During the September 29 2020 presidential debate, United States President and Republican nominee Donald Trump asserted that the “Portland Sheriff” endorsed him on that day.
Trump’s claim arose at the tail end of the first 30 minutes of his debate with former U.S. Vice President and Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden at around 9:30 PM Eastern time. Moderator Chris Wallace posed a question to Trump at 28:28, asking:
President Trump, you have two minutes. Why should Americans trust you over your opponent to [address] race issues?
A transcript from Rev.com provided the ensuing response by Trump and Biden’s interjection. In response to Wallace’s question about “race issues,” Trump claimed that Biden had once described Black Americans as “super predators”:
You did a crime bill, 1994, where you call them super predators. African-Americans are super predators and they’ve never forgotten it. They’ve never forgotten it.
I’ve never said–
No, no, sir. It’s his two minutes.
So you did that and they call you a super predator and I’m letting people out of jail now, that you have treated the African-American population community, you have treated the black community about as bad as anybody in this country. You did the 1990… And that’s why, if you look at the polls, I’m doing better than any Republican has done in a long time, because they saw what you did. You call them super predators, and you’ve called them worse than that. Because you look back at your testimony over the years, you’ve called them a lot worse than that.
Trump continued, pivoting to what he described as unanimous support for his campaign among “military leaders and generals,” as well as law enforcement across the board. He also specifically maintained that the sheriff in Portland endorsed him on September 29 2020:
As far as the church is concerned and as far as the generals are concerned, we just got the support of 250 military leaders and generals, total support. Law enforcement, almost every law enforcement group in the United States. I have Florida. I have Texas. I have Ohio. I have every… Excuse me, Portland, the sheriff just came out today and he said, “I support President Trump.”
I don’t think you have any law enforcement. You can’t even say the word law enforcement. Because if you say those words, you’re going to lose all of your radical left supporters. And why aren’t you saying those words, Joe? Why don’t you say the words law enforcement? Because you know what? If called us in Portland, we would put out that fire in a half an hour. But they won’t do it, because they’re run by radical left Democrats.
In tonight’s presidential debate the President said the “Portland Sheriff” supports him. As the Multnomah County Sheriff I have never supported Donald Trump and will never support him.
At 11:39 PM Eastern, Reese elaborated on his first tweet:
In the second tweet, Reese added that Trump had made his job “a hell of a lot harder since he started talking about Portland.”
After Trump made the claim and Reese disputed it, NPR contacted the sheriff of Portland, Maine to determine whether Trump might have been speaking of that Portland. Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce denied making any endorsement of either candidate:
“Portland, the sheriff just came out today, and he said, I support President Trump. I don’t think you have any law enforcement,” he said to Biden.
The president’s remark seems to have puzzled many viewers. Just to be sure he was referring to the Oregon city, NPR checked in with the sheriff whose jurisdiction includes Portland, Maine.
“I have not taken a stance to support either candidate,” Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce tells NPR. He added that he also assumed the president was referring to Portland, Ore., because of the protests there.
Reese is not on record supporting President Trump, as NPR’s Martin Kaste noted during live coverage of the debate. To the contrary, he is among the leaders in Portland and Oregon who have sharply disagreed with Trump’s policy of using federal force in an attempt to overwhelm demonstrators.
Trump’s claim that the “Portland sheriff” endorsed him on September 29 2020 (or on any other date) was swiftly debunked by the Multnomah County sheriff himself. Reese bluntly said that he had “never supported Donald Trump,” and added that he “will never support him.” In a second tweet, Reese added that Trump made his “job a hell of a lot harder since he started talking about Portland.”
NPR contacted the sheriff of Portland, Maine, who also denied endorsing Trump.