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Joe Biden did not directly say that he thought President Donald Trump shouldn’t have restricted travel from China to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Biden did accuse Trump of "xenophobia" in an Iowa campaign speech the same day that the administration announced the travel restrictions — Jan. 31 — but his campaign said his remarks were not related, and that he made similar comments before the restrictions were imposed.
In the final presidential debate, Democratic candidate Joe Biden repeated his claim that President Donald Trump has mishandled the nation’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Trump shot back in defense, and claimed that Biden himself thought that the administration was wrong in restricting travel from China on Jan. 31, 2020, in an attempt to stop the virus from spreading in the United States.
"When I closed he said I should no't have closed," Trump said. "He said this is a terrible thing, you are a xenophobe, I think he called me racist. Now he says I should have closed it earlier."
"I did not say either of those things," Biden responded. "I talked about his xenophobia in a different context, not about closing the border to Chinese coming to the United States."
As debate moderator Kristen Welker interjected to ask another question, Trump continued: "He thought I shouldn't have closed the borders. That's obvious."
This isn’t accurate.
Biden did not directly say that he thought Trump shouldn’t have restricted travel from China when he did. The former vice president did accuse Trump of "xenophobia" in an Iowa campaign speech the same day, Jan. 31, that Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced the administration's travel restrictions on people who were in China 14 days prior to their attempted entry into the U.S.
Biden said: "This is no time for Donald Trump's record of hysteria xenophobia, hysterical xenophobia, and fear-mongering to lead the way instead of science."
Biden’s presidential campaign told the Washington Post Fact Checker that his accusations were not related to the travel restrictions, claiming he wasn’t aware of the restrictions during his speech since the event started shortly after they were announced. The campaign also noted he made similar remarks in an opinion column published Jan. 27 in USA Today. And in his comments in Iowa, Biden did not mention the travel restrictions.
On Feb. 1, Biden mostly repeated his remarks from the campaign stop, tweeting: "We are in the midst of a crisis with the coronavirus. We need to lead the way with science — not Donald Trump’s record of hysteria, xenophobia, and fear-mongering. He is the worst possible person to lead our country through a global health emergency."
Biden did not say whether he supported or opposed the Trump travel restrictions until April 3, when his campaign said that he supported Trump’s decision to impose travel restrictions on China.
"Joe Biden supports travel bans that are guided by medical experts, advocated by public health officials, and backed by a full strategy," the campaign told CNN. "Science supported this ban, therefore he did too."
Trump said, "When I closed he said I should not have closed. ...He said this is a terrible thing, you are a xenophobe, I think he called me racist. Now he says I should have closed it earlier. … He thought I should not have closed the border. That’s obvious."
Biden didn’t take an official position on the China travel restrictions until months after they were first enforced. And while he has called Trump a racist and xenophobic, those comments weren’t explicity in reference to the travel ban.
Trump’s claim contains an element of truth, but overstates and takes Biden’s comments out of context. We rate the claim Mostly False.
This fact check is available at IFCN’s 2020 US Elections FactChat #Chatbot on WhatsApp. Click here, for more.
PolitiFact, Fact-checking whether Biden called Trump ‘xenophobic’ for restrictions on travel from China, March 27, 2020
USA Today, FLASHBACK by Joe Biden: Trump is worst possible leader to deal with coronavirus outbreak, Jan. 27, 2020
Washington Post, Trump’s faux facts on Fox News, March 26, 2020
FactCheck.org, Trump’s Misleading Comments on Biden and the Coronavirus, July 15, 2020
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