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Jon Greenberg
By Jon Greenberg August 9, 2019

Joe Biden takes Donald Trump’s words about gang members out of context

At a campaign stop in Iowa, former Vice President Joe Biden laid into President Donald Trump for stirring up the worst in Americans.

Presidents "can encourage us to appeal to our better angels, our better nature," Biden said Aug. 7. "They can also unleash the deepest, darkest forces in the nation. That is what I believe Donald Trump has chosen to do."

"Days before the midterm," Biden continued, "He fomented fears of a caravan headed to the United States and created hysteria when he said, ‘Look, look at what's marching up. This is an invasion.’ He asserted that immigrants would quote, ‘carve you up with a knife’." 

Trump regularly speaks of an invasion. He has mentioned it at many rallies, including one in Michigan in March and another in Florida in May. He said then, "When you see these caravans, starting out with 20,000 people, that's an invasion." He has used the word in seven tweets since July 2015 to refer to immigrants more broadly, according to

But this fact-check focuses on whether Trump warned that immigrants will "carve you up with a knife."

He did not.

At an October 2018 rally in Texas, Trump attacked then-U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, who is now running for U.S. president.

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"O'Rourke voted against the border wall," Trump said. "He voted against Kate's law. And he voted for Obama amnesty. O'Rourke even voted to shield MS-13 gang members from deportation. He doesn't want to deport them. He says they're people. They're people. They carve you up with a knife, but they're people."

MS-13 is a violent transnational gang with members primarily in Central America and the United States. Trump’s words were clearly aimed at gang members, not all immigrants.

For the record, O’Rourke did not vote to shield MS-13 members from deportation. PolitiFact Texas dug into a U.S. House dispute over a bill that would give U.S. officials more leeway in defining gangs. Democrats argued that officials already had the authority to deport anyone suspected of gang involvement.

The Biden campaign did not respond in time for publication.

Our ruling

Biden said that Trump "asserted that immigrants would quote, ‘carve you up with a knife’."

Trump was talking about MS-13 gang members.

We rate this claim False.

Our Sources

Joe Biden, Campaign stop in Burlington, Iowa, Aug. 7, 2019

Donald Trump, Political Rally in Houston, Texas, Oct. 22, 2018

Donald Trump, Political Rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., March 28, 2019

Donald Trump, Political Rally in Panama City Beach, Fla., May 8, 2019

Donald Trump, tweet, Jan. 31, 2019

Factbase, Tweets - invasion, accessed Aug. 9, 2019, Biden Takes Trump Quote Out of Context, Aug. 8, 2019

PolitiFact Texas, Mostly False: Donald Trump claim that Beto O'Rourke voted to shield MS-13 members from deportation, Oct. 25, 2018


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Joe Biden takes Donald Trump’s words about gang members out of context

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