“President Trump’s wall costs less than the Obamacare website. Let that sink in, America.” – Quote attributed to comedian Tim Allen in an Instagram post by Eric Trump
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Eric Trump, one of the president’s sons, has quite a following on social media, so his posts attract a lot of attention. This particular one achieved nearly 80,000 likes within days.
But there are two big problems. First, it’s factually incorrect. Second, comedian and actor Tim Allen did not say this. A query to the Trump Organization for comment did not receive a response.
First, let’s deal with Allen. There was a Tim Allen — unrelated to the actor — who on Aug. 25 posted a lengthy diatribe on Facebook that included this line. This Tim Allen describes himself as a jewelry technician who lives in Franklin, Virginia. But that did not stop thousands of people from distributing his post as coming from the actor.
As it turns out, the day before Allen’s post, singer Ted Nugent posted virtually the same list of statements. Nugent urged people to share the post.
So there was a celebrity involved — just not the actor Tim Allen. Marleah Leslie, Allen’s publicist, confirmed to our colleagues at FactCheck.org that Allen did not write the post.
What about the claim itself? Has the wall cost less than the Obamacare website?
This claim also appears to have had its start on Facebook, being circulated in March, with almost the same wording as Nugent’s post.
In 2013, we had looked into the question of the cost of the website. It was a difficult number to pin down, but the most recent government estimate was provided in 2014 in a questions-for-the-record document during the confirmation hearings for Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell. “It is my understanding that as of February 28, 2014, CMS has obligated a total of approximately $834 million on Marketplace-related IT contracts and interagency agreements,” she said.
But Bloomberg News in 2014 said the cost actually exceeded $2 billion because the government estimate was limited to spending on computer systems whereas Bloomberg included all contracts that could be associated with the website project.
But even if one accepts $2 billion, that still is dwarfed by the spending on Trump’s border barrier. (As we have often noted, it’s bollard fencing, not a wall.) Even during the 2016 campaign, when Trump lowballed the cost of the barrier as under $8 billion — and claimed Mexico would pay for it — the website would have cost much less.
So far, Congress has appropriated $1.6 billion for the barrier, while Trump has tapped an additional $6.1 billion from previously approved military construction projects under a rarely used emergency authority. Trump has sought an additional $8.6 billion in funds in the next fiscal year, though lawmakers are balking at the request. If completed, the actual cost of the barrier is unknown, though estimates of more than $20 billion — or higher — have circulated.
The numbers are so much higher for the border barrier than the website that one wonders where this easily debunked claim emerged. Our colleagues at PolitiFact have speculated that it started with a 2017 Breitbart article that claimed that a single year of Obamacare, including subsidy payments and the like, would dwarf the cost of the wall. But even that article noted that the cost of the website was $2 billion, citing the Bloomberg estimate.
This is a game of telephone that has spun out of control. A debunked claim from earlier this year somehow emerged on Nugent’s Facebook page and was copied by a Virginia man with the same name as an actor. The inaccurate claim was then falsely attributed to Tim Allen — and was distributed around the world by the president’s son.
Eric Trump earns Four Pinocchios. He should delete this post immediately. With his social media platform, he should not be distributing double falsehoods.