Public Comment

Fact-checking Donald Trump's 2020 State of the Union address

Gar Smith
Saturday February 08, 2020 - 11:19:00 AM

Who says Donald John Trump hasn't accomplished anything of substance during his stint as Reprimander-in-Chief? According to the Washington Post's fact-checkers, Trump has managed to utter 16,241 false or misleading statements during his first three years in office. 

No surprise then, that DJT's State of the Union Address would be rife with fibs. As WaPo reporters Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo and Sarah Cahlan put it, Trump's address was "chock-full of stretched facts and dubious figures." 

Here is a short video recap of Trump's Top Five SOTU Lies—followed by a more comprehensive list of some of Trump's other flawed facts and flabbergasting misrepresentations. 


"I am thrilled to report to you tonight that our economy is the best it has ever been." 

Trump has "made a variation of this claim some 260 times," WaPo reports. The truth is, "Trump has never achieved an annual growth rate above 3 percent." 

"I moved rapidly to revive the US economy … enacting historic and record-setting tax cuts." 

"That's Four-Pinocchios false," WaPo responds. "Measured as a share of the US economy, Trump's tax cut is the eighth-largest in the past century." 

"We have created 7 million new jobs." 

The last three years of Barack Obama's presidency saw job creation averaging 227,000 a month, far surpassing "the monthly average of 191,000 [jobs] a month under Trump." 

"The average unemployment rate under my administration is lower than any administration in the history of our country." 

The WaPo sleuths note: "the unemployment rate average was lower in Lyndon B. Johnson's second term than it has been under Trump." 

"The unemployment rate for disabled Americans has reached an all-time low." 

The claim of an "all-time low" is a "big stretch," since the Bureau of Labor Statistics only started recording these numbers in 2008. 

"Under my administration, 7 million Americans have come off of food stamps." 

This is not because of Washington's largess. It's the result of states rolling back "recession-era waivers that allowed some adults to keep their benefits" and the Trump administration's immigration policies prompting frightened immigrant families to drop out of the program. 

"In just three years of my administration, 3.5 million people, working-age people, have joined the workforce." 

Trump ignores the Great Recession of 2008, which saw the loss of 800,000 jobs per month. Obama's policies prevented greater job losses and launched a recovery that brought Labor Force Participation Rate back to 62.8 percent. During the Trump administration the LFPR has only reached 63.2 percent. 

"This is a blue-collar boom." 

"The manufacturing sector is in a technical recession," the WaPo observes." Job growth has slowed in many 'blue-collar' sectors such as transportation, construction and mining." 

"Since my election, the net worth of the bottom half of wage earners has increased by 47 percent — three times faster than the increase for the top 1 percent." 

"Trump is just spinning here. . . . People in the bottom half have essentially no wealth — just 1.6 percent of the nation's wealth . . . . The top 5 percent hold more than 70 percent of all net worth in the United States." 

"All those millions of people with 401(k)s and pensions are doing far better than they have ever done before with increases of 60, 70, 90 and even 100 percent." 

"There's no evidence of such huge gains," the WaPo notes. "An analysis by Fidelity Investments showed the average 401(k) balance increased less than 1 percent." 

The Poynter Institute's Fact-checks 

According to an extensive review by the Politifacts team at the Poynter Institute, Trump’s speech included a number of falsities that he continues to repeat during campaign rallies. The Politifacts team fact-checked Trump's SOTU for accuracy or missing context. Here is some of what they found: 

Health Care 

"I've made an ironclad pledge to American families: We will also protect patients with pre-existing conditions." 

"This repeated line is Pants on Fire. His administration is doing the opposite in court." 

Last year, "for the first time in 51 years, the cost of prescription drugs actually went down." 

Mostly False. 


"We have now completed over 100 miles [of Beautiful Wall] and have over 500 miles fully completed in a very short period of time.  

The 100-mile reference is mainly about the replacement of older, dilapidated barriers with new fencing. The southwest border had 654 miles of primary barriers before Trump was elected. Three years into Trump’s term, that has increased by only 1 mile. 


"Our military is completely rebuilt." 

This hasn’t happened. Rebuilding the military would require new equipment that can take years to build and develop. According to Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, Trump’s claim is "hyperbole." 

"We have invested a record-breaking 2.2 trillion in the US Military." 

