donald trump
Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

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Media outlets are falling for Trump’s “bloodbath” spin: The auto industry under Biden is now stronger than it's been in nearly 20 years

Mainstream media outlets are uncritically carrying the MAGA claim that the auto sector is suffering under Biden. Auto industry employment is higher than it’s been since 2006, and autoworkers’ wages have soared.

During a March 16 campaign rally in Ohio, former president and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump declared, “If I don’t get elected, it’s going to be a bloodbath for the whole — that’s going to be the least of it. It’s going to be a bloodbath for the country.” Trump’s violent rhetoric spurred a flurry of media discussion whether his warning of a “bloodbath” centered on other remarks in his speech about the auto industry, as suggested by the Trump campaign, or meant something more sinister given his history of endorsing actual political violence. 

But the former explanation itself is a lie; the auto industry is at an 18-year high for employment and wages have soared during the Biden administration, even as Trump's MAGA media allies claim that the industry is currently suffering because of President Joe Biden’s policies. Additionally, Trump's earlier policies as president hurt the auto industry. (Given these facts, it should come as no surprise that the United Auto Workers endorsed Biden for reelection earlier this year.) 

Media outlets are so caught up in the spin over exactly which “bloodbath” Trump might’ve been referring to, they are losing sight of the fact that even his campaign’s excuse is itself another lie about the economy.

  • Trump warned of a “bloodbath” if he loses the presidential election

    • During his rally, Trump said: “Now, if I don’t get elected, it’s going to be a bloodbath for the whole — that’s going to be the least of it. It’s going to be a bloodbath for the country.” He later added: “If this election isn’t won, I’m not sure that you’ll ever have another election in this country.” [NBC News, 3/16/24]
    • The Biden campaign responded to Trump's comments by pointing to his previous support of political violence. “This is who Donald Trump is: a loser who gets beat by over 7 million votes and then instead of appealing to a wider mainstream audience doubles down on his threats of political violence,” Biden campaign spokesman James Singer said. “He wants another January 6, but the American people are going to give him another electoral defeat this November because they continue to reject his extremism, his affection for violence, and his thirst for revenge.” [The Washington Post, 1/10/24; NBC News, 3/16/24]
    • NBC News reported that during the rally, Trump saluted while a recording played of the national anthem being sung by jail inmates awaiting trial for the January 6 insurrection; Trump also referred to imprisoned rioters as “hostages” and “unbelievable patriots.” The article also included a statement from Trump campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt, who said: “Biden’s policies will create an economic bloodbath for the auto industry and autoworkers.” [NBC News, 3/16/24]
  • Trump's media allies came to his defense, pushing his campaign's claim that he meant a “bloodbath” in the auto industry and assailing its performance under Biden due to EVs

    • Newsmax host Emma Rechenberg: “It was clearly in the context of what's going on with the economy, and what's going on more specifically here with the auto industry right now.” Clearly implying that the auto industry is hurting right now, Rechenberg added: “And we've seen from the current president, the Biden administration, their push for this EV market, right, and outsourcing work from other countries here.” [Newsmax, The National Report, 3/18/24]
    • Newsmax host Rob Finnerty: “He's talking about the auto industry and the fact that jobs are being taken by car companies that are importing cars, and that means factories are closing here in the U.S.” Regular guest Mercedes Schlapp of the American Conservative Union echoed this, saying: “It's very clear that he's referring to the auto industry with the fact that these auto parts would be made in different countries like China and Mexico, and the importance of taking strong actions against China when it comes to the auto industry.” [Newsmax, Wake Up America, 3/18/24]
    • CNN conservative commentator Alice Stewart: “There are several definitions of ‘bloodbath,’” but Trump's “campaign made the point quite accurately that Joe Biden's electric vehicle mandates are killing the American manufacturing industry.” Stewart continued: “They're making the case that under the Biden administration, that's not great news for the auto manufacturing industry, and that's an accurate statement.” [CNN, CNN Newsroom, 3/17/24]
    • Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo: Trump “said there would be a bloodbath in the auto industry if Biden gets his way jamming down the throats of Americans EV vehicles, and the mainstream media completely mangled his words.” [Fox News, Sunday Morning Futures, 3/17/24]
  • Auto industry employment is at the highest levels in 18 years, and autoworkers made huge wage gains

