Debunking Charlie Kirk on Trump’s 2019 State of the Union

During President Trump’s Feb. 5, 2019 State of the Union speech, Charlie Kirk, founder and director of Turning Point USA, tweeted several claims. I want to fact-check those as they appeared. I will skip tweets about when and why some stood or didn’t stand.

On the Economy

Kirk sidesteps a fact error by the president here. Trump said: “We have created 5.3 million new jobs and importantly added 600,000 new manufacturing jobs — something which almost everyone said was impossible to do.”

According to factcheck.org:

Actually, Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show the economy has added just under 4.9 million jobs since January 2017, when [Trump] took office — not 5.3 million. And the economy added 454,000 manufacturing jobs during Trump’s tenure — not 600,000. Trump prefaced his remark by saying he was speaking of the time “since the election,” thus claiming credit for jobs created during that last months of Barack Obama’s time in office. But even so, he’s way off on the manufacturing jobs. Only 481,000 have been added since November 2016. To get a gain of 600,000 you must go back to September 2014. Trump is claiming credit for jobs created months before he even announced he was running for the White House.

The median household income claim is dubious. The Census Bureau did release a report in September 2018 about this data point which noted the “real median household income increased by 1.8 percent between 2016 and 2017…”

Conservative “news” outlet VOA News headlined its story on this report “US Median Household Income Reaches Record High.” Free markets advocate Reason.com also did a similar headline.

But more mainstream and credible news sites only noted the rise, not the judgment of a rise.

The Census Bureau itself didn’t name the judgment either. That’s because the bureau noted in another post that “without adjusting for the change in the income questions, 2017 has the highest median household income on record (since 1967). When you adjust for the change, median household income in previous years was just as high.”

I skipped the “live shot of Democrats” tweet as its claim about black unemployment I already covered here.

Trump said this: “And we have unleashed a revolution in American energy — the United States is now the number one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world. And now, for the first time in 65 years, we are a net exporter of energy.”

According to Politico, “the U.S. produced record amounts of oil and natural gas last year, both of which are expected to grow through 2020. Industry says the Trump administration’s policies have buoyed production (but most occurs on private and state land, not federal). But the boom in oil and gas production began a decade ago thanks to industry advances that well preceded Trump’s presidency.”

Factcheck.org notes “according to the Energy Information Administration, the United States became the top natural gas producer in 2009 after surpassing Russia, and also has been number one in petroleum production since 2013.”

As for top exporter, that is not what Trump said. He claimed “for the first time in 65 years, we are a net exporter of energy.”

Energy is not the same as oil and natural gas and of course “net exporting” (exporting more than importing) is not the same as top exporter.

As an aside, Trump is wrong on his claim. According to Factcheck.org “the United States is not yet a net exporter of energy. As of Jan. 29, the EIA predicted that the nation would export more energy than it imports in 2020.” A good explainer on net export of oil here.

On being top natural gas exporter, oilprice.com, the most popular energy news site in the world, notes this:

The United States has indeed increased its natural gas production, overtaking Iran and Russia to secure the title of the world’s largest producer of natural gas. Exports of that commodity are growing, too. A new report from Rystad Energy said, “With increasing export capacity, US LNG might be in a position to pose a serious challenge to Russian gas on the European market this year.

As for top exporter of oil, Saudi Arabia has long been the top here. In June 2018, US moved into the top four.

In April 2018, Citibank speculated that the US would overtake Saudi Arabia as top exporter next year.

The other key claim here is American dependence on foreign oil and gas. Kirk is including in his claim that the US is dependent on Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Russia for oil and gas.

On natural gas imports, “In 2017, about 97% of U.S. total annual natural gas imports were from Canada…” This shows a lack of dependence on other countries for this product. Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Russia are not listed by the US government as natural gas suppliers to the US.

Canada is also the top supplier of oil for the US, with Saudi Arabia second. Iran is not listed because due to sanctions the US hasn’t imported oil from Iran in several years. The Obama 2015 nuclear deal with Iran took away some sanctions for Iran selling oil (thought not to US), but Trump reinstated them. Trump though allowed 8 countries to buy Iran’s oil.

Oil and gas independence is not a unique Trump message. Other presidents have made it a priority and acted on it. Estimates show that by 2020 the US will only import 11% of its daily oil needs. If Canada accounts for 3,183,000 barrels a day for US importation, Russia accounts for 389,000.

