Fact-checking Biden's speech took a while

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

As usual, I didn’t stay up to watch President Biden give his (not the) State of the Union address last night, preferring to watch the highlight reel this morning. (Note to the White House: If you want old fogies with early bedtimes to watch, do it earlier.) Still, even a brief review of some of the key portions of the address turned up some real doozies in terms of what the mainstream media used to call “lies or misleading statements” until January 20 of this year. Given the softball treatment that Biden has received from the press thus far, I was curious as to how the major news outlets would do in fact-checking Uncle Joe’s claims. I’ll confess to being pleasantly surprised when I saw that the Associated Press (who previously amended their style guide to help Biden look better) actually picked apart large parts of last night’s speech and did a rather admirable job of holding the President’s feet to the fire. Let’s take a look at some of the claims they examined and just how far off the mark Biden was.

BIDEN: “When I was vice president, the president asked me to focus on providing help needed to address the root causes of migration. And it helped keep people in their own countries instead of being forced to leave. The plan was working, but the last administration decided it was not worth it. I’m restoring the program and I asked Vice President Harris to lead our diplomatic effort to take care of this.”

I really loved the AP’s response to that claim because it started with a two-word sentence. “That’s wrong.”

They go on to correctly point out that illegal migration from Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries has continued “unabated and with periodic spikes” for decades. They also note that the hundreds of millions of dollars in aid going to those nations during the Obama/Biden administration continued during Trump’s term in office, albeit with some minor cuts based on a lack of cooperation from certain bad actors. The AP also points out that Biden described illegal aliens residing in the United States using the phrase “the vast majority who are here overstaying visas.” The majority of illegal aliens entered the country illegally. The highest estimate of the percentage who are visa overstays puts the number somewhere in the forties, not a “vast majority.”

After pointing to Biden’s claim that “a broad consensus of economists” think his massive spending plans are a good idea and noting that the consensus is far from broad, they get to Biden’s next whopper and it has to do with prescription drug prices.

BIDEN, arguing that Congress should authorize Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices. “And by the way, that won’t just help people on Medicare — it will lower prescription drug costs for everyone.”

The AP describes that one as “wishful thinking.” The proposal that Nancy Pelosi is working on to expand Medicare, allowing for negotiated prices, isn’t even a sure thing to pass in the House. It’s almost certain to fail in the Senate. And even if it went through, it wouldn’t benefit “everyone,” excluding most people who have private plans through their employers.

Missing from the AP fact check was any mention of Biden’s boasting about how many vaccinations have been distributed. That might be because Biden didn’t directly come out and take credit for it, simply saying that the number was more than double what he originally predicted. But we’ve already seen the fawning (and blatantly false) coverage that the press is providing for him on that subject, so perhaps he didn’t feel the need to bother. Still, Senator Tom Cotton took the opportunity to point out what was wrong with Biden taking credit for the vaccination drive.

The Associated Press also took the obligatory look at the GOP response to the speech from Senator Tim Scott. I suppose they had to find something wrong, so they picked out his claim (regarding the COVID pandemic) that “this administration inherited a tide that had already turned.” The AP describes that as “a stretch” rather than saying he was wrong. (He’s not wrong and it wasn’t a stretch.) They next pick out Scott’s description of the robust economy under Trump (pre-pandemic) and the unprecedented levels of employment, particularly for women and minorities. Incredibly, these are the first two sentences of the AP fact-check.

His statistics are selectively misleading. Nothing is false on its face in terms of numbers.

So you’re admitting that he got all of his numbers correct, but those correct figures are “misleading?” Hoo boy. Well, at least they were doing pretty well up to that point.