A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactChecking Debate No. 1

Summary
McCain and Obama contradicted each other repeatedly during their first debate, and each volunteered some factual misstatements as well. Here’s how we sort them out:

Obama said McCain adviser Henry Kissinger backs talks with Iran “without preconditions,” but McCain disputed that. In fact, Kissinger did recently call for “high level” talks with Iran starting at the secretary of state level and said, “I do not believe that we can make conditions.” After the debate the McCain campaign issued a statement quoting Kissinger as saying he didn’t favor presidential talks with Iran.

Obama’s Iraqi Accounting Oversight

Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly conducted a sit-down interview with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama that is airing in four installments. (Parts three and four of the interview will air tonight and tomorrow night.)
The first segment was broadcast Thursday, and we noticed an accounting error on Obama’s part. When speaking about how much the U.S. is spending in Iraq, Obama added, “They’ve got $79 billion,” alluding to Iraq’s financial deposits and budget surplus. But that’s false.

Uranium in Iraq

Q: Was it recently revealed that the U.S. found uranium in Iraq after the invasion in 2003?
A: No. Uranium recently shipped from Iraq to Canada was left over from Saddam Hussein’s defunct nuclear weapons program and had been in sealed containers, under guard, since the end of the first Gulf War in 1991. Claims that this material is "vindication" for President Bush’s WMD claims in 2003 are completely false.

U.S. Government Paying Former Insurgents?

Q: Is the U.S. government paying factions in Iraq not to fight us?
A: We are paying Iraqis, some of whom were formerly hostile insurgents, to police areas and fight terrorists.

DNC vs. McCain

Summary

The Democratic National Committee has produced two TV ads against McCain, hoping to soften him up while the party figures out who its own presidential nominee will be.

One ad shows selected portions of McCain’s comments that a 100-year U.S. presence in Iraq would be "fine with me." The ad uses dramatic images of war and violence, and omits any mention that McCain was speaking of a peaceful presence like that in Japan or Korea.

Cleveland Clinkers

The Clinton-Obama showdown debate in Cleveland produced several false, twisted or dubious claims, most of which we’ve heard and debunked before. Both Obama and Clinton claimed their health care plans would cut costs more than the other’s, and that experts back them up on that. But experts we talked to said the plans are too similar to predict which would save more, and two experts said neither plan can save nearly as much as the candidates claim.

No WMDs in Iraq

Q: Were there really weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when the U.S. invaded in 2003?
A: No. The Iraq Survey Group determined that Iraq had abandoned its quest to develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and that it had already destroyed all of its existing stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.

Smear or Be Smeared?

Summary

The Democratic National Committee proposes to spend unlimited amounts of money to "tell the real story" about John McCain before Republicans can "start smearing" the eventual Democratic nominee. But the line of attack the Democrats outline to their potential donors in an e-mail contains some claims that are false or misleading.

The DNC paints McCain as favoring "endless war" in Iraq. What McCain actually said is that he wouldn’t mind a hundred-year troop presence "as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed."

Obama’s Creative Clippings Part Deux

Summary
The Obama campaign’s new ad uses an old trick and takes quotes from newspapers out of context.

Once again, the campaign uses a quote from a news story to say Obama’s health plan would offer universal coverage. But the full article points out that his plan "does not guarantee" full coverage.
The ad also shows a clip saying that Obama has been against the war in Iraq since the beginning. True enough, but the story also chastises him for making too much of the boldness of his early stance.

U.S. Intelligence on WMDs in Iraq

Q: What was known to U.S. intelligence and Congress about WMDs in Iraq before the vote to go to war?
A: Senior U.S. intelligence officials believed, incorrectly, that Iraq had stockpiles of chemical and germ weapons and was developing nuclear weapons. They also agreed Saddam Hussein wouldn’t give such weapons to terrorists unless attacked. Few members of Congress read the full 92-page report with all its qualifications and dissents.