After four years of a presidency that swamped Americans with a gusher of false and misleading claims, the Joe Biden era has offered a return to a more typical pattern when it comes to a commander in chief and his relationship with the facts — one that features frequent spin and obfuscation or exaggeration, with the occasional canard.
Among the most notable falsehoods of President Biden’s first 100 days in office was his claim — which he made three times — that Georgia’s controversial Republican-backed election law had shortened voting hours.
The claim was one of two uttered by Biden to earn the Fact Checker’s “Four Pinocchio” rating, reserved for whoppers — the other being his wildly off-base statement, borrowed from the campaign, that federal contracts “awarded directly to foreign companies” rose by 30 percent under President Donald Trump.
More typical for Biden, when he uttered a false statement, was some subtle truth-stretching.
He spun that if Congress passed his infrastructure plan, “the economy” would create 19 million additional jobs; only 2.7 million of those jobs could be attributed to the proposal itself. He asserted that as vice president he helped craft an $800 billion strategy to help Central America; it was $750 million.
Through April 29, his 100th day, Biden has made 78 false or misleading statements, according to a Washington Post Fact Checker analysis of every speech, interview, tweet or public statement made by the president. That compares to 511 such statements in Trump’s first 100 days.
Misleading claims in the first 100 days
In compiling the database of Biden’s claims in his first 100 days, The Fact Checker used the same methodology as the Trump database that counted more than 30,000 claims over the course of Trump’s presidency. Any statement that would merit at least Two Pinocchios — essentially “half true” — was included. Any claim that was repeated was also included, though unlike Trump, Biden generally does not repeat his false claims if they have been fact-checked as false.
Biden’s relatively limited number of falsehoods is a function, at least in part, of the fact that his public appearances consist mostly of prepared texts vetted by his staff. He devotes little time to social media, in contrast to his Twitter-obsessed predecessor, and rarely faces reporters or speaks off the cuff.
His press secretary, Jen Psaki, holds lengthy daily briefings with the media, and Cabinet secretaries also speak on Biden’s behalf.
All told, through April 29, according to a count by Factba.se, Biden spoke about 30 percent fewer words than Trump and tweeted 65 percent fewer times. He gave only seven interviews, compared to 22 for Trump, and held only two news conferences, compared to nine for Trump.
Almost 100 of Trump’s claims came from tweets; only one of Biden’s tweets was deemed false or misleading. Trump made 56 suspect statements at campaign rallies; Biden held only one campaign rally — on his 100th day — where he made one suspect claim.
How Biden and Trump communicated publicly in the first 100 days
About one-eighth of Biden’s false or misleading claims on the list relate to the Georgia voting law, which Democrats charge is part of a GOP effort to seize on Trump’s bogus claims of election fraud to justify the disenfranchisement of minorities.
Biden’s claim that the measure shortened voting hours drew sharp criticism from Republicans, who accused Democrats of lying about the bill. In reality, Election Day hours were not changed and the opportunities to cast a ballot in early voting were expanded.
Biden aides never provided an explanation for why Biden made this statement — or why it was even repeated in an official statement issued by the White House.
Biden has also made some other exaggerated claims about the Georgia law, such as calling it “Jim Crow on steroids.” He was referring to a system that, before passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, systematically denied Black Americans their constitutional right to vote through “literacy tests,” poll taxes and other measures. But the law does not put up roadblocks to Black Americans registering to vote.
While Biden exaggerated at times, he often recalibrated his wording in response to news coverage. For instance, he claimed that reporters had said he was “crazy” when he announced a goal of 100 million vaccine shots in 100 days. That was a stretch, as reporters instead had written it was ambitious and potentially difficult. After fact checks appeared, Biden switched to simply saying reporters said the goal was “ambitious.”
He pitched his infrastructure plan with a finely tuned claim that “Independent analysis shows that if we pass this plan, the economy will create 19 million jobs.” While the analysis, by Moody’s Analytics, did make that prediction, it attributed only 2.7 million of those additional jobs to the plan itself; most of the other jobs would have been created anyway, with or without the plan. After a flurry of fact checks, the White House dropped the talking point and simply started saying the plan would create “millions” of jobs.
Biden has said he ignores Trump, but the former president seems to be ever-present at times in Biden’s mind — and, on occasion, the current president will use exaggerated rhetoric to draw a contrast.
During a news conference, Biden claimed, without apparent evidence, that children “starved to death” in Mexico under Trump’s 2019 policy allowing border officers to return non-Mexican asylum seekers to locations in Mexico as their claims are adjudicated in immigration courts.
