Republican debate: Fact checking the candidates’ claims


Presidential candidate Donald Trump at the GOP debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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WASHINGTON (Nov. 11, 2015) — The Republican candidates for president gathered in Milwaukee for their fourth debate Tuesday, and CNN’s Reality Check team spent the night putting their statements and assertions to the test.

The team of reporters, researchers and editors across CNN selected key statements and rated them: True; Mostly True; True, but Misleading; False; or It’s Complicated.

Jeb Bush

Reality Check: Bush says Clinton moved left on Keystone, TPP

By Marshall Cohen, CNN

Jeb Bush on Tuesday night accused Hillary Clinton of moving to the left on two key issues.

“She is a captive of the left her party to the point now where she was for the (Pacific) trade agreement, now she is against it. She hinted she was for the (Keystone) XL pipeline, now she’s opposed to it.”

Bush is correct that the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Keystone pipeline have played a major role in the Democratic primary campaign. And Clinton has faced pressure from her liberal critics to oppose Keystone and TPP. So did Clinton really flip on both issues?

As secretary of state, Clinton said she was “inclined to support” the Keystone XL pipeline. She also said TPP “sets the gold standard” for future trade deals. She did hedge her bets on both issues, and was careful with her comments, but she made it clear during her tenure that she was leaning in favor of both Keystone and TPP.

During her presidential campaign, she faced countless attacks from Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders and she eventually moved to the left on both issues. Clinton announced her opposition to the Keystone pipeline in September, saying it would harm the environment. One month later, she came out against TPP.

Verdict: True

Donald Trump & Carly Fiorina

Reality Check: Who met Putin?

By Tom LoBianco, CNN

When it comes to U.S.-Russian relations, a little chest-puffing is hardly new. But two Republicans vying for the White House did some exaggerating of their own with their claims of meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I got to know him very well because we were both on ’60 Minutes,’ we were stable mates. We did well that night,” Trump said Tuesday night.

Trump also implied last month that the two had spent some time in together before the show in comments last month on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“I think the biggest thing we have is that we were on ’60 Minutes’ together and we had fantastic ratings. One of your best-rated shows in a long time,” he joked. “So that was good, right? So we were stable mates.”

Fiorina took a swipe at Trump when she responded later and, in the process, overstated Trump’s claim.

“One of the reasons I said that I would not be talking to Vladimir Putin right now, although I have met him as well, not in a green room for a show, but in a private meeting,” Fiorina said.

Trump never directly said that the two met, but he did imply it. But that’s not the case. The Putin interview was conducted in Putin’s home in Russia.

On the other hand, Fiorina has met Putin. Though something that Fiorina leaves out of her recollection of meeting with Putin: she praised the Russian leader following their meeting in 2001, before the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation conference, when she praised his leadership and the promise for a new Russia.

“I keep wondering how it is that I got positioned to speak in the slot before the President of the Russian Federation — on the subject of change, no less, ” Fiorinia said, according to a copy of the speech posted on Hewlett Packard’s website. “Hewlett-Packard has been at the center of a lot of change in our 62-year history. But President Putin was elected president in the first democratic transition in Russia in 1,000 years. Talk about giving new meaning to the word ‘invent.'”

Verdict for Trump: False

Verdict for Fiorina: True

Carly Fiorina & Ted Cruz

Reality Check: Fiorina and Cruz on the size of the tax code

By Marshall Cohen and Julie In, CNN

The length of the U.S. federal tax code came up at least twice in the debate.

Asked about tax policy, Carly Fiorina said that “innovation and entrepreneurship is crushed by the crushing load of a 73,000-page tax code.”

So that begs the question: Is the tax code really that long?

Fiorina is likely referring to an oft-cited report from CCH, a leading tax research company. The report is used by tax professionals and it is more than 72,000 pages long. However, it includes much more than the actual tax code. It contains thousands of pages of regulations, legal analysis and explanations.