    • Bureau of Labor Statistics data show more people currently employed in auto manufacturing than at any time since July 2006. Data presented in a graph from the St. Louis Fed shows that nearly 1.07 million Americans are currently employed in auto manufacturing, the highest level since July 2006, when just over 1.07 million workers were employed in the industry. [Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, accessed 3/18/24]
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    • BLS data also show that wages throughout the auto industry are higher than ever under Biden. [Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed 3/18/24]
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    • Biden supported the UAW strike that resulted in “record wage hikes” for autoworkers' wages, while Trump opposed it. In December, Reuters reported that car manufacturers in the U.S. “are bumping up pay for their non-union workers after the United Auto Workers (UAW) secured record wage hikes and benefits for union workers at the Detroit Three automakers.” And while Biden supported UAW's efforts to expand unionization and made history by joining striking autoworkers on the picket line, Trump blasted the strike and slammed it in a speech to a non-union auto parts plant. [Reuters, 12/19/23, 11/10/23; NBC News, 9/26/23; ABC News, 9/28/23]
    • New car sales in 2024 are expected to rise to the highest since 2019, normalizing after supply chain issues caused by the pandemic. CNBC reported: “Any increase in U.S. sales next year would mark the first sequential sales growth for the automotive industry since 2015-16.” [CNBC, 12/21/23]
    • Biden is not pandering to Chinese EV automakers, and has maintained the 25% tax on Chinese-made cars that Trump put in place. Biden is also currently debating raising these tariffs even more, despite pleas from Chinese car company BYD to remove them. (There is controversy over whether this would be the best move for climate goals.) [The Wall Street Journal, 12/21/23; Vox, 3/4/24]
  • Trump's policies hurt the auto industry and he previously called for wage cuts and bankruptcy for the sector

    • Trump's steel tariffs hurt the auto industry. PolitiFact explained that Trump’s actions to set a 25% tariff on steel imports and a 10% tariff on aluminum imports actually “hampered the U.S. auto industry, sparking the loss of thousands of jobs.” The article continued: “GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler, now part of Stellantis, all have closed plants in Michigan since 2018, the year the tariffs were imposed. GM and Ford paid $1 billion each in increased steel costs in 2018. … A December 2020 summary from the Congressional Research Service, Congress’ nonpartisan policy arm, said most studies ‘suggest a negative overall effect on U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) as a result of the tariffs’ and that most studies found U.S. consumers and companies ‘bore nearly the entire increased costs associated with the tariffs.’” [PolitiFact, 10/8/23]
    • In 2008, Trump called for wage cuts for autoworkers and said the Big Three U.S. automakers should go bankrupt. In a 2008 Fox News interview, Trump said, “I think that the unions are really, really hurting very badly what's going on with the autos. … And by the way, the union workers are fantastic, but probably they have to take a cut.” Trump added: “They get their little 5%. They get another 2%. They get another 3%, 4%, then all of a sudden they're making more money than the people that own the company.” During that Fox interview, Trump also said the automakers should go through bankruptcy: “There are so many ways that it can be saved. If they do a Chapter 11. … If they do a Chapter 11, and over the years I've put companies into a Chapter 11. You negotiate from Chapter 11. It's a tremendous strength.” [Fox News, Your World, 12/17/08]
  • News organizations covered the spin over Trump’s “bloodbath” comment without debunking the lie about the auto industry’s performance under Biden

    • The Washington Post carried a Trump spokesman’s comment that “Biden’s policies will create an economic bloodbath for the auto industry and autoworkers.” The Post failed to note there is no such “economic bloodbath” in the industry under Biden’s policies now, and that U.S. autoworkers are better off today than they were under Trump. [The Washington Post, 3/16/24]
    • The Associated Press: “Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said that Trump had clearly been talking about the impact of a second Biden term on the auto industry and broader economy.” The AP article also failed to mention any details about the current state of the auto industry, but did report that “Trump repeatedly noted his difficulty reading from his teleprompters, which could be seen visibly whipping in 35-mile-per-hour wind gusts.” [The Associated Press, 3/17/24]
    • Politico: “Defenders of the former president say he was speaking about the plight of the auto industry.” The article included quotes on the Sunday shows from Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD), and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), who all highlighted the supposed context of the purportedly imperiled auto industry. [Politico, 3/17/24]
    • CNN: “The Trump campaign shot back Saturday night, saying the former president was speaking about autoworkers.” “‘Biden’s policies will create an economic bloodbath for the auto industry and autoworkers,’ Trump campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt said.” [CNN, 3/17/24]
    • The Sunday political talk shows failed to clarify the point that the U.S. auto industry is doing better now than it did under Trump. Transcripts show that the hosts never raised this point, instead getting hung up on what the word “bloodbath” might be referring to. [ABC, This Week, 3/17/24; CBS, Face The Nation, 3/17/24; CNN, State of the Union, 3/17/24; NBC, Meet The Press, 3/17/24]
    • The New York Times carried Trump’s social media post claiming that media outlets “fully understood that I was simply referring to imports allowed by Crooked Joe Biden, which are killing the automobile industry.” The Times failed to note that nothing is “killing” the U.S. auto industry, which is in better shape now than when Trump was president. [The New York Times, 3/18/24]