Fact-Checking the 2024 Presidential Debate

Two white men wearing blue suits are shown next to each other. On the right, a microphone is in front of the man.
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U.S. President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump faced each other Thursday evening for the first presidential debate of the 2024 presidential cycle.

Inside a CNN studio in Atlanta, the candidates sparred for roughly 90 minutes, with CNN anchors Jake Tapper and Dana Bash as moderators.

While presidential debates typically happen in front of live audiences, Thursday's show was just the candidates and moderators. Also, showrunners muted the candidates' microphones when it was not their turn to speak, and they were not allowed to bring prewritten notes or props.

Snopes analyzed the candidates' statements in real time. This page is no longer receiving updates. If you'd like to support this type of fact-checking during the 2024 election cycle, we'd love your help.

Closing Statements

7:50 p.m. PT / 10:50 ET:

In his closing remarks, Biden said, "We've made significant progress from the debacle that was left by President Trump in his last term." His wife, Jill Biden, greeted him on stage when the event ended.

Meanwhile, in his final comments, Trump said, "We're living in hell." He exited alone.

Cognitive Abilities

7:39 p.m. PT / 10:39 ET:

Trump boasted about his alleged score on two cognitive tests and claimed Biden has not taken one. "I aced them, both of them," he said. "I'd like to see him take one, just one. A real easy one — like, go through the first five questions. He couldn't do it."

According to The Associated Press, Trump indeed took the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, which is designed to detect early signs of memory loss and other mild cognitive impairment.

Biden said of Trump: "This guy's three years younger and a lot less competent."

Alleged Past Statements by the Candidates

7:33 p.m. PT / 10:33 ET:

Biden said: "I wasn't going to run again until I saw what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia. People coming out of the woods carrying swastikas, torches, torches, and singing the same antisemitic bile they sang back in Germany."

Biden said: "I went to the World War II cemetery [...] he refused to go to. [Trump] was standing with his four-star general and he told him, he said, 'I don't want to go in there because they're a bunch of losers and suckers.'"

Trump and his allies have denied the accusation that he once called fallen soldiers "suckers" and "losers" since it first emerged in 2020, shortly before that year's election between Trump and Biden. Whether performative or authentic, Trump's apparent support for soldiers in the U.S. military, both active and veteran members, has been part of his presidential campaigns.

Trump claimed during the debate: "That was a made-up quote — 'suckers and losers.' They made it up."

2021 U.S. Capitol Attack

7:17 p.m. PT / 10:17 ET:

Trump's speech to supporters in the hours before they breached Capitol security on Jan. 6, 2021, came under question.

Additionally, Trump claimed he "offered" National Guard soldiers to help secure the federal grounds, but former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "turned them down." In reality, the House Speaker does not have control of the National Guard.

Roe v. Wade Overturned

6:40 p.m. PT / 9:40 ET:

The candidates were asked about the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the ruling that guaranteed federal abortion protections for all women, about two years ago.

The Associated Press described Biden's answer to a question about restrictions on abortion as "nonsensical." It reported:

[He said he] 'supports Roe v. Wade, which had three trimesters. The first time is between a woman and a doctor. Second time is between a doctor and an extreme situation. A third time is between the doctor, I mean, between the women and the state.'

He added that he thought doctors, not politicians, should make decisions about 'women's health.'

Economic Conditions

6:20 p.m. PT / 9:20 ET:

In the opening minutes, the candidates highlighted economic conditions in January 2021, when Biden took over the White House.

Trump claimed Biden "inherited almost no inflation," and "then it blew up under his leadership." Biden said, "Take a look at what I was left when I became president, what Mr. Trump left me. We had an economy that was in freefall."

CNN Production Rumors

5:15 p.m. PT / 8:15 ET:

With less than an hour before start time, rumors about the event's production spread on social media.

Among them was the false claim that CNN was planning to broadcast the program with a one- to two-minute delay to give producers time to "cut and edit" audio.

Responding to an X post with the claim, the official public-relations account for CNN wrote, "This is false."

What to Look Out For

12:50 p.m. PT / 3:30 ET:

Political analysts are publishing forecasts for the show, attempting to best guess the candidates' talking points. NPR reported:

On the issues, it's expected the candidates will discuss the state of the economy and immigration policy, as both are consistently top issues for voters in national polling. It's also possible the candidates will weigh in on international politics, given voters remain divided on whether the U.S. should be sending military aid to Ukraine and Israel in their respective wars.

Issues aside, the candidates' demeanors will be a focus for viewers. Being among the oldest presidential candidates in U.S. history (Biden is 81 and Trump is 78), both candidates have fielded allegations of bizarre public behavior or verbal slip-ups because of their supposed cognitive decline. "One slip-up, stumble or verbal miscue could cement concerns about their advanced age," the BBC wrote.

Biden himself once said he was a "gaffe machine."

Let us note here: Politicians' alleged lack of mental fitness for office is not a unique characteristic of the 2024 election cycle. Since the beginning of Snopes three decades ago — that was then-President Bill Clinton's era — the newsroom has fielded rumors about presidents' appearances or alleged faux pas, no matter their political affiliation or agenda, nor the accusations' level of truth.

Analysts also agree legal cases involving Trump and those involving Biden's son Hunter Biden will come up during the debate. Trump was convicted of 34 felony counts last month, and he faces serious charges in three other indictments. Days later, a jury convicted Hunter Biden of three felony charges related to the purchase of a revolver in 2018.

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