FactCheck.org http://www.factcheck.org A Project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center Fri, 06 May 2016 20:12:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.1 Putin Did Not Call Trump a ‘Genius’ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/putin-did-not-call-trump-a-genius/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/putin-did-not-call-trump-a-genius/#comments Fri, 06 May 2016 19:40:01 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=107929 Donald Trump continues to make the puffed-up assertion that Russian President Vladimir Putin called him a “genius.” Russian language experts tell us that Putin described Trump as “colorful” or maybe “bright,” depending on how one translates Putin’s words, but he never called Trump a genius.

Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post Fact Checker wrote on May 3 that Trump’s repeated claim that Putin called him a genius was based on a mistranslation of Putin’s words. Nonetheless, Trump continued to mischaracterize Putin’s praise the following day in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

“So far, we’re off to a good start,” Trump said of his relationship with Putin. “He said ‘Trump is a genius,’ OK?”

Trump frequently claims that Putin called him a genius. He said it in an interview with Bill O’Reilly on Fox News on April 28. And in an April 29 radio interview with Michael Savage. And during a town hall interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity on April 4. And during a campaign event in South Carolina in February.

Trump is basing his claim on comments Putin made during a press scrum in December, when Putin was asked what he thought about Trump.

According to a translation by Russia Insider, which uploaded the video, Putin responded, “He’s a very colorful person. Talented, without any doubt. But it’s not our affair to determine his worthiness — that’s up to the United States voters. But he is absolutely the leader in the presidential race. He wants to move to a different level of relations, to more solid, deeper relations with Russia. And how can Russia not welcome that — we welcome that. As for his internal political issues and the turn of speech which he uses to raise his popularity, I repeat, it’s not our affair to evaluate them.”

It’s the word “colorful” in the first sentence of that translation that is at issue here.

The Washington Post‘s Kessler found various media outlets provided slightly different translations of it. Some said Putin called Trump “colorful,” others “lively” or “flamboyant.” One outlet, the Hill, translated Putin’s praise of Trump as “really brilliant.”

The Guardian newspaper initially wrote that Putin called Trump “bright,” but then revised its item with this explanation: “An earlier version quoted Putin as saying ‘bright and talented.’ To clarify: The word he used was ‘yarkii’ (яркий), which can mean bright or brilliant, but not in the sense of intelligent; it can also be translated as colorful, vivid or flamboyant.”

Of note, none of those news reports say Putin called Trump a “genius.”

We reached out to several Russian language experts, and they all agreed that Trump was inflating Putin’s rather guarded praise. But there is some disagreement about the precise meaning of Putin’s phrase.

“The adjective “яркий” in this context is a carefully selected word and it means here ‘not ordinary’ or ‘impressive,’ ” Constantine Muravnik, a professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Yale, told us via email. ” ‘Extraordinary,’ ‘remarkable,’  or ‘outstanding’ would be too positive, ‘colorful’ or ‘eccentric’ – too negative, ‘brilliant’ or ‘bright’ —  simply wrong. This is why Putin added a phrase, ‘talented beyond any doubt,’ just to push the otherwise neutral and ambiguous word in a slightly more positive direction. He also compensated this ambiguity with his overall positive and respectful intonation.”

“Trump is slightly twisting his words by adding the connotation of admiration always associated with the word ‘genius,’ ” Muravnik added. “There’s no admiration in Putin’s words, just a respectful acknowledgement of some of his ‘impressive’ traits. Also, Putin emphatically, even if a bit slyly, refrained from any comments on the internal US affairs.”

Edna Andrews, professor of linguistics and cultural anthropology at Duke University, told us Putin definitely did not call Trump a genius.

“I believe ‘colorful’ is a very good translation of the use of this term in the given context,” Andrews said. “Putin also clearly stated that it was not his business to get involved in the choice of a U.S. elected official, but he did welcome a deepening of US/Russian relations.”

“Putin called Trump ‘bright,’ ” Ilya Vinitsky, chair of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, told us via email. “Genius in Russian is ‘genii.’ Putin didn’t use this word.”

And finally, Boris Gasparov, a professor of Russian and East European studies at Columbia University, told us that “if he [Putin] said яркий it means, applied to a politician, definitively a compliment, although by far not such ravishing as that of the ‘genius.’ It does not mean ‘colorful’ (that is, it is by no means tinged with ambiguity), but it is not entirely unqualified either. The meaning lingers somewhere between ‘standing out,’ ‘unusual,’ ‘bold,’ ‘unpredictable, but hopefully for the better.’ ”

So there is a bit of disagreement among Russian language experts about the precise translation of Putin’s words. But not one of them agreed with Trump’s translation of “genius.”


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Video: Clinton Not Among ‘Birthers’ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/video-clinton-not-among-birthers/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/video-clinton-not-among-birthers/#comments Fri, 06 May 2016 17:46:05 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=107940 As CNN’s Jake Tapper explains in his latest fact-checking video, there is no evidence that Hillary Clinton started rumors during the 2008 presidential race that Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, repeated the false claim that Clinton was the original “birther” during a May 4 interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. Trump said Clinton “questioned his birth certificate” and “brought it up years before it was brought up by me.”

It’s true that Clinton supporters pushed the theory that Obama was born outside of the U.S. and so was ineligible to be president. But neither Trump nor his campaign has provided any evidence that such claims originated with Clinton or her 2008 campaign.

For more on the origins of the “birther” movement, read our May 5 story “Hillary Clinton Wasn’t a ‘Birther.’ ” And watch all of the previous videos from FactCheck.org’s collaboration with CNN’s “State of the Union” on our website.