When Biden addressed the pandemic, he also pushed the envelope sometimes to favorably contrast himself with Trump. He said, “When I took office three weeks ago, America didn’t have a plan or enough supplies to vaccinate most of the country,” and that Trump had failed to order enough vaccine doses. In reality, the Trump administration had options in place to buy more vaccines. The Biden team had to fill in the blanks of the plan and it sped up the tempo, but it was wrong to say there was no plan.
At another point, he said: “When I took office 50 days ago, only 8 percent of Americans after months, only 8 percent of those over the age of 65 had gotten their first vaccination. Today, that number is 65 percent.” When Biden took office, vaccinations had only been given for about a month, not “months.” Moreover, health-care workers, residents of long-term care facilities, front-line essential workers and people 75 and older were in line to be the first to be vaccinated, which is why a relatively small percentage of people over 65 had been vaccinated.
A number of Biden’s statements were flubs. For instance, he said Hispanics were the fastest-growing immigrant population, when their rate of growth has been overtaken by that of Asian Americans in the past decade.
Five times, Biden oddly claimed that more Americans had died from the coronavirus than from all of World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War combined (sometimes he added in the Sept. 11 attacks as well). But the number of in-service deaths during World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War combined adds up to about 580,000 deaths, which was more than the covid-19 deaths at the time. The White House initially said the president intended to refer to combat deaths, but that made little sense because then he actually could have said more people have died of covid-19 than in combat during all of America’s wars against foreign enemies.
Perhaps the strangest claim made by Biden — which he said twice as president — was that he had “traveled 17,000 miles with” Chinese President Xi Jinping when they were both vice presidents. Biden certainly met with him a lot — but the White House conceded that “traveled with” was not accurate. Moreover, no matter how generously the travel was measured, it never added up to 17,000 miles. How Biden made this calculation — which he also said at least once during the campaign — remains a mystery.
Explore all of Biden’s false or misleading claims
(Showing 78 of 78 total claims)
“All America wants to thank you, because here’s what we mean by delivering for the people. We created in the first hundred days. 1,300,000 new jobs — 1,300.000 jobs in one hundred days. That’s more new jobs in the first hundred days of any president in history.””
“That’s the reason why it’s recovering, because we are investing. Look how rapidly it’s recovered since we passed the last piece of legislation. And that legislation was $1.9 trillion.”
“They [Trump administration] didn’t plan for, which it comes every year, this flow, whether it is 22,000 or 10,000 — they didn’t have the beds that were available. They didn’t plan for the overflow. They didn’t plan for the Department of Health and Human Services to have places to take the kids from the border patrol and put them in beds where there were security and there were people who could take care of them.”
“Secretary Blinken can tell you, I spent a lot of time with President Xi — traveled over 17,000 miles with him.”
“In the process, while this was all going on, the economy created more than 1,300,000 new jobs in 100 days — more jobs in the first 100 days than any president on record.”
“When I was sworn in on January 20th, less than 1 percent of the seniors in America were fully vaccinated against covid-19. One hundred days later, 70 percent of seniors in America over 65 are protected — fully protected.”
“Over 11 million undocumented folks — the vast majority are here overstaying visas.”
“When I was vice president, the president asked me to focus on providing the help needed to address the root causes of migration. And it helped keep people in their own countries instead of being forced to leave. The plan was working, but the last administration decided it was not worth it.”
“Talk to most responsible gun owners and hunters. They’ll tell you there’s no possible justification for having 100 rounds in a weapon. What do you think — deer are wearing Kevlar vests? They’ll tell you that there are too many people today who are able to buy a gun but shouldn’t be able to buy a gun.”
“There’s a broad consensus of economists — left, right, center — and they agree that what I’m proposing will help create millions of jobs and generate historic economic growth.”
“Less than 1 percent of seniors were fully vaccinated when I took office. Today, in less than 100 days, more than 67 percent -- two thirds of our seniors -- are now fully vaccinated.
“When I took office, 8 percent of the people over 65 had received their first shot.”
“The problem was that the refugee part was working on the crisis that ended up on the border with young people. We couldn’t do two things at once.”
“The folks who own weapons, the folks who own guns, they support universal background checks. The majority of them think we should not be selling assault weapons.”
“This is a moment for American strength and American unity; for government, industries, communities to work together to make sure that we’re ready to meet the global competition that lies ahead, not continuing to slide in terms of our investment. We’re ranked, like, number 25th in the world now. That’s not American.”
“The average rapist rapes about six times.”
“Most people don’t know, you walk into a store and you buy a gun, you have a background check. But you go to a gun show, you can buy whatever you want and no background check.”
