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Fact check: Republicans are lying about past Biden comments on Trump travel restrictions

The GOP is reviving one of Donald Trump’s debunked 2020 campaign lies.

By Josh Israel - November 29, 2021
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President Joe Biden

Congressional Republicans are dishonestly attacking President Joe Biden’s effort to slow the spread of the omicron coronavirus variant, reviving debunked accusations from the 2020 campaign. They are still false.

On Friday, Biden signed a temporary suspension of some travel from southern African nations where the new omicron variant has been most prevalent. The emergency action, he wrote, was an effort to move “swiftly and aggressively to prevent further spread of the disease.”

But Republican lawmakers who cheered a similar travel restriction on some visitors from China implemented by then-President Donald Trump in early 2020 have attacked Biden’s efforts. Trump boasted — without evidence — that his orders saved 2 million lives.

“Almost two years ago, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris called President Trump a racist for protecting Americans by restricting travel for those entering the U.S. as the pandemic began,” tweeted Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn on Sunday. “Now, they’re doing the exact same thing.”

“When President Trump took bold and decisive action in February 2020 to impose travel restrictions into the United States from coronavirus hot spots, Joe Biden attacked him, calling this decision a disgrace and xenophobic,” claimed House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik.

North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn retweeted former President Donald Trump’s leadership PAC, which wrote, “Joe Biden is now using the Trump policies he once criticized. HYPOCRITE!”

Throughout the 2020 campaign, Trump repeatedly complained that Biden had opposed those travel restrictions and had called them xenophobic.

“I had Biden calling me xenophobic,” he claimed in a March 2020 Fox News appearance. “He called me a racist, because of the fact that he felt it was a racist thing to stop people from China coming in.”

In their first debate in September 2020, Trump scolded Biden, saying, “I closed it and you said, ‘He’s xenophobic. He’s a racist and he’s xenophobic,’ because you didn’t think I should have closed our country.”

But independent fact-checkers debunked these statements, noting that Biden had warned in late January 2020 that it was “no time for Donald Trump’s record of hysteria, xenophobia — hysterical xenophobia — and fear-mongering to lead the way instead of science” and criticized Trump’s racist use of the term “Chinese virus,” but had never attacked the travel restrictions.

Indeed, Biden’s campaign said last April that he “supports travel bans that are guided by medical experts, advocated by public health officials, and backed by a full strategy.”

Rep. Barry Moore (R-AL) tweeted Monday, “President Biden has banned travel from 8 countries in Africa due to the new COVID variant. But when President Trump did the same thing, it was a ‘disgrace.'”

He linked to a Feb. 1, 2020 tweet from Biden criticizing Trump’s travel restrictions on people from six African countries with significant Muslim populations. But that “Africa Ban” had nothing to do with the coronavirus and was — according to Trump — entirely about addressing those nation’s alleged “deficiencies in sharing terrorist, criminal, or identity information.”

On Saturday, Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX), Trump’s former White House doctor and his unsuccessful pick to be secretary of veterans affairs, baselessly suggested that the omicron variant is just a Democratic ploy to stay in power. “Here comes the MEV – the Midterm Election Variant! They NEED a reason to push unsolicited nationwide mail-in ballots. Democrats will do anything to CHEAT during an election – but we’re not going to let them!”

One expert told the Washington Post that it’s possible Biden’s ban might slow the variant’s spread in the United States by days or weeks, as the public health community rushes to understand its impact. But some public health experts warn that travel bans like this one can undermine scientific transparency, and African leaders say they are not justified by science.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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