FactCheck.org http://www.factcheck.org A Project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center Sat, 24 Sep 2016 11:50:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.1 Video: Clinton on Russia’s Nuclear Arms http://www.factcheck.org/2016/09/video-clinton-on-russias-nuclear-arms/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/09/video-clinton-on-russias-nuclear-arms/#comments Fri, 23 Sep 2016 18:24:07 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=114456 This week, CNN’s Jake Tapper examines an exaggerated claim that Hillary Clinton made in a TV ad about “cutting Russia’s nuclear arms” through a treaty signed when she was secretary of state.

As we’ve written before, Clinton is overstating the impact of the 2011 New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) agreement, which limits the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads, or nuclear weapons, that are on long-range (or strategic) launchers. The agreement does not require the U.S. or Russia to destroy nuclear warheads or reduce their nuclear stockpile. In addition, Russia was already below the treaty’s limit on deployed strategic nuclear warheads when the treaty took effect, and Russia has increased the number since then, according to the most recent data available.

The following video is a collaboration between CNN’s “State of the Union” and FactCheck.org. It is based on the article “Clinton Misrepresents Trump Quote,” which also looks at Clinton’s claim that “Donald Trump says he alone can fix the problems we face.”

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Groundhog Friday http://www.factcheck.org/2016/09/groundhog-friday-13/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/09/groundhog-friday-13/#comments Fri, 23 Sep 2016 17:50:56 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=114307 Yes, there were repeated debunked claims yet again in the presidential campaign this week. We summarize our fact-checking of these familiar talking points in our “Groundhog Friday” feature. Follow the links to our original stories for more on each claim.

Groundhog2Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on GOP nominee Donald Trump’s comments on wages, Sept. 21 op-ed in the New York Times: “Donald J. Trump has a different approach. … He has actually said that wages are too high.”

Clinton repeats a claim we heard during the first and second days of the Democratic National Convention, and from other Democrats since then. Trump has not said that overall wages are too high. At a Nov. 10, 2015, GOP debate, Trump was asked about raising the federal minimum wage to $15, and he said he was opposed to that.

“[T]axes too high, wages too high, we’re not going to be able to compete against the world. I hate to say it, but we have to leave it the way it is,” he said. When he was asked about that “wages too high” comment two days later, he told Fox News: “And they said should we increase the minimum wage? And I’m saying that if we’re going to compete with other countries, we can’t do that because the wages would be too high. … The question was about the minimum wage. I’m not talking about wages being too high, I’m talking about minimum wage.”

“Democratic Convention Day 1,” July 26




Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence on Clinton’s gun proposals, Sept. 18 interview on ABC’s “This Week”: “I mean the point that [Trump] was making is that Hillary Clinton has had private security now in her life for the last 30 years, but she would deny the right of law abiding citizens to have a firearm in their homes to protect their own families.”

Trump and his supporters have repeatedly misrepresented Clinton’s position on guns throughout the campaign. She has not proposed abolishing the Second Amendment, nor has she called for a ban on all guns, as Pence implies here. Instead, Clinton’s gun violence prevention proposal calls for expanded background checks and a ban on semi-automatic “assault weapons.”

Clinton said in April, “We aren’t interested in taking away guns of lawful, responsible gun owners,” and she has spoken about the “constitutional rights of responsible gun owners.” Her critics point to past comments that have been distorted. The NRA, which put out a TV ad in August, pointed to Clinton’s statement that “the Supreme Court is wrong on the Second Amendment.” Her campaign confirmed she was referring to the Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision that found Washington, D.C.’s handgun ban was unconstitutional. Clinton “believes Heller was wrongly decided in that cities and states should have the power to craft common sense laws to keep their residents safe,” spokesman Josh Schwerin told us.

“Trump Distorts Clinton’s Gun Stance,” May 10




Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine on Trump’s tax returns, Sept. 20 rally in Exeter, New Hampshire: “This [releasing tax returns] is what every president has done going back, even President Nixon released his tax returns. I mean, if you can’t come up to the standard of President Nixon, the ethical standard, you’ve got a problem.”

As we explained earlier this month, and in a previous edition of Groundhog Friday, comparing Nixon to other presidential candidates isn’t accurate. Nixon did not release his tax returns while he was a presidential candidate. His returns between 1969 and 1972 were eventually released, but only toward the end of his presidency in 1973 amid speculation about tax improprieties. During the 1968 Republican presidential primary, Nixon would only allow a reporter for Look magazine to inspect photocopies of three years worth of his tax returns.

“Kaine Muffs Trump-Nixon Comparison,” Sept. 2




Priorities USA Action quoting Trump, Sept. 7 in a TV ad: “I love war, in a certain way … including with nukes, yes, including with nukes.”

As it did in a previous TV ad, the pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC shows Trump in November 2015 saying, “I love war, in a certain way.” Then, as video of a nuclear explosion is shown on screen, a clip plays of Trump from April 2016 saying, “including with nukes, yes, including with nukes.” The fact that those two statements were made at separate events, several months apart, may not be clear to those who see or hear the ad.

Trump has previously said that he wouldn’t rule out using nuclear weapons as president. But when he said “including with nukes” in that April interview, he was talking about Japan possibly needing nuclear weapons to defend itself against North Korea. Trump wasn’t talking about the U.S. using nuclear weapons, and he wasn’t saying that he “loves” nuclear war.

