Fact Check: President Trump vs. Chris Wallace on Coronavirus Death Rates, Defunding the Police

Posted: Jul 20, 2020 10:25 AM

President Trump sat down for a lengthy interview with "Fox News Sunday" anchor Chris Wallace, of whom Trump has been repeatedly and vocally critical, and the two butted heads on a number of issues. Two of the exchanges that received the most attention involved a dispute over America's relative global standing on coronavirus mortality, as well as a disagreement over whether presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden supports defunding the police. Let's start with the mortality rate exchange:

Wallace asserted that the US has the "seventh-worst" coronavirus mortality rate in the world, with Trump countering that the US has one of the best, if not the best. Wallace explains the disparity roughly 45 seconds into the clip above. Sure enough, a Johns Hopkins chart seems to back up Wallace's point -- but it's an incomplete picture. Another chart on the same website, for instance, shows America's death rate in 10th place on the "deaths per 100,000" metric, faring better than countries like Belgium, Spain, Italy and France, none of which appear on the graph Wallace relied upon and cited. Furthermore, the Johns Hopkins data takes statistics provided by the Chinese, Iranian and Russian governments at face value, which are not credible. All three nations are undoubtedly lying about their case and death counts, China especially.

Counting the United States as worse off than any of those three countries requires swallowing their bogus numbers. Trump is right that Dr. Deborah Birx has made the point for months that America has performed better on mortality rates than most other hard-hit western countries. But that doesn't mean that we're the best or nearly the best. With outbreaks rampaging across parts of the country, critics have plenty of material to work with in scrutinizing the US government's collective response to the coronavirus pandemic, and Trump's actions and rhetoric aren't inspiring much public confidence, according to the polls. Let's move on to the matter of defunding the police and Joe Biden's position on it (skip ahead to the 1:15 mark of this video):

Here, Trump is on shaky ground; he actually has a point he could have made to at least partially back up his claim, but he didn't deploy it. Biden said in early June that he flat-out opposes calls to defund the police, and Trump is incorrect to say that the Biden/Sanders "unity task force" document (the "charter" to which he refers) endorses defunding or abolishing the police. It does not. But Biden has said that he supports "redirecting" funds away from the police, which is how many supporters and defenders of the "defund the police" mantra have publicly defined the term (with others adopting the more straightforward and radical definition):

I'd like to see Biden grilled on his precise stances, especially how they'd be implemented, and how they differ dramatically from his own record in the Senate. Donald Trump subjected himself to a long, challenging interview with one of the toughest interviewers in the American news media. Does Joe Biden have the confidence to do the same?