If Kirk is aiming for energy independence, being independent from Canada is a better first step.

Border Wall, Immigration, and ISIS

These numbers were not mentioned by Trump in his speech. This tweet is exact copy of a tweet Kirk made in January. It was retweeted by Trump then and The Washington Post fact checked these claims here. Lots of missing context, particularly that “the vast majority of those drugs” were “detected at border checkpoints.”

Kirk has also claimed that “illegals cost US taxpayers $135 billion a year.” Trump has said $130 billion but according to The Post “where that precise figure comes from is not clear, but a controversial study from a group that supports limiting immigration estimated a figure somewhat near there: $113 billion. An analysis from the Cato Institute of a different version of that study declared the methodology ‘fatally flawed.’”

On the monthly claim, Trump has tweeted a $250 billion estimate.

That divided by 12 gets you near the Kirk number.

The Post has pointed out Trump’s number is not only unverified but changes a lot.

These again are not something Trump mentioned in his speech and claims Kirk has made before. In his Dec 19, 2018 tweet the numbers are slightly different: Yuma is 96 and Tucson is 92.

Trump has mentioned these stats before, too. NBC News did a fact check here. Big caveat: Trump calls a wall what is actually fencing and that fencing “was installed in San Diego in 1992, and the Department of Homeland Security said that total apprehensions fell 92 percent over the following 23 years.” And of course the other cities got replacement fencing.

According to The New York Times, “the numbers that Mr. Trump cited appear to refer — misleadingly — to an overall decline in border apprehensions since the barriers were first erected in the 1990s.”

Trump noted in his speech a singular figure: “When I took office, ISIS controlled more than 20,000 square miles in Iraq and Syria. Just two years ago. Today, we have liberated virtually all of the territory from the grip of these bloodthirsty monsters.”

Kirk’s 26,000 number is most likely alluding to an error-filled but then corrected report from the conservative Washington Times. Trump tweeted the incorrect info, then deleted his tweet, then tweeted again with correct numbers, according to Vox.

The rest of the numbers Kirk shares are correct.

Speech Responses

Yes, Stacey Abrams lost the race for Georgia governor.

Yes, in 2018 she revealed she owed more than $54,000 in back taxes. But how she came to owe that much is important. She is current on her repayment schedule. And for someone who advocates for student loan reform, Kirk is really hypocritical for criticizing someone who mountains of student loan debt.

Abrams advocated during that governor campaign for gun reforms including “universal background checks, repeal of campus carry, and extreme-risk protection orders.” No, these are not “comprehensive gun confiscation.”

Kirk may be referencing a 2018 Washington Times op-ed and Breitbart story (I am purposely not linking to it) that drew attention to a 2016 Abrams bill in the state legislature. Those pieces followed a CNN interview on that topic.

Her non-committal statements on how a ban on assault weapons might be implemented seems to be the crux of the outrage.

Snopes.com wrote of the Breitbart story: “The headline, unsurprisingly, was a bit of an exaggeration that was undermined by the underlying story. Abrams… said she supported a ban on a particular category of guns (assault weapons), but she did not say she supports a broader gun ban that would require Georgians to part with all guns, as the headline implied.”

Comprehensive seems to be a synonym for “all” guns for Kirk and that is false.

As for “socialist” policies, that is a broad generalization and hard to capture as a claim. On health care, which is often named in labeling someone a socialist, Abrams wanted to expand Medicaid. Many states controlled by GOP governors have expanded Medicaid.

Yes, a CBS poll showed “Seventy-six percent of Americans who tuned in to President Trump’s State of the Union address tonight approved of the speech he gave. Just 24 percent disapproved.”

Yes, 72% approved of what they heard on immigration.

Those numbers though are inflated due to the demographics of those polled: 
“In the latest CBS national poll released last month, 25 percent of Americans identified themselves as Republicans. Among those who watched tonight’s address, that percentage was 43 percent, and Republicans helped bolster the overall approval of the address.”

Democrat approval was 30% or below on any question.

Yes, “a CNN poll conducted by ssrs following President Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday night found that 59% of viewers had a very positive reaction to the speech, 17% had a somewhat positive reaction and 23% had a negative reaction.”

CNN also pointed out that the poll of was speech-watchers and Trump’s supporters were a large part of that sample.