Fact check: Missouri attorney general’s scathing letter to Biden begins with false claim

Fact check: Missouri attorney general’s scathing letter to Biden begins with false claim
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President Joe Biden visited Missouri on Wednesday to promote the infrastructure law he signed in November. And Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican who is also a US Senate candidate in the 2022 election, greeted Biden with a scathing letter — one which began with a false claim.

Schmitt’s first paragraph in the letter, which he printed on attorney general letterhead and posted on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, read as follows: “Welcome to Missouri. This is reportedly your first visit as president to one of the 25 states that cast its electoral votes for President Trump in 2020. It took almost one year. Welcome to the rest of the country.”

Facts First: Biden’s trip to Missouri was not even close to his first visit as president to a state Trump carried in the 2020 election. In fact, Missouri was the eighth Trump 2020 state to which Biden has made a visit since his January inauguration. The others are Texas, Ohio, Louisiana, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Florida and Idaho.

Biden landed at an airport in northern Kentucky in July, and spoke to the state’s governor there, before traveling to neighboring Ohio for official events. (Former CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller, a longtime tracker of presidential travel, noted the Kentucky stop in a November tweet.) People can decide for themselves whether a brief airport stop means Biden has visited nine Trump 2020 states. Regardless, Biden participated in more extensive activities in the other eight.

Biden has visited some Trump 2020 states more than once as president. He has gone to Ohio three times, Louisiana twice and North Carolina twice.

News report didn’t say what Schmitt said

Schmitt did use the qualifier “reportedly” before the false claim that Missouri was the first Trump 2020 state Biden visited as president. But that didn’t make the falsehood any better. At best, Schmitt or his aides misread the report they claimed to be citing.

Schmitt spokesman Chris Nuelle said in an email to CNN that the claim was based on an article in the political publication The Hill. But as Nuelle acknowledged, the relevant sentence in The Hill was actually about Biden’s presidential travel for the particular purpose of promoting the infrastructure law, not about all of Biden’s presidential travel.

Here’s what The Hill actually reported: “While Biden has visited other states including New Hampshire, Michigan and Minnesota in an effort to tout the $550 billion infrastructure measure, Missouri will be the first such visit to a state that voted for former President Trump in the 2020 election.”

Schmitt’s letter — in which he also criticized Biden over the economy, immigration and the Covid-19 pandemic — remained on his social media accounts without any correction early Thursday afternoon, more than 20 hours after journalists pointed out that it started with something untrue. Schmitt had about 32,000 followers on Twitter and about 42,000 on his campaign Facebook page, plus about 9,500 on the official Facebook page where the letter was also posted and another roughly 900 on Instagram.

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