“Ad Suggests Trump Loves Nuclear War,” June 21


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Pence’s Obsolete Poverty Point http://www.factcheck.org/2016/09/pences-obsolete-poverty-point/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/09/pences-obsolete-poverty-point/#comments Wed, 21 Sep 2016 14:19:56 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=114310 Old talking points die hard. Mike Pence is still claiming that the number of people living in poverty has gone up by 7 million under President Obama, nearly a week after the news came out that 3.5 million escaped poverty last year alone.

At a campaign event in Dubuque, Iowa, on Sept. 19, the GOP vice presidential nominee said:

Mike Pence, Sept. 19: We have the lowest labor participation rate since the 1970s, when I got out of high school. And, most shockingly of all, today there are more than 7 million Americans more living in poverty than the day that Barack Obama became president of the United States.

Pence has been using that 7 million figure for some time. He sent it out via Twitter on Sept. 8, getting his words a bit garbled.

Technically, Pence’s claim wasn’t true even then. He was referring to the poverty level in 2014, not “today.” There’s a big difference. We won’t know what the 2016 figure is until it’s released in September 2017.

But there’s no excuse for continuing to use his outdated talking point nearly a week after the Sept. 13 release of new poverty figures covering 2015, showing the largest one-year drop in the official poverty rate in 16 years.

As shown in the U.S. Census Bureau’s historical tables, the number living in poverty last year was 43,123,000, or 13.5 percent of the entire U.S. population. Compared with the number in poverty in 2008, the difference is 3,294,000 — less than half the 7 million figure Pence incorrectly claims. And the poverty rate plunged 1.2 percentage points from 2014 to 2015, the biggest drop since 1999.

Also worth noting is that the U.S. population grew by more than 17 million between 2008 and last year. As of last year, the poverty rate was a mere 0.3 percentage points higher than it was in 2008.

As for the labor force participation rate — the percentage of the population age 16 and older that is working or looking for work — Pence was correct to say that it recently has been at the lowest levels since the 1970s, when large numbers of women were flooding into the workforce.

What Pence failed to acknowledge was that the rate peaked in 2000, and has gone down mostly because of predictable demographic factors, including the postwar baby-boom generation reaching retirement age.

Pence also failed to mention that lately the labor force participation rate has been going up, not down. In August the rate was 62.8 percent of the population age 16 and older, up from 62.4 percent 11 months earlier. But why spoil a dramatic-sounding talking point by getting into the facts?


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Does Zika Cause Blindness? http://www.factcheck.org/2016/09/does-zika-cause-blindness/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/09/does-zika-cause-blindness/#comments Tue, 20 Sep 2016 17:58:33 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=114115 Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid claimed that Zika “affects everyone” — not just pregnant women and their babies — because recent research found that it “causes people to go blind.” That’s false. Temporary vision impairment is a symptom of Zika, but no adults have gone blind because of the virus.

In fact, one author of a study cited by Reid’s office told us his study “did not claim” that Zika causes blindness. The study found that the virus “infects specific target cells in different regions of the eye.” Some infected mice in the study experienced inflammation, but none went blind.

However, studies have shown that severe vision impairment is a Zika-related birth defect.

SciCHECKsquare_4-e1430162915812The Zika epidemic first began in Brazil in May 2015. The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a global public health emergency in February 2016. The first locally acquired infections in the U.S. were reported in Puerto Rico on Dec. 31, 2015, and in Florida on July 29, 2016.

On Aug. 12, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency in Puerto Rico. On Aug. 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also advised pregnant women to avoid an area of Miami where health officials had identified local Zika transmission. The CDC defines a “local” case as one transmitted through a mosquito bite on U.S. soil.

Zika spreads “primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito,” says the CDC. The virus can also be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy and through sex and blood transfusions. However, the CDC is investigating whether Zika also spreads via bodily fluids, such as saliva, vomit or urine.

On Feb. 22, President Obama submitted a request to Congress for $1.9 billion in emergency funding to combat Zika, but Republicans and Democrats in Congress have yet to agree on legislation. In the partisan battle, Republicans and Democrats, including Reid, have blamed each other for stalling the legislation, although a compromise could come as early as today.

Reid made some additional comments concerning Zika that aren’t exactly accurate. We will address those, too, but first we will focus on his claim about blindness.

Zika and Vision 

Reid exaggerated what scientists know about the health effects of Zika on vision on at least three occasions — on the Senate floor, while answering questions posed by the press and during a news conference.

Reid, Sept. 7, on the Senate floor: One of America’s pronounced scientists today said that now Zika affects everybody. Zika is now infecting eyes – the virus goes in people’s eyes and leads to vision impairment and blindness. So it’s not just women of child-bearing age. It is going to affect a lot of people.

Reid, Sept. 7, answering press questions: One of the op-eds today was from a physician, well known, reputable professor. He said he’s very concerned because they keep finding new things that this virus affects. For example, eyes. Now, in certain cases, they’ve proven that the virus goes into people’s eyes and certainly impairs your vision and causes people to go blind. … It doesn’t affect only women of child-bearing age. It affects everyone.

Reid, Sept. 8, during a news conference: Yesterday we learned that scientists have found that the Zika virus goes into people’s eyes causing blindness and a lot of visual impairment.

