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Fact-checking Joe Biden’s 2024 State of the Union address

President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address March 7, 2024, to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol. (AP) President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address March 7, 2024, to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol. (AP)

President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address March 7, 2024, to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol. (AP)

Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson March 8, 2024
Samantha Putterman
By Samantha Putterman March 8, 2024
Maria Ramirez Uribe
By Maria Ramirez Uribe March 8, 2024
Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman March 8, 2024

Facing a challenging path to reelection amid low favorability ratings and public wariness over the economy, President Joe Biden used his 2024 State of the Union address to take a fighting posture. He repeatedly drew contrasts with his presumptive Republican opponent, former President Donald Trump, and occasionally sparred with GOP lawmakers in the audience.

"This is a moment to speak the truth, to bury lies," Biden said, referring to the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the U.S. Capitol  by Trump supporters who believed falsehoods that the 2020 election had been stolen. "Here's the simple truth: You can't love your country only when you win."

Biden didn’t say Trump’s name in his remarks, but he frequently invoked Trump’s record and  proposals, usually referring to him as "my predecessor." 

Some Republicans called out Biden from the floor. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., challenged Biden over the killing of University of Georgia nursing student Laken Riley. An immigrant in the country illegally has been charged in Riley’s death.

Another Republican lawmaker, Wisconsin Rep. Derrick Van Orden, yelled, "Lies!" in response to Biden’s criticism of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Sen. Katie Britt, R-Ala., gave the Republicans’ response to the speech and we fact-checked that. 

In forceful terms, Biden framed himself as a protector and defender of Americans and their prosperity, touting pocketbook policies to ease student loan burdens and lower prescription drug prices.

Biden repeated calls for Republicans in Congress to approve aid to Ukraine, which is fighting an invasion by Russia. He also walked a fine line on the Middle East. He called for Hamas to free the Israeli hostages it continues to hold in Gaza — the families of some hostages were in the chamber for his address — but also announced a plan to build a temporary pier to expand humanitarian aid to Palestinians caught in the crossfire.

We fact-checked key statements on immigration, Trump, the economy, reproductive rights and crime.


Biden blamed Republicans for sidelining Senate border security bill 

For years, Republicans have blamed Biden for the historically high illegal immigration under his watch. Some Republicans wore red and white pins that said "Stop the Biden border crisis" in large capital letters. 

As Biden entered the House chamber, Greene gave him a pin with text that said: "Say her name: Laken Riley," the University of Georgia student who was murdered. 

As he discussed border security and immigration, Greene interrupted Biden and challenged him to say Riley’s name. 

"Lincoln Riley, an innocent young woman who was killed by an illegal," Biden said, misstating Riley’s first name.

Some high-profile Democrats criticized him for using the phrase "illegal," which some argue is dehumanizing.

"He should have said undocumented," former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on CNN.

"Let me be clear: No human being is illegal," Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., posted on X. 

Biden also said it was Republicans’ turn to act and cooperate with him and Democrats on a border security bill. He blamed Republicans for sidelining a Senate immigration bill, which failed in a 49-50 vote, that he claimed was "the toughest set of border security reforms we’ve ever seen." 

Here’s some context missing from some of Biden’s comments on the bill.

President Joe Biden, left, greets House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., on March 7, 2024, before delivering the State of the Union at the U.S. Capitol. (AP)

"It would also give me and any new president new emergency authority to temporarily shut down the border when the number of migrants at the border is overwhelming."

This needs context.

The proposal sought to enable the executive branch to block people from seeking asylum in between ports of entry if illegal immigration encounters reached certain levels. 

It aimed to change what happened when people reached the border, but that doesn’t mean people would stop showing up. Despite the emergency authority, the government’s ability to quickly remove people from the U.S. would still hinge on its resources, and other countries’ willingness to take back immigrants. 

