June 25, 2019
As of June 7—869 days into his term of office—President Donald Trump had told, 10,796 lies and misstatements to the American people, according to The Washington Post
That number undoubtedly has increased over the past few weeks. And, CNN reports, it grew by at least three after the president spoke exclusively with Noticiero Telemundo anchor José Díaz Balart on June 20 for his Spanish-language news update.
During that television face-to-face, Donald Trump made three glaringly inaccurate statements about the Hispanic population, alone. He also made false representations about Chinese immigration to the United States; and about the Veterans Choice healthcare program—saying he had passed that legislation, which was, in fact, signed into law by former President Barack Obama.
But that was far from Trump’s only fabrication concerning Obama. According to CNN, during the interview, Trump claimed that the former president had created—and then left him with—a family separation policy.
“When I became president, President Obama had a separation policy,” Trump said. “I didn’t have it. He had it. I brought the families together. I’m the one that put ’em together.”
Interviewer José Díaz-Balart challenged Trump on the assertion, pointing out that thousands of children were reunited with their parents in the last year after his administration’s zero-tolerance policy had separated them. But Trump pushed back, wrongly insisting that he “inherited separation, and I changed the plan, and I brought people together.”
CNN Facts First: Trump did not inherit an Obama policy of routinely separating migrant children from their parents. Separations were rare under Obama. Trump made them standard.
In March 2017, John Kelly, then the secretary of Homeland Security, told CNN that he was thinking about implementing a separation program “to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network.” (In May, Kelly joined the board of Caliburn International. A conglomerate that operates the largest facility for migrant children in the country, according to a report by The Chicago Tribune.)
In April 2018, Jeff Sessions, then the attorney general, announced a new “zero tolerance” policy in which everybody caught crossing the border illegally would be criminally prosecuted — a change he explicitly noted would result in regular separations.
“If you’re smuggling a child, we’re going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you, probably, as required by law. If you don’t want your child to be separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally,” Sessions said.
Separations did sometimes occur under Obama, but they were non-routine and much less frequent, according to immigration experts and former Obama officials. They occurred in exceptional cases, such as those where the parent was being criminally prosecuted for carrying drugs across the border or other serious crimes.
It is technically true, CNN notes, that Trump is the one who ended the separation policy: in June 2018, he signed an executive order to detain families together. But he was ending his own policy, not Obama’s, and he only signed the order after a furious public outcry.
Popularity among Hispanics
During the same interview, much to the incredulity of Díaz-Balart, CNN reports, Trump claimed he had seen a significant increase in his popularity with Hispanics—a 17-point spike that had brought him to 50% approval.
Trump: “And you know my poll numbers with Hispanics went up 17 points?” Díaz-Balart: “Well…” Trump: “Okay, explain that. I’ve been tough…” Díaz-Balart: “You’ve been tough, but…” Trump: “…and yet my poll numbers with Hispanics have gone way up.”
Trump: “Well, right now I’m at 50%…for a Republican, I’m at 50%. I went up 17 points. You know why? The Hispanics…” Díaz-Balart: “I have not seen any poll that says…” Trump: “Well, we’ll show it to you.” Díaz-Balart : “With all due respect, that you have…” Trump: “We’ll show it to you.” Díaz-Balart: “50% of the Latino support…” Trump: “No, no. We’ll show it to you. But let me tell you. We went up 17 points. You saw that. I went up 17 points because I’m tough at the border. Because the Hispanics want toughness at the border. They don’t want people coming and taking their jobs. They don’t want criminals to come because they understand the border better than anybody.”
CNN Facts First: Trump does not have a 50%t approval rating among Hispanics, according to the latest public polling.
According to the cable news network, there was one January poll, by Marist/NPR/PBS, that showed that his approval rating with Latinos had indeed increased to 50 %. Trump immediately began touting this poll upon its release, and it might have been what he was referring to in the Telemundo interview five months later.
But polls conducted after January, including polls from the same pollster, have not shown an approval rating even close to 50%.
In fact, in the Marist/NPR/PBS poll in June, Trump’s approval among Latinos was just 24%.
Matt Barreto, co-founder of Latino Decisions and a political science professor at the University of California-Los Angeles, told CNN that the recent data suggest “Trump has NOT made any inroads with Latinos.”
Trump also claimed in the Telemundo interview that Hispanics were losing wealth under Obama.
“Hispanics today are—have the average net wealth—the wealthiest they’ve ever been, under Trump. Not under Obama. ‘Cause under Obama they were going the wrong way.”
CNN Facts First: Hispanic wealth and income were increasing under Obama—not “going the wrong way.”
Between 2013 and 2016, Latino median household wealth rose from $13,700 to $20,600, the Hispanic Wealth Project noted in its 2019 State of Hispanic Wealth report.
Separate Census Bureau data on household income cited by CNN also showed a steady increase for Hispanics during the Obama era. In 2017 dollars, mean income for Hispanics increased from $59,818 in 2009, Obama’s first year, to $68,252 in 2016, his last full year.
The 2017 figure, under Trump, was a record: $68,319. But this was a continuation of the Obama-era trend, and it was an increase of a mere 0.001%.
Research contact: @CNN