Importance of separating facts from rhetoric

President Donald Trump delivers the State of the Union address Tuesday from the House chamber of the United States Capitol in Washington.

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President Donald Trump delivers the State of the Union address Tuesday from the House chamber of the United States Capitol in Washington.

I’m USA TODAY editor-in-chief Nicole Carroll, and this is the Backstory, insights into our biggest stories of the week. If you’d like to get the Backstory in your inbox every Friday, sign up here.

One of our top priorities, a top priority for all journalists, is to hold the powerful accountable. Both in words and deeds.

So when President Donald Trump addressed the nation Tuesday for his State of the Union, our experts were ready to report on what was true, what was false, what was stretched and what was missing. They found examples of each.

Some statements were simple to check.

President Donald Trump said, “our economy is the best it has ever been.” Economics reporter Paul Davidson found that based on the pace of growth, the broadest measure of the economy’s performance, that’s not true. The economy has grown an average of 2.5% a year under Trump. “The economy grew well over 3% in the mid-2000 and well over 4% from 1997-2000,” Davidson reported.

Other statements were true, but were missing context.

Trump said, “the average unemployment rate under my administration is lower than any administration in the history of our country.” That’s true. Unemployment now is at 3.5%. But Davidson pointed out that’s partly because unemployment was low at 4.7% when he took office. “The rate fell more sharply in the final 35 months under Obama, to 4.7% from 6.7%,” he reported.



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