To be clear, many people who contract Zika have little or no symptoms. When individuals do have symptoms, they last around a week and can entail fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis, or pinkeye.

But “Zika infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects and is associated with other pregnancy problems,” explains the CDC. Zika can cause underdeveloped heads and brains (microcephaly) in newborns. The virus is also “linked to other problems in infants,” such as eye defects, hearing loss and impaired growth.

When we contacted Reid’s office, Dan Yoken, Reid’s deputy communications director, referred us to a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Ian Lipkin, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University.

Lipkin’s piece mentions nothing about Zika-related blindness or vision impairment in adults or newborns, though he does discuss the potential wider societal costs of a generation of children born with Zika-related defects.

Yoken also referred us to two research papers, one published in Cell Reports on Sept. 6, and another published in The New England Journal of Medicine on July 28. Neither of them directly supported Reid’s claims about Zika and blindness.

In fact, we contacted the authors of the first paper, and Michael S. Diamond, an expert in infectious diseases and virology at Washington University in St. Louis, told us his study “did not claim” that “the Zika virus goes into people’s eyes causing blindness and a lot of visual impairment,” as Reid said.

What did the researchers find?

After infecting mice under the skin with Zika, the group found that the virus “infects specific target cells in different regions of the eye.” The scientists also uncovered Zika’s genetic material in the tears of mice, which suggests the virus could be transmitted through this bodily fluid. Like humans, some infected mice in their study experienced inflammation in different regions of the eye, including conditions such as panuveitis and conjunctivitis, or pinkeye. None of the mice went blind.

It’s worth noting that a study published in the Journal for the American Medical Association Ophthalmology on Sept. 15 confirmed Zika genetic material on the eyes of human adults.

The July study cited by Reid’s office outlined the case of a man in his early 40s whose vision in one eye dropped from 20/40 to 20/60 acuity after contracting Zika, a condition called uveitis. After treatment, the man’s vision returned to 20/40. In other words, he didn’t go blind, and his vision was only impaired temporarily. If untreated, this condition can lead to permanent vision loss.

Likewise, the September Cell Reports paper also explains, “The most common form of ZIKV-induced ocular disease is conjunctivitis, which occurs in 10% to 15% of [human] patients, but whether conjunctivitis is a direct consequence of ZIKV infection of the eye is not known. In contrast, ZIKV-induced uveitis is less common, although it has been described in humans.”

When we contacted Reid’s office again to point out that the cited research didn’t support Reid’s claims, Yoken responded by stating, “We don’t yet know all the effects of the Zika virus. Senator Reid was citing published research into the virus that has raised questions about Zika and how it affects vision and the eye. Sen. Reid could have been more exact in describing the results of the [Cell Reports] study.”

We agree on all accounts.

It’s worth mentioning that at least three studies have shown that mothers infected with Zika during pregnancy can give birth to babies with severe vision impairment. However, the generalizability of these studies is limited, given that one study evaluated vision impairment in one child, a second study examined three children, and a third study evaluated 29 babies. The last study found vision abnormalities in roughly a third of the babies considered.

An author on the third study, Rubens Belfort Jr., told CNN, “These are severe retina lesions that will impede the ability of the children [in his study] to see well.” An expert in ophthalmology at the Federal University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, he added, “Many of these children could be blind.”

In fact, on Sept. 6, Reid did correctly summarize Zika-related birth defects when he said on the Senate floor that newborns with Zika also suffer from “vision impairment.”

To be clear, we do not aim to minimize the gravity of the Zika epidemic. And we agree with Reid when he said that “we need more study” in order to understand the effects of the virus on both newborns and adults. But at present, there isn’t conclusive research to support Reid’s statements on Sept. 7 and 8.

Other Zika Claims

On Sept. 6 on the Senate floor, Reid said, “2,000 Puerto Ricans are infected each week” with Zika. The number of new Zika cases peaked at roughly 1,900 infections in the second week of August, according to the territory’s health department.

Screen Shot 2016-09-16 at 3.58.43 PM

As of Sept. 15, Puerto Rican health officials have confirmed 19,967 cases of Zika infection total. The U.S. territory also has seen one fetus born with Zika-related birth defects.

When we asked about Reid’s claim, Yoken cited a Sept. 2 article from NBC’s Dallas-Fort Worth station, which states: “Some 2,000 people a week are getting infected and, if current trends hold, a quarter of the island’s 3.5 million people could get Zika by the end of this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

But as of Sept. 14, the CDC also stated: “The Puerto Rico Department of Health is retroactively reporting cases, resulting in larger than normal increases in cases in recent weeks.” The territory has seen roughly 570 new infections on average each week since the first case was confirmed on Dec. 31, 2015.

To be clear, the number of actual infections may be higher than the number of reported cases. For example, CDC Director Tom Frieden told STAT, a health and science news website, in June that as many as 2 percent of adults in the territory could be infected monthly.

While Reid’s statement may turn out to be correct once all the data come in, at this point 2,000 cases per week is not quite right.

Reid also claimed, “The Centers for Disease Control predict by the end of the year 25 percent of Puerto Rico’s population will be infected by Zika.” But that’s a worst-case scenario prediction, the CDC told us.

