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Fact check: Haley falsely claims Biden calls everyone who doesn’t support him fascist

By Daniel Dale, CNN

Washington (CNN) — Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley falsely claimed on Saturday that President Joe Biden refers to anyone who doesn’t support him as “fascist.”

Haley sought to lump Biden with former President Donald Trump, who pledged in a speech last fall to “root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country, that lie and steal and cheat on elections” and went on to say that “the real threat is from the radical left.”

She told reporters in South Carolina: “Think about it. Of the two main candidates that you’re talking about, Joe Biden refers to anyone who doesn’t support him as fascist. Donald Trump refers to anybody that doesn’t support him as vermin. I call everybody who supports me or doesn’t support me Americans. And that’s where we have to get back to again.” Haley made a similar claim about Biden at a Wednesday campaign event in South Carolina, saying, “Right now … Joe Biden’s calling all of Donald Trump’s supporters fascists, and Donald Trump’s calling all of Joe Biden’s supporters vermin.”

Facts First: Haley is wrong about Biden, who has never publicly referred to “anyone who doesn’t support him” or “all of Donald Trump’s supporters” as fascist. While Biden has described Trump and devotees of Trump’s “make America great again” movement as undemocratic extremists who threaten the rule of law, he has not called them “fascists” – and he has repeatedly emphasized that his criticism of these “MAGA” Republicans does not apply to what he calls “mainstream” or even “conservative” Republicans. Biden did once call the “philosophy” behind Trump’s movement “almost like semi-fascism,” but he did not go so far as to label the philosophy fascist, let alone to say any American who doesn’t support Biden is fascist.

Haley’s claim about Trump is at least defensible. Trump didn’t explicitly say that “anybody” who doesn’t support him is among those who “live like vermin,” but he did apply the word “vermin” to a broad group of his opponents and did decline to specify who he was excluding from this descriptor.

How Biden has used the words ‘fascist’ and ‘fascism’

The database of Biden’s public remarks as president shows that the vast majority of his mentions of the words “fascist,” “fascists” or “fascism” have been in reference to America’s enemies in World War II. On one occasion in 2021, Biden accurately said that there were “fascists” at an infamous 2017 gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia, that involved neo-Nazis and other white nationalists.

In a high-profile 2022 speech attacking Trump and his movement, Biden said that “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic” and that “MAGA forces … fan the flames of political violence that are a threat to our personal rights, to the pursuit of justice, to the rule of law, to the very soul of this country.” But he never used the word “fascist” or its variants in that speech, and he explicitly noted he was not talking about all of his opponents – saying he wanted to be “very clear” that “not every Republican, not even the majority of Republicans, are MAGA Republicans. Not every Republican embraces their extreme ideology.”

In a speech a week earlier in 2022 that drew criticism from many Republicans, Biden said, “And what we’re seeing now is either the beginning or the death knell of an extreme MAGA philosophy. … It’s not just Trump. … It’s the entire philosophy that underpins – it’s – I’m going say something – it’s almost like semi-fascism, the way in which it deals.”

But Biden saying that an opposing political “philosophy” is “almost like semi-fascism” is not even close to saying that anyone who doesn’t support him is fascist. In fact, Biden’s remark did not label any American an actual fascist.

In this 2022 speech, Biden also said, “There’s an awful lot of really standard, good, decent Republicans.” In another speech the same day, Biden said, “MAGA” Republicans “don’t believe in democracy” – but contrasted them with the governor of Maryland at the time, Republican Larry Hogan, saying he disagrees with Hogan “but at least he’s within the mainstream of the Republican Party.” Biden added, “I respect conservative Republicans. I don’t respect these MAGA Republicans.”

Biden has spoken positively about some of his Republican opponents on other occasions. He said in another 2022 speech: “There’s a lot of really fine Republicans in the Senate and House that I disagree with, but they are mainstream, conservative Republicans, and you can deal with them.”

Haley’s narrower remark later Saturday

Haley narrowed her claim in her speech on Saturday night after media outlets projected that Trump had won the South Carolina Republican primary.

This time, the former South Carolina governor avoided declaring that Biden calls anyone who doesn’t support him fascist or all Trump supporters fascist. She said, “Does anyone seriously think Joe Biden or Donald Trump will unite our country to solve our problems? One of them calls his fellow Americans fascists. The other calls his fellow Americans vermin.”

Asked Saturday about Haley’s series of remarks, campaign spokesperson Olivia Perez-Cubas responded by highlighting the candidate’s narrower Saturday night claim that Biden “calls his fellow Americans fascist.” To defend that claim, Perez-Cubas linked to news articles referencing the 2022 speech in which Biden claimed that the philosophy underpinning the MAGA movement is “almost like semi-fascism.”

But that is poor substantiation even for a claim that Biden “calls his fellow Americans fascist.” Regardless, it provides no basis for Haley’s broader comments earlier Saturday and on Wednesday.

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