The Republican response to President Joe Biden's State of the Union Address tonight will be delivered by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the one-time press secretary for the Donald Trump White House turned governor of Arkansas.
But Sanders is an interesting choice for the GOP response, given that she has a well-documented and fact-checked history of questionable claims – some of which were so outrageous even other members of the Trump administration had to walk them back.
Here are six of some of the most far-fetched claims Sanders told over the course of her time in the White House.
- Trump has never advocated violence.
On June 9, 2017, Sanders said that "The president in no way, form or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence."
Except, that's not true. Even by that point, years before Trump told election deniers on January 6 to march to the Capitol and "fight like hell," he had repeatedly advocated violence, including in a rally speech in which he told supporters to "knock the crap" out of anyone heckling him, and assuring them he would cover their legal expenses. Just weeks after Sanders' statement, Trump did it again at an event honoring police officers, saying police should not "be too nice" to suspects and should let their heads smack into the door while forcing them into the back of their vehicles.
- Trump created three times more Black jobs in one year than Obama created in eight.
"This president, since he took office, in the year and a half he's been here, has created 700,000 new jobs for African-Americans," said Sanders at an August 2018 press briefing after former Trump aide Omarosa Manigault Newman, who is Black, released a scathing tell-all about her time in the White House. "When President Obama left, after eight years in office — eight years in office — he had only created 195,000 jobs for African-Americans."
She was right about Trump's numbers, but completely off on Obama's. That 195,000 figure came from subtracting the losses of Black jobs in the 20 months of Obama's first term, during the height of the financial crisis, from the gains made in the first 20 months of his second term. Obama created about four times that many Black jobs over the course of his presidency, something then-communications official and Sanders' eventual successor Kayleigh McEnany admitted in a tweet afterward.
- Trump stopped 4,000 terrorists at the border.
“We know that roughly nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists come into our country illegally, and we know that our most vulnerable point of entry is at our southern border,” Sanders said in a January 2019 interview with Chris Wallace, then a reporter at Fox News, while justifying the expense and political capital Trump had spent fighting with Congress for the funds to construct his border wall.
But Wallace was quick to correct her. "Do you know where those 4,000 people come or where they’re captured? Airports,” he replied.
- The Mueller Report is a "total and complete exoneration" of Trump.
After the multi-year special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, known as the Mueller Report, was finally released in March 2019, Sanders proclaimed it to be a "total and complete exoneration of the President of the United States."
Except it wasn't. Even the report itself stated that "while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him." The report outlined a number of instances in which members of Trump's team sought to work with people they knew to be tied to the Kremlin — though it stopped short of finding these incidents rose to the level of a criminal conspiracy — and outlined ten separate incidents in which the president likely obstructed justice, turning these over to Congress for consideration in a possible impeachment.
- Sharing a doctored InfoWars video of a CNN reporter.
After the Trump White House briefly revoked the press pass of CNN reporter Jim Acosta in November 2018 shortly after Trump sparred with him during a press conference, Sanders shared a video purporting to show Acosta being violent with a White House intern to justify the decision.
But the video, which came from the far-right conspiracy theory webcast InfoWars, was clearly doctored, with audio cut out, showing zoom shots of Acosta to make it look like he deliberately shoved the intern. The original footage made it clear he inadvertently brushed her arm and said "pardon me, ma'am."
- Lying to federal prosecutors about the FBI.
One of the most consequential lies Sanders told may have been exposed in an interview with federal investigators working with the Mueller Report, who were probing Trump's decision to fire James Comey as director of the FBI as the Russia probe ramped up.
Sanders told the press that "countless" FBI agents told her they were glad Trump had gotten rid of Comey — a key part of the basis on which the administration could claim the firing wasn't political and they had just cause. She later admitted in an interview with investigators — a setting in which this lie could have been a criminal matter — that her claim was not true, and trying to say it was just a "slip of the tongue."