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Oct 23, 2020
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TOPLINE While the final debate between President Donald Trump and his challenger Joe Biden was significantly more sedate compared to the raucous first debate, it still featured a host of falsehoods about Covid-19, Russia, and Biden’s climate plans.

On the Covid-19 death toll, Trump claimed that “2.2 million people were expected to die,” a misleading number which he has stated multiple times to claim that his administration saved 2 million lives. The number is based on the worst-case scenario modeled by the Imperial College of London which hypothesized what would happen if no action was taken during the pandemic and people continued to live their daily lives as normal, with no change in behavior. The model, however, acknowledged that such a scenario was unrealistic.

Trump incorrectly stated that the country was “rounding the corner” on the pandemic, despite the number of new infections rising once again to nearly 60,000 a day, following a dip in the late summer.

Trump also falsely claimed that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease official, had described Covid-19 as “no problem” and predicted it would “go away soon.” In reality, even back in January, Fauci said that the U.S. had to take the disease seriously, while in February he said that the risk was still low but cautioned “this could change.”

Trump accused Joe Biden of receiving $3.5 million from Russia and the amount came through Putin, a claim based on a politically charged report released by Senate Republicans last month into Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Russia and Ukraine. The report, however, does not accuse Joe Biden of any wrongdoing or claims that Hunter Biden’s business dealings influenced the Obama administration’s foreign policy. Hunter Biden’s lawyer has also denied that he was the “co-founder” of the company in question.

In one of the most bizarre statements of the night, Trump claimed that Biden’s platform is pushing to force buildings to replace their existing windows with smaller ones, or remove them altogether, in the name of energy efficiency. This claim is false since Biden’s platform makes no mention of windows anywhere, nor does the Green New Deal, a more expansive proposal to fight climate change endorsed by many progressive Democrats but not Biden himself.

Under fire for his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, Trump tried to shift blame, repeatedly accusing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) of acting slower and accusing her of “dancing on the streets in Chinatown in San Francisco” and urging street fairs and parades. Pelosi made a visit to San Francisco’s Chinatown in late February, where she urged people to take precautions and to be vigilant while advocating the patronage of Chinese businesses. A day later Pelosi called for a broader and more forceful response to tackling the virus, according to the Washington Post.

During the debate, Biden claimed that Trump had caused America’s trade deficit with China to “go up, not down”. According to PolitiFact, this is mostly false since the U.S. trade deficit with China in goods and service was lower under Trump in 2019, than it was in any of the final three years of the Obama administration, where Biden served as vice president. Biden’s campaign is pointing to a narrower evaluation that includes trade in goods only, where numbers under Trump have generally been higher than they were under Obama.

Trump also claimed that Biden "doesn’t come from Scranton… He lived there for a short period of time before he even knew it, and he left." This is untrue, the former vice president was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania in 1942 and lived there until the age of 10. While his family then moved to Wilmington, Delaware, PolitiFact notes that Biden continued to spend most summers and holidays with his mother’s family there.

According to a number of snap reaction polls taken after the debate, Biden was seen as the winner of the final debate against the President. A YouGov poll featuring 491 registered voters found that 54% believed Biden won the debate, while 35% believed Trump won and the remaining 9% saw it as a tie. CNN also released a poll shortly after the debate where 53% said Biden won compared to 39% who felt Trump did a better job.
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