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Sanders’ False Income Claim http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/sanders-false-income-claim/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/sanders-false-income-claim/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 20:01:35 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=107776 Sen. Bernie Sanders falsely claimed that “Mom is working, Dad is working, and the kids are working, and yet together they’re bringing in less disposable income today than a family did with one breadwinner 40 years ago.” In fact, Census data show an 85 percent increase in median disposable income for the households Sanders described from 1979 to 2014, in inflation-adjusted dollars.

Sanders made the claim at a rally on April 28 in Springfield, Oregon. He also made the claim two days earlier in West Virginia.

Sanders, April 26: But here is the fact — 40 years ago before the explosion of technology, before the cell phones and the space age technology and before the global economy, it was possible in America for one person — one breadwinner — to earn enough money to take care of the entire family.

One breadwinner could take — earn enough money to take care of the entire family. Well, then you got the whole global economy, all of the technology, you know what happens. Today, mom is out working, dad is out working, the kids are out working and they have less disposable income than a one breadwinner family had 40 years ago. Something is wrong with our economy.

Sanders urged the young people in the audience to “check it out, Google it, after you get out of here.” It takes more than a simple Google search, however, to find the statistics that pertain to Sanders’ claim. Once we were able to get those numbers, they show Sanders is wrong, by a long shot.

Families with at least three breadwinners (mom, dad and at least one child) — and Sanders describes families with at least two “kids” working — had much more disposable income in 2014 than a one-breadwinner family did 35 years earlier, as far back as the appropriate data go, adjusted for inflation.

The Sanders campaign told us that the Democratic presidential candidate was actually referring to discretionary income, not disposable. We’ll get to that, but first more on the claim Sanders actually made. Disposable income is total after-tax income, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

We contacted Sentier Research, which analyzes income and demographics data, and a spokesman said it would take some digging to get to the appropriate Census Bureau figures. Sentier then did the digging for us, using microdata from the Census’ Current Population Survey to find median (that’s the midpoint) disposable (after federal, state and payroll taxes) income for the families Sanders described.

As the chart below shows, median disposable income for a one-earner married couple household with at least one child under age 18 in 1979 was $47,847. In 2014, the median disposable income for a married couple household in which the husband, wife and at least one child works is $88,575. Those are both in 2014 dollars.


That’s a sizable increase in disposable income — an 85 percent jump, or $40,728 more. A married household with multiple breadwinners does much better today in terms of disposable income than a married household with one breadwinner did 35 years ago, the opposite of what Sanders claimed.

We also note that the number of one-earner married couple households with at least one child under 18 has decreased by about 2.9 million households in that time frame, but the number of married couple households in which the husband, wife and at least one child works has also gone down, by 1.4 million. So the situation Sanders describes with child earners is actually less common today than it was in the late 1970s.

Sanders’ Support

When we contacted the Sanders campaign about this claim, a spokesman sent us several statistics and other information on wages, income and spending. A few of those are related to, but don’t directly support, Sanders’ claim. We’ll go through some of those here. The campaign also said that Sanders was speaking “off the cuff” and meant to say discretionary income, not disposable.

Our fact-checking colleagues at PolitiFact.com looked into a similar claim Sanders had made about disposable income in the past — back in 2007, 2010 and 2011 — and also found he meant to say “discretionary.” So, Sanders has been making this claim about disposable income for years.

The Sanders campaign sent us Census figures on the mean, or average, household income for the third quintile (a good approximation for the “middle” of household income). That average had increased by 12 percent, or $5,759, from 1974 to 2014, a time period during which women’s labor force participation rate increased greatly, the campaign noted. (That’s expressed in 2014 numbers, and is similar to the median household income figures, which show an increase of $5,160, or 11 percent.)

But those figures are for all households, including those of single people, extended families, and single and multiple earners. There are more precise Census figures that pertain to Sanders’ claim, and they tell a much different story.

We can look specifically at family income — a family being two or more people related by birth, marriage or adoption — and the number of breadwinners per family (see Census Table F-12). The median income for a one-earner family in 1974 was $47,644 (again, in 2014 dollars). In 2014, a two-earner family’s median income was $91,362. That’s nearly a doubling for our one-breadwinner versus two-breadwinner family income over 40 years.

The median income for three-earner and four-earner families is even higher, and would more closely pertain to Sanders’ claim about the kids working, too: Three-earner median family income in 2014 was $110,110. Four-earner or more median family income was $132,565.

We can also look specifically at families in which only the husband worked full time and there was at least one child — median income of $68,541 in 1987, as far back as that dataset goes — and families in which both the husband and wife worked full time and there’s at least one child — median income of $115,144 in 2014. (Those figures are also in inflation-adjusted 2014 dollars; see Table F-16.)

These figures aren’t the after-tax, or disposable, income figures to which Sanders referred in his claim. The best figures for that are in the chart above.

Bottom line: Families or married couples with kids have substantially greater median incomes, both before and after taxes, if they have more than one earner in 2014 than such families with only one earner did decades ago.

But what about discretionary income, which the Sanders campaign says is what the senator meant to say? There isn’t a standard definition of what constitutes discretionary income, but it would be what money is left over after taxes and basic necessities, such as housing, are purchased.

The Sanders campaign, using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey, ran some calculations on the average food, housing, clothing, transportation and health care expenditures for middle-income households, showing that the average leftover “discretionary” after-tax income declined from 1972-73 to 2014. But as the Sanders campaign later acknowledged, that doesn’t tell us anything about discretionary income or spending for one-earner versus multiple-earner families. The campaign said the BLS figures illustrated Sanders’ point that families were more likely to have both parents working but see less discretionary income. But the figures don’t show that, either.

