If You Only Read One Convention Recap, Make It This One

Analysis: A tale of two conventions — comparing the DNC and RNC on the coronavirus pandemic, Black Lives Matter, and adherence to reality.

President Donald Trump stands with his family members after delivering his acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination at the White House on August 27. Using the White House for campaign purposes is a violation of federal law. | Getty Images
President Donald Trump stands with his family members after delivering his acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination at the White House on August 27. Using the White House for campaign purposes is a violation of federal law. | Getty Images

Hello to our readers. We're using this article to walk through the conventions in a meaningful, useful way for you. While this week's Republican National Convention was filled with multiple demonstrably false claims, reporters, fact-checkers, and our own journalists at NowThis did not observe any pattern of false statements at last week's DNC. Under the leadership of Trump, whom the Washington Post has documented as making over 20,000 false statements in three and a half years in office, the GOP has increasingly indulged in willful misinformation.  And while we know that many news outlets hope to present "balance" by taking equal issue with both parties, it's our responsibility not to treat truth and untruth as equally valid.

Fact-checking Trump’s 70-minute, falsehood-filled speech

President Donald Trump spent more than an hour speaking at the final night of the Republican National Convention. Here are just some of the claims he made — and the actual facts. 

  • Trump claimed the U.S. will have a COVID-19 vaccine before the end of 2020 "or maybe even sooner." Dr. Fauci said a vaccine would likely be available "over a period of time in 2021" and said rushing it could risk public safety. It’s not clear when a vaccine will be available.
  • Trump repeated his claim about doing “more for the African American community than any president since Abraham Lincoln.” Black people are suffering disproportionately from every current major crisis that Trump has played a role in causing or exacerbating: the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic downturn, systemic racism and police brutality, and the climate crisis. Furthermore, after Lincoln freed enslaved people with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (which the conservative-led Supreme Court gutted in 2013). 
  • Trump repeated his lie that then-President Obama and Democrats spied on his campaign “and they got caught.” Not only is it untrue that Obama or any Democrats spied on Trump's campaign, but a bipartisan Senate report last week concluded that Trump's 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort was a "grave counterintelligence threat" because of his connections to a Russian spy, Konstantin Kilimnik.
  • Trump repeated one of his 2016 campaign slogans about items "made in the USA." In 2018, there were 268 items for sale on the Trump Organization’s online store. Of those, only 41 were made in the U.S.
  • Trump also made numerous egregious claims about anti-racism protesters, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ll break those down later in this article. 

Some history: In 1973, the Justice Department sued Donald Trump, his father Fred, & their company for allegedly denying apartments to Black people and Puerto Ricans while offering them to white people. A former doorman claimed he was told to lie about a unit’s price “if a black person came” to see an apartment, according to FBI records. After Trump tried to counter sue the DOJ for $100 million for defamation, they settled the case.

The RNC ended without a single mention of how many Americans died from coronavirus. (Yes, really)

The U.S. coronavirus death toll now stands at more than 180,000, and climbing, and Trump and Co. decided they’d just not mention that part — the number of dead Americans part — of the pandemic at all this week. It’s a stunning fact to deny, or omit. Americans are dying at a faster rate than in the Civil War or World War Two.

President Trump, Vice President Pence, First Lady Melania Trump, and daughter Ivanka Trump gave condolences to family members of people who died. They also tried to rewrite the history of the last six months, claiming Trump has done a laudable, effective job. Melania claimed “Donald will not rest until he has done all he can to take care of everyone impacted by this terrible pandemic,” prompting widespread fact-checking about Trump’s reluctance to act, and the number of golfing trips he’s taken (including as recently as this past weekend).

Another reminder: Trump is still pushing to dismantle Obamacare during a pandemic, bringing it all the way to the Supreme Court, which would strip roughly 20 million Americans of health insurance and remove protections for preexisting conditions. In stark contrast, the speakers at the DNC addressed the death toll directly numerous times. 

