FACT CHECK: 10 Statements From Trump's Phoenix Speech

3 hours ago
Originally published on August 23, 2017 6:01 pm

At a campaign rally in Phoenix on Tuesday, President Trump made news by slamming Republican senators, praising controversial former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and blasting the news media.

He also defended his initial, controversial remarks on recent violent protests in Charlottesville, Va. But in doing so, he left out the parts of the remarks that inflamed people's tempers the most, like his comment that there was violence "on many sides."

That's just one of the misleading or untruthful things Trump said. We fact-checked 10 of his statements.

1. Anti-Trump protesters

"And just so you know from the Secret Service, there aren't too many people outside protesting, OK? That I can tell you."

It's impossible to fact-check exactly what Trump knew about protesters — if Secret Service agents spoke to Trump about protesters or what agents told him, for example.

But we do have at least some context on this claim: Trump very likely did see some protesters on his way to the convention center where his rally was held. In a pool report, Washington Times reporter David Boyer wrote about the anti-Trump activists along the route as the presidential motorcade drove to the rally site:

"We saw a smattering of supporters holding Trump/Pence signs and waving in the neighborhood near the hotel. As we got closer to the convention center, we saw more and more protesters. Hard to judge how many, but there were several hundred that we passed.

"Several people made obscene gestures at the motorcade. Some signs included 'Fire Trump' and 'Sad!' Also, 'Love One Another.' "

However, it's also possible that Trump didn't get the full scope of how many protesters were there, according to NPR's Geoff Bennett, who was traveling with the president as well. The motorcade didn't drive by the area where the overwhelming majority of protesters were gathered, Bennett reports. Those protesters numbered in the "thousands," as Fox News and the Los Angeles Times reported.

2. Charlottesville statement

"I am really doing this to show you how dishonest these people are. Here is my first statement when I heard about Charlottesville. ... Here is what I said on Saturday:

" 'We're closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Va.' This is me speaking. 'We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence.' That's me speaking on Saturday, right after the event."

The key part here is this sentence: "We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence."

Trump did say that, but he left out the second part of that sentence. The full sentence was: "We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides — on many sides" (per a transcript from Vox).

It was that "many sides" part that angered many people — it appeared to put the KKK, neo-Nazi and other white supremacist rallygoers on the same moral footing as the counterprotesters who opposed them.

He made the comparison more than once in his responses to the events in Charlottesville. The Tuesday after the protest, he said:

"OK, what about the alt-left that came charging — excuse me. What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?" he said in response to a reporter's question. He later added, "You had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides."

3. CNN ratings

"CNN, which is so sad, so pathetic, and their ratings are going down."

Early in August, CNN released new data showing that its ratings are healthy. According to the report:

"Year to date, 2017 is pacing to be CNN's highest on record in Total Day among total viewers and highest among 25-54 since 2003. 2017 is also pacing to be CNN's second largest audience since 2008 in primetime among 25-54 and total viewers."

In addition, Variety reported in June that CNN had its "most-watched first quarter in 14 years."

Of course, CNN isn't alone in getting these ratings boosts; all three major cable news networks "saw double-digit ratings growth across the board for the second quarter of 2017," Variety also reported.

Trump has made the claim before as part of his ongoing attacks on the media. He said CNN's ratings were down in July, too; PolitiFact likewise at the time found this to be "flat wrong."

4. "Racism was evil"

"I said racism was evil. Did they report that I said racism was evil? No."

Multiple headlines from an array of news outlets reported that Trump called racism "evil" in his Aug. 14 address — in which he also called out the KKK and neo-Nazis specifically after political pressure to do so.

5. New York Times "apology"

"The New York Times essentially apologized after I won the election because their coverage was so bad, and it was so wrong, and they were losing so many subscribers that they practically apologized. I would say they did. They say, 'Well it wasn't really that much of an apology because they were losing so many people because they were misled.' "

Trump has claimed multiple times that the Times "apologized," though this time he seemed to back off slightly by saying it "essentially" apologized. Either way, the New York Times did not apologize, as NPR's Jessica Taylor wrote in a fact-check of a Jan. 29 Trump tweet.

