AP Fact Check: Trump Bending Facts on Coronavirus, Biden

In this July 15, 2020, file photo President Donald Trump listens to a reporter's question on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump clung to the false notion that the coronavirus will just “disappear,” made incorrect claims about a top government expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and again insisted that Americans are getting all the COVID-19 tests they need — all in a television interview Sunday where his answers fell short on the facts.

A look at the president’s alternate reality on the virus threat, as well as his falsehoods on Democratic rival Joe Biden, the economy and the military in a “Fox News Sunday” interview:

TRUMP vs, FAUCI

TRUMP: “Dr. Fauci at the beginning said, ‘This will pass. Don’t worry about it. This will pass.’ He was wrong.”

THE FACTS: Trump is overstating it. While Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease official, said in January and February that Americans need not panic about a virus threat at the time, he also said the situation was “evolving” and that public health officials were taking the threat seriously.

“Right now the risk is still low, but this could change, I’ve said that many times,” Fauci told NBC on Feb. 29. He allowed that if there are growing cases of community spread, it could become a “major outbreak.”

“When you start to see community spread, this could change and force you to become much more attentive to doing things that would protect you from spread,” Fauci said.

He never claimed the virus would just “pass” or disappear.

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TRUMP: “Dr. Fauci told me not to ban China, it would be a big mistake. I did it over and above his recommendation.”

THE FACTS: That’s incorrect. While Fauci expressed some initial reservations about travel restrictions on China, he supported the decision by the time it was made.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who was coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force at the time and announced the travel restrictions, said Trump made the decision in late January after accepting the “uniform recommendation of the career public health officials here at HHS.”

While the World Health Organization did advise against the overuse of travel restrictions, Azar told reporters in February that his department’s career health officials had made a “considered recommendation, which I and the president adopted” in a bid to slow spread of the virus.

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TRUMP: “I will be right eventually. You know I said, ‘It’s going to disappear.’ I’ll say it again. It’s going to disappear, and I’ll be right.”

TRUMP: “We’ll put out the flames. … It’s going to be under control.”

THE FACTS: “The virus is not going to disappear,” according to Fauci. Nor can it be considered “under control” and its flame “put out” while cases have surged to new daily highs.

The number of confirmed cases in the U.S. per day has risen over the past month, hitting over 70,000 this past week, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University. That is higher even than what the country experienced from mid-April through early May, when deaths sharply rose.

Fauci has warned that the increase across the South and West “puts the entire country at risk” and that new infections could reach 100,000 a day if people don’t start listening to guidance from public health authorities to wear a mask and practice social distancing.

Arizona, California, Florida and Texas have recently been forced to shut down bars and businesses as virus cases surge. The U.S. currently has more than 3.7 million known cases and many more undetected.

In February, Trump asserted coronavirus cases were going “very substantially down, not up,” and told Fox Business it will be fine because “in April, supposedly, it dies with the hotter weather.”

Fauci says there “certainly” will be coronavirus infections in the fall and winter.

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TESTING

TRUMP: “We go out into parking lots and everything, everybody gets a test.”

THE FACTS: He’s repeating the false notion that anybody who wants a COVID-19 test can get one.

Americans are being confronted with long lines at testing sites. People often are disqualified if they are not showing symptoms and, if they are tested, they sometimes are forced to wait many days for results.

Julie Khani, president of the American Clinical Laboratory Association, which represents LabCorp, Quest Diagnostics and other labs, has made clear that “the anticipated demand for COVID-19 testing over the coming weeks will likely exceed members’ testing capacities.” This past week the group encouraged members to give priority to “those most in need, especially hospitalized and symptomatic patients.”

Many governors and local officials say they cannot meet the demand.

“Testing has been a challenge everywhere,” says Utah Republican Gov. Gary Herbert.

Around Seattle, for instance, a new wave of patients is showing up at emergency departments, said nurse Mike Hastings.

“What’s really frustrating from my side of it is when a patient comes into the emergency department, and is not really having symptoms of COVID, but they feel like they need that testing,” said Hastings, who is president of the Emergency Nurses Association. “Sometimes we’re not able to test them because we don’t have enough test supplies, so we’re only testing a certain set of patients.”

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TRUMP: “Cases are up, because we have the best testing in the world and we have the most testing.”

THE FACTS: It’s not true that infections are high only because the U.S. diagnostic testing has increased. Trump’s own top public health officials have shot down this line of thinking. Infections are rising because people are infecting each other more than they were when most everyone was hunkered down.

Increased testing does play a role in the higher numbers, but there’s more to it. Testing in fact has uncovered a worrisome trend: The percentage of tests coming back positive for the virus is on the rise across nearly the entire country.

That’s a clear demonstration that sickness is spreading and that the U.S. testing system is falling short.

“A high rate of positive tests indicates a government is only testing the sickest patients who seek out medical attention and is not casting a wide enough net,” says the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, a primary source of updated information on the pandemic.

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POLICE

TRUMP: “Biden wants to defund the police.”

THE FACTS: To be clear, Biden has not joined the call of protesters who demanded “defund the police” after George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis. He’s proposed more money for police, conditioned to improvements in their practices.

“I don’t support defunding the police,“ Biden said last month in a CBS interview. But he said he would support tying federal aid to police based on whether “they meet certain basic standards of decency, honorableness and, in fact, are able to demonstrate they can protect the community, everybody in the community.”

Biden’s criminal justice agenda, released long before he became the Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee, proposes more federal money for “training that is needed to avert tragic, unjustifiable deaths” and hiring more officers to ensure that departments are racially and ethnically reflective of the populations they serve.

Specifically, he calls for a $300 million infusion into existing federal community policing grant programs.

That adds up to more money for police, not defunding law enforcement.

Biden also wants the federal government to spend more on education, social services and struggling areas of cities and rural America, to address root causes of crime.

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ECONOMY

TRUMP: “I built the greatest economy ever built anywhere in the world; not only of this country, anywhere in the world, until we got hit with the China virus.”

THE FACTS: Not true. The economy was healthy back then but not the best in U.S. history, much less world history.

Economic gains largely followed along the lines of an expansion that started more than a decade ago under President Barack Obama. And while posting great job and stock market numbers, Trump never managed to achieve the rates of economic growth he promised in the 2016 campaign. The U.S. economy was not the world’s best in history when this started.