A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Doubling Down on Falsehoods


Republican presidential candidates Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump were challenged on false claims they made during the second Republican debate, and both doubled down with more misinformation.

During an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Carly Fiorina said she has “seen the footage” of an abortion she vividly described during the GOP debate, even after we and other fact checkers reported that no such footage exists in the undercover videos taken at Planned Parenthood clinics.

As we previously explained, the anti-abortion Center for Medical Progress interviewed a former lab technician at a fetal tissue procurement company who described such a scene, but there was no video of it. The center used stock footage from another anti-abortion organization to illustrate her story. There is no evidence that the video was recorded at a Planned Parenthood clinic or that it was even related to fetal tissue donation.

Trump, meanwhile, insisted that what he said at the debate about not wanting to build a casino in Florida was “100 percent accurate,” despite what fact checkers wrote.

On ABC’s “This Week,” Trump insisted his answer was accurate because he did not personally lobby then-Gov. Jeb Bush on the casino issue. “The question was, ‘Did I call him?'” Trump said on “This Week.” But that was not the question at the debate. In fact, there was no question. Trump interrupted Bush at the debate as the former governor told of Trump’s efforts to build a casino in Florida.

Fiorina and Planned Parenthood

During the second GOP debate, Fiorina described a disturbing scene while arguing to defund Planned Parenthood:

Fiorina, Sept. 16: As regards [to] Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, it’s heart beating, it’s legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.

“Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace asked if she would acknowledge “what every fact checker has found,” that the scene was only described but was not visible in the video. She refused to do so.

Fiorina, Sept. 20: No, I don’t accept that at all. I’ve seen the footage. And I find it amazing, actually, that all these supposed fact checker in the mainstream media claim this doesn’t exist. They’re trying to attack the authenticity of the videotape.

I haven’t found a lot of people in the mainstream media who’ve ever watched these things. I mean, they will claim somebody watched it for them. I will continue to dare anyone who wants to continue to fund Planned Parenthood, watch the videotapes.

We have watched every video released by the Center for Medical Progress. One video — titled “Human Capital — Episode 3” — contains one short clip that does feature a fetus with “its legs kicking” (at the 5:57 mark). But the footage was not shot by the Center for Medical Progress, and there is no indication where the video was taken or for what purpose. The video contains a description of such a scene, as told by interviewee Holly O’Donnell, listed as a former employee of the tissue procurement company StemExpress. We cannot verify whether any or all of her description is accurate.

The clip of the fetus shown by the Center for Medical Progress was actually taken from the Grantham Collection and the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, which is credited on the screen.

We have reached out to the Grantham Collection and the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform and asked for any information regarding the origin of this clip, and what it depicts. In a statement emailed to us, Gregg Cunningham, the executive director of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, said the clip “depicts an intact delivery abortion,” but he declined to identify where it was taken. “[O]ur access agreements forbid the disclosure of any information which might tend to identify the relevant clinics or personnel with whom we work,” he said.

Fiorina is entitled to her opinion on whether Planned Parenthood deserves federal funding. But combining an unsupported anecdote with unrelated footage does not add up to the scene she has repeatedly claims exists on video.

Trump and Florida Casinos

Trump attempted some revisionist history when he defended his comments during the second Republican debate about a casino project in Florida.

Trump interrupted Bush at the debate after the former Florida governor said, “He wanted casino gambling in Florida.” Trump fired back, “I didn’t.”

As we noted in our post-debate analysis, Trump did, in fact, hire a former Florida senate president to lobby on behalf of a multimillion dollar casino with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Other fact-checkers called out Trump’s misstep as well.

But when Trump was asked about the issue on ABC’s “This Week”, Trump recast the testy debate exchange, telling host George Stephanopoulos that he was merely saying that he had never personally lobbied Bush on the issue.

Stephanopoulos, Sept. 20: Let me ask you something else, coming out of the debate. You had that exchange with Jeb Bush about casino gambling in Florida. You said it was totally false that you tried to get casino gambling. …

Trump: No, I never spoke to him, I — is what I said and what I mean. I never called him and said, “Would you do it?” In fact — the governor that — that was after him ultimately approved it. But I never spoke to Jeb. I never called up Jeb. And I said, Jeb, would you do me a favor and approve? If I wanted it, I would have done that….

We — we — we’re looking at deals all over the world. I’m doing deals all over the world. And, yes, we were looking at Florida. But the — ultimately, Charlie Crist, the next governor, approved casino gambling, right after Jeb. But I never called Jeb. The question was, “Did I call him?” I would have called him if I wanted it so badly at that time. It was very premature. It was very early. There were other steps that they had to take and it would have been premature. But I would have called Jeb and I think he might have done it for me, because I did help him. But I never called him and therefore I think I was 100 percent accurate in my answer.

But Trump was not asked during the debate if he personally lobbied Bush. Here is the debate exchange:

Bush, Sept. 16: The one guy that had some special interests that I know of that tried to get me to change my views on something — that was generous and gave me money — was Donald Trump. He wanted casino gambling in Florida.

Trump: I didn’t.

Bush: Yes, you did

Trump: Totally false.

Bush: You wanted it and you didn’t get it because I was opposed to —

Trump: I would have gotten it.

Bush: — casino gambling before —

Trump: I promise if I wanted it, I would have gotten it. …

Bush: When he asked Florida to have casino gambling, we said no.

Trump: Wrong.

Bush: We said no. And that’s the simple fact. The simple fact is —

Trump: Don’t make things up. Jeb, don’t make things up. Come on.

In our fact-check, we noted that a Bush aide confirmed to CNN that Trump never made a personal appeal to Bush, and that there was no proof his fundraising for Bush was tied to casino issues.

But, as the exchange shows, Trump was never asked if he personally lobbied Bush. In fact, Bush said Trump “asked Florida to have casino gambling,” and the real estate developer accused Bush of making things up.

It is certainly fair for Trump to clarify what he meant at the debate, but he went too far in saying that he was responding to a question that in fact he wasn’t asked.

— Dave Levitan and Robert Farley