"In short, there is no authority that Congress could pass that would allow for a ‘complete and total shutdown of the border,’" Theresa Cardinal Brown, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s senior adviser for Immigration and border policy previously told PolitiFact. "That's just not how borders work in any real sense. Especially not our border with Mexico."

"That bill would hire … 100 more immigration judges to help tackle the backload of 2 million cases."

The backlog number is higher — there are more than 3 million cases in immigration courts as of November 2023, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. The backlog grew by 1 million cases from November 2022 to November 2023.

The bill called for "4,300 more asylum officers and new policies so they can resolve cases in six months instead of six years now." 

On average, asylum cases in immigration court take more than four years to be resolved, according to a 2023 report published by the American Immigration Council, an immigrants’ rights advocacy group.

But the growing case backlog could increase that average.

Attacking Trump with his own words

In more than a dozen nameless references to his predecessor, Biden used partial quotes by Trump to draw policy contrasts on guns; Roe v. Wade; and Russian President Vladimir Putin and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

"Now my predecessor, a former Republican president, tells Putin, quote, ‘do whatever the hell you want.’ That’s a quote."

Trump wasn’t directly inviting Russia to do whatever it wanted to NATO allies. He was telling a story during a rally in South Carolina about what he said to an unnamed ally years ago. Trump claimed  he was tough on NATO and got results, misrepresenting several facts about the alliance and his record in the process.

"I got them to pay up," Trump said Feb. 10. "NATO was busted until I came along. I said, ’Everybody’s gonna pay.’ They said, ‘Well, if we don’t pay, are you still going to protect us?’ I said, ‘Absolutely not.’"

Trump added, "One of the presidents of a big country stood up and said, ‘Well, sir, if we don’t pay and we are attacked by Russia, will you protect us?’ I said, ‘You didn't pay, you are delinquent?" He said, ‘Yes, let’s say that happened.’ No, I would not protect you, in fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they wanted. You gotta pay. You gotta pay your bills."

President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union before a join session of Congress on March 7, 2024, at the U.S. Capitol. (AP)

"My predecessor told the NRA he’s proud he did nothing on guns when he was president." 

Trump did say that, even though his record was more nuanced. Speaking at the National Rifle Association’s convention in Pennsylvania in February, Trump said, "During my four years, nothing happened. And there was great pressure on me, having to do with guns. We did nothing. We didn’t yield."

But in 2019, when Trump was asked what he had done about the gun problem, he said, "We’ve done, actually, a lot." Trump banned bump stocks, which let semi-automatic weapons fire dozens of bullets in seconds. He also supported a bipartisan effort to improve the background-check database and his administration prioritized gun-related prosecutions. However, Trump’s administration also tried to expand gun laws and regulations or block efforts to tighten them.

"After another shooting in Iowa recently … when asked what to do about it he said,  ‘Just get over it.’" 

Trump’s remarks were not in direct response to a question. Trump’s full remarks, which included sympathies for the victims, came at a January rally in Iowa after a sixth grade student was killed and several others wounded in a shooting at Perry High School. The shooter, 17, was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot.

"I want to send our support and our deepest sympathies to the victims and families touched by the terrible school shooting yesterday in Perry, Iowa." Trump also said, "It’s just horrible, so surprising to see it here. But, ah, have to get over it, we have to move forward, we have to move forward. But to the relatives and to all of the people that are so devastated right now to a point they can’t breathe, they can’t live, we are with you all the way, we are with you and we love you and we cherish you."

"My predecessor came to office determined to see Roe v. Wade overturned. He's the reason it's overturned and he brags about it."

At a January town hall in Des Moines, Iowa, Trump said, "For 54 years, they were trying to get Roe v. Wade terminated. And I did it and I’m proud to have done it." Trump also said, "Nobody else was going to get that done but me and we did it, and we did something that was a miracle."

Trump appointed three Supreme Court justices that cemented the court’s conservative majority, which reversed the Roe decision in June 2022.

