Challenged by an interviewer about his claim Joe Biden wants to defund the police, Donald Trump called for a copy of the policy charter Biden agreed with Bernie Sanders and released this week. The document did not prove his claim.
Fox News Sunday released a clip of Chris Wallace’s interview, Trump’s first with a Sunday show in more than a year, on Friday.
It featured the president arguing with a leading news anchor about an easily verifiable fact. Wallace later told Fox News: “If it looked like it was hot on that patio right outside the Oval Office there – it was about 100F.”
Trump, he said, “kept saying, ‘Whose idea was this?’ Well, of course, it was the president’s idea but, as he said, he wanted to make me sweat.
“We talked about everything. We talked about Covid[-19] and the explosion of cases in this country, questions of masks, questions of testing. We also talked about politics, the polls; we have a new Fox News poll that we discussed with the president which shows him trailing.
“But he seemed dead certain that he’s going to beat Joe Biden in November. We also talked about that tell-all book by his niece, Mary Trump.”
In the released clip, Wallace noted recent increases in shootings in many cities and asked Trump why he thought such violence was on the rise.
The president replied: “I explain it very simply by saying they’re Democrat-run cities. They’re liberally run. They’re stupidly run.”
Wallace noted that many cities have long been run by Democratic mayors.
“They’ve run them poorly,” Trump insisted. “It was always bad, but now it’s gotten totally out of control.”
He then made his false claim about Biden, saying: “It’s really because they want to defund the police, and Biden wants to defund the police.”
“No, sir, he does not,” Wallace countered.
Trump stood by his claim, incorrectly saying the unity platform endorsed by Sanders, the Vermont senator whom Biden beat in the Democratic primary, embraces calls to defund the police.
Biden has repeatedly said he does not support calls to defund the police and has instead called for policing reform.
Wallace tried to explain, but the president responded by ordering an aide to go get the document.
“Let’s go! Get me the charter, please!” Trump said.
The teaser ended there but Wallace told Fox News host Bill Hemmer it “led to a very interesting exchange … and he went through it and he found a lot of things that he objected to that Biden has agreed to, but couldn’t find any indication, because there isn’t any, that Joe Biden has sought to defund and abolish the police.”
Trump made a similar claim during a blatantly political speech in the Rose Garden on Tuesday, claiming: “The Biden-Sanders agenda is the most extreme platform of any major party nominee, by far, in American history … They now want to abolish our police departments. They want to abolish our prisons, I guess.”
Politifact gave that claim a rating of “Pants on Fire”.
Such attempts to paint Biden as an extreme liberal do not seem to be working: polls show voters view the challenger as more of a moderate than the president.
Wallace also said Trump had “made some shots at Joe Biden that I’ve never heard before”, adding that the president said that in the campaign to come he expected to stage “not nearly as many rallies as last time”, given the continuing pandemic.
“He seems a little concerned about that,” Wallace said.
Chris Wallace is known as one of the more combative interviewers on US television. But in March, he told the Guardian interviewers should not look for fights with their subjects, even if the subject turned out to be Trump.
“Look,” he said, “I think we’re not meek but the point I guess I’d make is first of all he’s the president of the United States, whether you like him or you don’t like him, and I think there’s a certain respect due to the office, even if you don’t feel it for a particular man.
“Secondly, I think it falls into this trap of becoming an advocate or an opponent as opposed to being a reporter. We’re not there to try to one-up the president or any politician.
“As you look ahead to 2020, you want to be sure you’re striving to be as effective and as ahead of the curve as possible in identifying what is on the mind of voters and what’s resonating with voters.”
On Friday, he said the interview with Trump had been “generally speaking friendly, but occasionally I ticked him off”.