The Sanders campaign sent us one other citation that comes closer to supporting his claim, if we consider discretionary, rather than disposable income. But the numbers are debatable.

A 2003 book by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, “The Two-Income Trap,” includes calculations showing a two-earner family with kids in 2000 had less discretionary income (by about $800 for the year) than a one-earner family with kids in 1973. Warren’s discretionary spending includes day care for the two-earner family but not the one-earner, and the tax calculations include nearly all taxes, such as sales and property taxes, based on a 2000 report from the Tax Foundation, which noted an increase in state and local tax burdens, as well as the federal payroll tax from 1975 to 1998.

There are multiple ways to conduct such calculations, not only because of questions on what exactly to use for discretionary spending, but what to use for the income figures, the starting point. For instance, Warren uses the median income for a full-time male worker for her one-earner family and then, for the two-earner family, adds together the median male full-time and median female full-time income. But median income tends to be higher when considering only married men and women, as opposed to all men and women, a group that would include younger workers often earning lower income.

“All the evidence suggests married people are a little older (there aren’t as many 16-year-olds or 24-year-olds) and better educated,” Gary Burtless, a senior fellow in economic studies with the Brookings Institution, told us.

Warren’s two-earner couple earned a combined $67,800 in 2000. But Census figures for a married couple with at least one kid and a husband and wife who both worked full time show a median income of $75,731 in 2000. (Use the F-16 “current dollars” table.)

Our single-earner married couple back in 1973 may have earned more than the median full-time male worker overall, too, but the Census’ detailed table doesn’t go back that far. We can only go back to 1987, when a family in which the husband worked full-time, the wife didn’t and there was at least one child under age 18 earned $68,541 in median income, in 2014 dollars. That’s higher than the median income for all full-time male workers in 1987: $51,743 in 2014 dollars.

That doesn’t mean Warren’s calculations were necessarily wrong, but there’s more than one way to calculate discretionary spending for various types of families. And Warren’s figures don’t even address Sanders’ claim, in which he said “the kids are out working” too.

Burtless told us in an email that Sanders’ claim is “a very tough claim to assess,” because we’d have to decide what qualified as discretionary spending and how much to subtract from families’ incomes.

“I can imagine that if you construct your couple carefully (and subtract just the right spending items to be consistent with your ‘discretionary income’ definition) you can get the result Sen. Sanders mentioned,” Burtless said. “Those calculations will depend on judgement calls, so it may be murky whether Sen. Sanders’ statement is clearly right or clearly wrong.”

Sanders is clearly wrong, however, on the disposable income of one-earner versus two- or multiple-earner families, the claim he made twice recently and several times in the past. Those multiple-earner families have a much higher median disposable income than one-earner families did in the 1970s.


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Prayer Day Still Not Cancelled http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/prayer-day-still-not-cancelled/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/prayer-day-still-not-cancelled/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 18:55:02 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=107812 Year after year, we see some of the same false viral claims circulating on social media and via email with little about them changing but the dates. Claims that President Barack Obama has cancelled the National Day of Prayer are a perfect example.

We first addressed such claims in 2009 after Obama decided not to celebrate the day by holding a public service at the White House as President George W. Bush had done in previous years. However, Obama still issued a presidential proclamation recognizing May 7 of that year as the National Day of Prayer.

We wrote about the bogus claim again the following year after a Facebook post stated that Obama was cancelling the National Day of Prayer because he didn’t “want to offend anybody.” That wasn’t the case. As he had done the previous year, Obama issued a proclamation designating May 6, 2010, as the official day of prayer.

That’s the last time we wrote about the claims, but that hasn’t stopped readers from asking us every year: “Did Obama cancel the National Day of Prayer?” Our answer would have been “no” every year, anyway, since Obama issued prayer day proclamations in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and again in 2015.

The answer is the same this year, too. Obama issued this year’s proclamation May 4:

Obama, May 4: I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 5, 2016, as National Day of Prayer. I invite the citizens of our Nation to give thanks, in accordance with their own faiths and consciences, for our many freedoms and blessings, and I join all people of faith in asking for God’s continued guidance, mercy, and protection as we seek a more just world.

The National Day of Prayer Task Force has also debunked the claim that Obama cancelled the annual observation:

NDPTF, Nov. 12, 2015: Contrary to popular belief, President Obama did NOT cancel the National Day of Prayer. In fact, last year, 2 representatives from his cabinet attended the national observance on Capitol Hill.

President Ronald Reagan held observances in the Rose Garden. President George H. Bush was a guest speaker for several National Day of Prayer events. President Bill Clinton invited guests, including Shirley Dobson, for prayer times at the White House during the National Day of Prayer. President George W. Bush held events regularly for the National Day of Prayer at the White House. However, President Barack Obama has chosen not to personally participate nor host events for the National Day of Prayer at the White House, which seems to be the origin of this widely circulated email. Although he has not participated as his predecessors did, he has written a proclamation for the day of prayer every year of his presidency, which are available on our website, www.nationaldayofprayer.org.

The prayer day task force also states that “[e]very President since 1952 has signed a National Day of Prayer proclamation.” That’s because the day of prayer was established that year by a joint resolution of Congress and signed into law by President Truman. In 1988, President Reagan signed into law an amended version establishing the first Thursday in May as the official day of prayer.