Politifacts reveals that Trump was lumping together three years of military spending and notes that: "On an inflation-adjusted basis, not one year of Trump's defense budgets has exceed the high point in 2010 under Obama." 

"Soleimani was the Iranian regime's most ruthless butcher, a monster who murdered or wounded thousands of American service members in Iraq." 

Politifacts' correction: The last Pentagon estimate of US deaths by Iranian-backed militias was 603 

"Today, the ISIS territorial caliphate has been 100 percent destroyed, and the founder and leader of ISIS — the bloodthirsty killer known as Al‑Baghdadi — is dead!” 

In the words of Politifacts: "The US military warned, in a report issued the day Trump spoke, that the Islamic State remained a dangerous threat and that the killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi did not degrade the group’s capabilities . . . . ISIS remained cohesive, with an intact command and control structure, urban clandestine networks, and an insurgent presence in much of rural Syria.” 

“Qasem Soleimani … directed the December assault [on the US Embassy in Iraq] and went on to assault US forces in Iraq, and was actively planning new attacks.” 

Politifacts responds: "Other than Trump’s assertion, there is no publicly available evidence that Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani directed the December attacks or that any possible attack was imminent." 


"After decades of flat and falling incomes, wages are rising fast — and, wonderfully, they are rising fastest for low-income workers, who have seen a 16% pay increase since my election.  

"This is Half True," Politifacts concedes. Since 2016, the bottom 10% saw a 14.6% rise but in 2017 and 2019, earnings for the top 10% grew faster than for the lowest wage earners. Still, Trump’s statement was only true for one out of his three years in office. 

Trump says he enacted "historic and record-setting tax cuts."  

False. In inflation-adjusted dollars, the recent tax bill is the fourth-largest since 1940. And as a percentage of GDP, it ranks seventh. 

"America has now gained 12,000 new factories under my administration." 

This leaves out some important context. The number of manufacturing jobs for production and nonsupervisory workers fell by 12,000 in 2019. Also, the recovery trend began four years before Trump took office. 

"After losing 60,000 factories under the previous two administrations, America has now gained 12,000 new factories under my administration." 

Politifacts offers this correction: "The data Trump cited is not really about factories." Some 80 percent of these "factories" are actually "manufacturing establishments" that can employ five or fewer workers. Also included as "Trump factories"—brick and mortar bakeries, candy stores, custom tailors and even cottages that host home businesses. 

"Thanks to our bold regulatory reduction campaign, the United States has become the No. 1 producer of oil and gas anywhere in the world, by far." 

"Trump is taking too much credit. The United States has been the world’s largest oil producer since 2012 and the top natural gas producer for years. Both achievements happened before Trump took over the White House." 

"The unemployment rate for women reached the lowest level in almost 70 years." 

"This is accurate but the women’s unemployment rate began falling under Obama's administration." 

"The US-Mexico-Canada Agreement will create nearly 100,000 new, high-paying American auto jobs." 

"This is a dubious figure," Politifacts states, citing a government report that predicts the probably creation of only 28,000 jobs for autoworkers. 

"Our new [health insurance] plans are up to 60 percent less expensive." 

And there's an obvious reason, Trump's new short-term plans "offer skimpier coverage and thus provide less protection." 

“We will always protect patients with preexisting conditions.” 

The truth is, " the Trump administration is supporting a total repeal of the Affordable Care Act — including its guarantee that patients can’t be denied coverage for preexisting conditions" and his new short-term plans "are not required to cover preexisting conditions." 

"For the first time in 51 years, the cost of prescription drugs actually went down.” 

Sorry, the Politifacts watchdogs report: "Studies we found show drug prices have not declined, especially when it comes to branded drugs." 

“In the Senate, we have confirmed a record number of 187 new federal judges.” 

According to Politifacts: "It’s not a record. Trump has a long way to go to have appointed the most federal judges. Reagan has the record, with 383, followed by Bill Clinton with 378 and then Obama with 329." 

“Forty million American families have an average $2,200 extra thanks to our child tax credit.” 

Once again, Trump is claiming full credit for someone else's work. As Politifacts points out: "The child tax credit has existed since 1997, and it has been expanded since then, including in the recent tax law. In 2016, under Obama, 35 million American families took the tax credit."