Political Ad Truth Test: Trump & Biden ads make claims about the pandemic

The handling of the coronavirus pandemic is taking center stage among several political attack ads airing right now for President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.

President Trump’s campaign ad comes out swinging against his opponent.

“Joe Biden has no real plan to defeat the coronavirus. Just criticize, complain, and surrender.”

That’s false. The former vice president has spoken publicly about what actions he would take as president. His campaign website details a 21-page plan for healthcare, testing, and the economy. The ad goes on.

“And when President Trump shut down travel to China, Biden attacked him. ‘Hysterical xenophobia.’"

That’s partially true. You can judge for yourself by listening to what Biden said the day the White House announced travel restrictions.

“This is no time for Donald Trump’s record of hysteria and xenophobia, hysterical xenophobia, and fear-mongering to lead the way instead of science.”

Biden has used the word xenophobic multiple times to criticize the president for labeling COVID-19 a foreign virus. But it’s not clear if he was referring to the travel restriction specifically. The ad goes on.

“President Trump is leading. Attacking the virus head on. Developing a vaccine in record time.”

It’s true the president eased restrictions making it easier for private companies to develop a vaccine.

In April, “Operation Warp Speed” was announced. Its goal is to deliver 300 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine by January 2021. If that happens, vaccine development would have gone from 73 months to just 14. The ad goes on.

“Under President Trump, we will be careful, resolute, and we will defeat this virus.”

The White House and CDC created safety guidelines including wearing a mask in public. Yet the president, who contracted the virus, routinely mocked mask-wearers.

Now the other side. A competing ad from Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign uses President Trump’s words against him.

“Now it’s turning out it’s not just old people, Bob. But just today, and yesterday, some startling facts came out. It’s not just old, older. Young people, too, plenty of young people.”

That’s an audio recording of the president talking to journalist Bob Woodward on March 19th.

“I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down because I don’t want to create a panic.”

Many have accused Mr. Trump of not being honest about the severity of the virus, saying he could have saved lives. He has defended his decision making several times including during one political rally where he said, “They want me to come out and scream people are dying with that. No, no, we did it just the right way. We have to be calm. We don’t want to be crazed lunatics.”

You see several pieces of text on the screen while the president speaks, including this line, “he knew and he did nothing.”

That’s not accurate. The administration put out health and safety guidelines, organized national COVID-19 testing, and worked to deliver personal protective equipment to healthcare workers.

The next on-screen text is accurate and uses CDC data, “More than 190,000 dead, 21-percent of them black.” And the last claim you see on screen, “Donald Trump’s lies are killing us.”

There’s no data supporting that statement and is open to interpretation.

Both ads aren’t entirely accurate, but one is more misleading than the other. The Action News Jax truth test finds the Joe Biden ad only half true, while the president’s ad is mostly false.

To view more political ad truth tests, visit our Election 2020 page.