So, Obama couldn’t have cancelled the National Day of Prayer without the approval of Congress.

And even though Obama has never held a public service at the White House on the National Day of Prayer, he has attended and delivered remarks at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., every year that he has been in office. The prayer breakfast, which began in 1953, is held every year on the first Thursday in February.


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Club Flub in PA Senate Race http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/club-flub-in-pa-senate-race/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/club-flub-in-pa-senate-race/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 17:03:44 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=107772 An ad attacking the Democrats’ nominee for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania claims she “gave millions in grants to her husband’s company” while working for the state, and that the couple “pocketed thousands.” That twists the facts.

The grants went to a public charity, which her husband didn’t control. That nonprofit paid him less than $4,000 for work on a project to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.

The misleading ad from Club for Growth Action attacks Katie McGinty, winner of the April 26 Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania. In the general election, she is challenging incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, a freshman senator and former president of Club for Growth. The race is rated a toss-up by the Cook Political Report.

‘Millions in Grants’

The ad’s claim refers to grants made by McGinty’s office when she served as Pennsylvania’s secretary of environmental protection from 2003 to 2008. But the “millions in grants” didn’t go to any “company” owned or controlled by McGinty’s husband, Karl Hausker, as the ad claims. Rather, they went to the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, which is a nonprofit public charity.

PEC had received more than $4 million in grants under two previous administrations, both Republican. And it received $2,661,701 from McGinty’s office.

The grants that were approved included a $291,102 award in 2003 for watershed improvement, of which $3,700 went to Hausker, an environmental expert, for consulting work.

McGinty’s office also rejected other grant applications from PEC totaling more than $4.9 million. Nevertheless, the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission later ruled that Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, should appoint somebody from outside McGinty’s office to oversee any future grant applications from which her husband might receive subcontracting work, to avoid running afoul of the state’s strict conflict of interest laws.


The ad also claims that McGinty worked as a “lobbyist” after leaving government, which she and her former employer deny.

The ad shows an actress portraying McGinty whirling about in a revolving door, while the narrator says, “After leaving government, McGinty becomes a lobbyist. Then, back to the government again.”

It’s true that after leaving the Clinton White House in 1998, where she served as chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, McGinty worked for the law firm of Troutman Sanders for four months in 2000.

During that time, the firm briefly registered her as one of four lobbyists for a pharmaceutical client, Glaxo Wellcome Inc., on issues of environmental quality and regulatory compliance. That was June 28, 2000. However, on Aug. 14, 2000, less than two months later, the law firm filed another report stating that McGinty was “no longer expected to act as a lobbyist.” That report covered the period ending June 30, so technically she was registered to lobby for only three days.

Both McGinty and her former boss at the law firm now deny that McGinty actually did any lobbying. Thomas Jensen, a former managing director at Troutman, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he hired McGinty to be a policy adviser, not a lobbyist. He said she joined the firm on the condition that she would not be required to lobby.

“She was consistent and unequivocal that she would not lobby; she would not work as a lobbyist; she would not be seen to be a lobbyist. … She never wavered. She never bargained around the margins,” the Post-Gazette quoted Jensen as saying. “She clearly had no interest in being a lobbyist. She didn’t want to do it.”

Jensen said the lobby registration had been filed out of “an abundance of caution,” and that he believes it was the result of a paperwork error. The Post-Gazette concluded that there is “no evidence” that McGinty did any lobbying, and rated her denial “mostly true.”

At the end of the ad, the actress portraying McGinty is shown wearing a fur coat and clutching an envelope stuffed with cash. “Katie McGinty has no shame,” the narrator says. We might say the same about those who produce such distorted accusations. Club for Growth Action has flubbed this one.

Correction, May 5: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referenced  the time period McGinty was employed by the law firm of Troutman Sanders. She was employed there from March to July of 2000.


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Hillary Clinton Wasn’t a ‘Birther’ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/hillary-clinton-wasnt-a-birther/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/hillary-clinton-wasnt-a-birther/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 14:28:46 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=107832 Donald Trump again has repeated the false claim that Hillary Clinton “started” the so-called “birther” movement against Barack Obama in 2008.

As we wrote last year, there’s no evidence that Clinton or her campaign had anything to do with bogus claims that Obama wasn’t born in the United States and thus was ineligible to be president.

What we do know, as we wrote in November 2008, is that some of Clinton’s most loyal supporters pushed that theory during that year’s presidential campaign.

Trump previously linked Clinton to the “birther” movement during a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February 2015. On Sept. 22, 2015, he tweeted, “Just remember, the birther movement was started by Hillary Clinton in 2008. She was all in!” He made the claim most recently during a May 4 interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

Trump, May 4: Do you know who started the “birther” movement? Do you know who started it? Do you know who questioned his birth certificate? One of the firsts? Hillary Clinton. She’s the one that started it. She brought it up years before it was brought up by me.

But Trump’s campaign has never provided any evidence that claims that Obama was not born in the U.S. originated with Clinton or her campaign.

In 2011, Politico did publish an article on the origins of “birtherism” that said that it began with Democrats, not Republicans.

Politico, April 22, 2011: The answer lies in Democratic, not Republican politics, and in the bitter, exhausting spring of 2008. At the time, the Democratic presidential primary was slipping away from Hillary Clinton and some of her most passionate supporters grasped for something, anything that would deal a final reversal to Barack Obama.

Philip Berg, a former deputy Pennsylvania attorney general and a self-described “moderate to liberal” who supported Clinton, was among the first to file a lawsuit over Obama’s birth certificate. Berg’s suit was dismissed on grounds that he had no legal standing to file it.

