Fact-checking Trump’s claims about NC, 2020 election, and his campaign being ‘spied on’

Travis Long/tlong@newsobserver.com

Former President Donald Trump returned to North Carolina for a rally Friday night, addressing supporters at Wilmington International Airport.

Over the course of his speech, which was nearly an hour and a half long, Trump made a number of false or misleading claims, including some frequent claims he has embraced since leaving office, regarding the legitimacy of the 2020 election.

The News & Observer is fact-checking some of Trump’s claims here.

Overdoses in NC have risen, but due to many factors

Claim: “Drug overdose deaths have risen in North Carolina at a level nobody has ever seen before, at least 26%.”

During a portion of his remarks about how the economy, inflation and crime were worse since he left office, Trump raised two statistics specific to North Carolina.

First, he claimed that drug overdose deaths in North Carolina had increased by at least 26%. It wasn’t clear what time frame he was referring to, but the most recent data released by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services showed that drug overdoses increased by 40% between 2019 and 2020. Trump left office in January 2021.

Provisional data for 2021 was expected to show an increase between 2020 and 2021, DHHS said in March. The sharp increase between 2019 and 2020 was in part due to “stress, loss of housing and loss of employment for those in recovery caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” DHHS Secretary Kody Kinsley said at the time.

Drug overdoses increased by 26% in 2017, before falling by 7% in 2018 and increasing by 2% in 2019.

NC homicide rate has increased, but not highest in 25 years

Claim: “The murder rate is the highest in 25 years, and probably, the answer is 49 years.”

Trump also claimed that the murder rate in North Carolina was the highest it has been in a quarter-century, if not nearly half a century.

Data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program, which reports national and state-level crime statistics, shows that the homicide rate (which the FBI defines as murder and non-negligent manslaughter) in North Carolina peaked in 1991 at 11.4 per 100,000 people.

Since then, the homicide rate proceeded to fall for more than 20 years, reaching a low of 4.7 in 2013. The homicide rate has increased since 2013, reaching a high since that point in 2020, when it was 8.0, but still less than the overall peak in 1991. The last time the homicide rate was above 8.0 was 1998. Data prior to 1985 was not immediately available.

Trump again falsely claims he won 2020 election

Claim: “I ran twice, I won twice, and did much better the second time than I did the first, getting many millions more votes.”

It’s become a regular complaint for Trump to claim at rallies that he won the 2020 election, a falsehood that has become popular with many of his supporters, some of whom told The N&O at yesterday’s rally in Wilmington that they believed the election was stolen.

On Friday, Trump said his advisers had told him that if he won the same number of votes in 2020 as he did in 2016, or more, that a victory would be certain. Several more million people did vote for Trump in 2020, more than 11 million in fact, but turnout was higher for both parties in 2020, with President Joe Biden receiving more than 15 million more votes than Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee.

The number of popular votes ultimately wasn’t what won Biden the election, since he won key battleground states that had voted for Trump in 2016, which garnered him more than the required 270 electoral votes.

The N&O previously fact-checked Trump’s false claim during a rally in Johnston County in April, that the 2020 election was “rigged and stolen.”

Trump repeats claim that his campaign was spied on

Claim: “They spied on my campaign, think of it, and it wasn’t the Russians that were spying, it was the Americans that were spying.”

Trump also repeated a claim on Friday that his 2016 campaign had been spied on by someone domestically.

Trump first claimed in March 2017, without providing any proof, that former President Barack Obama was responsible for a “Nixon/Watergate” plot to wiretap phones at Trump Tower, his campaign headquarters, during the months running up to the 2016 election, the Washington Post reported.

It’s not clear what exactly Trump was referring to on Friday.

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