President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump faced off Thursday night in the first of two announced debates before the Nov. 5 election. CNN anchors Jake Tapper and Dana Bash acted as moderators at CNN’s studios in Atlanta.

The one-on-one matchup of Biden and Trump was unique, not only because it pitted a president against his predecessor, but because it had no live audience and the two candidates’ microphones were muted when it wasn’t their time to speak.

Trump and Biden weren’t allowed to bring any notes or props onto the stage, where they traded jabs over such subjects as the economy, illegal immigration, abortion, and foreign policy on China, Iran, Israel, and terrorist groups.

Both Trump and Biden sought to use the 90-minute debate, well ahead of the Nov. 5 election, to highlight their respective successes as president and to criticize the other’s policies.

Some claims made from the stage were misleading or lacked adequate context. Here’s a sampling of 17.

1. ‘We Had the Safest Border in History, Now We Have the Worst’

Trump said the U.S. border was safer during his presidency than at any other time in history, adding that, under Biden, “now we have the worst border in history.”

Under the Biden administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has encountered 9.7 million illegal aliens on America’s borders. An additional 1.8 million “known gotaways” have crossed the border to enter the country under Biden’s presidency. 

In fiscal year 2020, the last full year of Trump’s presidency, CBP encountered 458,088 illegal aliens on America’s southern border. So far in fiscal year 2024, which began Oct. 1, more than 1.6 million illegal aliens have been encountered at the southern border. 

In fiscal year 2020, a total of 199 illegal aliens on the nation’s terrorist watch list were encountered on America’s borders. Since the start of fiscal 2024, a total of 316 migrants on the terrorist watch list have been encountered at U.S. borders. 

On Biden’s first day in office, he signed an executive order stopping border wall construction and rolled back Trump’s border and immigration policies that he called “harsh and extreme.” When he took office in January 2021, Biden suspended Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, which required asylum-seekers to stay outside the country, and formally ended the program in spring 2021. 

Former Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott has said Mexican drug and criminal cartels are taking advantage of the Biden administration’s border policies

2. Biden Accuses Trump of Recommending Drinking Bleach

Biden opened by claiming Trump said Americans should “drink bleach” to battle COVID-19. In July 2020, the left-leaning PolitiFact found this claim to be “mostly false.” 

At the time, Trump spoke at a briefing with William Bryan, then-under secretary for science and technology at the Department of Homeland Security. Bryan talked about a study that found that sun exposure and disinfectants such as bleach could kill the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 when it lingers on surfaces.

Trump said at that briefing: “I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it’d be interesting to check that, so that you’re going to have to use medical doctors with—but it sounds interesting to me.”

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3. ‘Everybody’ Supported Overturning Roe v. Wade 

When Biden blamed Trump for the Supreme Court’s overturning Roe v. Wade and abortion on demand, in part because he appointed three of the nine justices, Trump asserted that “everybody wanted to get it back to the states.” 

In July 2022, shortly after the Supreme Court overturned its 1973 ruling that legalized abortion on demand across America and nationalized the issue, polling found that a majority of Americans opposed overturning Roe. 

The high court’s Dobbs decision gave the abortion question back to the people and their state representatives, conservatives argue. 

However, it’s not clear that all Americans were aware it was a national issue.

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4. Biden: ‘Constitutional Scholars Supported Roe’

At one point, Biden said of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973: “The fact is the vast majority of constitutional scholars supported Roe. This idea that they were all against it is ridiculous.”

But the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, noted for being a liberal jurist, criticized the Roe v. Wade decision and the legal rationale behind it. 

Also, numerous other legal scholars who professed to be pro-choice on abortion criticized Roe v. Wade ruling as bad law, among them law professors Laurence Tribe and John Hart Ely and former Kennedy administration solicitor general and Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox. 

However, the claim could be true that a majority of constitutional scholars supported Roe.  Ilya Somin, a law professor at George Mason University, told PolitiFact: “It’s very obvious that the vast majority of legal scholars support the result in Roe v. Wade and oppose Dobbs.” But Somin added: “Some have issues with the details of Roe’s reasoning.”

