Fact-checking Biden’s CNN town hall in Baltimore

Fact-checking Biden’s CNN town hall in Baltimore
Heather Fulbright/CNN

President Joe Biden participated Thursday in a CNN town hall in Baltimore, taking questions from anchor Anderson Cooper and local residents about his legislative agenda and a variety of other topics.

Biden made some false claims, along with making other claims that could have used additional context. He also made one claim, an assertion that he has visited the southern border in the past, that CNN couldn’t immediately verify and that the White House did not immediately provide evidence to support.

Here’s a fact check of his claim about the border; we’ll update this article shortly with other items.

Biden and the border

A college student asked Biden: “Given that it’s nearly been a year into your campaign, why haven’t you been to the southern border of our country?”

After Biden addressed another immigration question from the student but ignored that one, Cooper followed up. Biden then responded, “I’ve been there before, and I haven’t — I mean, I know it well. I guess I should go down. But the — but the whole point of it is: I haven’t had a whole hell of lot of time to get down.”

Biden explained that he has been spending time inspecting hurricane damage and “traveling around the world,” then added, “But I plan on — now, my wife, Jill, has been down. She’s been on both sides of the river. She’s seen the circumstances there.”

Facts First: CNN could not immediately find any evidence that Biden has previously visited the southern border, and the White House has not specified when this visit supposedly occurred. Also, it’s worth noting that Jill Biden’s last visit to the border was in December 2019, during the presidential campaign, not as first lady.

Since we don’t know what the President did on every day of a political career that began in 1970, we can’t currently declare he was making a false statement when he said he has previously visited the border. But we couldn’t immediately locate any news stories about such a visit, and the White House hasn’t provided corroborating information. A White House spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a CNN request late Thursday night.

The subject of Biden visiting the southern border came up at a September press briefing from White House press secretary Jen Psaki. When a Fox News reporter asked if Biden had been to the border, Psaki said, “I will have to get — look back in my history books and check the times he’s been to the southern border.” When the reporter said they had not uncovered evidence of Biden visiting at any time, Psaki softened her language, saying, “I can check and see when the last time or when he may have been.”

Two days later, when the reporter asked why Biden hadn’t “ever” visited the southern border, Psaki didn’t dispute the assertion, instead saying that Biden believes “the most constructive role we can play is by helping to push immigration reform forward, helping reform the broken policies of the last several years, and listening to his team of advisors, who have been to the border multiple times, about what the path forward should look like.”

Though Biden mentioned foreign travel as one of the reasons he has not gone to the border as President to date, he has made only one trip abroad during the first nine months of his pandemic-era term — a June trip to Europe. He is scheduled for another Europe trip next weekend for a G20 summit and United Nations climate conference.

This is a breaking story and will be updated.

The-CNN-Wire
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