Yoken of Reid’s office pointed us to a Wall Street Journal article from June 8 that did state, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 25% of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million population will be infected with Zika by the end of 2016,” quoting Tyler Sharp, a CDC epidemiologist based in San Juan.

But Benjamin Haynes, a spokesman for the CDC, told us by email, “The projection of 25% was based on ‘worst case’ projections based on weekly incidence and looking at the spread of chikungunya in previous outbreaks. Obviously interventions can affect that number and it’s too soon to tell. The projection was more of a ‘could be’ if the rates of transmission continued to accelerate at the same pace. That also assumes there are no interventions or preventive measures in place to slow the spread of the virus.”

Lastly, Reid exaggerated the extent to which Zika has spread in the continental U.S. when he said, “Local transmission of Zika was confirmed in Florida and elsewhere.”

According to the CDC, local transmission of the virus has taken place only in Florida. As of Sept. 15, the state’s health department has reported 77 locally acquired Zika infections. Ten non-Florida residents have also contracted the virus while visiting the state.

Yoken told us by email that “Senator Reid misspoke” when he said “and elsewhere,” pertaining to Zika’s spread in the continental U.S. “This was corrected in our released remarks,” Yoken added.

Editor’s Note: SciCheck is made possible by a grant from the Stanton Foundation.


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Trump Surrogates Spin ‘Birther’ Narrative http://www.factcheck.org/2016/09/trump-surrogates-spin-birther-narrative/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/09/trump-surrogates-spin-birther-narrative/#comments Mon, 19 Sep 2016 22:42:08 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=114244 New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie falsely claimed that Donald Trump did not question President Barack Obama’s birthplace “on a regular basis” after the president produced his long-form birth certificate in April 2011.

In fact, Trump continued for years to traffic in baseless rumors that Obama was not born in the U.S.

Trump tweeted in 2012 that an “extremely credible source” told him the president’s birth certificate “is a fraud,” and suggested in 2014 that Obama’s college records would show his real “place of birth.” He even cast conspiratorial doubts on the sudden death of the Hawaii health director in 2013, two years after she approved the release of Obama’s long-form birth certificate.

Trump’s history of questioning Obama’s birth certificate dates to at least 2011, when the businessman was contemplating a run for president.

Obama in 2008 produced his official “Certification of Live Birth” — which FactCheck.org staffers touched, examined and photographed, as we wrote in our “Born in the U.S.A.” article. In 2011, Trump insisted — falsely — that Obama’s “Certification of Live Birth” was “not a birth certificate,” when in fact it satisfies the legal requirements for proving citizenship and obtaining a passport. We covered that and other false claims Trump was making at the time in our story “Donald, You’re Fired!

After Trump revived the so-called birther movement in 2011, Obama received an exemption from the Hawaii Department of Health to release his long-form birth certificate. Obama produced the form on April 27, 2011, as reported in our story “Indeed, Born in the U.S.A.

Christie insisted on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Trump in 2011 accepted that Obama was born in Hawaii, when in fact Trump for years continued to question the authenticity of the long-form birth certificate.

CNN’s Jake Tapper, Sept. 18: I want to ask you about this birther thing, because you, as governor, as a politician, you have stood up to some of the darker impulses in American politics. You have been clear for a long time that Barack Obama was born in the United States. Donald Trump, by contrast, he clung to the birther lie for years. He still isn’t apologetic about it. Do you understand why so many people, including African Americans, are upset with him over the issue?

Christie: Oh, listen, I made my position on it really clear a long time ago. And Donald has now made his position on it clear, which is that, after the president presented his birth certificate, Donald has said he was born in the United States, and that’s the end of the issue.

It was a contentious issue and, by the way, an issue that Patti Solis Doyle of the Clinton campaign in 2008 has recently admitted was an issue that Mrs. Clinton also injected into her campaign in 2008 in a very quiet, but direct way, against then Senator Obama.

And so, you know, the birther issue is a done issue. I have said it’s a done issue for a long time. And Donald Trump has said it’s a done issue now. And so we need to move on to the issues that are really important to the American people.

And, Jake, I got to tell you the truth. If you think that anyone is going to vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or against either one of them based upon this issue, then I think there’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the concerns of the American people. Let’s move on to the real issues.

Tapper: Well, just as a point of fact, again, Donald Trump did not accept when Barack Obama released his birth certificate in 2011. He kept up this whole birther thing until Friday. That’s five years. But we only have a little time left. So, I want to ask you …

Christie: No, but, Jake, that’s just not true. It’s not true that he kept it up for five years.

Tapper: Sure, he did.

Christie: It’s simply not true.

Tapper: It is true.

Christie: It wasn’t like he was talking — no, Jake, it wasn’t like — it wasn’t like he was talking about it on a regular basis until then.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus made a similar claim on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” Priebus said that Trump at his Sept. 16 campaign event “came out and said, listen, I was involved in trying to figure this out as well, and I have determined that the president was born in Hawaii, just like I have said for years.”

Christie and Priebus are both wrong. Trump perpetuated the false narrative for years after Obama presented his long-form birth certificate on April 27, 2011.

ABC News tallied up 67 instances in which Trump tweeted or retweeted comments that questioned the legitimacy of Obama’s birth certificate. In some cases, Trump also promoted discredited conspiracies advanced by some of the most ardent believers in the “birther” falsehood.

