Biden speech fact check: The truth behind president’s address to Congress


In a speech that largely stuck closely to the facts, there were nevertheless some points made by the president in his remarks to the Joint Session of Congress that were called out for not being entirely accurate.

Xi Jinping

Joe Biden’s love for veering off-script and adlibbing saw him repeat a spurious claim about travels with the Chinese premier.

Speaking about his relationship with Xi Jinping, the president said: “I travelled 17,000 miles” with him.

This is a claim that Mr Biden has made before and that has previously been shown to be inaccurate by The Washington Post.

A fact-check by the paper notes that he has not travelled anywhere close to 17,000 miles “with” him. He has spent many hours with Xi during his time as vice president, but they “often did not even travel parallel routes to their gatherings, let alone physically together.”

A White House official told CNN in the past that Mr Biden was making a reference to the total amount of travel back and forth to China and internally, as well as in the US for meetings that the pair attended.


At another point, Mr Biden said that the economy created 1.3 million new jobs in 100 days: “More jobs in the first 100 days than any president on record.”

While the delivery of vaccines and opening up of the economy has led to a faster rebound of the economy than many expected, there are still just under 8.5 million fewer jobs than there were before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Mr Biden can take credit for an effective roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine that has increased economic confidence, it’s not clear how much of the bounceback in employment can be directly attributed to him.

Human Rights

Mr Biden proclaimed that America will not back away from a commitment to “human rights and fundamental freedoms”.

The Biden administration has indeed been forceful in its condemnation of the actions of Russia, Saudi Arabia, Eritrea as well as the coup in Myanmar, and China’s repression of the Uyghurs.

However, many will feel that this was an exaggerated piece of rhetoric given the current threat to women’s rights in Afghanistan after US troops withdraw, and past US actions in other parts of the world.


Progressive representative Ilhan Omar had thoughts about Mr Biden saying: “Healthcare should a right, not a privilege in America.”

She tweeted: “If you say you believe healthcare is a right and not a privilege, [then] support Medicare 4 All.”

Gun Control

Another exaggeration noted by The New York Times concerned Mr Biden’s claim about universal background checks and ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines in 1994. The president claimed that in the years afterward mass shootings and gun violence declined.

While there is research that the ban on high-capacity magazines reduced the number and lethality of mass shootings, the overall impact of those bans is unclear and the available evidence is inconclusive, according to the RAND Corporation.


CNN’s Daniel Dale notes that Mr Biden was wrong to say that the “vast majority” of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US overstayed their visas.

The majority of new undocumented people overstayed their visas, but the overall majority still consists of people who crossed the border illegally.

Mr Dale points out that this was an adlib and is not in the prepared text.

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