The five biggest whoppers Kamala Harris told in the VP debate

Debates are tough for fact-checkers. The two candidates are throwing out soundbites left and right, and sadly, truth often suffers.

Updated: October 9, 2020 - 9:31am

Debates are tough for fact-checkers. The two candidates are throwing out soundbites left and right, and sadly, truth often suffers.

It takes a while to wade through everything a given candidate has said. So here are the five biggest whoppers Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) told during her Wednesday night debate with Vice President Mike Pence. 

1. "The president said [coronavirus] was a hoax."

This claim has been out there for a while, circulating among liberal news sites — but the Washington Post gave the claim "four Pinocchios."

"He never said 'coronavirus, this is their new hoax,'" the Post wrote in March. 

"Rather," the Post found, "Biden's ad clipped a large part of Trump's speech to make it seem as though he had. Here's the president's full quote (emphasis added to show the omission):

'Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. You know that, right? Coronavirus. They're politicizing it. We did one of the great jobs, you say, "How's President Trump doing?" "Oh, nothing, nothing." They have no clue, they don't have any clue. They can't even count their votes in Iowa, they can't even count. No, they can't. They can't count their votes. One of my people came up to me and said, "Mr. President, they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia." That didn't work out too well. They couldn't do it. They tried the impeachment hoax. That was on a perfect conversation. They tried anything, they tried it over and over, they've been doing it since he got in. It's all turning, they lost. It's all turning, think of it, think of it. And this is their new hoax. But you know we did something that's been pretty amazing. We have 15 people in this massive country, and because of the fact that we went early, we went early, we could have had a lot more than that.'

PolitiFact concluded: "Biden's video is inaccurate. We rate it False."

FactCheck.org said: "Trump said that when he used the word 'hoax,' he was referring to Democrats finding fault with his administration's response to coronavirus, not the virus itself."

2. "The truth and the fact is, Joe Biden has been very clear, he will not raise taxes on anybody who makes less than $400,000 a year."

That's Biden claim, but several analyses have found otherwise. 

The Tax Policy Center found that Biden's "proposals would increase taxes on average on all income groups."

"Taxpayers in the middle income quintile would see an average tax increase of about $330," the center said.

The Tax Foundation estimated Biden's plan would lead to "about a 1.7 percent decline in after-tax income for all taxpayers on average." 

The American Enterprise Institute determined that "households at every income level" would face higher taxes.

3. "We now know because of great investigative journalism that Donald Trump paid $750 in taxes."

That blockbuster New York Times story broke late last month but was quickly eclipsed by reports that the president had contracted COVID-19. Still, journalists looked into the expansive report, and Brietbart's John Carney found some interesting facts.

"The New York Times' claim that President Donald Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017 is wrong," Carney found, "based on a flawed understanding of how taxes are paid. The figures below, drawn from the New York Times's own analysis of Trump's tax-return data for 2017, show that Trump paid $7,435,857 in taxes in 2017."

Carney cited The Times' story, which said this: 

"But tax laws gave him one more line on which to reduce the A.M.T. Mr. Trump had $22.7 million in General Business Credit, much of it carried forward from prior years, that he could apply. The credit is a smorgasbord of tax incentives and givebacks to business owners, and in Mr. Trump's case they ranged from credits of $322,926 for Social Security and Medicare taxes paid on employee tips to at least $1.5 million related to rehabilitating the Old Post Office in Washington.

The business credit cannot be used to get a refund; it can only be applied against taxes owed. Mr. Trump had more than enough to cancel out his $7,435,857 tax bill. But on the Form 3800 for the General Business Credit, his accountants subtracted $750 from his allowable credit. Why they did that is not clear. But the result was a total federal income tax liability of $750."

"In other words," Carney wrote, "Trump paid the full amount of his taxes but spent $7,435,107 of his tax credit and $750 of cash. Both cash and the credit are government liabilities that the U.S. government accepts as payment for taxes. Paying the credit is not the equivalent of not paying taxes."

4. "The American people know that Joe Biden will not ban fracking. That is a fact. That is a fact."

Biden is on record — many times — as vowing to get rid of fracking.

In a March debate among Democratic presidential candidates, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said: "I'm talking about stopping fracking ... I'm talking about telling the fossil fuel industry that they are going to stop destroying this planet. No ifs, buts and maybes about it."

Biden said emphatically: "So am I." 

On Jan. 24, while talking with a New Hampshire voter, Biden said he would stop fracking. A woman voter asked, "But like, what about, say, stopping fracking?"

Biden answered, "Yes."

Harris herself is on record as supporting the elimination of all fracking, all fracking, saying "There's no question I'm in favor of banning fracking."

5. "In 1864 … Abraham Lincoln was up for re-election, and it was 27 days before the election. And a seat became open on the United States Supreme Court. Abraham Lincoln's party was in charge not only of the White House but of the Senate. But Honest Abe said that it's not the right thing to do."

With the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Supreme Court vacancy popped up just before a presidential election. Trump almost immediately nominated a replacement, Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

Democrats have demanded that the vacancy be held until after Jan. 20, 2021, when a newly elected president will be sworn into office. So Harris's claim that Lincoln did so supports their case.

But he didn't — at least, not out of principle. Lincoln didn't nominate a replacement because the Senate was out of session (this is, remember, before their were cars). More than that, in the midst of the Civil War, Lincoln was concerned about the political consequences of filling the seat. 

The Senate was out of session from Independence Day through Dec. 5 in 1864. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney died on Oct. 12. 

"As ever, Lincoln was the shrewd politician and in October of 1864 he saw no profit in alienating any of the factions of his political support by making a selection before the election," presidential historian Michael Kahn wrote. "There is no evidence that he seriously considered announcing his choice before he was re-elected." 
 
And for the record, Lincoln sent Salmon Chase's nomination to the Senate the day it came back into session — Dec. 6.

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