Presidential debate fact check: A look at some of the false claims made by Biden, Trump

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump traded a variety of false and misleading information as they faced off in their first presidential debate of the 2024 election.

Trump falsely represented the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol as a relatively small number of people who were ushered in by police and misstated the strength of the economy during his administration. Biden, meanwhile, misrepresented the cost of insulin and overstated what Trump said about using disinfectant to address COVID. 

U.S. President Joe Biden (R) and Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. President Donald Trump participate in the CNN Presidential Debate at the CNN Studios on June 27, 2024, in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

U.S. President Joe Biden (R) and Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. President Donald Trump participate in the CNN Presidential Debate at the CNN Studios on June 27, 2024, in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Here’s a look at some of the false and misleading claims on Thursday night by the two candidates.

Jan. 6 Capitol attack

TRUMP: "They talk about a relatively small number of people that went to the Capitol and in many cases were ushered in by the police."

THE FACTS: That's false, according to the Associated Press. The attack on the U.S. Capitol was the deadliest assault on the seat of American power in over 200 years. As thoroughly documented by video, photographs and people who were there, thousands of people descended on Capitol Hill in what became a brutal scene of hand-to-hand combat with police.

In an internal memo on March 7, 2023, U.S. Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said that the allegation that "our officers helped the rioters and acted as ‘tour guides’" is "outrageous and false." A Capitol Police spokesperson confirmed the memo’s authenticity to The Associated Press. More than 1,400 people have been charged with federal crimes stemming from the riot. More than 850 people have pleaded guilty to crimes, and 200 others have been convicted at trial.

TRUMP, on then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s actions on Jan. 6: "Because I offered her 10,000 soldiers or National Guard, and she turned them down."

THE FACTS: Pelosi did not direct the National Guard, according to the Associated Press. Further, as the Capitol came under attack, she and then-Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell called for military assistance, including from the National Guard.

The Capitol Police Board makes the decision on whether to call National Guard troops to the Capitol. It is made up of the House Sergeant at Arms, the Senate Sergeant at Arms and the Architect of the Capitol. The board decided not to call the guard ahead of the insurrection but did eventually request assistance after the rioting had already begun, and the troops arrived several hours later.

The House Sergeant at Arms reported to Pelosi and the Senate Sergeant at Arms reported to McConnell. There is no evidence that either Pelosi or McConnell directed the security officials not to call the guard beforehand. Drew Hammill, a then-spokesperson for Pelosi, said after the insurrection that Pelosi was never informed of such a request.


BIDEN: "It’s $15 for an insulin shot, as opposed to $400."

THE FACTS: No, that’s not exactly right, according to the Associated Press.  

Out-of-pocket insulin costs for older Americans on Medicare were capped at $35 in the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act that Biden signed into law. 

The cap took effect last year, when many drugmakers announced they would lower the price of the drug to $35 for most users on private insurance. But Biden regularly overstates that many people used to pay up to $400 monthly. 

People with diabetes who have Medicare or private insurance paid about $450 yearly prior to the law, a Department of Health and Human Services study released in December 2022 found.

Taxes and regulations

TRUMP, referring to Jan. 6, 2021, the day a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol in an effort to stop the certification of Biden’s victory: "On January 6th we had the lowest taxes ever. We had the lowest regulations ever on January 6th."

THE FACTS: The current federal income tax was only instituted in 1913, and tax rates have fluctuated significantly in the decades since, according to the Associated Press. 

Rates were lower in the 1920s, just prior to the Great Depression. Trump did cut taxes during his time in the White House, but the rates weren't the lowest in history.

Government regulations have also ebbed and flowed in the country’s history, but there’s been an overall increase in regulations as the country modernized and its population grew. There are now many more regulations covering the environment, employment, financial transactions and other aspects of daily life. 

While Trump slashed some regulations, he didn’t take the country back to the less regulated days of its past.

‘Suckers and losers’

BIDEN touted his visit to a World War I cemetery, where he said Trump "refused to go" and told a four-star general it's because "they're a bunch of losers and suckers." Trump denied that he had used the words "suckers" or "losers" to describe members of the U.S. military who had been killed in action.

THE FACTS: During a 2018 trip to France, Trump skipped plans to go to the cemetery, a decision that the White House blamed on weather at the time. 

However,  subsequent reports from the Atlantic citing four unnamed sources and others said that Trump told aides he didn’t want to go because he viewed the dead soldiers as "suckers" and "losers." Trump has continuously denied the comments, although the "suckers" term was later corroborated by his chief of staff at the time, John Kelly.

Trump’s alleged insults have become a regular feature of Biden’s campaign speeches.

Climate change

TRUMP, touting his environmental record, said that "during my four years, I had the best environmental numbers ever" and that he supports "immaculate" air and water.

THE FACTS: That’s far from the whole story, according to the AP. 

During his presidency, Trump rolled back some provisions of the Clean Water Act, eased regulations on coal, oil and gas companies and pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord. 

When wildfires struck California in 2020, Trump dismissed the scientific consensus that climate change had played a role. Trump also dismissed scientists’ warnings about climate change and routinely proposed deep cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, the AP reported. Those reductions were blocked by Democratic and Republican lawmakers.


TRUMP: "The problem they have is they’re radical because they will take the life of a child in the eighth month, the ninth month, and even after birth, after birth."

THE FACTS: Trump inaccurately referred to abortions after birth, according to the AP. Infanticide is criminalized in every state, and no state has passed a law that allows killing a baby after birth.