On Aug. 6, 2012, Trump tweeted that an “extremely credible source” told him the president’s birth certificate “is a fraud.”

On Dec. 12, 2013, Trump tweeted about the death of Loretta Fuddy, the Hawaii health director who approved the release of Obama’s long-form birth certificate in 2011. Trump used quotes around “birth certificate” and implied that Fuddy’s death was part of the birther conspiracy.

The autopsy revealed that the 65-year-old woman died of an irregular heartbeat from the stress of the crash, as the Associated Press reported.

On Sept. 6, 2014, Trump was on Twitter again, urging hackers to “hack Obama’s college records (destroyed?) and check ‘place of birth.’”

In this tweet, Trump advanced a long-discredited claim that Obama applied for and received a college scholarship for foreign students. It was, in fact, an April Fools’ Day hoax.

As we wrote more than seven years ago, a viral email circulated a fake Associated Press story dated April 1, 2009, that said Obama’s college transcripts from Occidental College showed he applied for and obtained a Fulbright scholarship for foreign students. The email called it the “smoking gun.” But the AP at the time gave us a statement calling the story a fake. The story also claimed that the United States Justice Foundation investigated Obama’s campaign spending and found evidence the campaign misused funds to “block disclosure of any of [Obama’s] personal records.” But the executive director of that group told us in an email, “It’s all a hoax.”

During the presidential campaign, Trump refused to answer questions about Obama’s birthplace — until Sept. 16. A year ago, for example, comedian Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show” asked Trump: “I’m going to throw you a big, fat meatball. This is the last time you ever have to address this question if you hit the ball. Barack Obama, born in the United States?” Trump replied, “I don’t talk about it anymore.”

More recently, Trump refused to answer the question in an interview with the Washington Post on Sept. 15, a day before he finally acknowledged that Obama was born in the U.S.

It’s simply preposterous for Priebus to claim that Trump has been saying “for years” that Obama was born in the U.S., and for Christie to claim it is “not true” that Trump kept the conspiracy theory alive for years after the president produced his long-form birth certificate.

Christie is also off base when he says that Clinton’s 2008 campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle, “has recently admitted [it] was an issue that Mrs. Clinton also injected into her campaign in 2008 in a very quiet, but direct way, against then Senator Obama.” That’s not what she said.

In a Sept. 16 interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Solis Doyle said that a “rogue volunteer coordinator” in Iowa was fired when the campaign found out that the aide forwarded an email promoting the birthplace conspiracy. Solis Doyle called the incident “beyond the pale,” saying she called Obama campaign manager David Plouffe and apologized for it. “This was not the kind of campaign we wanted to run,” she said she told Plouffe.


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Sept. 17: Paid Leave, ACA, Post-Recession http://www.factcheck.org/2016/09/sept-17-paid-leave-obamacare-post-recession/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/09/sept-17-paid-leave-obamacare-post-recession/#comments Sun, 18 Sep 2016 00:50:31 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=114481
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Groundhog Friday http://www.factcheck.org/2016/09/groundhog-friday-12/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/09/groundhog-friday-12/#comments Fri, 16 Sep 2016 22:05:00 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=113926 We give a rundown of repeated claims in our “Groundhog Friday” feature. This week’s edition includes claims on jobs, Iran, the trade deficit and income inequality. Follow the links to our original stories for more on each claim.

Groundhog2Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Obamacare and jobs, Sept. 13 rally in Des Moines, Iowa: “I am going to ask Congress to send me a bill to immediately repeal and replace disastrous Obamacare – this will instantly save another 2 million jobs.”

Repealing the Affordable Care Act wouldn’t “save another 2 million jobs.” Trump’s false claim is now a years-old twisting of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s analyses of the ACA.

The CBO has estimated a decline in the amount of labor workers choose to supply — not a reduction in the number of jobs — in response to mainly the insurance-expansion provisions of the ACA. CBO’s December 2015 report, which Trump’s campaign cited when he made this claim in August, describes workers deciding to work fewer hours or retire earlier than they otherwise would mainly in response to the law’s income-based subsidies and other coverage-expanding provisions. The report says it all amounts to a reduction in the supply of labor equal to 2 million full-time equivalent workers in 2025. It’s not a loss of 2 million jobs.

We’ve written about Republicans distorting CBO’s analyses on this topic since 2011.

“Trump’s Economic Speech,” Aug. 9



Trump on unemployment, Sept. 15 speech in New York: “Right now, 92 million Americans are on the sideline outside of the workforce, and they’re not a part of our economy. It’s a silent nation of jobless Americans.”

As he has done when he wildly inflated the unemployment rate or exaggerated the unemployment of African American youth, Trump wrongly implies the number of people not in the labor force are all unemployed, or “jobless.” They’re not. They include retirees, teenagers, stay-at-home parents, and anyone else age 16 and over who doesn’t need or want to work.

To be counted as officially “unemployed” by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a person without a job must have tried to find employment in the four weeks before the BLS survey is taken. The labor force includes everyone who is employed and unemployed. So, those who are “not in the labor force” aren’t working and haven’t looked for work in the past month.

That number was 94.4 million as of August — a bit higher than the figure Trump uses — but of those individuals, only 5.8 million said they want a job, according to BLS data.