A large crowd (reportedly more than 1,500 people) devoid of masks and social distancing gathered on the White House’s South Lawn for the finale.

“There will be people who became infected as a result of that event last night, and there’ll be people who will spread it and possibly require hospitalization, may even die,” CNN’s chief medical correspondent and neurosurgeon Dr. Sanjay Gupta said. According to CNN, more than 3,600 Americans died from coronavirus during the RNC, from Monday to Thursday night at 5 pm. That number has since gone up.

The DNC vs. RNC on Black Lives Matter

When it came to the Black Lives Matter movement and the calls for racial justice, it was another tale of two conventions. The GOP misleadingly conflated overwhelmingly peaceful protests and the Black Lives Matter movement with “riots” and “violence” while praising police officers, without acknowledging any who have been fired or charged for killing people or using excessive force.

Trump falsely claimed Democrats will “give free reign to violent anarchists, agitators, and criminals who threaten our citizens,” and called anti-racism protesters “anarchists, agitators, rioters, looters, and flag-burners.” Rudy Giuliani falsely claimed “Black Lives Matter and the party’s entire left-wing is waiting to implement their pro-criminal, anti-police policies.” Nikki Haley proclaimed that “America is not a racist country.”

Reminder: the Black Lives Matter protests are calling for an end to police brutality and systemic racism (and a majority of Americans support them).

Meanwhile, Democrats and the DNC painted protests for racial justice as signs of hope and calls for change, with Beto O’Rourke saying his “optimism and my faith in this country is reflected in those young people [who are protesting].” Amy Klobuchar said the U.S. needs “a president who, in George Floyd’s memory, instead of using the Bible as a prop will heed its words—to act justly.”

In her DNC speech, Michelle Obama named George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and said as “a never-ending list of innocent people of color continue to be murdered, stating the simple fact that a Black life matters is still met with derision from the nation’s highest office.” Barack Obama told young protesters, “You are this country’s dreams fulfilled.”

How the entire RNC was an ethical nightmare 

In what has been called an unprecedented abuse of his office for political purposes, Trump accepted his party's nomination from the South Lawn of the White House. This was only one of several clear violations of the Hatch Act, which bars federal employees from participating in certain political activities “directed at the success or failure of a political party or candidate.” While it doesn’t apply to the president or vice president, all government-paid employees involved are in violation.

Norm Eisen, former WH Special Counsel for Ethics, said there were “literally thousands of Hatch Act violations— one for every federal official who helped with or participated in this revolting display. The greatest mass Hatch Act transgression in US history. Even the fireworks are a violation.”

Ivanka Trump also spoke from the White House (another violation), and First Lady Melania Trump spoke from the Rose Garden (yep, another one). 

In another flagrant violation of ethics norms (and the Hatch Act), VP Mike Pence accepted his nomination from the national monument of Fort McHenry. National parks advocates reportedly said they were outraged and that national monuments should be nonpartisan spaces. Sec. of State Mike Pompeo’s RNC speech from Jerusalem violated his own guidelines for State Dept. employees (and also the Hatch Act).

Previous sitting Secretaries of State, both Republican and Democrat, didn’t attend or speak at their party’s conventions while in office. An investigation has been launched into his speech.

One final thing

Thank you for reading, and we genuinely hope you found this breakdown useful and informative. There is one statement made during the RNC this week that we won’t dispute: This is an incredibly important election, and voters will choose between two very different paths. Please vote. (And here’s why you should consider voting early in person, if you’re able.

—Christina Cocca, Editorial Director, & Versha Sharma, Senior Correspondent

CORRECTION: The original version of this article said “more Americans have died [from COVID-19], and at a faster rate, than in the Civil War or World War Two.” We have updated it to clarify that “Americans are dying at a faster rate than in the Civil War or World War Two.” Some 620,000 Americans died during the Civil War, and 400,000 during World War Two—in both cases, the total number of deaths happened over four years. More than 180,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 this year so far. We apologize for any confusion.