The Republican National Convention continued Wednesday with speeches from Vice President Mike Pence, his wife, Karen Pence, and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.
Pence delivered the evening's keynote address from Baltimore's Fort McHenry, whose defense of the city's harbor from the British in the War of 1812 inspired the writing of "The Star-Spangled Banner," and he's expected to lean heavily on patriotic themes as he makes the case for a second term and draws a contrast with former Vice President Joe Biden.
Conway had one of her most highest-profile moments just days before she leaves the White House. The senior adviser, who managed the president's campaign in the final months of the 2016 election, has announced she will leave the administration at the end of the month to focus more on her family.
Other featured speakers included White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany; Sens. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Joni Ernst of Iowa; South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem; the president's daughter-in-law and campaign adviser Lara Trump; and the former acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell.
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Fact check: What did Trump do to help New York combat COVID-19?
Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., made a series of specific claims about how Trump helped his state with needed medical and personal protective equipment during the heart of the coronavirus pandemic this spring.
Some of his claims were true, and some of them were not.
“When I learned my county’s stockpile of PPE was depleted, I immediately thought of those health care workers who saved my baby girls. Jared Kushner and I were on the phone late into that Saturday night. The very next day, President Trump announced he was sending us 200,000 N95 masks. He actually delivered almost 400,000. That number quickly grew to 1.2 million masks, gowns and more” Zeldin said.
Zeldin’s claim that “the president sent thousands of ventilators to New York” needs more context.
As NBC News pointed out in its fact checking of the first night of the RNC on Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, expressed fury in late March when the Trump administration sent just 400 ventilators to New York City — at that point, one of the hardest hit areas in the U.S. — after he’d asked for 30,000 for the state. Trump even downplayed Cuomo’s request, saying, “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators" — although the administration later sent 4,000 more ventilators to the state.
“During a once-in-a-century pandemic — an unforeseeable crisis sent to us from a faraway land — the president’s effort for New York was phenomenal,” Zeldin added.
As NBC News pointed out Monday, doctors, public health experts and a prominent Republican governor on the front lines of the pandemic all sharply criticized how the Trump White House lagged in responding to the coronavirus, including delays in the distribution of ventilators and personal protective equipment.
Zeldin’s remarks neglect Trump’s stance from January to March, when the president publicly downplayed the threat and predicted that the virus would disappear — time that public health experts have contended cost the U.S. in terms of developing all-important tests.
Fact check: Pence recycles out-of-context Biden comment to mislead on police stance
Vice President Mike Pence, in his RNC speech Wednesday night, falsely quoted Joe Biden as saying “yes, absolutely,” as a response to whether he’d broadly support cutting funding for law enforcement.
“When asked whether he’d support cutting funding to law enforcement, and he replied, 'Yes, absolutely,'" Pence said.
In one such ad, a narrator discusses how “the radical left wing of the Democratic Party has taken control” and that “Joe Biden stands with them and embraces their policies — defunding the police.”
Biden is then heard saying, “yes, absolutely.” Another ad follows the same pattern, with a narrator saying that Biden supports “reducing police funding” and then Biden saying, “yes, absolutely.”
Biden’s remark in both ads and cited by Pence is taken out of context. It is from a July interview with NowThisNews, in which Biden is responding to a question from progressive activist Ady Barkan about whether some government funding for law enforcement should redirected into other areas, like increased social services.
“Yes, absolutely,” Biden replies.
Biden has explicitly stated he doesn’t support defunding the police. In an interview with CBS News, he said he instead supports “conditioning federal aid to police, based on whether or not they meet certain basic standards of decency and honorableness.”
Trump, Pence greet crowd of supporters without masks
President Trump, Vice President Pence and their wives greeted the crowd after the VP’s speech, a common practice at political events that had been largely put on hold due to the pandemic.
The group, who were not wearing masks, posed for pictures and, at one point, Pence fist-bumped someone. The audience smushed toward the front, ignoring no social distancing recommendations and largely forgoing masks. Trump and Pence were talking with people directly.
It's unclear who was tested for coronavirus before the event.
Fact check: Does Biden support government-funded abortions?
Pence zeroed in on abortion Wednesday night, claiming that Biden "supports taxpayer funding of abortion right up to the moment of birth."
Biden supports abortion rights. Elective abortions do not occur "up until the moment of birth." Just 1.2 percent occur after 21 weeks of gestation, according to the latest data.
