Fact-checking Donald Trump

Show: The State of the Union was first broadcast by radio in 1923 — now it is a major TV event.

Donald Trump has given the annual State of the Union address, in which he boasted of a soaring economy and urged citizens to unite behind him. But how many of his key claims were true?

  • “In just over two years since the election, we have launched an unprecedented economic boom — a boom that has rarely been seen before […] We are considered far and away the hottest economy anywhere in the world.”

    Indeed, the US economy did grow by 4.2% in the second quarter of 2018, and 3.5% in the third quarter. But this is hardly unprecedented. The American economy grew by an average of 4% every year between 1992 and 1999.

    Furthermore, several other countries have “hotter” economies than America right now. India’s is growing at over 7%.

    Verdict: False.

  • “We have created 5.3 million new jobs and importantly added 600,000 new manufacturing jobs.”

    Not quite. Trump has inflated the true figures. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the economy has added 4.9 million jobs since January 2017 — including 454,000 manufacturing positions.

    Verdict: Exaggeration.

  • “San Diego used to have the most illegal border crossings in our country. In response, a strong security wall was put in place. This powerful barrier almost completely ended illegal crossings.”

    Statistics show that border arrests have fallen sharply in San Diego — from more than 600,000 in 1986 to 26,000 in 2017. However, the Congressional Research Service claims that the fence Trump refers to “did not have a discernible impact” on the number of illegal crossings into America. This is also known as the “water-balloon effect”, which contends that building barriers in one place merely pushes people to find openings elsewhere.

    Verdict: Misleading.

  • “If I had not been elected president of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea.”

    Debatable. Some believe that the president’s harsh rhetoric only inflamed tensions. He insultingly labelled Kim Jong-un a “little rocket man”, and threatened to hit North Korea “with fire, fury and, frankly, power the likes of which the world has never seen before.” The next day Pyongyang threatened to strike the US territory of Guam with “enveloping fire”.

    Relations have cooled since then. South Korea’s Moon Jae-in invited North Korean athletes to the Winter Olympics. Then Trump and Kim met face-to-face in a historic summit in Singapore. During Tuesday’s speech, Trump declared he would meet the North Korean leader again later this month. Will it lead to concrete steps towards the rogue state’s denuclearisation? Probably not.

    Verdict: Inconclusive.

  • "When I took office, ISIS controlled more than 20,000 square miles in Iraq and Syria. […] Today, we have liberated virtually all of the territory from the grip of these bloodthirsty monsters.”

    This is essentially correct. At their height, ISIS controlled 34,000 square miles of territory in Syria. According to the US Department of Defence, this figure is now down to 20 square miles.

    However, many feel that the fight is not yet over. This week, General Joseph Votel warned a Senate panel that the terrorist group could come back if America pulls out of Syria entirely. “Hard-won battlefield gains can only be secured by maintaining a vigilant offensive against the now largely dispersed and disaggregated ISIS,” he said.

    Verdict: True

  • "No one has benefited more from our thriving economy than women […] We have more women in the workforce than ever before.”

    “Trump is spinning the data here,” reports CNN. Based on raw numbers, more women are working in America right now — but that is largely because there are more people living in America than ever before. Around 57% of US women are working or looking for work. This is down from 60.3% in April 2000.

    Verdict: Misleading

You Decide

  1. Would you vote for Donald Trump?


  1. Prepare your own State of the Union speech addressing the state of Great Britain right now. What is going well in the country? What can be improved? Write a short two-minute speech, including as many rhetorical techniques as you can. Deliver your speech to the class.

Word Watch

When something has never been done before, or known before.
San Diego
City in California, immediately next to the border with Mexico. In fact, it was once part of Mexico, before it was incorporated into the United States in 1850.
A small island in the Pacific Ocean. It is the easternmost territory of the United States, and those born there are rightfully American citizens.
The US wants North Korea to abandon all of its nuclear weapons. In the past, North Korea has made various commitments to “denuclearisation”, without ever actually giving up its nuclear arsenal.
Keeping careful watch for possible danger.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Fact-checking Donald Trump
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