But one of the authors of the Politico story, Byron Tau, now a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, told FactCheck.org via email that “we never found any links between the Clinton campaign and the rumors in 2008.”

The other coauthor of the Politico story, Ben Smith, now the editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed, previously told MSNBC during a 2013 interview that the conspiracy theories traced back to “some of [Hillary Clinton’s] passionate supporters.” But he said the theories did not come from “Clinton herself or her staff.”

On March 19, 2007, then Clinton adviser Mark Penn wrote a strategy memo to Clinton that identified Obama’s “lack of American roots” as something that “could hold him back.” That memo, which was part of campaign documents featured in a September 2008 article in The Atlantic, cited Obama’s “boyhood in Indonesia and his life in Hawaii” as life experiences that made his “basic American values … at best limited.” But Penn’s memo did not question Obama’s birthplace or his birth certificate. It advised Clinton to contrast her life experiences in middle America “without turning negative.”

“We are never going to say anything about his background,” Penn wrote.

If Trump has evidence that proves otherwise, it is long past time for him to produce it.



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Trump’s Education Exaggeration http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/trumps-education-exaggeration/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/trumps-education-exaggeration/#comments Wed, 04 May 2016 23:01:49 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=107741 Donald Trump claimed in an Indiana speech that the U.S. ranks “last in education” and “first in terms of spending per pupil” among 30 countries. He’s wrong on both counts, as measured by federal and international organizations.

The National Center for Education Statistics referred us to three sets of data that measure the performance of U.S. students with their international counterparts in math, science and reading. The U.S. does not finish last in any of the assessments.

As for spending, the U.S. ranked fourth among 33 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries in 2012 behind Switzerland, Norway and Austria in spending per pupil on primary and secondary education. Another way of measuring education spending is as a percentage of GDP, which “allows a comparison of countries’ expenditures relative to their ability to finance education,” as the NCES says in its most recent “Education Expenditures by Country” report. Measured as a percentage of GDP, the U.S. ranked 18th in spending on primary and secondary education in 2012, tied with Canada and Chile, according to OECD data.

U.S. Not ‘Last in Education’

In his speech in South Bend, Indiana, on the eve of that state’s primary, Trump discussed a host of areas in which he claimed “the country is doing terribly.” In several instances, he repeated false statements on subjects such as trade and unemployment, which we will address later. The education claims, however, were new to us.

Trump, May 2:  Now, if you look at education. Thirty countries. We’re last. We’re like 30th. We’re last. So we’re last in education. If you look at cost per pupil we’re first. So we — and by the way, there is no second because we  spent so much more per pupil that they don’t even talk about No. 2. It’s ridiculous.

Trump did not cite a source for his claim, and his campaign did not respond to our request for one. However, we went to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) at the U.S. Department of Education, which is the primary source for education data in the U.S. We were told that there are three international assessments that measure U.S. student performance compared to those in other countries.

The first is the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which the NCES conducts in coordination with the OECD every three years in reading, math, and science for 15 year old students.

Out of 34 OECD countries, U.S. students in 2012 ranked 17th in reading literacy with an average score of 498, which was slightly above the OECD average of 496. The country with the highest average reading score was Japan with 538 and the lowest was Mexico at 424.

The U.S. was below average in math and science on the PISA, but it wasn’t last. The U.S. ranked 27th out of 34 countries in math with an average score of 481. The Republic of Korea ranked first (554 ) and Mexico was last (413). In science, the U.S. ranked 20th with an average score of 497. As with reading, Japan was tops (547) and Mexico was last (415).

The PISA 2012 test results are the most current. The 2015 test results will be released in December.

A second assessment of students is known as Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), which is given every four years to fourth- and eighth-grade students. U.S. 4th graders ranked 11th in math and seventh in science out of 50 countries in 2011, which is the most recent test results available. The U.S. eighth graders also scored above average in TIMSS, ranking 10th in science and 9th in math out of 42 countries. (The data can be found here.)

The executive summary of a report by the TIMSS and PIRLS International Study Center in Massachusetts noted that the U.S. has improved between 1995 and 2011 in both fourth- and eighth-grade TIMSS tests (pages 7-8).

The third and final assessment we reviewed is known as the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), which is administered every five years to fourth-grade students. The U.S. had an average score of 556, and ranked sixth out of 45 countries that participated in the test. Hong Kong had the highest score at 571, and Morocco was last with 310.

By any measure, the U.S. was not “last in education.”

Not First in Spending, Either

Trump also was wrong about U.S. spending on education. It is true that on a per-pupil basis the U.S. spends far more than the OECD average, but Trump is wrong to say the U.S. spends “so much more per pupil” that “there is no second” place. The United States, in fact, spends the fourth highest on primary and secondary education.

The most recent NCES report on “education expenditures by country” relies on 2011 data from the OECD’s Education at a Glance 2014 report (table b1.2). The most recent OECD report – Education at a Glance 2015 – contains 2012 data, so we used that report to get the most up-to-date figures. The latest OECD report shows the U.S. spent $11,732 per full-time student in 2012 – behind Switzerland ($15,512), Norway ($13,611) and Austria ($12,164). (Technical note: Although Luxembourg ranked highest in spending, we excluded that country from our rankings because the NCES says that there are “anomalies in that country’s GDP per capita data.”)

OECD also measures education spending as a percentage of GDP. By that measure (table b2.1) the U.S. spent 3.6 percent of its GDP on primary and secondary education. That was 18th highest, tied with Chile and Canada, among 33 OECD member countries. New Zealand spent the most at 5 percent of GDP and Hungary the least at 2.6 percent.

