President Donald Trump won the last debate with Democratic nominee Joe Biden, and Biden even seemed to confirm that he knew he had lost. Yet Trump’s critics got to work cooking up a despicable lie in order to suggest Biden had won the debate.
“Joe Biden: ‘545 children don’t know where their parents are or where they’re going to live.’ Donald Trump: ‘Good.’ You can’t make this stuff up. The cruelty is the point,” Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) tweeted.
Joe Biden: “545 children don’t know where their parents are or where they’re going to live.”
Donald Trump: “Good.”
You can't make this stuff up. The cruelty is the point. #Debates2020
— Bob Casey Jr. (@Bob_Casey) October 23, 2020
Former Tea Party congressman-turned-#NeverTrump presidential candidate Joe Walsh also repeated the claim.
Biden: “You have 525 kids in this country who can’t find their parents.”
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) October 23, 2020
Many other prominent left-leaning journalists and celebrities echoed the claim that Trump said it was “good” that kids had lost their parents.
Here’s author Greg Olear, who doubled down when he faced criticism for the claim.
Folks are saying Trump was snapping at the MODERATOR, not Joe. Look: I heard it, my wife & kid heard it, 1000s of others heard it, too.
DJT doesn’t care about the 525 kids he separated from their parents, just like he doesn’t care about the 223k covid deaths. End of story.
— Greg Olear (@gregolear) October 23, 2020
Here’s Yale University visiting professor and contributing New York Times opinion writer Roxane Gay:
Biden: 525 kids don’t know where they are going to be, we can’t find their parents.
— roxane gay (@rgay) October 23, 2020
Here’s the hip-hop artist Myles Mills (stage name Skrizzy Mars), tweeting the claim to his nearly 100,000 Twitter followers.
Biden: you lost 525 kids who don’t know what they are gonna do without parents
— Skrizzy (@youngscrap) October 23, 2020
Stanford professor Michelle Dauber also repeated the claim.
Biden: "525 kids who are alone in the world with no parents."
That happened. He said "good."
— Michele Dauber (@mldauber) October 23, 2020
Many, many others also repeated the claim, but these appear to have been the most prominent voices.
Immigration activist and self-declared “undocumented immigrant” Juan Escalante claimed that this episode illustrated “the starkest difference between” Trump and Biden.
.@JoeBiden: 525 children dont know where their parents are
Donal Trump: GOOD!
This is the starkest difference between these two men. #Debates2020
— Juan Escalante (@JuanSaaa) October 23, 2020
The only problem is, Trump didn’t say, “Good.” In fact, he wasn’t speaking to Biden at all. The president was speaking to debate moderator Kristen Welker, who had just said, “Let’s move on to the next section” of the debate.
Welker: “Let’s move on to the next section.”
Biden: “You have 525 kids not knowing where in God’s name they’re gonna be and lost their parents.”
Trump (motioning to Welker): “Go ahead.”
Robby Starbuck tweeted a compilation of Twitter users repeating the false claim and the video showing the context of Trump’s comment.
Video of the moment they all lied about. There’s a reason none of them posted video with their fabricated smears. They know Trump didn’t say "good", he said "go ahead" to the moderator, they’re just desperate because Joe Biden lost the debate.
— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) October 23, 2020
To be fair, casual listeners might have heard “good,” rather than “go ahead,” but any replay of the video clearly illustrates that the president was telling Welker to “go ahead.”
Some, like New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait, phrased the issue as a question. “Did Trump just respond to Biden citing 525 kids separated from their parents with ‘Good’?”
Perhaps it was a fair question to ask at the time, but it is now clear that the president did no such thing. Chait should set the record straight.
Did Trump just respond to Biden citing 525 kids separated from their parents with "Good"?
— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) October 23, 2020
It seems innocent enough to ask about the comment at the time, as Chait did. But neither Sen. Casey, nor Joe Walsh, nor Roxane Gay have retracted their vile accusation against the president, hours after video proving their accusations false has become widely available.
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Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.