The claim: Trump said he takes full responsibility for the COVID-19 pandemic and followed that statement by saying it’s not his fault
The handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was a hot topic at the final presidential debate. Some were quick to criticize the president for a juxtaposition in his take on the pandemic, including former Labor secretary Robert Reich.
“Trump: ‘I take full responsibility. It’s not my fault.’ What?” Reich tweeted and later shared on Facebook. Neither he nor his representatives responded to USA TODAY’s request for comment.
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Trump said that, but more followed
Reich did quote PresidentTrump verbatim, but the president’s words in a broader context may change their meaning.
According to USA TODAY’s transcript of the Oct. 22 debate, moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News asked the same first question to both Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden: How would you lead the country out of crisis?
Trump answered first, talking primarily about what his administration has already done. Welker turned the question over to Biden, who used his two minutes uninterrupted to point out what he viewed as the president’s failures.
After an exchange between Welker and the president on a COVID-19 vaccine, Trump talked about learning to live with the virus. Biden said that’s not good enough.
People are pictured watching the final debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden at The Abbey in West Hollywood, California.
“He says that we’re, you know, we’re learning to live with it. People are learning to die with it,” the former vice president said, according to the transcript. “… We’re dying with it, because he’s never said — he said it’s dangerous. When’s the last time? Is it really dangerous, still? Are we dangerous? Tell the people, is it dangerous now? What should they do about the danger? And you say, I take no responsibility.”
Here’s where Trump’s language quoted in Reich’s posts come into play.
“I take full responsibility. It’s not my fault that it came here,” the president said, according to the transcript. “It’s China’s fault. You know what, it’s not Joe’s fault that it came here either. It’s China’s fault. They kept it from going into the rest of China, for the most part, but they didn’t keep it from coming out to the world including Europe and ourselves.”
It’s possible that Trump’s comment about taking full responsibility was in reference to the handling of the virus in America, over which Biden was criticizing him. His second comment, that it’s not his fault the virus came here, might then be a separate train of thought.
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Our rating: Missing context
We rate the claim that Trump said he took responsibility for the pandemic and then immediately walked that back as MISSING CONTEXT because it may be misleading without additional context. The quote Reich cites was said verbatim by the president, but he followed it with additional information that may change the comment’s intent.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Trump debate quote about COVID-19 taken out of context