Still Wrong

Trump also repeated other false claims that we have vetted before:

Trade deficit: Trump claimed that “we have a trade deficit with everybody.” After rattling off China, Mexico, Japan and Vietnam, Trump said, “If you name any country they’re beating us.” We wrote about this last month, when he said it in a debate, and what we said still holds: “The U.S. does run a deficit with all but three of its top 15 trading partners. But the fact is, contrary to Trump’s sweeping claim, the U.S. had positive trade balances last year with Brazil ($4 billion), Netherlands ($24 billion) and Belgium (nearly $15 billion). The U.S. also made money on trade last year with Singapore ($10 billion), Australia ($14 billion) and Argentina ($5 billion), just to cite a few more.”

Campaign funding: Trump once again claimed that he is beholden to no one because  he is “self-funding” his campaign. That’s not accurate. We have written about this before when he made the same claim in the 9th, 10th and 12th debates. As of March 31, Trump has reported $49.3 million in total campaign receipts. Of that, 25 percent — or $12.2 million — has come from individual donors. Now, Trump has loaned his campaign $35.9 million, but by law his campaign can repay that loan if Trump decides to increase his fundraising. We’ll have to wait and see what he will do. To date, he has donated only $317,471 to his campaign.

Unemployment rate: Trump said, “The real job number is 20 percent or more. It’s not 5 percent. That [the official unemployment rate] was put in to make politicians look good. If you stop looking for a job. You’re looking, looking, looking — you stop looking they consider you statistically employed. OK?” We have written about this before, too. The official unemployment rate was 5 percent for March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But BLS does have an alternative measure that it calls the “U-6″ measurement of labor underutilization, which would also include the people Trump said have stopped looking for work — the “marginally attached” (those who have given up looking for a job but had looked for one in the past year) and “discouraged workers” (a subset of the marginally attached who are not currently looking for work, citing market reasons). It also includes the underemployed (part-time workers wanting full-time work). That rate is currently 9.8 percent, not “20 percent or more.”



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Trump’s Tall Tabloid Tale http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/trumps-tall-tabloid-tale/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/trumps-tall-tabloid-tale/#comments Tue, 03 May 2016 23:54:46 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=107744 Trump used a thinly sourced story from the tabloid National Enquirer to make the baseless claim that Ted Cruz’s father “was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald’s being — you know, shot.”

The National Enquirer story hangs largely on comments from a photo expert who said a photo of an unidentified man handing out pro-Fidel Castro leaflets with Oswald has “more similarity than dissimilarity” with a passport photo of Cruz’s father, Rafael.

But that same expert told us in a phone interview that he never claimed the man in the picture with Oswald was definitely Rafael Cruz, only that comparing the man in the photo with a photo of Cruz as a young man revealed “more similarities than dissimilarities.” In fact, he called Trump’s definitive proclamation “stupid.”

The National Enquirer story ran last month under the salacious, front-page headline “Ted Cruz Father Linked to JFK Assassination!” It included a picture of Oswald distributing pro-Castro literature in New Orleans in August 1963, a few months prior to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas. According to the Miami Herald, another man in the picture was never identified by the Warren Commission, whose investigation concluded Kennedy was assassinated by Oswald and that Oswald acted alone.

The tabloid story got legs on May 3 when Trump referenced it in an interview on “Fox and Friends.”

“His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald’s being, you know, shot!” Trump said. “I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous. What – what is this right, prior to his being shot. And nobody even brings it up. I mean, they don’t even talk about that, that was reported and nobody talks about it. But I think it’s horrible, I think it’s absolutely horrible, that a man can go and do that, what he’s saying there.”

Trump later added, “I mean what was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald, shortly before the death – before the shooting? It’s horrible.”

The Enquirer cited two photo experts to make the connection that the unidentified man ​”caught on camera in New Orleans — alongside Lee Harvey Oswald” — was Rafael Cruz.

Central to the story was the analysis of Mitch Goldstone, president and CEO of ScanMyPhotos, a California-based digitizing photo service. He is quoted as saying, “There’s more similarity than dissimilarity. … it looks to be the same person and I can say as much with a high degree of confidence.

Read that carefully. He’s not saying with a high degree of certainty that it’s Rafael Cruz. He’s saying with a high degree of certainty that it “looks to be the same person.” There’s a difference.

We reached out to Goldstone, and he told us by phone, “I stand behind those comments 100 percent.” But he explained that he did not employ facial recognition technology to reach his conclusions, because the photographs are too grainy. Rather, he said, he utilized a tool called FotoForensics to authenticate that the photos had not been digitally altered.

Then he compared, by eye, the photo of the unidentified man in the picture with Oswald with a passport photo of a young Rafael Cruz. Based on features like facial structure and skin texture, he concluded — using a phrase that he repeated numerous times — that there were “more similarities than dissimilarities” in the appearance of the two men.

“They look pretty close,” Goldstone said.

“I never said categorically that it is him,” Goldstone told us. “I said it looks to be more similar than dissimilar.”

Goldstone said that contrary to at least one report he saw, he was not paid by the National Enquirer for his opinion.

“I think anyone who would look at that would come to the same conclusion,” he said.

Goldstone is calling on the Cruz campaign to release all of the photos they have of Rafael Cruz from that period, because “it’d be really helpful” in reaching a conclusive determination.

