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Fact check: Biden campaign falsely describes J.D. Vance quote about Heritage Foundation

By Daniel Dale, CNN

Washington (CNN) — In two social media posts on Tuesday, President Joe Biden’s campaign distorted a quote from Republican Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio to inaccurately make it seem as if Vance had been praising a conservative think tank’s Project 2025 initiative and expressing support for a nationwide abortion ban and cuts to Social Security.

Both of the “Biden-Harris HQ” posts on X, formerly known as Twitter, included a nine-second video of Vance – a possible Republican vice presidential candidate – saying the following in a 2023 speech: “I want to thank especially Kevin Roberts and all of the Heritage Foundation for 50 years of incredible work on conservative policy.” Roberts is the president of the think tank.

In one of the posts, the “Biden-Harris HQ” account claimed that the video showed Vance complimenting Project 2025 in particular. Project 2025 is an extensive Heritage Foundation blueprint for how former President Donald Trump, if elected again, could radically reshape the executive branch and implement right-wing policies.

The Biden campaign claimed in the other post that the video showed Vance praising two unpopular policy proposals. The post said: “Trump VP contender JD Vance thanks Project 2025 leaders for their ‘incredible work’ of creating a plan for Trump to ban abortion nationwide and cut Social Security.”

Facts FirstBoth of the Biden campaign posts are false. The full video of Vance’s speech to the Heritage Foundation shows that he did not mention Project 2025, abortion, or Social Security at all; the 2023 speech was almost entirely about foreign policy, with a dash of criticism of progressives. And the Biden campaign misleadingly edited the Vance sentence it purported to quote, using ellipses to omit the fact that Vance was broadly praising the Heritage Foundation’s work over the last five decades rather than endorsing any particular recent initiative or proposal.

The Biden campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

An edited quote

The Biden campaign edited Vance’s quote to make it read as follows: “I want to thank especially Kevin Roberts and all the Heritage Foundation for… incredible work on [our] policy.”

That’s a distortion. Here, again, is what Vance actually said: “I want to thank especially Kevin Roberts and all of the Heritage Foundation for 50 years of incredible work on conservative policy.”

So the Biden campaign removed the words “50 years of” and “conservative,” and added the word “our,” to make it sound like Vance was conveying praise of current policies Vance himself had adopted – rather than general praise for Heritage’s decades of contributions to the conservative movement.

What Project 2025 says and what Vance says 

Vance did say near the beginning of the speech that the Heritage Foundation “is going to play a major role in helping us figure out how to govern, at the White House, at the Senate, at the House and all across our great country.” But the full Project 2025 policy document, a 920-page tome called “Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Promise,” was not released until the day after Vance’s speech, which he delivered on April 20, 2023.

That Project 2025 policy document barely mentions Social Security, let alone makes significant proposals on the subject. On abortion, the policy document calls for the Justice Department to enforce a law, first passed in the 19th century, that criminalizes the mailing of abortion pills and any other items used in abortions. Critics have warned that strict enforcement of this law could create a de facto national abortion ban without requiring Congress to pass new legislation.

On NBC this past weekend, Vance said he supported the recent Supreme Court decision that allowed abortion medication mifepristone to continue to be mailed to patients without an in-person visit to a doctor. On CBS in May 2024, he avoided taking a position when asked what minimum national standard on abortion he would support, nodding toward Trump’s stated position that abortion policy will be determined by individual states.

Vance is opposed to abortion; on the website for his 2022 campaign for the Senate, he declared himself “100 percent pro-life” and called for “eliminating abortion.” However, he said on CNN in December 2023: “We have to accept that people do not want blanket abortion bans. They just don’t. And I say that as a person who wants to protect as many unborn babies as possible. We have to provide exceptions for life of the mother, for rape, and so forth.”

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