“The only industry in America, a billion-dollar industry, that can’t be sued, has been exempt from being sued, are gun manufacturers.”
“States that have red-flag laws have seen a reduction in the number of suicides in their states.”
“More than 75 percent of the people over the age of 65 have gotten shots, up from 8 percent when we took office. That’s a dramatic turnaround and critical because seniors account for 80 percent of all covid deaths.”
“Independent analysis shows that if we pass this plan, the economy will create 19 million jobs — good jobs, blue-collar jobs, jobs that pay well.”
“Raising taxes, the studies show, will not slow the economy at all. Asking corporate America just to pay their fair share will not slow the economy at all. It will make the economy function better and will create more energy”.
“I have the list of exactly how many have died: 547,296 Americans dead from the virus — more than all the people killed in World War One, World War Two, the Vietnam War, 9/11. 547,296 Americans.”
“I’d note, parenthetically, that I got criticized for giving tax breaks to middle-class and poor folks this last time. I didn’t hear that cry — hue and cry when we were doing the same thing when Trump’s tax bill passed and 83 percent of the money went to the top 1 percent.”
“You’re going to close a polling place at 5 o’clock when working people just get off. This is all about keeping working folks, ordinary folks that I grew up with, from being able to vote.”
“Imagine passing a law saying you cannot provide water or food for someone standing in line to vote.”
“This is Jim Crow on steroids, what they are doing in Georgia.”
“When I took office on January 20th, that number [of those over 65 who were vaccinated] was 8 percent. It’s going to 75 percent.”
“Among the outrageous parts of this new state law, it ends voting hours early so working people can’t cast their vote after their shift is over.”
“It makes it a crime to provide water to voters while they wait in line.”
“This is Jim Crow in the 21st century.”
“That’s right, 200 million shots in 100 days. I know it’s ambitious, twice our original goal, but no other country in the world has even come close, not even close to what we are doing.”
“To hear them [Republicans] complain when they passed a close to $2 trillion Trump tax cut, 83 percent going to the top 1 percent.”
“I also set a goal before I took office, of getting a majority of schools in K through 8 fully open in the first 100 days. Now, thanks to the enormous amount of work done by our administration, educators, parents, local, state education officials and leaders, a recent Department of Education survey shows that nearly half of the K-through-8 schools are open now, full time, five days a week for in-person learning.”
“Well, look, the idea that I’m going to say, which I would never do, that if an unaccompanied child ends up at the border, we’re just going to let them starve to death and stay on the other side — no previous administration did that either, except Trump.”
“We’re sending back the vast majority of the families that are coming.”
“It happens every single solitary year. There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months of January, February, March. ... The reason they’re coming is that it’s the time they can travel with the least likelihood of dying on the way because of the heat in the desert.”
“Ninety of the Fortune 500 companies making billions of dollars not paying a cent in taxes.”
“I would like elected Republican support, but what I know I have now is I that have electoral support from Republican voters. Republican voters agree with what I’m doing. … Over 50 percent of them must be over that edge, as well, because they support what I did.”
“The way to deal with this problem — and I started to deal with it back when I was a United States senator — I mean, vice president — putting together a bipartisan plan of over $700 million to deal with the root causes of why people are leaving. What did Trump do? He eliminated that funding. He didn’t use it. He didn’t do it.
“You know, if you’re a husband and wife, schoolteacher and a cop, you’re paying at a higher rate than the average person making a billion dollars a year is.”
“Between 1917 and 1971 the filibuster existed, there were a total of 58 motions to break a filibuster that whole time. Last year alone, there were five times that many.”
“What I’m worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is. It’s sick. It’s sick … deciding that you’re going to end voting at five o’clock when working people are just getting off work.”
“Deciding in some states that you cannot bring water to people standing in line, waiting to vote.”
″....deciding that there will be no absentee ballots under the most rigid circumstances.”
“I still think the majority of the American people don’t like the fact that we are now ranked, what, 85th in the world in infrastructure. ... We have somewhere, in terms of infrastructure — we have — we rank 13th globally in infrastructure.”
“Unfortunately, the last administration eliminated that funding [for the Northern Triangle] — did not engage in it, did not use it — even though there was over $700 million to help get this done.”
“So this new surge we’re dealing with now started with the last administration, but it’s our responsibility to deal with it humanely and to — and to stop what’s happening.”
“We’re at 535,217 dead as of yesterday, last night. ... That’s more people than have died in all of World War — Americans — all of World War One, World War Two, the Vietnam War and 9/11 combined — combined — in a year. In a year.”
“I was able to get a bipartisan bill [providing aid to Central America] passed for almost $800 billion to go to the root cause of why — why people are leaving.”