The National Enquirer story also quotes Carole Lieberman, a University of California at Los Angeles forensic psychiatrist and expert witness based in Beverly Hills, California. She also compared the photos and told the Enquirer that “they seem to match.” We reached out to Lieberman as well, but did not hear back from her.

Regardless, Anil Jain, a computer scientist and expert on facial recognition and biometric identification at Michigan State University, told us not to put much stock in those assessments.

The images are of a poor quality, black and white, and grainy, he said. “It would be very difficult, even for a photo expert, to extract facial attributes,” he said. Any conclusion about similarities is subjective, he said.

As for the features of the people in the pictures being “more similar than dissimilar,” Jain said, “compared to what?” To do such a comparison, you’d need to compare the image with hundreds of others to determine if they are more similar or dissimilar.

“It doesn’t mean anything,” Jain said of Goldstone’s conclusion. “Anyone can make that statement.”

In fact, he said, Rafael Cruz’s flared out ears don’t seem to match those of the unidentified man in the Oswald photo. “There is no scientific basis to say the unidentified person in the Lee Harvey Oswald photo has any similarities with the Rafael Cruz picture. There is no way you can reliably extract any facial characteristics,” Jain said.

And, we would note, even if it were Rafael Cruz in the picture with Oswald, there is no evidence whatsoever that he had anything to do with the Kennedy assassination, despite a headline that claimed “Ted Cruz Father Linked to JFK Assassination!”

The Cruz campaign has vigorously denied that the unidentified man in the photo with Oswald is Rafael Cruz. Cruz called Trump’s claim “kooky.”

“This is another garbage story in a tabloid full of garbage,” Communications Director Alice Stewart told McClatchy. “The story is false; that is not Rafael in the picture.” The Miami Herald reported that while the elder Cruz was once a supporter of Fidel Castro, he turned away from the Cuban leader when Castro declared in 1961 that he was a Marxist.

The Herald’s April 22 story also noted a McClatchy report that quoted Gus Russo, an author and journalist who has written extensively about the JFK assassination and Oswald, as saying the Enquirer report is dubious. Russo told McClatchy in an interview that Oswald, “who was living in New Orleans in 1963, was not connected to the Cuban community there and would not have had a Cuban supporter helping him,” the Herald said.

The Trump campaign did not respond to our inquiries for backup for Trump’s claim.

This is not the first time the Enquirer has injected itself into the presidential campaign. A March Enquirer piece alleged multiple extramarital affairs for Cruz — an accusation that his campaign vehemently denied. Trump also landed a rare endorsement from the publication in March of this year, and has written several op-eds for the magazine. In addition to Cruz, the Enquirer has attacked many of Trump’s other campaign rivals, including Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson and Hillary Clinton.

David Pecker, the CEO of the Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc., has been said to have a close personal relationship with Trump. New York Magazine called them “friends for years,” and the New York Daily News reported that they are “very close.” Trump has voiced support for Pecker in the past, endorsing him to take over Time magazine in 2013. It is worth noting that the Enquirer has also run several less-than-flattering stories on Trump in the past, especially in the 1990s before Pecker came on as CEO.

— Robert Farley, with Joe Nahra


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Cruz Distorts Trump’s Position http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/cruz-distorts-trumps-position/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/cruz-distorts-trumps-position/#comments Mon, 02 May 2016 22:30:57 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=107717 Sen. Ted Cruz mischaracterized Donald Trump’s position on Planned Parenthood, claiming that both Trump and Hillary Clinton “support taxpayer funding for it.”

In August 2015, Trump suggested he might be open to federally funding portions of Planned Parenthood unrelated to abortion, but since then he has been clear in saying he supports entirely defunding Planned Parenthood until it stops performing abortions.

Cruz, who trails Trump in the race for the Republican nomination for president, appeared on all five major Sunday shows on May 1 — what’s known in the business as a “full Ginsburg” because Southern California attorney William H. Ginsburg was the first to pull off the feat in 1998 — and on three of them, Cruz made the same claim about Trump and Democratic front-runner Clinton both supporting taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood. In December, Congress passed a spending bill that again included about $500 million in Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood for health services to low-income people, as well as Title X payments to provide family planning services.

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Cruz argued that Clinton and Trump are “flip sides of the same coin.” As an example, he said, “Donald and Hillary both support taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood.”

Cruz parroted the same lines on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” portraying Clinton and Trump as “rich New York liberals,” and adding that, “Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton agree they think Planned Parenthood is wonderful. They both support taxpayer funding for it.”

And on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Cruz said Trump can’t criticize Clinton on Planned Parenthood, “because he agrees with her. They both say it’s terrific and — and that it should keep taxpayer funding.”

Asked for backup, the Cruz campaign provided a link to a Conservative Review “fact check” on Trump’s alleged support for Planned Parenthood funding. The Feb. 13 article cites two statements from Trump. The first is one Trump made in an Aug. 11, 2015, interview with Chris Cuomo on CNN. The statement suggests Trump might be open to federal funding for portions of Planned Parenthood unrelated to its abortion services.

Cuomo asked if Trump thinks “Planned Parenthood should be funded because of all of the health care that it provides outside of abortions to women, especially women of low means.”

Trump, Aug. 11, 2015: Well, the biggest problem I have with Planned Parenthood is the abortion situation. It’s like an abortion factory frankly. You can’t have it and it shouldn’t be funding and that should not be funded by the government. I feel strongly about that.

That’s my biggest problem with Planned Parenthood because it really — if you look at it and you look at the work they do, it really has become so heavily centered on abortion. You can’t have that.