On Truth Social in May 2023, Trump said, "After 50 years of failure, with nobody coming even close, I was able to kill Roe v. Wade, much to the ‘shock’ of everyone."


Biden took a victory lap on the reduced inflation rate and other economic metrics. But a few of his talking points, including on "soaring" consumer confidence and cuts to the deficit, were exaggerated. 

President Joe Biden speaks to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. CQ Brown on March 7, 2024, after the State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (AP)

"Inflation has dropped from 9% to 3% — the lowest in the world!"

The U.S. is doing better on managing inflation than most advanced industrialized nations are, but does not rank No. 1 internationally.

Biden is correct that the year-over-year inflation rate has dropped from 9%, a four-decade high,  in summer of 2022 to a little above 3% today amid sharp interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve.

In December 2023, seven countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development  — Canada, Denmark, Italy, Latvia,Lithuania, the Netherlands and South Korea — had inflation rates lower than the U.S’. 

Twenty OECD member countries had higher inflation rates than the U.S., including France, Germany and the United Kingdom, each of which belongs to the G-7 of elite economies.

"Consumer studies show consumer confidence is soaring."

It depends on the measure.

Two long-running consumer confidence measures are released by the University of Michigan and the Conference Board, a business membership and research organization. 

Consumer confidence, as measured by the University of Michigan survey,, has climbed sharply since bottoming out in the summer of 2022, when inflation reached 9%, a four-decade high. However, the rating under Biden remains lower than it was for four of the past five presidents at the same point in their tenures.

Biden scores higher on the Conference Board survey, which is focused more on questions related to the labor market than inflation. 

The labor market has been a strength for Biden during his watch. And the Conference Board survey shows that consumer sentiment is now higher than it was under three of the previous four presidents at this point in their tenures.

"I’ve already cut the federal deficit by over a trillion dollars."

This merits asterisks. The deficit — the difference between federal spending and federal revenues — fell by $1.4 trillion between 2021, Biden’s first year in office, and 2022, his second year. That was a larger decline than any in any previous one-year span. 

However, this reduction stems largely from the phasing-out of pandemic era relief programs. Also, even at its reduced levels, the deficit remains higher under Biden than it was pre-pandemic. The deficit in 2022 and 2023 under Biden was higher than in each of Trump’s first three years, partly because of bills such as the 2021 American Rescue Plan, a pandemic recovery measure.

Biden: "There are 1,000 billionaires in America. You know what the average federal tax is for those billionaires? No? They’re making great sacrifices. 8.2%."

This is misleading

A White House report arrived at the 8.2% figure by including unrealized gains in the income calculations of the 400 richest U.S. families.

Currently, if people see their stock shares rise in value over time, those gains are not taxed until the shares are sold. If the shares are never sold, they aren’t taxed. Under current law — which Biden proposes to change — stocks may be passed to the next generation with little or no taxation. 

Economists and policymakers have long debated whether the government should tax unrealized gains. But Biden made it sound as if 8.2% was the standard tax rate billionaires pay today. It’s not: Unrealized wealth, unlike income, is not taxed today.

The actual average tax rate the top 1% of taxpayers pay is more than three times what Biden said: 25.6%, according to IRS data from 2019. A more elite group, the top 0.001% — which in 2019 meant people earning about $60 million or more a year — paid 22.9%.

Another analysis, by the investigative journalism outlet ProPublica, found that the actual tax rate paid by 25 U.S. billionaires under current law is 16%, which is still about twice what Biden said.

President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union on March 7, 2024, in Washington. Vice President Kamala Harris, and House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., watch from the back. (AP)
A "law and order" president

Violent crime has declined recently in the U.S., and Biden largely took responsibility.

"America is safer today than when I took office," he said, claiming that the year before he became president, "murders went up 30%, the biggest increase in history." 