Abortion rights advocates say terms like this and "late-term abortions" attempt to stigmatize abortions later in pregnancy. Abortions later in pregnancy are exceedingly rare, the AP reported. In 2020, less than 1% of abortions in the United States were performed at or after 21 weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Abortions later in pregnancy also are usually the result of serious complications, such as fetal anomalies, that put the life of the woman or fetus at risk, medical experts say. 

In most cases, these are also wanted pregnancies, experts say.


BIDEN: Trump told Americans to "inject bleach" into their arms to treat COVID-19.

THE FACTS: That’s overstating it, according to the AP. Rather, Trump asked whether it would be possible to inject disinfectant into the lungs.

"And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in one minute," he said at an April 2020 press conference. "And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning, because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it’d be interesting to check that, so that you’re going to have to use medical doctors with, but it sounds interesting to me. So, we’ll see, but the whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute. That’s pretty powerful."

Super predators

TRUMP: "What he’s done to the Black population is horrible, including the fact that for 10 years he called them ‘super predators.’ … We can’t forget that - super predators … And they’ve taken great offense at it."

THE FACTS: This oft-repeated claim by Trump dating back to the 2020 campaign is untrue, according to the AP. 

It was Hillary Clinton, then the first lady, who used the term "super predator" to advocate for the 1994 crime bill that Biden co-authored more than thirty years ago. Biden did warn of "predators" in a floor speech in support of his bill.


TRUMP, referring to Biden: "He’s the one that killed people with a bad border and flooding hundreds of thousands of people dying and also killing our citizens when they come in."

THE FACTS: A mass influx of migrants coming into the U.S. illegally across the southern border has led to a number of false and misleading claims by Trump, according to the AP. For example, he regularly claims other countries are emptying their prisons and mental institutions to send to the U.S. There is no evidence to support that, the AP reported.

Trump has also argued the influx of immigrants is causing a crime surge in the U.S., although statistics actually show violent crime is on the way down.

There have been recent high-profile and heinous crimes allegedly committed by people in the country illegally. But FBI statistics do not separate out crimes by the immigration status of the assailant, nor is there any evidence of a spike in crime perpetrated by migrants, either along the U.S.-Mexico border or in cities seeing the greatest influx of migrants, like New York. 

Studies have found that people living in the country illegally are less likely than native-born Americans to have been arrested for violent, drug and property crimes. For more than a century, critics of immigration have sought to link new arrivals to crime. In 1931, the Wickersham Commission did not find any evidence supporting a connection between immigration and increased crime, and many studies since then have reached similar conclusions.

Texas is the only state that tracks crimes by immigration status. A 2020 study published by the National Academy of Sciences found "considerably lower felony arrest rates" among people in the United States illegally than legal immigrants or native-born.

Some crime is expected given the large population of immigrants. There were an estimated 10.5 million people in the country illegally in 2021, according to the latest estimate by Pew Research Center, a figure that has almost certainly risen with large influxes at the border. 

In 2022, the Census Bureau estimated the foreign-born population at 46.2 million, or nearly 14% of the total, with most states seeing double-digit percentage increases in the last dozen years.


BIDEN, referring to Trump after the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017: "The one who said I think they’re fine people on both sides."

THE FACTS: Trump did use those words to describe attendees of the deadly rally, which was planned by White nationalists. But as Trump supporters have pointed out, he also said that day that he wasn’t talking about the neo-Nazis and white nationalists in attendance, according to the AP.

"You had some very bad people in that group," Trump said during a news conference a few days after the rally, "But you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides."

He then added that he wasn’t talking about "the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally." Instead, he said, the press had been unfair in its treatment of protesters who were there to innocently and legally protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

The gathering planned by White nationalists shocked the nation when it exploded into chaos: violent brawling in the streets, racist and antisemitic chants, smoke bombs, and finally, a car speeding into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring dozens more.


TRUMP: We had the greatest economy in history."

THE FACTS: That’s not exactly accurate, according to the AP. The pandemic triggered a massive recession during Trump’s presidency. The government borrowed $3.1 trillion in 2020 to stabilize the economy. Trump left the White House with fewer jobs than when he entered, according to the AP.

Issues caused by the pandemic aside, economic growth averaged 2.67% during Trump’s first three years, the AP reported – which is pretty solid. However, it’s not near the 4% averaged during Bill Clinton’s two terms from 1993 to 2001, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. 

Trump did have the unemployment rate get as low as 3.5% before the pandemic. But again, the labor force participation rate for people 25 to 54 — the core of the U.S. working population — was higher under Clinton. The participation rate has also been higher under Biden than Trump, according to the AP.

Related to inflation, gasoline fell as low as $1.77 a gallon during Trump’s presidency, according to the AP – which added that that price dip happened during pandemic lockdowns when few people were driving. The low prices were due to a global health crisis, and not necessarily Trump’s policies, the AP reported.

Similarly, average 30-year mortgage rates dipped to 2.65% during the pandemic. Those low rates were a byproduct of Federal Reserve efforts to prop up a weak economy, according to the AP.

Military deaths

BIDEN: "The truth is, I’m the only president this century that doesn’t have any — this decade — any troops dying anywhere in the world like he did."

THE FACTS: That’s not true, according to the AP. At least 16 service members have been killed in hostile action since Biden took office in January 2021. On Aug. 26, 2021, 13 died during a suicide bombing at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, as U.S. troops withdrew from the country. 

An enemy drone killed three U.S. service members at a desert base in Jordan on Jan. 28 of this year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.