When you look at the actual tax-related statues passed by Congress, as published by the Government Printing Office, it comes out to 2,652 pages, according to the Tax Foundation.

Verdict: False

Along the same theme, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said, “There are more words in the IRS code than there are in the Bible.”

The IRS’s Taxpayer Advocate Service recognizes the complexity of the tax code, noting in its 2014 Annual Report to Congress that the code has “reached nearly 4 million words.” The calculation was made by utilizing Microsoft Word’s “word count” feature and leaving in components such as amendment descriptions and cross-references.

Most sources agree that the King James Bible contains almost 800,000 words.

Cruz is correct in stating that the IRS code contains more words than the Bible (in this case, the King James Version).

Verdict: True

Rand Paul

Reality Check: Paul on Democrats presiding over income inequality

By Kevin Liptak, CNN

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul alleged during the debate that income inequality “seems to be worst in cities run by Democrats, states run by Democrats and counties currently run by Democrats.”

A look of Census data provides a clear picture of where the gap between rich and poor is greatest in the United States, and it’s not as cut-and-dry as Paul suggests when it come comes to political responsibility.

For starters, the elected leaders in states and cities have switched from Democrat to Republican, or vice versa, over time. Policies enacted by politicians from both parties have contributed to each place’s current economic picture.

The most commonly used indicator for income inequality is the Gini index, which uses wage data to assign a number to each location. According to Census data, the five metropolitan areas with the greatest income gaps are Bridgeport, Connecticut; New York City; Miami; McAllen, Texas; and New Orleans.

Three of those cities are currently run by Democrats; the other two are led by Republicans.

In the states, the picture is similarly mixed. The state with the highest score on income inequality is New York, where a Democrat has governed since 2007. Before that, a Republican held office for a decade.

Next on the list in Connecticut, where a Democrat has occupied the statehouse since 2011, preceded by 15 years of Republicans.

Louisiana is third, currently helmed by a Republican governor but previously governed by Democrats. California and Florida — two more states that have had governors from both parties over the past two decades — round out the top five.

Among the 10 states with the highest income disparity, six currently have Republican governors.

On the other end, Republican governors led seven of the 10 states with the lower levels of income inequality.

While Democrats do run cities and states where income inequality is high, Republicans do too. It’s not accurate to say Democrats are predominantly in charge of places where it’s the highest.

Verdict: False

Donald Trump

Reality Check: Trump on ‘Operation Wetback’

By Sonam Vashi, CNN

Billionaire Donald Trump claimed Dwight Eisenhower successfully deported 1.5 million immigrants after sending them deep across the border.

Trump said, “Dwight Eisenhower … moved a million and a half illegal immigrants out of this country, moved them just beyond the border. They came back. Moved them again, beyond the border. They came back. Didn’t like it. Moved them way south. They never came back.”

Eisenhower’s policy, named “Operation Wetback,” was implemented in 1954 and deported undocumented immigrants deep into Mexico. Many of the undocumented had come through wartime Bracero programs, when American labor needs led to a policy that allowed Mexicans to come to the U.S. for temporary agricultural work. When the temporary contracts were not renewed, many workers became illegal.

The exact number that the operation deported is unclear. Eisenhower’s attorney general, Herbert Brownell, Jr., said in 1955 that the operation had deported 1 million people, but other researchers put that number closer to 250,000. Between 1953 and 1955, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service recorded more than 800,000 apprehensions, according to Mae M. Ngai’s “Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America.” Some research shows that more Mexicans may have left the U.S. voluntarily due to fears of apprehension.

However, Trump never mentioned the inhumane practices that occurred when the INS deported the workers back into Mexico in the 1950s. The transfer process was widely criticized as inhumane. Some deportees were transported in over packed trucks or were dropped off without resources in the desert and died from heat stroke; others drowned after transport on overloaded ships, according to Ngai’s book.

