Facts Matter: Truth on tariffs, T-shirts and quotes proves elusive

"So our country can take in $120 billion a year in tariffs, paid for mostly by China, by the way, not by us," Trump said at the White House earlier this month. "It's really paid - ultimately, it's paid for by - largely, by China."

But the increased cost of Chinese imports due to the tariffs is not paid by China, PolitiFact said. It is paid by American consumers and Chinese manufacturers.

"It is inaccurate to say that 'countries pay' tariffs on commercial and consumer goods - it is the buyers and sellers that bear the costs," Boise State University political scientist Ross Burkhart told PolitiFact.

If the U.S. imposes a tariff, the duty is paid to Customs and Border Protection by the importer, PolitiFact said. The importer will sometimes pay the full amount, choosing to keep prices stable and not pass to cost on to the consumer.

"When tariffs are levied at 10%, many firms choose to absorb the cost in their margins," Monica de Bolle, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, told PolitiFact.

"However, with tariffs now scaled up to 25%, firms will inevitably pass on some or all of the increase to U.S. consumers," de Bolle said.

T-shirt photo altered

A photo from a May 4 event in Ames, Iowa, shows presidential candidate Bernie Sanders pointing to a T-shirt worn by Iowa State University student Ashton Ayers.

The image on Ayers' shirt is a photo of labor activist Eugene V. Debs, who ran as a Socialist Party candidate for president five times between 1900 and 1920, according to The Associated Press.

The photo of Ayers meeting the U.S. senator from Vermont was taken by Georgia Parke, a strategist for Sanders' campaign, the AP said.

But a doctored version of the photo is making the rounds on social media, according to the AP.

A faked image showing Sanders pointing to Ayers' T-shirt, which now displays the words, "Listen here, Bud, America deserved 9/11," has been shared on Discord, Reddit and Facebook.

Sanders recognized Debs on the shirt immediately and pointed at it, Ayers told AP. "He was surprised a young man knew who Debs was."

Fake quote shared by opposing sides

It's not unusual for a political quote to be falsely attributed to a historic political figure. It is unusual for that quote to be touted by supporters on both sides of the political aisle.

"The government will one day be corrupt and filled with liars, and the people will flock to the one that tells the truth," has been incorrectly attributed to the third U.S. president and author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, according to

The quote did not appear until October 2015, when it showed up in an unsourced Twitter post, Snopes said. It can't be traced back to Jefferson.

"This quotation has not been found in the writings of Thomas Jefferson," the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello told Snopes.

Earlier this year, the quote, citing Jefferson, was shared on Facebook by Bernie Sanders supporter Janice Nesbit, who added #Bernie2020 to the post, according to Snopes.

And in March, the quote, attributed to Jefferson, was tweeted out by Donald Trump supporter @heyitsCarolyn, who added, "And this is why President Donald Trump fills stadiums."

• Bob Oswald is a veteran Chicago-area journalist and former news editor of the Elgin Courier-News. Contact him at

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