Fact check: 3 whoppers pushed by media, Biden amid Kamala Harris announcement

Harris is a 'moderate,' Trump praised neo-Nazis, and other untruths.

Published: August 13, 2020 1:26pm

Updated: August 14, 2020 12:27pm

Several notable falsehoods have circulated throughout political media since the announcement of California Sen. Kamala Harris as Joe Biden's running mate, a possible harbinger of a contentious and factually-challenged election season in the months ahead. Below are three of the biggest whoppers so far:

1. Donald Trump praised neo-Nazis as "very fine people." Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden tweeted on Wednesday that, three years ago this week, President Donald Trump praised a group of torch-wielding white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va. as "very fine people." 

The allegation that Trump praised the neo-Nazis in the 2017 Charlottesville rally has been widely repeated since that year. Yet a review of Trump's remarks on Aug. 15, three days after that rally, shows that Trump clearly differentiated between the white supremacists who were present at that rally and the "very fine people" he said were there for more benign reasons:

[Y]ou had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides. You had people in that group. Excuse me, excuse me. I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.

... And you had people — and I'm not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists — because they should be condemned totally. But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. Okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.

This is not the first time Biden has repeated a variation of this falsehood: In February he made a similar claim, arguing that Trump had "yet once to condemn white supremacy [or] the neo-Nazis." FactCheck.org subsequently declared Biden wrong, pointing out numerous times Trump had condemned white supremacy over the course of his presidency. 

2. Kamala Harris is a moderate. Following the Biden campaign's announcement of Harris as Joe Biden's running mate, several news outlets and figures — including the New York Times and George Stephanopoulous — publicly characterized her as a "moderate" politician, one more from the middle of the Democratic Party rather than its progressive left wing. 

Harris, however — who was the California attorney general for six years before rising to the U.S. Senate in 2017 — has long been known as a markedly liberal politician. The watchdog website GovTrack named her the most liberal senator of 2019, as well as the least likely to join in bipartisan bills. That rating put her to the left of GovTrack's ranking of Bernie Sanders, the only openly avowed socialist currently in the U.S. Senate. 

In a 2019 Democratic debate, when participants were asked who among them would abolish private health insurance in favor of a government program, Harris and Sanders were the only two candidates to raise their hands. Harris later said she misunderstood the question, but acknowledged that she would still only allow "supplemental" private insurance under her preferred government healthcare plan. 

3. "Nasty" is never used on men. Soon after the announcement of Harris as Biden's vice presidential pick, President Trump referred to Harris as "nasty" due to her hard questioning of then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh amid the sexual assault allegations that were swirling around him at the time. 

Following Trump's remarks, New Yorker writer and CNN contributor Jeffrey Toobin claimed that the word "nasty" is "never used to describe male politicians," appearing to imply that Trump's use of the word against Harris was sexist. 

Yet Trump himself has used that word multiple times to refer to men. The president earlier this year claimed Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee is a "nasty person." A few years ago, meanwhile, he referred to former GOP Rep. Mark Sanford — one of his strongest critics on Capitol Hill — as a "nasty guy." According to the New York Times, he called Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer a "nasty son of a bitch." 

He has referred to European Union Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker as "nasty." He has said the same thing about Sen. Ted Cruz, London Mayor Sadiq Kahn, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. Mitt Romney, and Jeb Bush.

He has also used that word to describe non-politicians such as journalists Juan Williams, Philip Rucker, and NBA players.

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