5. In Charlottesville, ‘Very Fine People’ 

Days after one fact-check website called the repeated claim false, Biden again claimed that in 2017 Trump said white nationalist rioters in Charlottesville, Virginia, were “fine people.” 

“He said, ‘I think there are fine people on both sides,’” Biden said. “What American president would ever say Nazis coming out of the fields, saying the same antisemitic bile, carrying swastikas, were fine people? This is the guy who says [Adolf] Hitler’s done some good things. I’d like to know what they are. … This guy has no sense of American democracy.”

Trump responded, “He made up the Charlottesville story. … It’s been fully debunked. On Sunday, the liberal website Snopes ran a headline, “No, Trump Did Not Call Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists ‘Very Fine People.’”

The “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in August 2017 was protesting the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in the city. But it turned into a riot that included clashes with white nationalists and Antifa. 

Trump said in a press conference afterward:

You had a group on one side and a group on the other, and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and horrible and it was a horrible thing to watch, but there is another side. There was a group on this side, you can call them the Left. You’ve just called them the Left, that came violently attacking the other group. So you can say what you want, but that’s the way it is.

A reporter followed up, saying: “The neo-Nazis started this thing. They showed up in Charlottesville.”

Trump replied:

They didn’t put themselves down as neo-Nazis, and you 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.

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6. ‘Corporate Greed Is the Reason

Biden said of inflation on his watch: “A combination of what I was left with and corporate greed is the reason we’re in this problem right now.”

“What I was left with” in part referred to the COVID-19 pandemic, which did economic damage to America, but Biden approved $4.3 trillion in new 10-year borrowing. During his presidency, Trump added $8.4 trillion of new 10-year borrowing, or $4.8 trillion excluding COVID-19 relief. 

Rising prices trace back partly to supply-chain issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Biden’s spending coming out of the pandemic also contributed to inflation. “Corporate greed” doesn’t explain the 20% inflation since January 2021.

7. ‘We Are Not for Late-Term Abortion. Period. Period. Period.’

Biden declared: “We are not for late-term abortion. Period. Period. Period.”

If Biden opposes late-term abortion, that would mark a departure from his previous stance

The president repeatedly has advocated the Women’s Health Protection Act, legislation that specifically states that the right to abortion “shall not be limited or otherwise infringed.” 

The bill would allow abortion providers to determine whether a pregnancy is considered “viable,” effectively enabling abortions at any point.

The Women’s Health Protection Act would have allowed abortion after the point of “fetal viability” when a health care provider makes a “good-faith medical judgment” that “continuation of the pregnancy would pose a risk to the pregnant patient’s life or health.”

8. Biden ‘Paid by China’

Trump said of Biden: “He gets paid by China.”

Although there hasn’t been evidence that Biden has been directly paid by the Chinese, various family members did numerous business deals in China and other countries.

The House Oversight and Accountability Committee discovered through bank records that Biden—in September 2017, before he was president and after serving eight years as vice president—got a $40,000 check in laundered money from his brother, James Biden, from a Chinese energy conglomerate known as CEFC China Energy. A note on the check said it was a loan repayment.

The House Oversight and Accountability Committee also produced bank records on more Biden family business transactions with Chinese entities that involved large sums of money. 

In 2013, presidential son Hunter Biden, business associates, and Chinese investors agreed to create Bohai Harvest RST Equity Investment Fund Management Co. Ltd. While vice president, Joe Biden traveled with Hunter on Air Force Two to China and met with Jonathan Li, CEO of the company. 

In 2017, after Biden was out of office as vice president, the Chinese company State Energy HK Ltd. wired $3 million to a Biden associate’s account. 

The Biden family received about $1 million over three months in different bank accounts.

In 2015, Bohai Harvest joined with a Chinese Communist Party-linked entity to acquire North Carolina-based Henniges Automotive in a deal reportedly worth $600 million, according to the Oversight Committee.

In 2015, Hunter Biden and CEFC Chairman Ye Jianming began talks about a U.S. partnership.