Homicides did increase 30% in 2020, and it was considered the largest single-year jump in more than a century. But Biden ignored that the spike coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Touting his 2022 American Rescue Plan Act as "the largest investment in public safety ever," Biden pointed to the 2023 homicide rate: "Last year, the murder rate saw the sharpest decrease in history. Violent crime fell to one of its lowest levels in more than 50 years. But we have more to do."

Violent crime has decreased from 2020’s record highs, but this is because of a confluence of factors, experts said, some that are beyond Biden’s control.

Using data from hundreds of cities, criminologists estimated that 2023 homicides were down around 12% compared with 2022. The numbers are considered preliminary, but crime analysts say that if the final numbers remain the same, it would represent one of the largest single-year homicide declines since U.S. crime record-keeping began.

Despite the decline, data shows that the 2023 homicide rate is expected to be about 18% higher than it was in 2019, before the pandemic began.

Legislation such as the American Rescue Plan, which included funding for community public safety initiatives, and the 2022 Bipartisan Safer in Communities Act, which provided funding to help states implement "red flag laws" and put more limits on gun purchases, might have helped propel the downward trend, researchers said. Other contributing factors likely include an easing of the pandemic’s social disruptions and cities’ individual crime-reduction efforts in response to homicide spikes.

Reproductive issues

"The Alabama Supreme Court shut down IVF treatments across the state, unleashed by a Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade."

On Feb. 16, the Alabama Supreme Court released a ruling that said frozen embryos should be considered children. 

The decision lacks the power to shut down in vitro fertilization treatments statewide. But it caused multiple clinics in the state to pause IVF treatments as they reviewed the decision and potential liabilities.

Since then, Alabama lawmakers passed legislation to shield IVF providers from civil or criminal liability in a rush to protect fertility treatments after backlash grew. Two clinics announced they were resuming operations after Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed the law.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill. — who had two daughters using in vitro fertilization — introduced a similar federal bill aimed at protecting IVF. But Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., blocked it Feb. 28, saying it was a "vast overreach that is full of poison pills that go way too far — far beyond ensuring legal access to IVF."

"If you, the American people. send me a Congress that supports the right to choose, I promise you: I will restore Roe v. Wade as the law of the land again." 

We continue to rate Biden's promise to codify Roe v. Wade Stalled

Biden called on Congress to help him achieve his 2020 campaign promise to codify Roe v Wade.

He can’t do it alone.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2022 to overturn Roe, ending nearly 50 years of federally protected abortion access.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., introduced the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2023, which would prohibit governmental restrictions on access to abortion. But it has no Republican co-sponsors and didn’t advance.

We have been tracking Biden's campaign promise to codify Roe v. Wade, one of about 100 promises on our Biden Promise Tracker. The lack of 10 Republicans to overcome an expected filibuster has stalled Biden's efforts on codification. That lack of a path forward continued even after Democrats kept narrow control of the Senate in the midterms.

Prescription drugs

Americans pay more for prescription drugs than anywhere in the world."

We rated a similar claim by Biden Mostly True.

American per capita spending on prescription drugs is nearly three times the average of other advanced, industrialized countries that comprise the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. A study by the Rand Corp., a nonpartisan research organization, found that, across all drugs, U.S. prices were 2.78 times higher than the prices in 33 OECD countries.

The gap was even larger for brand-name drugs, with U.S. prices averaging 4.22 times higher than those in comparison nations. The U.S. pays less than comparable nations for unbranded, generic drugs, which account for about 90% of filled prescriptions in the U.S., yet make up only one-fifth of prescription drug spending. 

Researchers say factors including country-specific pricing, confidential rebates and other discounts can obscure actual prices, making comparisons harder.

Former Rep. George Santos was in attendance

Is former Rep. George Santos really allowed to sit among the people who expelled him in December?

The short answer is yes

PolitiFact Staff Writers Loreben Tuquero and Marta Campabadal Graus contributed to this report.

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Fact-checking Joe Biden’s 2024 State of the Union address