Biden does, however, support government funding being used for abortions. In 2019, he reversed his longstanding support of the Hyde Amendment, which stops federal funding — including Medicaid — from being used to pay for abortions. Biden says he changed his mind on the issue because the amendment made it harder for lower income and women of color to access abortions.
Fact check: Pence, Lara Trump emphasize pre-pandemic job gains
Vice President Mike Pence and others talked up pre-pandemic data on the economy to make the case for President Trump's re-election on Wednesday night — numbers that no longer reflect the economic reality Americans are facing.
"When it came to the economy, President Trump kept his word and then some,” Pence said during his keynote address. “In our first three years businesses large and small created more than 7 million good-paying jobs.”
The U.S. added 6.5 million jobs in the Trump administration's first three years — a half-million more came during the final three months of Obama's administration after Trump's election, a period the White House likes to take credit for, too. It's a narrow slice of Trump's economic record, because the pandemic has wiped out all those job gains and more.
Pence also touted that “unemployment rates for African Americans and Hispanic Americans hit the lowest level ever recorded,” and joined Trump's daughter-in-law and senior campaign adviser Lara Trump in noting that the country had seen some of the lowest unemployment for women in more than half a century. All three data points were true, but thanks to the pandemic, are no longer anywhere close.
Pence faults Biden for not condemning violence last week. He condemned it 8 hours ago.
Addressing the RNC on Wednesday, Vice President Pence faulted Joe Biden for not condemning violence in American cities when he spoke at the Democratic convention: “Last week, Joe Biden didn’t say one word about the violence and chaos engulfing cities across this country. So let me be clear: the violence must stop.”
Pence did not mention that eight hours earlier, Biden posted a video on Twitter in which he unequivocally condemned the violence in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake on Sunday in Wisconsin.
“Protesting brutality is a right and absolutely necessary. But burning down communities is not protest, it's needless violence. Violence that endangers lives,” Biden said in the video. “That's wrong.”
Biden denounced violence after George Floyd’s death in similar terms in late May.
Pence offered a similar message as Biden during his speech on Wednesday: “President Donald Trump and I will always support the right of Americans to peaceful protest, but rioting and looting is not peaceful protest.”
Pence condemns violence at protests but does not mention police shootings that sparked protests
Mike Pence denounced acts of violence that have occurred during anti-racism protests across the country but did not mention the police shootings that sparked the unrest.
“Let me be clear: the violence must stop – whether in Minneapolis, Portland, or Kenosha,” Pence said. “Too many heroes have died defending our freedoms to see Americans strike each other down. We will have law and order on the streets of America.”
In Kenosha on Tuesday night, a pro-police teenager is alleged to have shot and killed multiple protesters in the aftermath of the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Pence did not make mention of Blake, George Floyd or Breonna Taylor, nor did he reference the teenager, who is now charged with homicide.
"The American people know we don’t have to choose between supporting law enforcement and standing with African American neighbors to improve the quality of life in our cities and towns,” Pence said.
Officer Pence referred to was allegedly killed by 'Boogaloo' extremist
Hurricane Laura will not alter timing of Trump's acceptance speech, says campaign
President Trump’s campaign is pushing back at any suggestion that his Thursday acceptance speech could be adjusted due to Hurricane Laura’s impending landfall.
Multiple senior campaign officials tell NBC News there are no plans to delay the address, with one saying definitively: “The President’s acceptance speech will happen as scheduled Thursday night.”
An administration official tells us the same: the speech on the South lawn will go on, as originally planned. And White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who is at Fort McHenry tonight, previewed Thursday’s presidential remarks as “comprehensive and straightforward.”
Fact check: Pence credits Trump for Obama’s veterans choice program
At the RNC, Pence said: "After years of scandal that robbed our veterans of the care that you earned, in the uniform of the United States, President Trump kept his word again. We reformed the VA and veterans choice is now available for every veteran in America."
In fact, the veterans choice program was a bipartisan initiative enacted by President Barack Obama in 2014. It allowed the government to pay doctors outside the VA for veterans' care. It is misleading to imply that it only became available under President Trump.
Pence is right, however, that the Trump administration “reformed the VA” by signing the VA MISSION Act of 2018, which boosted funding for the choice program and expanded the eligibility criteria.