Fact check: Claim comparing cost of border wall to HealthCare.gov misattributed to actor Tim Allen

The claim: Actor Tim Allen said the Obamacare website cost more than the border wall

Actor Tim Allen is once again the subject of a misattributed quote that makes a false comparison between the cost of the Affordable Care Act website and the cost of former President Donald Trump’s border wall.

A meme that contains the misattributed quote and an image of Allen stems from another false post that USA TODAY debunked in May. 

“President Trump’s Wall Costs Less Than The Obamacare Website. Let that sink in, America,” reads the meme, which a Trump fan page posted to Facebook on March 20.

Eric Trump, the former president’s son, also shared the meme, which has circulated on social media for several years, to Instagram in September 2019. 

Neither the attribution nor the claim is true. 

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The Facebook page that posted the meme did not respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment.

A partial quote from another false claim

In May 2020, USA TODAY debunked a similar claim that criticized Democrats and was falsely attributed to Allen. The recently shared meme features a partial quote from that longer false claim.

USA TODAY found that the post was authored by another man named Tim Allen in August 2019. Social media users confused the author, who has the same name as the actor, with Tim Allen from “Last Man Standing” and “Home Improvement.”

Actor and comedian Tim Allen starred in "Home Improvement" and "Last Man Standing." (Photo: MingleMediaTVNetwork / Wikimedia Commons)

“This statement was not written by my client, the actor Tim Allen,” Allen’s publicist, Marleah Leslie, told USA TODAY. 

Leslie confirmed in an email to USA TODAY that the actor did not author the shorter quote either.

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Estimates put the cost of the Obamacare website lower than the border wall cost

Aside from the misattribution, the claim itself is false. While exact costs for Healthcare.gov, the Obamacare website, and Trump’s border wall are unknown, estimates put the cost of the wall much higher than the Obamacare website. 

An August 2014 report by the HHS Office of Inspector General estimated contracts for HealthCare.gov totaled $1.7 billion. Bloomberg put the cost slightly higher at $2.1 billion in a September 2014 article. 

The HealthCare.gov website (Photo: Alex Brandon/AP)

These estimates are dwarfed in comparison to those for the border wall. 

According to a Department of Homeland Security report obtained by Reuters in February 2017, the border wall could cost up to $21.6 billion if completed. This number is much higher than the $12 billion dollar estimate Trump pushed on the campaign trail.

In January 2020, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported the “border wall system” had cost $11 billion so far, according to NPR. 

By the end of 2020, the Trump administration had spent an estimated $16 billion on the wall, none of it paid for by Mexico as Trump promised, according to The Arizona Republic.

In this Jan. 12, 2021, file photo, President Donald Trump tours a section of the U.S.-Mexico border wall in Alamo, Texas. (Photo: Alex Brandon, AP)

Our rating: False

A viral meme appearing to quote actor Tim Allen saying, “President Trump’s Wall Costs Less Than The Obamacare Website. Let that sink in, America,” is FALSE, based on our research. Allen did not author this quote, according to the actor’s publicist. Also, estimates put the cost of Trump’s border wall project significantly higher than the cost of HealthCare.gov.

Our fact-check sources:

  • USA TODAY, May 28, 2020, “Fact check: Actor and comedian Tim Allen did not write viral conservative statement”
  • Tim Allen, Aug. 25, 2019, Facebook post
  • HHS Office of Inspector General, Aug. 26, 2014, “An Overview of 60 Contracts That Contributed to the Development and Operation of the Federal Marketplace”
  • Bloomberg, Sept. 24, 2014, “Obamacare Website Costs Exceed $2 Billion, Study Finds”
  • Reuters, Feb. 10, 2017, “Exclusive – Trump border ‘wall’ to cost $21.6 billion, take 3.5 years to build: internal report”
  • NPR, Jan. 19, 2020, “$11 Billion And Counting: Trump’s Border Wall Would Be The World’s Most Costly”
  • The Arizona Republic, Jan. 12, “Here’s where US-Mexico border wall construction stands as Trump wraps up presidency”

Contributing: Rick Rouan

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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook. 

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