Donald Trump accused a Democrat governor of supporting the execution of babies, claimed border walls have been shown to reduce crime, and wildly overstated the size of his crowd during a string of falsehoods at a raucous rally in Texas.
The US president also wrongly suggested his political opponents wanted to “shut down” air travel and pledged to “finish the wall” he has not started constructing as he addressed thousands of cheering supporters in El Paso.
His first rally of the year featured a meandering 75-minute speech which indicated potential lines of attack for Mr Trump’s 2020 campaign.
The president railed against immigration, abortion, and Democrat policies such as the Green New Deal, and took aim at a possible challenger – Beto O’Rouke, the former congressman who was holding a counter-rally a mile away.
In perhaps the most bizarre part of the rally, he poked fun at Virginia’s Democrat governor Ralph Northam – who has admitted to wearing blackface to impersonate Michael Jackson – before accusing him of being willing to “execute a baby”.
Referencing Mr Northam’s support for late-term abortion, Mr Trump told supporters to a chorus of angry boos: “The governor stated he would even allow a newborn baby to come out into the world, and wrap the baby, and make the baby comfortable, then talk to the mother and talk to the father, and then execute the baby”.
Mr Trump appeared to be misrepresenting the governer’s comments last month about late-term abortions “where there may be severe deformities [or] a foetus that’s nonviable”.
Mr Northam, a pediatric neurologist, had told radio station WTOP: “In this particular example, if a mother is in labour, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered; the infant would be kept comfortable; the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desire, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
Mr Trump’s depiction of the Green New Deal, a sweeping plan put forward by a group of Democrats last week to combat climate change and create thousands of jobs in renewable energy, was no more faithful to the facts.
He wrongly claimed the propoals would mean “you’re not allowed to own cows anymore,” “shut down American energy” and end “a little thing called air travel”.
On the border wall, he returned to a falsehood he has repeatedly put forward in support of his border wall – a supposed reduction in crime in El Paso.
“When that wall went up, it’s a whole different ball game,” he said. “Thanks to a powerful border wall in El Paso, Texas, it’s one of America’s safest cities now.”
In fact, the city’s murder rate was less than half the national average in 2005, the year before the start of its border fence. El Paso’s violent crime rate subsequently increased, although it has since declined at a similar rate to other areas of the US.
Mr Trump’s rally took place in a room adorned with banners reading “finish the wall”. He presented the border wall as a work in progress, hailing the start of a “big, big portion”, despite having completed none of the project which formed a key part of his 2016 election campaign.
The president skimmed over the details of a finance deal reached between Republican and Democrat negotiators to prevent another shutdown of the US government.
The agreement from both sides of congress included nearly $1.4bn (£1bn) for 55 miles of new fencing along the US-Mexico, rather than the $5.7bn (£4bn) Mr Trump had been demanding for 215 miles of concrete wall.
Mr Trump’s rally was watched by a raucous crowd at the El Paso County Coliseum, which holds 6,500 people, according to the El Paso Times.
The president, however, claimed to have 35,000 supporters in attendence - though some were ouside the venue - and said Mr O’Rourke’s rally had drawn only “200 people, 300 people.”
“Not too good,” mocked the president, but it was also not true – between 10,000 and 15,000 people turned out to support the Democrat, according to police.
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