A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactChecking Graham


Sen. Lindsey Graham has joined the field of candidates vying for the Republican presidential nomination. Graham, who has served in Congress for more than 20 years, made the announcement today in his home state of South Carolina.

Here’s a look back at our past fact-checking of Graham’s statements.

In March, Graham was wrong when he said that the labor participation rate “is at an all-time low.” It was lower between 1948 and 1978.

The labor force participation rate — “the percentage of the population [16 years and older] that is either employed or unemployed (that is, either working or actively seeking work),” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — was 62.8 percent in February, the lowest since March 1978. But the rate was even lower for every month between 1948 and 1978.

The labor force participation rate has been declining for more than a decade, and economists expect that trend to continue. Among the reasons: Baby boomers are retiring; more young people are choosing college over the workforce; and women’s participation rate has been slowly declining after a rapid rise from 1950 to 1999.

In January, Graham claimed that the Obama administration has a policy of “not interrogating or detaining terrorist suspects anymore.” That’s not accurate. The administration still detains and interrogates terrorist suspects. What it doesn’t do is subject such suspects to indefinite interrogation at Guantanamo Bay.

Graham opposes that change in policy at Guantanamo Bay. His office sent us two articles about suspected terrorists who would face criminal charges in U.S. court, an action that didn’t preclude interrogation. Graham opposed the decision to not transfer the two suspects to Guantanamo for indefinite interrogation. Instead of transferring detainees to Guantanamo, the Obama administration’s High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, created in 2009, puts together interrogation plans on a case-by-case basis. In some cases, that has involved indefinite interrogation in international waters. The Associated Press reported in 2013 that “[i]nstead of sending suspected terrorists to Guantanamo Bay or secret CIA ‘black’ sites for interrogation, the Obama administration is questioning terrorists for as long as it takes aboard U.S. naval vessels.”

Graham made another exaggerated statement about suspects at Guantanamo in April 2013, when he said that “all the information” that led to the capture of Osama bin Laden came from “enemy combatants held at Guantanamo Bay.” At a May 2, 2011, Defense Department briefing, a senior intelligence officer said that “key information was gleaned from detainees” about bin Laden’s “courier network,” but that “other sources … helped with the final intelligence picture” that led to his capture and death.

Then-CIA Director Leon Panetta has given similar accounts. He wrote in a May 2011 letter to Sens. John McCain and Dianne Feinstein that “no detainee in CIA custody revealed the facilitator/courier’s full true name or specific whereabouts. This information was discovered through other intelligence means.”

We’ll continue to follow Graham’s speeches and appearances on the campaign trail, as we will for the growing list of presidential candidates.

— Lori Robertson