As we enter the administration of a president who is both prolific on Twitter and prone to tweeting factual inaccuracies, the Fact Checker faced a conundrum: How much effort should we devote to fact-checking President-elect Donald Trump’s tweets?
Tweets are ephemeral — in theory, at least. By the time we start on one fact check of Trump’s tweet, he may have tweeted many others that are fact-checkable. Many of Trump’s tweets are easy to debunk and do not rise to the level of a Pinocchio rating. In fact, Twitter users often correct Trump within minutes, in fewer than 140 characters.
So, we are launching an occasional feature looking at what Trump got wrong on Twitter in a given week. We will continue to devote full fact checks of claims Trump makes on Twitter when the fact check allows for discussion of a substantive policy issue. But as for the rest, we will include them in a roundup on Fridays. We will keep the analysis of each tweet as short as possible, with links to additional information for readers who want to know more. As always, we welcome reader suggestions.
Here’s a look at what Trump got wrong in eight tweets from this week, listed in chronological order.
Chicago’s homicide rate was, indeed, an outlier for 2016. But it wasn’t record-setting, as Trump says.
There were 762 murders in Chicago in 2016, according to the Chicago Police Department. The homicide rate is projected to be about 28 homicides per 100,000 people. Both the actual number of homicides and the homicide rate in Chicago are still below their peak in the early 1990s, during the height of the crime wave relating to the crack cocaine epidemic and gang activity in many major cities.
The 2016 homicide rate in the 30 largest cities is projected to rise by 14 percent, with Chicago driving much of this spike, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. The center projects that Chicago will account for 43.7 percent of the total increase in 2016 homicides.
The North American Free Trade Act phased out all U.S. tariffs on auto imports from Mexico and Canada, as long as they meet the “rules of origin” requirements. This refers to rules set within a trade agreement that require a certain percentage of products “originate” from countries participating in the trade agreement, in order to be exempt from trade tariffs.
That means cars made in Mexico that meet the rules of origin requirement are imported into the United States tariff-free. General Motors does make some Chevrolet Cruze models in Mexico: the hatchback model that is sold to global markets. GM told PolitiFact that 4,500 out of 29,000 hatchbacks (15 percent) made in Mexico in 2016 for global markets were sold in the United States.
But that’s not the full story. GM manufactures the Chevrolet Cruze sedan in Lordstown, Ohio, and all Chevrolet Cruze sedans sold in the United States are built at the Lordstown assembly plant, GM said. GM sold 185,500 Chevrolet Cruze sedans in the United States in 2016 — about 41 times the number of Mexico-made Chevrolet Cruze hatchbacks sold in the United States.
Trump cherry-picks data from Arizona, the state hit the hardest by 2017 premium increases under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The average increase for the second-lowest cost silver plan (which is used as the benchmark to calculate government subsidies) is 25 percent. A few states, such as Indiana, will actually see a decrease.
But the majority of enrollees in the marketplace receive government premium subsidies and, in theory, are protected from such premium increases. So who is affected? The people who do not qualify for the tax subsidy.
The subsidies are part of what former president Bill Clinton called “a crazy system” — not all of Obamacare, as Trump’s tweet implies. Subsidies phase out as income increases, so people who make just a little too much to qualify for the subsidy can be hit hard by the increases. (For more, check out our explainer on Obamacare and premium increases.)
Trump took credit for Ford’s decision to abandon its plans to open a factory in Mexico and instead expand its Michigan plant. But analysts say Ford’s decision has more to do with the company’s long-term goal — particularly, its plans to invest in electric vehicles — than the administration. It’s easier for companies to find highly skilled workers to build new products, such as electric cars, in the United States than in Mexico.
“The reason that we are not building the new plant, the primary reason, is just demand has gone down for small cars,” Ford chief executive Mark Fields said. But Ford’s top officials also have said they are encouraged by economic policies and business opportunities under Trump’s administration.
The Ford engineers, tasked with creating these [electric vehicle] models, work in Dearborn, Mich. — 20 miles from the Flat Rock assembly plant. Moving production to Mexico would have made their jobs harder, said Brett Smith, an auto analyst at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor.
“Keeping a new technology near the engineers is an important thing, at least in the first generation,” he said. “That gives them a lot more control to monitor a system.”
Ford’s vision for the updated Michigan facility, meanwhile, meshes with broader industry trends, he said.
There has been a long dispute over the likelihood of recidivism among detainees released from Guantanamo Bay. (We’ve written about recidivism claims before.) Here’s some important context to Trump’s tweet.
Office of the Director of National Intelligence records show that nine out of 161 detainees (5.6 percent) released since President Obama took office were “confirmed of re-engaging” in militant activity, as of July 2016. “Confirmed” means there is “a preponderance of information which identifies a specific former GTMO detainee as directly involved in terrorist or insurgent activities.”
Another 11, or 6.8 percent, are suspected of “suspected re-engaging,” defined as “plausible but unverified or single-source reporting indicating a specific former GTMO detainee is directly involved in terrorist or insurgent activities. For the purposes of this definition, engagement in anti-US statements or propaganda does not qualify as terrorist or insurgent activity.”
Since the George W. Bush presidency, 122 of 693 detainees (17.6 percent) were confirmed to be reengaging, and 86 of 693 (12.4 percent) suspected of reengaging.
Trump has expressed skepticism of U.S. intelligence briefings, and tweeted about a delay in a planned briefing on the “so-called ‘Russian-hacking.’” However, a U.S. official told The Washington Post that the briefing was always scheduled for Friday:
The official said that Trump did receive a regular intelligence briefing Tuesday, and raised the possibility of confusion on the part of his transition team or schedulers.
“It’s possible that his team has some scheduling disconnect” and that “whatever he received today didn’t meet his expectations,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence matters. But, the official said, the fuller briefing on Russia’s alleged election hacking was never scheduled to occur Tuesday, and plans for a fuller Friday briefing have been in place for several days.
We explored WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s comments in-depth in a separate fact check with a Pinocchio rating. Assange earned Three Pinocchios for the Russian claim cited by Trump.
Trump is referring to the Dec. 14 announcement that 16-year-old singer Jackie Evancho will sing the national anthem at the Jan. 20 inauguration ceremony. But it’s unclear whether it was the inauguration — or that it was Christmas — that helped boost the sales of Evancho’s Christmas album, “Someday at Christmas.” Her Dec. 19 appearance on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent: Holiday Spectacular” also may have helped sales.
Evancho released the album on Oct. 28. During the week ending on Dec. 15, she sold 7,206 copies, the Associated Press reported, citing data from Nielsen Music. The following week ending Dec. 22, she sold 18,788 copies — a 91.3 percent increase. The next week, ending Dec. 29, she sold 11,096 copies.
For context, the top-selling album during those weeks was Pentatonix’s “A Pentatonix Christmas,” the Associated Press reported. During the weeks ending Dec. 22 and Dec. 29, it sold 206,000 and 101,000 albums, respectively.
“It’s difficult to tell whether her participation in the inauguration boosted album sales,” wrote Elahe Izadi, The Washington Post’s pop culture writer. “Her latest release did do better on the Billboard charts after the Dec. 14 inauguration announcement than before — but that’s unsurprising given that her album is a Christmas album. Perhaps she did benefit from the increased media attention — or, maybe her album sales could have been a lot better had she not booked the gig at all.”
“Skyrocketed” is a subjective term, but here’s a noteworthy point from Billboard: “Of course, when a title isn’t selling very much, and then has a burst of unexpected sales, its percentage increase will naturally be quite large — which is what happened with Evancho’s album.”
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