CEFC China Energy created a joint venture with the Bidens in summer 2017.  

9. Trump: ‘Lowest Taxes Ever’

Responding to Biden’s blaming him for the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, Trump said: “On Jan. 6, we had the lowest taxes ever, the lowest regulations ever.”

Trump did decrease taxes through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, and he did direct the federal bureaucracy to cut regulations, but taxes and regulations during Trump’s term were still higher than at many points in American history. 

Before 1913, the United States had no federal income tax. As a result of the progressive movement, the federal government ballooned; the bureaucracy added more than 150,000 pages to the Federal Register in each year of Trump’s presidency.

However, the bureaucracy promulgated 2,964 final rules in 2019 under Trump, the lowest count since record-keeping began in the 1970s and the only tally below 3,000, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute

In 2022, Biden’s first full calendar year, the federal bureaucracy released 4,429 final rules.

Trump’s general point—that taxes and regulations were lower during his presidency than they became under Biden—is correct. But his statement that he had the “lowest taxes ever” and the “lowest regulations ever” in American history is flatly false.

10. ‘Hitler’s Done Some Good Things’

At one point, Biden said of Trump: “This is the guy who says Hitler’s done some good things. I’d like to know what they are.”

The left-leaning fact-check site Snopes found this claim “unproven.” 

CNN correspondent Jim Sciutto quoted retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, Trump’s second chief of staff, in his book “The Return of Great Powers.”

Kelly told Sciutto that Trump said, “Well, but Hitler did some good things,” and that Trump specified that Hitler had “rebuilt the economy.”

As Snopes noted, Trump’s spokespersons denied these claims. Kelly, whom Trump sacked in 2019, has not presented any further corroboration that Trump made such a statement.

Kelly’s claim first emerged in 2021. Trump’s former chief of staff said Trump praised Hitler in 2018 while on a trip to Paris to mark the 100th anniversary of the World War I armistice.

In 2021, Trump spokeswoman Liz Harrington denied the conversation ever happened.

“This is totally false,” she said. “President Trump never said this. It is made-up, fake news, probably by a general who was incompetent and was fired.”

11. Trump Increased Deficit More Than Any President in One Term

Biden made this claim.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget reports that under his administration, “Trump approved $8.4 trillion of new 10-year borrowing during his full term in office.” 

During Biden’s first three years and five months in office, according to the same organization, Biden approved $4.3 trillion of new 10-year borrowing. 

David Ditch, a senior policy analyst in The Heritage Foundation’s Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget, wrote: “President Biden and some allied economists are trying to whitewash his record on inflation.” 

“Relative to budget projections from February 2021, deficits for 2021-2024 are a combined $2.58 trillion higher, with 2024 a full $1.01 trillion by itself,” Ditch wrote. 

In projections for the 2021-2031 budget window, “deficits are a combined $7.15 trillion higher, or $650 billion per year on average,” Ditch said, referencing a chart from the Congressional Budget Office. 

The rising budget deficit “is driven by new spending/subsidies and administrative decisions that Biden has backed,” he said.

12. Iran ‘Had No Money for Hamas, for Hezbollah’

Trump took credit for denying funding for Iran, saying that Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attacks in Israel “would have never happened” under his leadership. 

“Iran was broke,” he said. “Anybody that did business with Iran, including China, they couldn’t do business with the United States. They all passed. Iran was broke. They had no money for Hamas or Hezbollah.”

Trump’s administration did launch a powerful sanctions campaign against Iran, and Biden has relaxed those sanctions. According to a Daily Signal analysis, Iran received more than $70 billion more under Biden in the lead-up to Oct. 7 than it would have under Trump’s sanctions regime.

However, Trump arguably overstated his case. Iran still directed funds to the terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah while Trump was president, although even left-leaning CNN reported that the amount of money Tehran directed to terror groups declined in the latter half of Trump’s term. 

The funding never fully stopped, however.

