge in Warren.

“Experts saying that if he had acted just, just one week sooner 36,000 people would have been saved. If he acted two weeks sooner, back in March 54,000 lives would have been spared in March and April along,”sad Biden.

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Biden appears to be quoting a Columbia University study from May and doing a little math. According to the study nearly two-thirds of all cases and more than half of all deaths at the time would have been prevented had steps been taken sooner in the early weeks of the pandemic.

Here’s another from the President

“By the end of the year we will have a safe and effective vaccine and we will defeat the China virus. I have a feeling, by the way, I think the vaccine is going to come very soon,” he said.

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After a stoppage in a high profile vaccine trial in the UK this week and last week the head of the president’s vaccine operation, Moncef Slaoui, said in an interview it was “extremely unlikely” a vaccine would be ready by the end of October, or soon, as it earns its rating. However, Slaoui did say he “firmly” believed the vaccine would be ready by the end of the year.

COVID-19 AND THE MILITARY

Here’s another from Biden.

“Military COVID infected, 118,984. Military COVID deaths, 6114,” Biden said while reading from a list of numbers he says he keeps on the back of a schedule kept in his pocket.

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Biden way overstated the numbers here. According to the Department of Defense only 7 US service members have died from the virus and total cases top 40,000. It does appear Biden mixed up those numbers with the total in Michigan while he was here.

AUTO MANUFACTURING JOBS, MORE JOBS AND HUNTER BIDEN

The first one is a claim that the president said a few times that he added a lot of auto plants both here in Michigan and around the country.

“Before the virus my administration added 200 new auto plants… 200,” he said before joking about reading from the teleprompter.

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The president has been making up the number of auto plants during public appearances in recent weeks. So far in Michigan, only the Jeep plant in Detroit was created during his term here in Michigan and several companies have said they would add employees but no new factories.

Next, a pair of job claims from Biden.

“Our economy is down 4.7 million jobs since he took office, 4.7,” said Biden.

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The fact is from the Department of Labor which just released the figures for August last week, although the number is not corrected for the pandemic.

“While nearly 20,000 auto manufacturing jobs have been lost in Michigan under Trump nearly 80,000 were created during the Obama administration,” Biden said.

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Biden splits his two numbers here. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest recorded number of jobs in Michigan during president Obama’s two terms was about 43,000 auto manufacturing workers, which accounted for an increase of about 28,000 jobs added over those 8 years.

Biden could have been talking about the overall jobs lost and created, but this number seems way too high. Although what he said about the president’s first three years is accurate. By April of this year, nearly 20,000 auto jobs had been lost.

Finally, one last one from the president about Biden’s son Hunter.

“But ‘Where’s Hunter’ facilitating the sale of a Michigan automotive company to a leading Chinese military defense contractor? Does anyone know that China’s military got yet another piece of,” Trump said about Biden’s younger son. The name Where’s Hunter is a common refrain from the president’s supporters introduced during the president’s impeachment and the Ukraine scandal.

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According to reporting about this sale, Hunter Biden joined the hedge fund BHR partners in 2013 as an unpaid advisory board member.

In 2015, BHR helped a top Chinese aerospace company buy out the Auburn Hills auto parts company Henniges Automotive, which had to be signed off by the Senate Finance Committee.

Biden didn’t join the board as a paid member until 2017, according to interviews with his lawyer. The Senate Finance Committee did subpoena Biden’s travel records but that was back in May and so far there hasn’t been proof Biden facilitated any kind of deal although he was with the fund at the time.


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