Trump’s debate lies extend to Virginia as well

Trump’s debate lies extend to Virginia as well

Former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump leaves the stage during a commercial break as he participates in the first presidential debate of the 2024 elections with US President Joe Biden at CNN's studios in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 27, 2024. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

By Isabel Soisson

June 28, 2024

During the debate, Trump claimed that former Gov. Ralph Northam supported infanticide while in office, and claimed that he didn’t call the white nationalists who terrorized Charlottesville in 2017 “some very fine people.” Both of these claims are false. 

The first debate between a current president and a former president featured a raspy-voiced Biden and dozens of lies from former president Donald Trump. 

Some of Trump’s lies were broad, like his claim that he actually didn’t try to overthrow American democracy on Jan. 6, 2021, but others had to do with our very own Old Dominion. 

While discussing abortion during the debate, Trump claimed that Democrats want to take “the life of a child in the eighth month, the ninth month, and even after birth.” 

“If you look at the former governor of Virginia, he was willing to do this,” the former president said. “He said, ‘We’ll put the baby aside and we’ll determine what we do with the baby. Meaning, we’ll kill the baby.’” 

Trump is referring to former Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, who he claims supports infanticide, or “after-birth abortions.”

While Trump has consistently tried to frame Democrats as “extreme” on abortion with this falsehood, what he and other Republicans are actually opposing here are abortions where the mother’s life is at stake or the fetus is nonviable. Those are the types of abortions that occur at that late stage of a pregnancy.

Northam’s comments on later abortions were part of a response to a question about whether he supported legislation proposed by Virginia House Del. Kathy Tran in 2019. The bill would have loosened the state’s restrictions on abortion later in pregnancy, including the third trimester.

In reality, Northam was giving a hypothetical example of what could happen if a mother requested an abortion while in labor because her fetus had severe deformities, or wasn’t otherwise viable. 

“If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen,” Northam says in a video being shared online. “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 desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

Northam was simply addressing what happens in cases where a baby is born and has a low chance of survival. Parents whose babies are born in such states make deeply difficult decisions about whether to provide palliative care or to take “extraordinary measures to save them.”

Ofirah Yheskel, a then-spokesperson for Northam, said at the time that “attempts to extrapolate these comments” are “in bad faith” and underscore “exactly why the governor believes physicians and women, not legislators, should make these difficult and deeply personal medical decisions.” 

Trump’s other Virginia lie had to do with the infamous white nationalist rally that took place in Aug. 2017 in Charlottesville. 

On that day, clashes broke out between ralliers and counter-protesters. At one point, a vehicle drove into the crowd of counter-protesters before speeding away. This injured dozens of them, and led to the death of Heather Heyer. Later on, state police reported the crash of a helicopter that was monitoring the events, killing two troopers. Then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe ultimately declared a state of emergency. 

President Trump addressed the violence in televised remarks, where he defended the white nationalists, saying that the group included “some very fine people.” 

During the debate, President Biden claimed that Trump’s comments, and the rally as a whole, inspired him to run for president in 2020, a claim that he’s repeated over the years. 

“That story has been totally wiped out,” Trump said of Biden’s motivation to run. “​​…He made up the Charlottesville story, and you’ll see it’s debunked all over the place. Just the other day it came out, where it was fully debunked.” 

Nevertheless, Trump did say there were “very fine people on both sides.”

  • Isabel Soisson

    Isabel Soisson is a multimedia journalist who has worked at WPMT FOX43 TV in Harrisburg, along with serving various roles at CNBC, NBC News, Philadelphia Magazine, and Philadelphia Style Magazine.

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