Fact-checking the wildest claims from Trump’s CPAC speech

Josh Marcus
·5 min read
Trump Conservatives (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Trump Conservatives (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

After nearly six weeks of uncharacteristic quiet, Donald Trump returned to the public eye on Sunday for a keynote speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Florida. Characteristically, it was full of bizarre claims, mischaracterised statements, and outright lies.

Here’s a fact-check on some of the biggest moments during his remarks.

On The Election

The animating idea throughout the entire speech, and for much of the ex-president’s recent few months, was that, actually, he won the presidential election, by a landslide no less. This, of course, is not true.

“As you know, they just lost the White House,” Mr Trump said, referring to Mr Biden’s campaign, which won the Electoral College 306-232. “But it’s one of those — but who knows, who knows, I may even decide to beat them for a third time, OK?”

Later in the speech, he put his position even more succinctly: “I won the first one. We won the second.”

As state electors, Congress, over 60 unsuccessful lawsuits, Trump administration officials like former attorney William Barr, and even many (but certainly not all) state-level Republican officials have confirmed, Joe Biden won the election fair and square.

The ex-president also blamed a litany of factors for his loss, from dead voters being counted to new mail-in ballot expansions during the pandemic.

“The Democrats used the China virus as an excuse to change all of the election rules, without the approval of their state legislators, making it therefore illegal. It had a massive impact on the election,” Mr Trump said.

It’s true that many places expanded voting access amid the pandemic, but they were done in red and blue states alike by courts and legislators. Also, it’s common, not illegal, for courts to interpret disputes or apply remedies in election law cases in ways that have practical effects for voters on the ground.

Finally, contrary to Mr Trump’s claims during his CPAC talk, dead people didn’t vote in Pennsylvania, according to the state’s attorney general.

On The Coronavirus Pandemic

The ex-president also made misleading claims about the coronavirus pandemic, such as that Joe Biden didn’t believe there was a Covid vaccine when he took office, a potential insinuation about Mr Biden’s mental fitness, which Mr Trump repeatedly questioned on the campaign trail. Again, this is just patently untrue.

“He said there’s no vaccine, oh good, say it again Joe,” Mr Trump said. “I don’t think he said that in a malicious way. I absolutely believe he said that because he didn’t know what the hell was happening.”

The Biden administration has said there was no plan to distribute the Covid vaccine.

“The process to distribute the vaccine, particularly outside of nursing homes and hospitals out into the community as a whole, did not really exist when we came into the White House,” White House chief of staff Ron Klain said in January.

The ex-president also painted a much rosier picture of the coronavirus situation in the country than actually exists, especially in regards to the economy.

“Unlike other countries who are having a hard time, we didn’t break,” the president said. “We came roaring back,” pointing to the record-setting stock market levels towards the end of his presidency.

The stock market isn’t a reflection of the entire economy, and Mr Trump was actually the first president since Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression to leave office with fewer employed Americans than when he started. What’s more, countries like China and New Zealand have returned in far greater measure to normal economic life than the US has during the pandemic.

On Trans People

The president also insisted that women’s sports records everywhere were being broken by “biological males,” a highly derogatory way to describe trans women in sports.

“A lot of new records are being broken in women’s sports. Hate to say that, ladies. But you’ve got a lot of new records — they’re being shattered,” Mr Trump said. “If this does not change, women’s sports as we know it will die,” he predicted.

This mass unseating of record-holders seems to have been invented from thin air, and warnings of a secret mass infiltration of sports from trans athletes are a common tactic of those opposed to granting LGTBQ+ full civil rights.

Controversial Georgia rep Marjorie Taylor Greene has made similar comments, which would elevate sexuality and gender identity to the same standard of protection as race and sex under civil rights law.

On Immigration

Mr Trump made immigration — and gross distortions of the facts about immigration — a centrepiece of his political rise, so it’s no surprise he returned to this at CPAC.

He lashed out at Mr Biden’s immigration agenda as an attempt to “cancel border security” leading to a “self-inflicted humanitarian disaster”.

“Joe Biden has triggered a massive flood of illegal immigrants, the likes of which we’ve never seen before,” Mr Trump said during his address.

Apprehensions at the US southern border have actually been rising since April of 2020, and are driven by a number of factors ranging from families ties, to economic opportunity, to climate change, to regional instability, to November hurricanes in Central America.

What’s more, migration experts blame a number of Trump administration policies for humanitarian issues, such as the traumatic effects on children of “zero tolerance” family separation, a border wall that fatally pushed migrants further into dangerous remote areas, and the “Remain in Mexico” protocols, which stranded thousands of migrants in squalid camps along the border as they waited for asylum cases to proceed.

On Renewable Energy

Finally, the president bashed renewable in his speech, criticising how Democrats want more of“the windmills that don’t work when you need them.”

This is a likely reference to the conservative talking point that Texas’ renewable energy sources were to blame for the state’s rolling blackouts that left thousands stranded without heat or water as winter storms pummeled the state last week.

Most of the state’s power, around 80 per cent, comes from fossil fuels and nuclear power, not solar or wind.

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