Fact Check: Trump Did NOT Say At Town Hall Forum He'll Cut Social Security And Medicare

Fact Check

  • by: Ryan Cooper
Fact Check: Trump Did NOT Say At Town Hall Forum He'll Cut Social Security And Medicare

Did President Trump say at a recent town hall forum that he will cut Social Security and Medicare? No, that's not true: According to a transcript of the event on March 5, 2020, Trump never specifically mentioned those entitlement programs by name. The headline and subheader of an article claimed that the president specifically said those were programs for which he was planning to reduce funding. However, the words "Social Security" and "Medicare" do not appear in the official transcripts.

The claim appeared in an article published by Markets Insider on March 6, 2020, titled "Trump says he'll cut entitlements like Social Security and Medicare if reelected to shrink trillions in national debt" (archived here). It opened:

Trump said at a Fox News town hall forum that he was intending to reduce funding for Social Security and Medicare, two of the largest federal entitlement programs.
"Oh, we'll be cutting," he said. "We're also going to have growth like you've never seen before."
The move would be a reversal from Trump's pledge to leave those programs untouched in a second term.

Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail:

Trump says he'll cut entitlements like Social Security and Medicare if reelected to shrink trillions in national debt | Markets Insider

Trump said at a Fox News town hall forum that he was intending to reduce funding for Social Security and Medicare, two of the largest federal en...

On March 5, 2020, Trump appeared at a town hall forum in Scranton, Pennsylvania, hosted by Fox News. The event was moderated by Brett Baier and Martha MacCallum and featured a live studio audience.

According to an official transcript of the town hall, Trump never once specifically mentioned Social Security or Medicare. Following a question on the national debt, MacCallum asked Trump about possible cuts to entitlement programs:

Q But if you don't cut something in entitlements, you'll never really deal with the debt.

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, we'll be cutting, but we're also going to have growth like you've never had before. We've never had growth like we're experiencing. We will be experiencing when they kick in.

A video clip from the event shows that Trump never specifically referenced the programs by name:

The Markets Insider article is misleading for claiming that Trump did talk about cutting those specific programs.

However, the next day, in a tweet, the president specifically referenced Social Security and Medicare:

White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway also appeared on Fox News the same day and clarified that Trump was not referring to cutting entitlements when he said, "Oh, we'll be cutting." Here is what she told Ed Henry:

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham also tweeted that the president was not referring to cuts to Medicare and Social Security during the town hall:

Even if one does not believe Grisham and Conway's attempts to explain what Trump said about "cutting," it is a leap to specifically reference Social Security and Medicare, as the article did in the headline and subheader. There are other entitlement programs, including welfare, Medicaid, and unemployment.

This was not the first time that Trump has faced questions about entitlements. During an interview on CNBC on January 22, 2020, he appeared to be open to changing such programs, specifically Medicare:

JOE KERNEN: Entitlements ever be on your plate?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: At some point they will be. We have tremendous growth. We're going to have tremendous growth. This next year I-- it'll be toward the end of the year. The growth is going to be incredible. And at the right time, we will take a look at that. You know, that's actually the easiest of all things, if you look, cause it's such a--

JOE KERNEN: If you're willing--

PRESIDENT TRUMP: --big percentage.

JOE KERNEN: --to do some of the things that you said you wouldn't do in the past, though, in terms of Medicare--

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, we're going-- we're going look. We also have-- assets that we've never had. I mean we've never had growth like this. We never had a consumer that was taking in, through-- different means, over $10,000 a family. We never had the kind of-- the kind of things that we have. Look, our country is the hottest in the world. We have the hottest economy in the world. We have the best unemployment numbers we've ever had. African American, Asian American. Hispanics are doing so incredibly. Best they've ever done. Black. Best they've ever done. African American. The numbers are incredible. The poverty numbers. The unemployment and the employment. There's-- there is a difference, actually. But the unemployment and employment numbers for African Americans are the best we've ever had.

After the interview aired, Trump tweeted that he wasn't going to touch Social Security:

Regardless, the Markets Insider article put words in Trump's mouth - words that he never said at the Fox News town hall - by referencing specific entitlement programs in the headline and subheader.

NewsGuard, a company that uses trained journalists to rank the reliability of websites, describes markets.businessinsider.com as:

A website covering business and financial news as well as politics, technology, and lifestyle. Business Insider also publishes international editions.

According to NewsGuard, the site can generally be trusted to maintain journalistic standards. Read their full assessment here.

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  Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper, a staff writer and fact-checker for Lead Stories, is the former Director of Programming at CNN International, where he helped shape the network's daily newscasts broadcast to more than 280 million households around the world. He was based at the network's Los Angeles Bureau. There, he managed the team responsible for a three-hour nightly program, Newsroom LA.

Formerly, he worked at the headquarters in Atlanta, and he spent four years at the London bureau. An award-winning producer, Cooper oversaw the network's Emmy Award-winning coverage of the uprising in Egypt in 2011. He also served as a supervising producer during much of the network's live reporting on the Israel-Hezbollah conflict in 2006, for which CNN received an Edward R. Murrow Award.

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