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Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden participates in a CNN drive-in town hall moderated by Anderson Cooper in Moosic, Pa., Sept. 17, 2020. (AP/Carolyn Kaster) Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden participates in a CNN drive-in town hall moderated by Anderson Cooper in Moosic, Pa., Sept. 17, 2020. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden participates in a CNN drive-in town hall moderated by Anderson Cooper in Moosic, Pa., Sept. 17, 2020. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson September 18, 2020
Bill McCarthy
By Bill McCarthy September 18, 2020
Miriam Valverde
By Miriam Valverde September 18, 2020

If Your Time is short

  • A stronger U.S. response could have saved many lives, experts said, but not every one. Biden’s claim that a different response from Trump would have prevented every coronavirus death goes too far.

  • Biden falsely claimed Trump held the Bible “upside down” after federal forces physically moved people out of Trump’s way in Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Square in June.

  • If elected, Biden would not be the first president without an Ivy League degree.

From an outdoor stage erected in the middle of a baseball field parking lot, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Sept. 17 pitched himself to voters as a leader equipped to really look out for American workers.

Biden took the spotlight in his birth state of Pennsylvania during a socially distant drive-in town hall event hosted by CNN. As he took questions from voters wearing masks and separated by cars, Biden cast President Donald Trump as an out-of-touch man from New York City’s Park Avenue — someone divorced from an understanding of the realities faced by Americans.

"I really do view this campaign as a campaign between Scranton and Park Avenue, and I really mean it," Biden said during the town hall in Moosic, a few miles south of his Scranton birthplace. "Because you know, the way we were raised up here in this area, awful lot of hard working people busting their necks. All they asked for is a shot, just a shot. All that Trump could see from Park Avenue is Wall Street, all he thinks about is the stock market."

Biden described Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic as neglectful, blaming him for the nearly 200,000 deaths of people infected with the virus. PolitiFact watched Biden’s Sept. 17 town hall and found that some of his claims were true while others were wrong or lacking context.

Here are some of his claims, fact-checked.

RELATED: Fact-checking Donald Trump’s ABC News town hall

"If the president had done his job, had done his job from the beginning, all the people would still be alive. All the people. I'm not making this up. Just look at the data."

This is False. A stronger U.S. response could have saved many lives, experts said, but not every one. Biden’s claim that a different response from Trump would have prevented every coronavirus death goes too far.

Even countries that have found relative success managing the coronavirus — such as South Korea and New Zealand — have seen some deaths. 

Federal forces physically moved people out of Trump’s way in Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Square in June "so he can walk across to a Protestant church and hold a Bible upside down."

Trump didn’t hold the Bible "upside down." A review of still images and video from that day show clearly that Biden is wrong. Trump held the Bible right-side up throughout the event. 

This inaccurate claim spread on social media this summer after Trump’s walk across Lafayette Square, which was made possible by clearing non-violent protesters. The assertion made it into several news reports and opinion pieces. However, fact-checkers debunked it shortly after Trump made his walk. 

"You guys started talking on television about Biden, ‘If he wins, he'll be the first person without a Ivy League degree to be elected president.’ I’m thinking, ‘Who the hell makes you think I have to have an Ivy League degree to be president?’"

Biden didn’t actually claim that he would be the first president to lack an Ivy League degree; he attributed the thought to unnamed commentators in the media. But to set the record straight, Biden would be far from the first president to come to the office without an Ivy League degree.

Ronald Reagan, for instance, didn’t have an Ivy League degree. (He earned his bachelor’s degree from Eureka College.) Nor did Jimmy Carter (U.S. Naval Academy), Richard Nixon (Whittier College and Duke law school), or Lyndon B. Johnson (Southwest Texas State Teachers College).

That said, it’s fair to say that recent presidents have been Ivy Leaguers more often than not. Gerald Ford was a University of Michigan undergrad but earned his law degree from Yale. George H.W. Bush earned his bachelor’s from Yale. Bill Clinton earned his law degree from Yale. George W. Bush earned his bachelor’s from Yale and a business degree from Harvard. Barack Obama earned his bachelor’s from Columbia and his law degree from Harvard. And Donald Trump earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

Indeed, there was some commentary when Biden chose Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., as his running mate that the duo would be the first Democratic ticket without an Ivy League degree between them since 1984, when Walter Mondale (University of Minnesota undergraduate and law school) and Geraldine Ferraro (Marymount Manhattan College undergraduate and Fordham law school) were the nominees. 

Biden earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware and his law degree from Syracuse University, while Harris earned her bachelor’s from Howard University and her law degree from the University of California.

"In the middle of this pandemic, what is the president doing? He's in federal court — federal court trying to do away with the Affordable Care Act."

Former President Barack Obama made a similar claim and we rated it True. In a pending Supreme Court case, the Trump administration has argued that the 2010 health care law should be struck down.

A provision in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminated the health care law’s individual mandate, which required that all Americans have health insurance or pay a penalty. The tax law set that penalty to $0. In the lawsuit, a collection of Republican states’ attorneys general argue that without the penalty, the rest of the health care law doesn’t work and should be struck down.

"Even though the federal government is arguing that the entire ACA should be found invalid (because the individual mandate is no longer constitutional and cannot be severed from the rest of the law), the federal government does not want the court to necessarily prevent it from still enforcing parts of the law," said a Sept. 1 analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The federal government seeks a more limited remedy, but has not clearly identified which specific ACA provisions fall into this category, Kaiser Family Foundation said, adding that the administration is asking the Supreme Court to send the case back to the lower courts to determine this issue.

This fact check is available at IFCN’s 2020 US Elections FactChat #Chatbot on WhatsApp. Click here, for more.

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