The labor force participation rate has been going down for years, but as we have written before, the change is mostly due to demographic factors, such as the retirement of post-World War II baby boomers. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, is 4.9 percent.

“Trump Wildly Inflates Unemployment,” Feb. 10

“Trump’s Economic Speech,” Aug. 9




Trump on Iran and nuclear weapons, Sept. 12 speech to the National Guard Association in Baltimore: Hillary Clinton “won’t take accountability … for putting Iran on a path to nuclear weapons.”

Trump made this claim in his convention speech, but as we said then, Iran was already on a path to nuclear weapons before Clinton became secretary of state in January 2009.

The disagreement between the candidates is over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which is designed to lengthen the “breakout” time, or the amount of time that it takes to assemble a bomb. The plan has lengthened that time: Prior to the agreement, it was thought to be months, but now it is more than a year for at least 10 years, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

Critics like Trump say the delay is only temporary. “While the agreement lengthens Iran’s breakout time today, restrictions on Iran’s program begin to lift within a decade,” the American Israel Public Affairs Committee said in July, marking the one-year anniversary of the deal.

Clinton supported the deal with Iran, but left the State Department in February 2013, more than two years before the agreement was struck.

“FactChecking Trump’s Big Speech,” July 22



Trump on trade deficit, Sept. 9 speech in Pensacola, Florida: “Our trade deficit with the world, with the world, all this world, our trade deficit with the world is almost $800 billion a year.”

Trump again overstated the size of America’s yearly trade deficit. As we wrote just last week, “The U.S. trade deficit was $531.5 billion in 2015. Trump’s ‘nearly $800 billion’ number involves a generous rounding-up and pertains to the trade deficit for goods only, which was $758.9 billion in 2015. The U.S. exports a lot in services, so leaving that out doesn’t provide the whole story on the trade deficit, as we’ve written before.”

“FactChecking the 11th GOP Debate,” March 4



Trump on income, Sept. 9 speech in Pensacola, Florida: “Household incomes are over $4,000 less today than they were 16 years ago.”

As we noted last month, this claim is based on outdated Census data from 2014. The Trump campaign reached this figure by citing annual Census data for inflation-adjusted median household income. At the time of Trump’s comment, the most recent estimate from the Census was that real median household income was $53,657 in 2014 – down from $57,724 in 2000. That is where the “more than $4,000” figure comes from.

But Sentier Research provides more up-to-date household income estimates using the monthly Current Population Survey, a different statistical series from the Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics. Sentier’s most recent report placed the inflation-adjusted median household income at $57,190 in July — slightly below the $57,802 it was in January 2000, which is when this statistical series started. That’s a difference of just $612 — not more than $4,000.

On Sept. 13, four days after Trump’s comment, the Census released its 2015 estimates of income and poverty in the United States. It determined that median household income was $56,516 last year, which is only $1,274 below the inflation-adjusted figure for 2000.

“Trump’s Economic Speech,” Aug. 9



Former President Bill Clinton on income inequality, Sept. 9 speech in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: “Well over 90 percent of the income gains have gone to just the top 1 percent.”

The former president repeats a Clinton camp talking point that’s outdated. And we’ve already written about it in a couple editions of “Groundhog Friday.”

The talking point was accurate for 2009 to 2013, based on the work of economist Emmanuel Saez of the University of California, Berkeley. But Saez’s most recent figures show that the top 1 percent of families captured 52 percent of the income growth from 2009 to 2015. That’s also the case for 1993-2015.

“FactChecking Clinton’s Big Speech,” July 29



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Kaine Twists Words of GOP Rivals http://www.factcheck.org/2016/09/kaine-twists-words-of-gop-rivals/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/09/kaine-twists-words-of-gop-rivals/#comments Fri, 16 Sep 2016 20:22:02 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=114088 In a speech in Michigan, Tim Kaine cherry-picked the words of his Republican opponents, Donald Trump and Mike Pence, to leave a misleading impression of their public statements on military service members and white nationalist David Duke.

  • Kaine quoted Trump as saying, “the American military is a disaster,” as evidence Trump was “dissing 2 million young men and women” soldiers. But Trump was referring to the depletion of military resources, not the men and women who serve in the military.
  • Kaine said that Pence responded, “I don’t want to get into the name-calling business,” when asked if David Duke is “deplorable.” True, but Pence also said the Trump campaign doesn’t want Duke’s support or “the support of people who think like him.”

Kaine made his comments during a speech in Michigan on Sept. 13. In both cases, Trump and Pence uttered the words Kaine attributed to them. But in both cases, Kaine left out key context.

Military Is a ‘Disaster’

The Michigan speech was not the first time Kaine has criticized Trump for describing the military as “a disaster.” Kaine has pointed out this quote, which Trump made in a January primary debate, in numerous interviews and speeches.

Here’s what Kaine said in Michigan:

Kaine, Sept. 13: Donald Trump has a different approach. Donald Trump, on the military, repeatedly he has said, quote, “The American military is a disaster.” Now as a Blue Star family, when you hear somebody dissing 2 million young men and women who volunteer in time of war, risking their lives and their health, and just saying, well, they’re a disaster, it infuriates me.

Blue Star families are those that have members serving in the military. Kaine is a Blue Star parent because his eldest son, Nathaniel, is a U.S. Marine.

But was Trump “dissing” the men and women who serve in the military when he said, “Our military is a disaster”? Here’s the context of his comment.

