Biden's ABC News town hall: Fact-checking the presidential candidate's answers

Biden's ABC News town hall: Fact-checking the presidential candidate's answers

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After the second presidential debate was canceled, Democratic candidate Joe Biden answered questions from voters Thursday night during a town hall hosted by ABC News in Philadelphia.

Below, ABC News fact checks what the former vice president said throughout the live 90-minute special, which was anchored by ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.

Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden and moderator George Stephanopoulos participate in an ABC News town hall event at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Oct. 15, 2020.

Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden and moderator George Stephanopoulos participate in an ABC News town hall event at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Oct. 15, 2020.

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Biden correct he maintained officials needed to be in China to monitor virus, but town hall comments lack context

BIDEN'S CLAIM: "All the way back in the beginning of February, I argued that we should be keeping people in China. And we had set up, in our administration, a pandemic office within the White House."

FACT CHECK: Biden's comments about what his administration would have done differently at the beginning of the pandemic were lacking some context.

What Biden appeared to be referencing was the United States having Centers for Disease Control and Prevention staff based in China in order to monitor the spread of the virus. Reuters reported earlier this year that the Trump administration had cut the number of staff in China by more than two-thirds, mostly over the previous two years in the agency's Beijing office.

In a Democratic presidential primary debate in February, Biden referred to funding cuts for public health agencies. "What I would do immediately is restore the funding," he said then. "I would be on the phone with China and making it clear, we are going to need to be in your country."

His answer at the town hall Thursday night did not provide that full context, though, which made it sound like he could have been referring to whether he supported putting restrictions on travelers coming from China to the United States, a step President Donald Trump took at the beginning of February.

It was not until the beginning of April that Biden's campaign confirmed in a statement to CNN that he supported Trump's decision to bar some travel from China, because the move was supported by scientists and medical experts.

--John Verhovek

Biden claims Trump has no clear plan for vaccine distribution. But the Trump administration has outlined a plan.

BIDEN'S CLAIM: Biden claimed that neither he nor the doctors he has spoken with had not seen a plan from the administration to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine. “There should be a plan," he said. "When we have the vaccine, how do we distribute it?”

FACT CHECK: The Trump administration does have a plan to distribute a potential COVID-19 vaccine, although the president has misrepresented how quickly it could be distributed.

Some of that plan was outlined in a Sept. 16 "Distribution Strategy," released jointly by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Defense.

The documents, according to HHS, provide an overview of distribution plans along with guidelines for “state, tribal, territorial, and local public health programs and their partners on how to plan and operationalize a vaccination response to COVID-19” in their communities.

The Trump administration also created "Operation Warp Speed," a partnership between HHS and DOD, as well as other private and federal agencies, to accelerate the research, development and eventual distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar has said that as part of Operation Warp Speed, federal officials have been laying the groundwork for vaccine delivery. “This in-depth, round-the-clock planning work with our state and local partners and trusted community organizations, especially through CDC, will ensure that Americans can receive a safe and effective vaccine in record time," Azar said in a press release last month.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention executed a contract with McKesson -- the company that distributes the annual flu vaccine -- to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available.

Trump, though, has exaggerated how quickly most Americans could receive it, suggesting it would be widely available by the end of the year or even sooner. Federal public health officials and outside experts say most Americans will not be able to get vaccinated until well into next year.

--Arielle Mitropoulos and Sony Salzman

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos at an ABC News town hall event in Philadelphia, Oct. 15, 2020.

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos at an ABC News town hall event in Philadelphia, Oct. 15, 2020.

Biden correct Trump has overstated Regeneron drug's promise -- but wrong that there's no plan

BIDEN'S CLAIM: Biden said he had not seen a distribution plan for Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19. "What's happening is there is no plan to figure out how to distribute it," he said. "How many -- you know, we have 500,000, you know, vials of it. Well, we don't have all the testing equipment. We don't have all the ability to get it to the people who need it.”

FACT CHECK: Biden is correct to suggest that Trump has overstated the promise of Regeneron's monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19.

However, there is a federal plan for distribution of the treatment touted by Trump.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has said the government is stockpiling doses of antibody treatments for Americans and that it plans to distribute those doses to state governments and hospitals similar to how it delivered the drug remdesivir, another therapeutic that has been administered to people with COVID-19.

Since Oct. 1, hospitals have been able to purchase remdesivir, also known as Veklury, directly from the drug’s distributor. Over the past five months, the U.S. government had overseen the allocation and distribution of the drug in its limited supply.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar has said his agency does not anticipate a problem with delivering the doses so long as the drug receives authorization from regulators.

--Arielle Mitropoulos, Sony Salzman and Anne Flaherty

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