“They don’t like it because in fact their — their idea of a tax cut is give the Trump tax cut, where 83 percent went to the top 1 percent of the people in America.”
“Sixty percent of all these tax breaks go — all these tax breaks go to the bottom 60 percent of the population.”
“First of all, there was a surge the last two years. In ’19 and ’20 there was a surge as well.”
“The adults are being sent back, number one.”
“According to Moody’s, for example, by the end of this year, this law alone will create 7 million new jobs. Seven million.”
“I set a goal that many of you said was kind of way over the top. I said I intended to get 100 million shots in people’s arms in my first 100 days in office.”
“When I took office 50 days ago, only 8 percent of Americans after months, only 8 percent of those over the age of 65 had gotten their first vaccination. Today, that number is 65 percent.”
“We’re actually on track to reach this goal of 100 million shots in arms on my 60th day in office. No other country in the world has done this. None.”
“A year ago, we were hit with a virus that was met with silence and spread unchecked. Denials for days, weeks, then months that led to more deaths, more infections, more stress and more loneliness.”
“In the weeks that this bill has been discussed and debated, it’s clear that an overwhelming percentage of the American people — Democrats, independents, our Republican friends — have made it clear — the people out there have made it clear they strongly support the American Rescue Plan.”
“As of now, the total deaths in America: 527,726. That’s more deaths than in World War One, World War Two, the Vietnam War and 9/11 combined.”
“As you know, the fastest-growing population in the United States is Hispanic. And 60 percent of the Hispanic population is Mexican American. They’re an integral part of our history.”
“On Monday, our nation passed a grim, grim milestone: Covid-19 has now taken over 500,000 of our fellow Americans. That’s more than died in World War One, World War Two, and the Vietnam War combined.”
“Today, we mark a truly grim, heartbreaking milestone: 500,071 dead. That’s more Americans who have died in one year in this pandemic than in World War One, World War Two and the Vietnam War combined.”
“Just over four weeks ago, America had no real plan to vaccinate most of the country. My predecessor — as my mother would say, ‘God love him’ — failed to order enough vaccines, failed to mobilize the effort to administer the shots, failed to set up vaccine centers. That changed the moment we took office.”
“We’re now at a point where we’ve seen the average daily number of people vaccinated nearly double, from the week before I took office, to about 1.7 million average per day getting a shot.”
“For example, if it went — if we gradually increased it — 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. That’s what it would be.”
“That’s why last week I opened up, I met with the Black Caucus in the United States Congress and agreed that I would — all of the — all of community health centers now, which take care of the toughest of the toughest neighborhoods in terms of illness, they are going to get a million doses, you know, a week, and how we’re going to move forward because they’re in the neighborhood.”
“Everyone should be able to go to community college for free, for free. That costs $9 billion. And we should pay for it. And the tax policies we have now, we should be able to pay for you. You spend almost that much money as a break for people who own racehorses.”
“We used to allow refugees, 125,000 refugees, into the United States on a yearly basis. It was as high as 250,000. Trump cut it to 5,000. Come with me into Sierra Leone. Come to me into parts of Lebanon. Come with me around the world and see people piled up in camps, kids dying, no way out, refugees fleeing from persecution. We, the United States, used to do our part.”
“My point was that when I came back from meeting with him and traveling 17,000 miles with him when I was vice president and he was the vice president — that’s how I got to know him so well.”
“The vast majority of the people, the 11 million undocumented, they’re not Hispanics. They’re people who came on a visa, [were] able to buy a ticket to get on a plane and didn’t go home. They didn’t come across the Rio Grande swimming.”
“When I took office three weeks ago, America didn’t have a plan or enough supplies to vaccinate most of the country.”
“I do think that we should have a minimum wage, stand by itself, $15 an hour and work your way up to the fifteen — it doesn’t have to be boom. And all the economics show, if you do that, the whole economy rises.”
“I am prepared, as president of the United States on a separate negotiation on minimum wage, to work my way up from what it is now, which is — look, no one should work 40 hours a week and live below the poverty wage. And if you’re making less than $15 an hour, you’re living below the poverty wage.”
“I had 24, 25 hours of private meetings with him when I was vice president, traveled 17,000 miles with him. I know him pretty well.”
“Under the previous administration, the federal government contracts awarded directly to foreign companies went up 30 percent. That is going to change on our watch.”
“I found it fascinating — yesterday the press asked the question: Is, you know, 100 million enough? A week before, they were saying, ‘Biden, are you crazy? You can’t do 100 million in a hundred days.’ Well, we’re going to, God willing, not only do 100 million, we’re going to do more than that.”