"New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and executive editor Dean Baquet did write a letter to readers after the surprising election conclusion examining the paper's coverage. In the note, they acknowledged that 'after such an erratic and unpredictable election there are inevitable questions: Did Donald Trump's sheer unconventionality lead us and other news outlets to underestimate his support among American voters?' And a column from the paper's public editor (or ombudsman), Liz Spayd, pointed out problems with its data/forecasting vertical that predicted that Hillary Clinton had an 80 percent chance of winning the election. She also argued that the paper's reporters could have done a better job of tapping into 'the sentiments of Trump supporters.'

"However, neither of those pieces constitutes an apology."

The Times itself in a March 29 tweet responded to Trump: "False, we did not apologize. We stand by our coverage & thank our millions of subscribers for supporting our journalism."

6. Health insurance premiums

"Arizona is a disaster in terms of your price increase ... 116 percent."

This figure is correct. It comes from an October 2016 report from the Department of Health and Human Services. It found that among all states, Arizona would have the largest average premium hike in 2017, as measured by silver plans offered to 27-year-olds.

But when talking about Affordable Care Act premium increases, it's misleading to not also mention tax credits.

"The caveat is that most people don't feel that price hike because they're insulated by the tax credits under the Affordable Care Act," as Will Stone, from NPR station KJZZ in Tempe, told NPR in March.

Stone added that GOP efforts to overhaul health care would very likely have made the situation in Arizona worse.

"The Republican replacement ... would have lowered the tax credits relatively significantly for a place like Arizona."

7. Job numbers

"Since I took the oath of office, we have added far more than 1 million jobs in the private sector. Unemployment is right now at almost a 17-year low."

From February through July, U.S. firms have added 1,074,000 jobs, according to numbers from the Labor Department (with the caveat that those numbers are still subject to revision). That's solid growth, but it's not out of the norm for the last few years.

And unemployment is 4.3 percent. The last time it was that low was May 2001, and the last time it was lower than that was February 2001 — so it has been 16 1/2 years since unemployment was lower than it is now.

8. Economic growth

"Economic growth has surged to 2.6 percent. Remember, everybody said you will not bring it up to 1 percent."

Economic growth in the second quarter was indeed 2.6 percent, up from 1.2 percent in the first quarter. One can quibble with the word "surged" here, but 2.6 percent isn't at all an unusually high economic growth number. Economic growth is often around or above that level.

But as far as "everybody" saying that Trump wouldn't be able to boost economic growth above 1 percent, that's false. The Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee in its December meeting, for example, projected 2.1 percent economic growth for 2017. Economic advisory firm IHS likewise projected that in 2017, growth would be above 2 percent — 2.3 percent, to be exact.

Trump himself has said he's aiming for even higher growth: 3 percent, to be exact (and that's down from a 4 percent prediction he had made before). Even sustained 3 percent growth is unlikely to happen, according to many economists.

9. Increasing wages

"Wages are rising."

Wages are indeed rising, but not very quickly — in fact, considering the low unemployment rate, economists continue to wonder why they aren't rising faster.

"The mystery continues to be with the labour market this tight, and the level of improvement we continue to see, that wages stubbornly stay at 2% year-over-year wage growth. To me that continues to be the mystery of the jobs report," as Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors, told the BBC after the July jobs report was released.

In the last jobs report, wage growth accelerated slightly, to 2.5 percent annually, as Bloomberg reported. That's a positive development, but wage growth can bounce around from month to month; if the upward movement becomes sustained, that will be a more promising sign. As CNN reported after the last jobs report, many economists would consider wage growth around 3 to 3.5 percent to be a better sign that the job market is healthy.

10. Stock market highs

"The stock market is at its all-time high in history."

Trump is right: The Dow Jones industrial average — one of the most closely watched stock indexes — has posted several record highs this year, passing the 22,000 mark in early August. The S&P 500, another popular index, has likewise hit multiple highs this year.

All stock index records come with the caveat that they are not adjusted for inflation. In addition, Trump can't really claim credit for that entire rally, as NPR's Jim Zarroli reported in July. While his policy agenda of deregulation and lower corporate taxes may have some in the business community feeling confident, low interest rates and faster global growth are also likely helping to push stocks higher.

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