During the Fox Business Network debate on Thursday, real-estate mogul Donald Trump denied telling The New York Times that he called for a massive, 45% tariff on Chinese exports to the US.
“It’s The New York Times. They’re always wrong,” Trump said after moderator Neil Cavuto quoted the newspaper about his purported tariff proposal.
But The Times didn’t back down after Trump made the claim. The newspaper posted audio from its editorial board meeting with Trump last week. It even published a fact-check on Trump’s debate comments that blared: “The audio doesn’t lie.”
In the audio, Trump indeed appeared to back a 45% tariff on Chinese goods. But he also rapidly bounced from topic to topic.
“I would tax China coming in, products coming in. I would do a tariff,” Trump said in the interview.
“I love free trade but it’s got to be reasonably fair. I would do a tax,” he added. “And let me tell you what the tax should be. The tax should be 45%. That would be a tax that would be an equivalent to some of the kind of devaluations that they have done. They cannot believe that we haven’t done this yet.”
At the debate, Trump suggested that he had framed the 45% number as a hypothetical.
“What I said to The New York Times is that we have great power, economic power, over China,” he said. “Where the 45% comes in, that would be the amount based on their devaluations that we should get.”
This wasn’t the first time Trump rejected the idea that he had advocated for a 45% tariff. Earlier this week, Trump did a phone interview with Cavuto in which Trump claimed he didn’t “even know where the 45% came from.”
“I don’t have a 45% [tariff.] I’m just saying that we have to take a tough stance on China. I never said — I don’t even know where the 45% came from,” he said. “But I said that is the equivalent of what they have done with respect to their devaluations. But China has to pay a price if they don’t start behaving. Because they’re killing us on trade.”
Watch Trump’s debate comments on trade below:
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