13. Food Prices ‘Doubled and Tripled and Quadrupled’ Under Biden 

Trump claimed the price of food has “doubled and tripled and quadrupled” under Biden’s presidency. 

Food prices are up 21.2% since January 2021, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. 

The average price of gas increased from $2.39 a gallon on Jan. 20, 2021, peaking at $5.016 a gallon in July 2022 before reaching the current average price of $3.225 a gallon, according to the AAA average.

When Biden was questioned on food prices being up as much as “30%” during an earlier interview on CNN, the president put the blame on “corporate greed.” 

The average American worker’s weekly paycheck has risen about 14% under Biden, according to EJ Antoni, research fellow in the Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget at The Heritage Foundation. That increase is less than the 20% general inflation rate and the 21.2% inflation rate for food, according to Antoni.

14. Amount of Drugs Crossing Border ‘Largest We’ve Ever Had’

Trump said at one point that “the number of drugs coming across our border now is the largest we’ve ever had by far.”

The total number of drugs seized on the southern border has declined steadily over the past four years, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data. 

However, the amount of seized fentanyl, a highly lethal drug, increased from 11,200 pounds in fiscal year 2021 to 27,000 pounds in 2023. 

A little as 2 milligrams is enough fentanyl to kill an adult American. According to government data, fentanyl poisonings and overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18 to 45.

15. Will 10% Tariffs Lead to Higher Prices? 

Tapper pressed Trump on his plan to impose a 10% tariff on goods coming into the U.S.

“How will you ensure that that doesn’t drive prices even higher?” Tapper asked Trump. 

“It’s just going to drive them higher, it’s just going to cause countries that have been ripping us off for years, like China and many others,” Trump replied. “In all fairness to China, it’s going to just force them to pay us a lot of money, reduce our deficit tremendously, and give us a lot of power for other things.”

The Heritage Foundation’s 2023 Index of Economic Freedom states:

Tariffs … increase the prices that local consumers pay for foreign imports, but they also distort production incentives for local producers, causing them to produce either a good in which they lack a comparative advantage or more of a protected good than is economically ideal. This undermines overall economic efficiency and growth.

16. Border Patrol ‘Endorsed Me’ 

Biden claimed that “the Border Patrol endorsed me.” Trump retorted that the union for Border Patrol agents actually endorsed him.

Moments later, that union—the National Border Patrol Council—wrote on X: “To be clear, we never have and never will endorse Biden.” 

In February, the Border Patrol union did endorse a border security bill spearheaded by Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz.; James Lankford, R-Okla.; and Chris Murphy, D-Conn. 

The bill failed to gain enough Senate support to pass.

17. Trump Blames Pelosi for Jan. 6 Capitol Riot

After the debate, some pundits expressed outrage that Trump didn’t take responsibility for the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, when hundreds of Trump supporters entered the building and some attempted to prevent a joint session of Congress from certifying Biden’s 2020 victory over Trump in the Electoral College. 

During the debate, Trump brought up a recent news story about new footage of  then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

“Nancy Pelosi, if you just watched the news from two or three days ago, on tape to her daughter—who is a documentary filmmaker, it’s what they say—she’s saying, ‘Oh, no, it’s my responsibility,’” Trump said. “Because I offered her 10,000 soldiers or National Guard troops, and she turned them down.”

Last week, House Administration oversight subcommittee Chairman Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., released documentary footage recorded by the former speaker’s daughter, Alexandra Pelosi, on Jan. 6, 2021, and produced to the subcommittee by HBO. 

In the video, Pelosi says, “I take responsibility” for security failures at the Capitol that day. 

“We did not have any accountability for what was going on there, and we should have,” Pelosi says in the video. “This is ridiculous. You’re going to ask me in the middle of the thing, when they’ve already breached the inaugural [sic] stuff, should we call the Capitol Police—I mean the National Guard? Why weren’t the National Guard there to begin with? … They clearly didn’t know. And I take responsibility for not having them just prepare for more.”

Ken McIntyre contributed to this report, which was modified 15 hours after initial publication to add Trump’s remarks on Pelosi after they inadvertently were left out.