Verdict: True, but misleading

Ben Carson

Reality Check: Carson on minimum wage and unemployment

By Tami Luhby, CNN Money

Asked whether he supports a $15 hourly minimum wage, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson said, “Every time we raise the minimum wage, the number of jobless people increases.”

Whether raising the minimum wage prompts businesses to shed jobs remains a matter of debate. Many studies exist on either side of the argument. But there’s at least one case where the jobless rate went down: In 1997, the minimum wage increased to $5.15 an hour, from $4.75 an hour. At the start of that year, there were 7.2 million Americans without jobs. The number of unemployed subsequently fell each month until October 2001. There have been other times when the number of jobless was lower a year after Congress raised the federal minimum wage: 1950, 1961, 1967, 1978 and 1996.

Verdict: False

Mike Huckabee

Reality Check: Huckabee on corporate taxes paid on goods made in China

By Sonam Vashi and Eve Bower, CNN

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee said, “China is beating the daylights out of us. They can build stuff we can’t because they are not taxing it. When they don’t tax capital and labor, and we do. They bring something over here and it’s automatically cheaper even without the regulatory environment because they are not embedding the taxes. We are.”

Huckabee claims that China does not tax capital. The definition of “capital tax” varies widely, and can refer specifically to corporate income tax or other types of capital, or both. If “capital” is understood as being all of a corporation’s capital, exclusive of spending, it is correct that China does not have a “capital tax,” according to a 2015 report on taxation in China by the international consulting firm Deloitte. Contrary to Huckabee’s claim, however, the United States does not have a federal “capital tax” either, according to a 2014 Tax Foundation report. China does have a corporate income tax rate of 25%, whereas the U.S. rate is 35%.

Huckabee’s claim about taxes on labor is also incorrect. According to the World Bank, in 2014, Chinese businesses paid an effective labor tax rate of 49.3%. Businesses in the United States paid a far lower effective tax rate at 9.7%.

Verdict: False

Reality Check: Huckabee on firing the chair of the Federal Reserve

By Tami Luhby, CNN Money

Asked whether he would change leadership at the Federal Reserve, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said “absolutely.”

So, could Huckabee get rid of current chair Janet Yellen when he takes office? Yes, but he’ll have to wait until February 2018, a year into his presidency. That’s when Yellen’s term ends.

As much as they may disagree with the Federal Reserve chair, neither the president nor Congress can fire any member of the Fed Board of Governors in the middle of their terms.

Fed governors serve 14-year terms. The president appoints the chair every four years.

Verdict: True

Chris Christie

Reality Check: Christie stopped Obamacare in New Jersey

By Kevin Liptak, CNN

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, defending his record in resisting President Barack Obama’s signature health law, said “we stopped Obamacare in New Jersey because we refused to participate in the federal exchange.”

That quote itself is false — no governor is able to refuse participation in the federal health insurance exchange created by the Affordable Care Act.

Christie likely meant that as governor, he refused to establish a statewide health insurance exchange. In December 2012, he vetoed a measure that would have created such an exchange in the Garden State. Like many Republican governors, Christie resisted establishing such a marketplace because of his deep opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

But that doesn’t mean New Jersey residents aren’t able to participate in Obamacare. Without a state exchange, consumers rely in the federal marketplace accessed on

Indeed, thousands of New Jersey residents have obtained health plans that way. The latest estimate from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services indicates 194,194 people in New Jersey had signed up for plans through the federal marketplace.

Christie’s assertion also omits another aspect of the Affordable Care Act, in which the federal government expanded Medicaid for low-income American adults. States had to opt-in to the expansion, and many Republican governors resisted since they claimed their states would end up paying more down the road.

Christie announced in 2013 he would accept the federal Medicaid expansion for his state.

Since then, Medicaid enrollment in New Jersey has increased 36%. More than 1.7 million New Jersey residents are in Medicaid and CHIP, the children’s health insurance plan, up more than 463,000.

Christie himself has touted the decision to accept the expansion dollars on the campaign trail, saying it was “the right decision for New Jersey.”

Verdict: False

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