Cuomo: They say it’s only 3 percent of what they do and the money that does go toward abortions is not the money that comes from the federal government. That they separate —

Trump: What I would do is look at the individual things that they do and maybe some of the things are good, I know a lot of things are bad. But certainly the abortion aspect of it should not be funded by government.

Cuomo: So you would take a look at it before you defund it. That’s what is being asked for right now. Many in your party are doing the opposite. They are saying defund it and then look at it. You’d say look at it first.

Trump: I would look at the good aspects of it. I would also look as I’m sure they do some things properly and good and good for women. I would look at that. I would look at other aspects also, but we have to take care of women. We have to absolutely take care of women. The abortion aspect of Planned Parenthood should not be funded.

The Conservative Review article also cites an interview Trump gave to Sean Hannity on Fox News the following day in which Trump said Planned Parenthood does “good things” apart from abortion services. But Trump had more to say than that, and in fact, foreshadowed his position since then.

Trump, Aug. 12, 2015: Let’s say there’s two Planned Parenthoods in a way. You have it as an abortion clinic. Now that’s actually a fairly small part of what they do, but it’s a brutal part. And I’m totally against it, and I wouldn’t do that. They also, however, service women. … A lot of women are helped. So we have to look at the positives also for Planned Parenthood.

Hannity: But if they are doing abortions, then they can allocate other resources to other things. Why should the taxpayers pay for an organization that …

Trump: Maybe unless they stop with the abortions, we don’t do the funding for the stuff that we want.

That “maybe” became a more definitive campaign position in the following months.

In an interview on “Fox News Sunday” on Oct. 18, 2015, Trump said, “But Planned Parenthood should absolutely be defunded. I mean if you look at what’s going on with that, it’s terrible.”

In an interview on Fox News on Feb. 18, Sean Hannity asked Trump about federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and Trump responded, “I said defund. I didn’t say pay. I said I have a lot of respect for some of the things they do, the cervical cancer on women. They do many, many good things. I know many women …

So, Hannity asked, “no taxpayer money”?

“No,” Trump said, “not while they do abortions. I made that clear.”

On NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Feb. 21, Trump again praised Planned Parenthood for doing “some very good work. Cervical cancer, lots of women’s issues, women’s health issues are taken care of.” But he said as long as it provides abortion services, it should not get any federal funding.

“Planned Parenthood does a really good job at a lot of different areas. But not on abortion,” Trump said. “So I’m not going to fund it if it’s doing the abortion. I am not going to fund it. Now they say it’s 3 percent and it’s 4 percent, some people say it’s 60 percent. I don’t believe it’s 60 percent, by the way. But I think it’s probably a much lower number. But Planned Parenthood does some very good work. But I would defund as long as they’re doing abortions.”

In a Feb. 25 Republican debate, Trump said of Planned Parenthood, “I would defund it because of the abortion factor, which they say is 3 percent. I don’t know what percentage it is. They say it’s 3 percent. But I would defund it, because I’m pro-life. But millions of women are helped by Planned Parenthood.”

(As we have written in the past, abortions represent 3 percent of the total services provided by Planned Parenthood, and nearly 13 percent of its clients received an abortion in 2014-2015 — assuming no person received more than one abortion.)

Trump repeated his position when being questioned by reporters on March 2.

“Look, Planned Parenthood has done very good work for some — for many, many — for millions of women,” Trump said. “And I’ll say it and I know a lot of the so-called conservatives, they say that’s really — because I’m a conservative, but I’m a common-sense conservative. But millions of women have been helped by Planned Parenthood. But we’re not going to allow and we’re not going to fund as long as you have the abortion going on at Planned Parenthood, and we understand that and I’ve said it loud and clear.”

So Trump has fairly consistently praised many of the services provided by Planned Parenthood. And at one time, he suggested that he would “look at the good aspects of it” unrelated to abortion services when considering federal funding for Planned Parenthood. But he has since said — repeatedly — that as long as Planned Parenthood continues to provide abortion services, he would defund it.

That’s a far different position from Clinton, who in August released a video in which she described threats to defund Planned Parenthood as “a full-on assault on women’s health.” In fact, she told Fusion, “I am not only against defunding Planned Parenthood, but I would like to see Planned Parenthood even get more funding.” In January, Clinton said she would “say consistently and proudly, Planned Parenthood should be funded, supported and protected.” Clinton said, “As your president, I will always have your back.”

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Video: Clinton on Marijuana Research http://www.factcheck.org/2016/04/video-clinton-on-marijuana-research/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/04/video-clinton-on-marijuana-research/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 20:04:11 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=107699 This week, CNN’s Jake Tapper, with the help of FactCheck.org, fact-checks Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s claim that “you can’t do any research about” marijuana because it’s a Schedule I drug. That’s false.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration classifies drugs and other substances into five categories depending upon their potential for medical use and abuse or dependency. Schedule I drugs are “the most dangerous” and have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” They include heroin, LSD, marijuana and ecstasy. In contrast, the DEA classifies cocaine, methamphetamine and OxyContin as Schedule II drugs.

In order to conduct research on marijuana, scientists have to obtain the plant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, gain approval of their research protocol from the FDA, and have their lab deemed safe by the DEA. There are additional funding challenges, too, researchers report.

Schedule I classification makes it difficult to conduct research on marijuana, but not impossible, as Clinton claimed.

Watch the full CNN video here. It’s based on our April 22 SciCheck post “Clinton on Marijuana Research.” And keep up with all of the videos produced in partnership between “State of the Union” and FactCheck.org on our website.

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