Speed Reads

Trump's big speech

Fact-checkers had a field day with President Trump's address to Congress

When presidents address joint sessions of Congress, they "generally are careful not to stretch the truth," say Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee at The Washington Post. But despite the high-profile stage, "President Trump's maiden address to Congress was notable because it was filled with numerous inaccuracies," including several he "trots out on a regular, almost daily basis." There are a handful of "four Pinocchio" whoppers sprinkled in among the 13 notable claims Kessler and Lee fact-check, but generally the verdict — as at similar reality checks by CNN, The New York Times, PolitiFact, and USA Today — is "true but misleading."

A widely cited example is Trump's technically accurate but practically absurd claim that 94 million Americans are out of the labor force. Some 75 percent of those people (pretty much every American over 15 without a job) are students, stay-at-home parents, disabled people, and retirees who aren't looking for work; the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the number of unemployed people at 7.6 million in January. Trump's claim that the U.S. has spent $6 trillion on wars in the Middle East is also wildly inflated, counting the $1.6 trillion to $3.8 trillion the U.S. has spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 plus future spending for three decades on veterans' care, interest on the debt, and other costs. This unspent money could not, obviously, have been used to rebuild America's infrastructure. There were other hard-to-verify statements like this:

Mostly, though, Trump exaggerated or cherry-picked data. He claimed credit for military cost cuts in the works long before he was elected, for instance, and U.S. jobs that companies decided to fill before the election — though, notes CNN's Julia Horowitz, "there are signs he urged along the process in cases." He suggested that the major driver of lost factory jobs was free-trade agreements rather than automation technology, and strongly oversold the problems facing the Affordable Care Act. Trump also falsely suggested America has an open border, exaggerated the crime risk and economic costs of immigration, and neglected to mention that overall violent crime is still near historical lows. If you want more information, you can read any of the embarrassment of fact-checks above.