Trump, Jan. 14: I’m very angry because our country is being run horribly and I will gladly accept the mantle of anger. Our military is a disaster. Our healthcare is a horror show. Obamacare, we’re going to repeal it and replace it. We have no borders. Our vets are being treated horribly. Illegal immigration is beyond belief. Our country is being run by incompetent people. And yes, I am angry. And I won’t be angry when we fix it, but until we fix it, I’m very, very angry.

If those were Trump’s only words on the matter, perhaps his meaning would be unclear. But on numerous occasions, both before and after that debate, Trump has made it clear that he is not criticizing the men and women who serve in the military, but rather elected officials who he says have left the military “depleted.”

For example, in remarks at a National Guard Association convention on Sept. 12, Trump made clear that his beef is with elected leaders who he believes have underfunded the military and left it “depleted,” not with active military members, who he called “the greatest men and women on earth.”

Trump, Sept. 12: My plan calls for a major rebuilding of the entire military and the elimination of the defense — and we have to do this so quickly, it’s a disaster — of the defense sequester. It is a disaster. Have no choice, it is a disaster. It’s called depletion. We have been depleted as a military, we can’t let that happen. The greatest men and women on Earth, but we have been depleted by what’s taken place.

In a speech in North Carolina the same day, Trump referred to military members as “heroes” who are “a permanent testament to the courage and character of our nation.”

During the NBC “commander-in-chief forum” on Sept. 7, Trump again made clear that when he criticizes the military, he is not disparaging the members serving in the military.

Trump, Sept. 7: We have a depleted military. We have the greatest people in the world in our military. But it is very sadly depleted.

Trump’s criticism of military funding has been a steady theme throughout his campaign, both before and after his comment in question at the debate.

For example, Trump said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” on Sept. 20, 2015, several months before the “disaster” comment at the debate, “Our military is not the same as it was, obviously. It’s being depleted. I see it in the real estate business all the time. I’m getting listings for Army bases and naval bases and everything. They’re selling so much — so many things in so many places. And I say to myself, what’s going on?”

Trump had used similar language — that the military is “depleted” — going back to at least August 2015.

The Clinton-Kaine campaign told us that some could interpret Trump’s debate comment about the military as a slight to active service members, because he did not clarify that he was not talking about military members. And certainly some service members may be offended by Trump’s assessment of the military’s capability. But Trump’s comments both before that debate and numerous times since then have made it clear that Trump’s criticism is not of military members, but of the military condition due to funding.


Is Duke ‘Deplorable’?

In a defense of Clinton’s comment that half of Trump’s supporters are a “basket of deplorables,” Kaine also misleadingly cherry-picked comments from Pence about David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard now running for U.S. Senate.

Duke has said he supports Trump’s candidacy, and he has praised a number of Trump’s policy positions, including on immigration. He told his listeners in a February radio interview that “voting against Donald Trump at this point is really treason to your heritage.”

Kaine seized on that support as evidence that some who support Trump do in fact fall into that “deplorable” category mentioned by Clinton. Kaine said Clinton “advanced the notion that if you’re chumming around with the head of the Ku Klux Klan or people that have that tie, that’s deplorable. You’ve got to call that out.”

Kaine, Sept. 13: And so Donald Trump says, well, that — you know, how insulting of Hillary to make that point. And so last night, on a news program, Wolf Blitzer asked his running mate, so is David Duke, you know, with all his connections with the Ku Klux Klan, is David Duke deplorable? Quote, “I don’t want to get into the name-calling business.”

If you cannot call out bigotry, if you cannot call out racism, xenophobia, it’s — if you can’t call it out and you stand back and you’re silent around it, you’re enabling it to grow.

It’s true that in an interview on CNN on Sept. 13, Blitzer asked Pence if he would call David Duke “deplorable,” and Pence replied, “I’m not in the name-calling business.”

But Pence wasn’t “silent” about Duke in the interview. Pence also said, “Donald Trump has denounced David Duke repeatedly. We don’t want his support and we don’t want the support of people who think like him.”

Here’s the exchange:

Blitzer, Sept. 13: But she said there are supporters — and you know this — there are some supporters of Donald Trump and Mike Pence who — like David Duke for example, and some other white nationalists, who would fit into that category of deplorables, right?

Pence: Well, as I’ve told you the last time I was on, I’m not really sure why the media keeps dropping David Duke’s name. Donald Trump has denounced David Duke repeatedly. We don’t want his support and we don’t want the support of people who think like him.

Blitzer: So you’d call him a deplorable? You would call him that?

Pence: Well, that — no. I don’t — I’m not in the name-calling business, Wolf. You know me better than that. What Hillary Clinton did Friday night was shocking. I mean the — the millions of people who support Donald Trump around this country are not a basket of anything. They are Americans. And they deserve the respect of the Democrat nominee for president of the United States.

People are free to take issue with Pence’s decision not to characterize Duke as “deplorable.” Republican Sen. Mike Lee, who has refused to endorse Trump, was among those who chastised Pence for not calling Duke’s views deplorable. But when Kaine singles out Pence’s comment about not wanting to name call, but omits Pence’s denunciation of Duke, it leaves a misleading impression of Pence’s public stance.

