Facts Matter: Checking in on State of the Union, Democratic response

  • President Donald Trump delivers the State of the Union as Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi watch.

    President Donald Trump delivers the State of the Union as Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi watch. Associated Press

  • Stacey Abrams, in Atlanta, delivers the Democratic Party's response to President Donald Trump's State of the Union address.

    Stacey Abrams, in Atlanta, delivers the Democratic Party's response to President Donald Trump's State of the Union address. Associated Press

Updated 2/9/2019 5:16 PM

President Donald Trump's State of the Union address and the Democratic response given by Georgia politician Stacey Abrams on Tuesday had fact checkers on overdrive.

While each speech included some false information, according to reports, we compare the claims Trump and Abrams made concerning employment and the economy.


'Best in decades' claim doesn't add up

The president's speech included claims that contrasted with data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, according to The Washington Post.

Trump said, "Wages are rising at the fastest pace in decades."

Wages were up 3.1 percent last year, according to one Labor Department measure of employment that doesn't take inflation into account, the Post said. That figure represents the largest increase since December 2008.

However, according to the Labor Department, pay for all workers, adjusted for inflation, rose 1.3 percent from December 2017 to December 2018, the largest increase since only August 2016, the Post said.

"We have created 5.3 million new jobs and importantly added 600,000 new manufacturing jobs," Trump said.

This is in contrast to the 4.9 million jobs created, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, because the timelines differ, the Post said. While the BLS data for Trump's administration began on Jan. 20, 2017, Inauguration Day, the president's claim reflects numbers going back to Election Day 2016, when former President Barack Obama still had more than two months left on his term, the Post said.

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Abrams' figures contradict labor statistics

While giving the Democratic response, Abrams said the Republican tax bill "rigged the system" against the working class.

"Families' hopes are being crushed by Republican leadership that ignores real life or just doesn't understand it," said Abrams, who narrowly lost the 2018 race for governor of Georgia.

But the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates nonfarming jobs have increased by nearly 4.9 million since Trump took office and are up 3 million since the tax law began, according to USA Today.

The Republican-backed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act went into effect in December 2017.

Abrams claimed "plants are closing, layoffs are looming, and wages struggle to keep pace with the actual cost of living."


USA Today reports manufacturing employment rose by 454,000 jobs under the Trump administration and 277,000 jobs since the tax law.

Abrams said, "wages struggle to keep pace" with the cost of living.

As of December, USA Today said, inflation-adjusted earnings for rank-and-file production and nonsupervisory workers were up 2.6 percent since Trump became president and 1.4 percent since December 2017.

Although manufacturing companies have closed and there have been layoffs, overall, employment numbers have risen since Trump took office in January 2017, according to USA Today.

Stone arrest not bigger than bin Ladin raid

Following the early-morning arrest of longtime Trump associate Roger Stone on Jan. 25, Stone was charged with obstruction, making false statements to investigators and one count of witness tampering, <URL destination="https://www.apnews.com/8be95830f9eb4db1932d258f5c68f8f9">according to the Associated Press.

</URL>Within days of the arrest, stories circulating on Facebook claimed Special Council Robert Mueller sent more FBI agents to arrest Stone than the number of military personnel sent to get Osama bin Laden in 2011, AP said.

One Facebook post asked, "Does that tell you how out of control Mueller is(?)"

But the 48 members of SEAL Team 6 participating in the highly sophisticated secret military raid on bin Ladin's Pakistan compound far outnumbered the 12 FBI agents who executed the pre-dawn arrest of Stone at his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, AP said.

The mission to apprehend bin Laden involved two specially engineered Black Hawk helicopters, each carrying 23 SEALs and an interpreter, and a tracking dog named Cairo, according to AP.

Stone, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, said the "over the top" raid at his home was unnecessary because he would have voluntarily surrendered through his lawyer, AP said.

Brady, Belichick kissing photo is fake

The New England Patriots, who defeated the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3, once again were crowned NFL champions and a fake meme of quarterback Tom Brady kissing coach Bill Belichick on the lips once again made the rounds on Facebook.

The image first showed up after the Patriots won the 2015 Super Bowl, according to Snopes.com. Earlier this month it resurfaced as part of a collage that included a real photo of Brady kissing his father during the 2017 Super Bowl celebration and a 2019 screen grab in which Brady is seen embracing team owner Robert Kraft.

The Brady/Belichick photo is a digitally doctored fake created by combining photos of the two men kissing other people, Snopes said.

The image of Brady was taken from a New York Times photo of the quarterback kissing his mother in the aftermath of the 2015 championship win, Snopes said. The Belichick image was taken from a photo of the coach kissing his daughter, also during the 2015 celebration, which ran on the Fox Sports website.

Parts of each photo were cropped, rotated or flipped to create the fake image, Snopes said.

• Bob Oswald is a veteran Chicago-area journalist and former news editor of the Elgin Courier-News. Contact him at boboswald33@gmail.com.

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