Stand up for facts and support PolitiFact.

Now is your chance to go on the record as supporting trusted, factual information by joining PolitiFact’s Truth Squad. Contributions or gifts to PolitiFact, which is part of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Poynter Institute, are tax deductible.

More Info

I would like to contribute

Lauren Carroll
By Lauren Carroll June 19, 2016

Super PAC ad says Trump likes war, even nuclear, but that needs context

Donald Trump would be "too dangerous for America," says a new ad from Priorities USA Action, a political action committee supporting Hillary Clinton.

The 30-second ad, which will air in eight battleground states, features several of Trump’s own comments about foreign policy. Meet the Press host Chuck Todd played a portion of the ad on the June 19 show as an example of the kind of ads Trump can expect to face in the general election.

It starts with MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski asking Trump, "Who are you consulting with consistently so that you are ready on day one?"

"I’m speaking with myself, number one," he responds.

Then the ad cuts to four more of Trump’s comments:

"This is the Trump theory on war… I’m really good at war.  I love war in a certain way."

"Including with nukes, yes, including with nukes."

"I want to be unpredictable, I’m not going to tell you right now what I’m gonna do."

"I know more about ISIS than the generals. Believe me."

The "nukes" comment in particular caught our attention. It’s clear that it’s separate from the preceding comment — "I love war in a certain way" — but the implication seems to be that Trump is a warmonger who isn’t afraid to use nuclear weapons.

We decided to check out the context of both of those comments and see if the ad is fairly representing Trump's position. We also looked at Trump’s overall views on nuclear policy.

‘I love war in a certain way.’

This comment comes from a 90-minute speech in Iowa on Nov. 12, 2015. In the speech, Trump theorized that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein feigned having weapons of mass destruction to scare neighboring Iran, before briefly sidetracking into his feelings on war generally.

"This is the Trump theory on war," he said. "But I'm good at war. I've had a lot of wars of my own. I'm really good at war. I love war in a certain way. But only when we win."

He then moved on to talking about veterans. Earlier in his speech, he railed against the decision to invade Iraq.

‘Including with nukes, yes, including with nukes.’

Trump made his comments about "nukes" in an April 3 interview with Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace. Wallace was asking Trump about his suggestion that Japan might be better off with nuclear weapons.

Wallace: "You want to have a nuclear arms race on the Korean peninsula?"

Featured Fact-check

Trump: "In many ways, and I say this, in many ways, the world is changing. Right now, you have Pakistan and you have North Korea and you have China and you have Russia and you have India and you have the United States and many other countries have nukes."

Wallace: "Understood."

Trump: "It's not like, gee whiz, nobody has them. So, North Korea has nukes. Japan has a problem with that. I mean, they have a big problem with that. Maybe they would in fact be better off if they defend themselves from North Korea."  

Wallace: "With nukes?"

Trump: "Maybe they would be better off — including with nukes, yes, including with nukes."

So Trump was saying Japan might do well to defend itself with its own nuclear weapons, rather than talking about what he would do as president with the United States’ own nuclear arsenal.

The way the ad splices Trump's comments together, a reasonable person would think Trump "loves war," including "with nukes."

Priorities USA spokesman Justin Barasky told us that the fact Trump is open to more countries having nuclear weapons supports the ad’s overarching argument — that Trump would be too dangerous.

Other comments

Trump has offered somewhat conflicting views on using nuclear weapons throughout the campaign.

He has said he "wouldn’t rule out" using tactical nuclear weapons against ISIS, but adding in the same interview: "Definitely nuclear weapons are a last resort."

Nor would he rule out using nuclear weapons in Europe, if a conflict ever were to arise.

"You don’t want to, say, take everything off the table," he said.

He also told the New York Times, "It’s a very scary nuclear world. Biggest problem, to me, in the world, is nuclear, and proliferation."

Our ruling

An ad by Priorities USA says Trump says he loves war, "including with nukes."

Trump did say the phrase "I love war in a certain way."

And Trump has said he wouldn't rule out using nuclear weapons. But that doesn’t mean he is enthusiastic about them. He says they would be the weapon of last resort and that he believes nuclear proliferation to be the "biggest problem, to me, in the world."

It's worth noting that the Trump comment used in the ad wasn’t about the United States using nuclear weapons, but about his belief that Japan might be better off if it had nuclear weapons.  

Readers can decide for themselves if Trump’s positions are dangerous. But Priorities USA’s ad is missing a bit of context, so we rate it Half True.

Our Sources

NBC, Meet the Press, June 19, 2016

Priorities USA, "Presidential," June 17, 2016

Trump campaign, speech in Fort Dodge, Nov. 12, 2015

Fox, Fox News Sunday, April 3, 2016

PolitiFact, "Hillary Clinton says Donald Trump argued U.S. should 'encourage' Japan to get nuclear weapons," June 6, 2016

New York Times, "Obama Rebukes Donald Trump’s Comments on Nuclear Weapons," April 1, 2016

Bloomberg, "Trump Says He Won't Rule Out Using Nukes Against ISIS," March 23, 2016

Email interview, Priorities USA spokesman Justin Barasky, June 19, 2016

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Lauren Carroll

Super PAC ad says Trump likes war, even nuclear, but that needs context

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up