As for Kaine’s comment, “if you’re chumming around with the head of the Ku Klux Klan or people that have that tie, that’s deplorable,” the campaign told us he was referring to Duke, though he was not implying that Trump himself has been “chumming around” with Duke, only that some of Trump’s supporters have.

Trump repeatedly has been asked about David Duke. In one of the first instances during the campaign, Trump told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he didn’t know anything about Duke. As we wrote then, that’s nonsense. We found instances of Trump criticizing Duke in 1991 and again in 2000, when he called Duke, “a bigot, a racist, a problem.” Trump later said he had an issue with a “bad earpiece” in the CNN interview, and he has since repeatedly disavowed Duke, and renounced support from any white supremacists.


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Trump on Birtherism: Wrong, and Wrong http://www.factcheck.org/2016/09/trump-on-birtherism-wrong-and-wrong/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/09/trump-on-birtherism-wrong-and-wrong/#comments Fri, 16 Sep 2016 18:51:39 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=114141 Donald Trump finally, definitively allowed that “President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.” But his terse statement on the matter included two falsehoods.

“Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it,” Trump said in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 16. Neither of those things is true.

As we have written before, 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 diehard Clinton supporters pushed that theory during that year’s presidential campaign. But again, there is no evidence that either Clinton herself or anyone on her campaign staff was involved in that.

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.

Again, if there is evidence that Clinton or her campaign had something to do with the origins of the so-called birther movement, we’ve yet to see it. And Trump has never offered any proof.

Trump is also wrong to say he “finished” what he called the “birther controversy.” The issue was long settled, as we wrote repeatedly, even before Trump prominently injected himself into the birther movement in April 2011, as he was mulling a presidential run.

Back in 2008, the Obama campaign had made public the official birth certificate issued by the state of Hawaii. FactCheck.org staffers touched, examined and photographed that document, as we wrote in our “Born in the U.S.A.” article. Trump claimed in 2011 that the official “Certification of Live Birth” that Obama produced in 2008 was “not a birth certificate,” but we noted then that he was wrong. The U.S. Department of State uses “birth certificate” as a generic term to include the official Hawaii document, which satisfies legal requirements for proving citizenship and obtaining a passport.

The Obama birth certificate, held by FactCheck.org writer Joe Miller in 2008.

The Obama birth certificate, held by FactCheck.org writer Joe Miller in 2008.

And there was more evidence than that.

There also were public announcements of Obama’s birth published in Hawaii newspapers shortly after his birth in 1961 (placed there not by his family, as Trump suggested, but based on official state records). And the state’s top vital records official, Dr. Chiyome Leinaala Fukino, director of the Hawaii Department of Health, issued a statement in 2009 stating that she had “seen the original vital records maintained on file” and that those records, which are confidential under state law, verified that “Barack Hussein Obama was born in Hawai’i and is a natural-born American citizen.

On April 27, 2011, just a few weeks after Trump began floating some of his bogus conspiracy theories about Obama’s birthplace, President Obama released the long-form version of his birth certificate. At the time, Obama said he sought release of the confidential long-form birth certificate from the Hawaii Department of Health so that the nation could focus on more serious matters. “We do not have time for this kind of silliness,” he said.

So while Trump may have an argument that he played a role in getting Obama to release his long-form birth certificate, he’s wrong to say that he “finished” the debate. It was already finished, at least to our satisfaction.

And if Trump had “finished it” by pressuring Obama to release a long-form birth certificate, at least one person was apparently unconvinced: Trump.

As Buzzfeed noted, Trump tweeted in August 2012 that “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud.” In September of that year, Trump shared via Twitter an article claiming the birth certificate was fake. In a June 2014 tweet, Trump boasted, “I was the one who got Obama to release his birth certificate, or whatever that was!” And in 2013 he retweeted someone who alleged the long-form birth certificate was “a computer generated forgery.”

We’re glad to hear that Trump is now convinced Obama was born in the U.S. But his claims about the issue continue to stray from the facts. There’s no evidence that either Clinton or anyone on her campaign staff “started it.” Nor did Trump “finish it.” If anything, Trump continued to perpetuate the issue long after it was settled.


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Video: Ivanka Wrong on Paid Leave http://www.factcheck.org/2016/09/video-ivanka-wrong-on-paid-leave/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/09/video-ivanka-wrong-on-paid-leave/#comments Fri, 16 Sep 2016 14:49:29 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=114127 Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka wrongly claimed that the Trump Organization provides paid maternity leave to all of its employees. The policy isn’t available to all of the employees of Trump’s many businesses, as CNN’s Jake Tapper explains in this week’s fact-checking video.

Ivanka Trump, an executive vice president of the Trump Organization, said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that her father’s company provides paid maternity leave to all of its employees. But the Huffington Post reported that employees at the “Trump SoHo, New York and Miami hotels, as well as the Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida, all said that they do not offer workers paid maternity leave.” Huffington Post also cited an undated employee manual for the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas, which said that workers could get unpaid family leave, as federal law required, and that employees must use vacation days and personal days toward that leave.

The company later acknowledged that “policies and practices … vary from property to property.” Our story “Trump on Clinton’s Child Care Plan” covers Ivanka Trump’s claim and other false claims made by her and her father about Clinton’s child care plan.

All of CNN’s fact-checking videos, which are done in partnership with FactCheck.org, are available on our website.



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