President Donald Trump stood before thousands of supporters in Mississippi on Friday night, squinted and pointed, and told them he was seeing something that was not actually happening.
Trump criticized CNN at length at his campaign rally in Tupelo. Then he gestured toward the back of BancorpSouth Arena and informed the crowd that he had just seen the light on CNN’s camera go out.
“Their light just went off. See? Look. Their light was on — they just turned it off,” he said.
When the light is on, he explained, “that means you’re live.” CNN had stopped broadcasting live, he said, because it didn’t want to air his scathing criticism.
He made up this whole story.
Facts First: CNN was never broadcasting the rally live. CNN was not providing the live “pool” feed to other television networks. CNN’s photojournalist on the scene did not stop recording at any point in the speech. And the light on his camera is set so that it does not go on and off at all. CNN.com streamed the live rally online.
Trump did not make an innocent mistake: this is at least the eighth time as President he has made a baseless claim about the lights on television cameras being turned off as he has criticized the media. We think it’s especially egregious: it’s the President looking at his devotees and deceiving them about something happening in that very room.
Trump made more false claims at the rally. Among others:
Trump claimed he was the one who got the Veterans Choice health care program passed.
Facts First: President Barack Obama signed the Choice program into law in 2014; in 2018, Trump signed another bill, the VA MISSION Act, that expanded and modified the Choice program.
Trump claimed he would “always protect patients with pre-existing conditions, always.”
Facts First: We usually don’t fact-check promises, but this one has already proved untrue. The Trump administration and congressional Republicans have repeatedly put forward bills and filed lawsuits that would weaken Obamacare’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions; Trump is currently supporting a Republican lawsuit that is seeking to declare all of Obamacare void, and he has not issued a plan to reinstate the law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions if the suit succeeds.
Trump claimed the unemployment rate is the lowest in “over 51 years.”
Facts First: This is his usual slight exaggeration of an already-impressive number. The 3.6% unemployment rate for October is the lowest in just under 50 years (if you ignore the fact that it was slightly lower, 3.5%, in September).
Trump claimed “unemployment in Mississippi has reached the lowest rate ever recorded. Ever recorded.”
Facts First: This was true last year and early this year, but it is not true now. Mississippi’s unemployment rate went as low as 4.7% last fall, which was indeed a record, but it has since increased to 5.4% — higher than it was during portions of 1999, 2000 and 2001, and the same as it was during portions of 1979. The official White House Twitter account offered a correct version of the claim, saying the state’s unemployment rate “hit its lowest level EVER last year!”
Trump claimed that first lady Michelle Obama, along with President Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey, had campaigned for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams in Georgia in 2018.
Facts First: Michelle Obama did not campaign for Abrams at all, though Barack Obama and Winfrey did.
Tariffs on Chinese products
Trump claimed that the tariff revenue being allocated to farmers who have been affected by his trade war with China is coming “compliments of China.”
Economic relations with China
Boasting about the billions of dollars the US Treasury is receiving because of his tariffs on imported Chinese goods, Trump said the money is coming “from a country that never gave us 10 cents; they only took.”
Facts First: Again, these tariffs are paid by Americans. Aside from the question of who is paying, it’s not true that the Treasury has never received “10 cents” from tariffs on China. The US has had tariffs on China for more than two centuries; the Treasury received $14 billion from tariffs on China in 2014, to look at one pre-Trump year.
Trump’s claim also ignores China’s hundreds of billions of dollars in purchases of US goods — more than $300 billion during Trump’s presidency alone.
We’ll have a comprehensive list of Trump’s false claims at the rally for our weekly fact check update on Wednesday.
UPDATE: This article has been updated to reflect that CNN provided a live online stream of the rally, though CNN did not air the rally live on television.