CNN exaggerated its own impact by hosting Joe Biden for a "town hall" on Tuesday night. Chris Cuomo previewed it by claiming "We're minutes away from history!" Well, at least they treated the event as historic enough for their "fact checker" Daniel Dale to review it for boo-boos.
But guess what? Dale never appeared on CNN's television shows to share his Wednesday findings of "four false claims" by Biden. He last appeared on TV a week ago, fact-checking the Trump side of the impeachment trial on Cuomo Prime Time. This online piece is no comparison to Dale calling Trump a "firehose" of lies, but it was fact checking. These are the four cited:
1 Minimum wage. Biden said "when we indexed it at $7.20, if we kept it indexed by -- to inflation, people would be making 20 bucks an hour right now." No, Congress approved a minimum wage of $7.25 in 2009, so Dale said "Adjust for inflation, $7.25 in January 2009 was equal to $8.98 in January 2021."
2. Immigration. Biden said "The vast majority of the people, those 11 million undocumented, they're not Hispanics; they're people who came on a visa -- who was able to buy a ticket to get in a plane and didn't go home. They didn't come across the Rio Grande swimming..." Dale replied "the Migration Policy Institute think tank estimated in 2018 that 73% of undocumented people in the US speak Spanish at home and 68% are from the Mexico and Central America region, with an additional 7% from South America."
3. China. Biden claimed that in China, "more people are retired than working. How can they sustain economic growth when more people are retired?"
Dale replied: "It is not even close to true that more people in China are retired than working -- even today, let alone when Biden was vice president and the Chinese workforce was younger. China reported having about 775 million employed people at the end of 2019; China had a reported 254 million people aged 60 or above, the normal retirement-benefits age for men."
4. Free community college. Biden repeated his called for community college to be free for all. He said it would cost $9 billion: "We spend almost that money as a break for people who own racehorses." Dale replied "There is no available evidence for the claim that the tax break for racehorse owners costs the government almost $9 billion. The White House declined to provide a source for the figure."
It's unclear if this was the "fourth" false claim, because Dale also tackled Biden's strange talk on vaccines. He focused on Biden saying when "we came into office, there was only 50 million doses that were available." Moments later, he said, "We got into office and found out the supply -- there was no backlog. I mean, there was nothing in the refrigerator, figuratively and literally speaking, and there were 10 million doses a day that were available."
But he defended Biden telling Cooper "when you and I talked last, we talked about it's one thing to have the vaccine, which we didn't have when we came into office, but a vaccinator." Dale wrote "Some of Biden's Republican critics have focused on his claim that 'we didn't have' the vaccine when we came into office -- suggesting that Biden was denying that a Covid-19 vaccine existed at all under President Donald Trump. Given the other comments Biden had just made, we think it's clear in context that this was not his actual meaning."
This claim demonstrates the elasticity of "fact checking." There's the plain meaning of what Biden said, but then Biden's media defenders say "well, it's not his actual meaning." If Trump had come after Biden in history and claimed there was no vaccine when he was inaugurated, then it would be "Pants On Fire" time, always giving no benefit of the doubt. Dale did the same Biden defense on Twitter:
Biden had said just prior that there were "only" 50 million vaccine doses when he took office. I'm looking into that claim (and a bunch of other claims Biden made tonight), but he clearly wasn't trying to claim the vaccine did not exist at all under Trump. https://t.co/2EtKDWyR7o— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) February 17, 2021