Fact-checking six claims from Biden’s press conference

By Daniel Dale

President Joe Biden held a press conference on Wednesday to mark the end of the first year of his presidency.

Biden made at least three inaccurate assertions during the extended proceedings, which he let run for nearly two hours. He also made a claim about surprise medical billing in which he at best omitted key context; a statement about military history in which its meaning was unclear; and a claim about job creation that was accurate but could also have used more contextual information.

Here is an overview of these six remarks.

A visit to a vaccine manufacturer

After a reporter asked Biden a series of questions on the issue of government jurisdiction, Biden told a story about visiting a vaccine maker as part of his effort to ramp up production of Covid-19 vaccines. 19.

He said: “When we were pushing AstraZeneca to deliver more vaccines – guess what, they didn’t have the machines to be able to do that. So I physically went to Michigan, stood there in a factory with the head of–of AstraZeneca, and said, “We’ll get you machines. That’s what we’re going to do. We will help you do this so that you can produce this vaccine faster. I think it’s pretty handy.

Facts first: Biden cited the wrong vaccine maker. He was trying to describe his February 2021 visit at a Pfizer factory in Michigan, not an AstraZeneca factory. the official White House transcript of the press conference crossed out mentions of AstraZeneca by Biden and replaced them with Pfizer, signaling that Biden misspoke.

About Pfizer, the substance of the Biden story was at least roughly exact. His administration used the Defense Production Act to help Pfizer get faster access to some of the components needed for the vaccine manufacturing process. Biden said in a speech at the Pfizer factory at the time: “During our visit today, they showed me an essential machine that they didn’t have before; now they do. And this allows them to increase production.

AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine isn’t even cleared for emergency use in the US, though it’s possible the company had Biden in mind because his administration announced last week that it would was purchasing additional doses of an authorized Covid-19 treatment manufactured by AstraZeneca. An AstraZeneca spokesperson said in an email Wednesday, “AstraZeneca does not have vaccine manufacturing operations in Michigan and President Biden has never visited an AstraZeneca manufacturing facility.”

Equipment shipped to Ukraine

While talking about the possibility of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Biden said, “We will – I’ve already shipped over $600 million worth of sophisticated equipment, defensive equipment, to the Ukrainians.”

Facts first: Biden would have been right had he talked about the amount of security assistance his administration has authorized for Ukraine — a State Department spokesperson told CNN late Wednesday that the administration “committed 650 million in defense equipment and related services to Ukraine” last year – but he was incorrect in specifically saying that more than $600 million in equipment had been “already shipped”. The most recent support bundle, a $200 million package the Biden administration quietly cleared in December, has not yet been shipped; the State Department spokesperson said delivery of the lethal and non-lethal equipment in this package is “scheduled to begin imminently and will continue over the next few weeks.”

Deliveries take time. The spokesperson also said there was still delivery to be made to Ukraine, “in the coming weeks,” of a previous $60 million aid package the administration had approved for Israel. Ukraine in August.

This problem between authorized and dispatched is not a simple question of semantics. Given that White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that “we are now at a stage where Russia could launch an attack in Ukraine at any time,” the timing of deliveries matters.

Immunization progress

In his remarks at the start of the press conference, Biden touted the country’s progress in vaccinating against Covid-19 during his first year in office. He said, “We’ve gone from 2 million people vaccinated when I was sworn in to 210 million Americans fully vaccinated today.”

Facts first: Biden’s current “210 million” figure was correct. However, his starting figure of “2 million” was off by at least a million. The figures published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that more than 3 million people in the United States were fully vaccinated as of January 19, 2021, the day before Biden’s inauguration, and more than 3.4 million were fully vaccinated on his inauguration day.

Biden and his team could have relied on reports from Jan. 20, based on CDC data available at the time, which put the number at around 2 million. But the CDC’s numbers are updated over time as more information comes in and vaccinations are attributed to the date they actually occurred instead of the date they were reported. CDC figures have shown for months that there were more than 3 million people fully vaccinated on the eve of Biden’s inauguration.

Surprise medical bills

While listing examples of “tremendous progress” in his first year, Biden said, “And we just made surprise medical bills illegal in this country.”

Facts first: Biden’s claim lacked key context at best, misleading at worst. His “we’re coming” expression might have led listeners to believe he was the person who signed the law banning surprise medical bills. In reality, former President Donald Trump signed the bipartisan measure in late 2020. The Biden administration, however, had to develop a set of rules turn the law into reality.

The law went into effect earlier this month — so Biden’s “we come from” could perhaps be defended as a reference to when the law took effect rather than when the law has been signed. Yet it could have been much clearer.

CNN’s Tami Luhby reported in December that the law prohibits most unexpected medical costs from out-of-network providers. You can read more details here.

Russia and the history of invasions

When a reporter asked Biden about his concerns about a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, Biden said his administration needed to tread carefully and impress upon Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia would pay a heavy price if it invaded.

Biden then added, “Of course you have to worry when you have, you know, nuclear power, invade – it has – if he invades, that hasn’t happened since World War II. This is the most important thing that has happened in the world, in terms of war and peace, since the Second World War.

Facts first: Biden was unclear what the “it” was in his claim that “if he invades, it hasn’t happened since World War II.” Contrary to one possible interpretation, a Russian invasion of Ukraine would clearly not be the first time since World War II that a nuclear power invaded another country or even that nuclear-armed Russia invaded another country; Russia Iinvaded Ukraine in 2014, when Biden was vice president, and annexed the Crimea region. The nuclear-armed United States has itself invaded several countries since World War II.

It’s possible that Biden awkwardly tried to make a different point related to World War II. Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the UK’s Chief of Defense, said in December: “The significance of worst-case scenarios in terms of a full-scale invasion would be on a scale never seen in Europe. since World War II. Retired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a former National Security Council expert on Ukraine (and a key witness to Trump’s first impeachment), said Wednesday, “We’re about to have the biggest war ever. in Europe since World War II.

Job creation

In his opening remarks, Biden touted “record job creation” during his presidency. He said: “We have created 6 million new jobs – more jobs in a year than ever before.”

Facts first: Biden was right; it is true this more jobs have been added in the United States in 2021 than any previous year for which we have good statistics, going back over 80 years, and it is true that more than 6 million jobs have been added since Biden’s inauguration. However, it is important to note a key context: the economic circumstances of Biden’s first year were so unique that a meaningful direct comparison with previous years is very difficult.

Specifically, Biden took office less than a year after the economy lost more than 22 million jobs in two months due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Even with the job rebound that began in May 2020 and continued into 2021, the United States still had about 3.6 million fewer jobs in December 2021 than in February 2020. In other words, Biden-era gains — an average of more than 560,000 jobs added per month from February 2021 to December 2021 — still fill the pandemic hole.

Biden is free, of course, to brag about how quickly the hole is filled. But his claims about setting records should be viewed with contextual caution.

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CNN’s Oren Liebermann, Kylie Atwood and Natasha Bertrand contributed to this article.