A look beneath the candidates’ rhetoric

Republican presidential candidates stretched the truth occasionally during Wednesday’s two debates. A review of some of their notable claims and an explanation of how those assertions square with the facts:

Donald Trump: “I’ve never gone bankrupt.”


The facts: The distinction Trump is making here is that his companies have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, which means a company can remain in business while wiping away many of its debts. The bankruptcy court ultimately approves a corporate budget and a plan to repay remaining debts; often shareholders lose much of their equity. Trump personally has not gone “bankrupt,” but as a result of his corporate bankruptcy restructurings, he did have to give up personal assets, such as a yacht, to help make loan payments, and his equity stake in various casinos was reduced.


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Carly Fiorina: “As regards 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, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.”


The facts: No video has surfaced that shows the scene Fiorina describes taking place inside a Planned Parenthood facility. But the third episode of secretly taped videos by the Center for Medical Progress includes an interview with a technician at biotechnology company that had partnered with Planned Parenthood in California to receive aborted fetus parts. The technician described witnessing a scene similar to Fiorina’s description, but it was not actually shown.


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Sen. Ted Cruz: “There are several facilities in Iran they designate as military facilities that are off limit all together. Beyond that, the other facilities, we give them [Iran] 24 days’ notice before inspecting them. That is designed to allow them to hide the evidence. And most astonishingly, this agreement trusts the Iranians to inspect themselves.”


The facts: Cruz repeats two dubious claims about the international nuclear agreement on Iran. Iran’s declared nuclear sites will be under continuous monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency — and the IAEA would have immediate access. The agreement even allows the IAEA monitoring of Iran’s centrifuge production and storage facilities, the procurement chain, and mining and milling of uranium — verification measures that many experts say exceed previous negotiated nuclear deals. At undeclared sites, the IAEA can demand instant access — but Iran could refuse. So the agreement sets up a process to resolve the standoff. But 24 days is the maximum, not the minimum, as Cruz suggested. As for self-inspections, Cruz is referring to a side agreement between Iran and the IAEA about the collection of samples at a military site, which is not subject to regular nuclear safeguard procedures. A disputed media report suggested that Iran would take the samples itself, but other experts have said the process would be overseen by IAEA inspectors. The actual process has not been confirmed.


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Gov. Chris Christie: “As the brand-new, first ever pro-life governor of New Jersey since Roe versus Wade, I defunded Planned Parenthood.”


The facts: This is a shift in Christie’s rhetoric, tying his decision to veto Planned Parenthood funding to his opposition to abortion. A review of news coverage from 2010 and Christie’s vetoes of funding measures for Planned Parenthood clinics shows that Christie previously explained his veto as a measure to balance the state budget — not as an anti-abortion measure. When Christie vetoed $7.5 million in funding for family planning clinics in 2010, he said that the funding was duplicative and that the state could not afford it.


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Trump: “We are spending $200 billion” on immigration


The facts: The source of Trump’s figure is unclear, but it appears to ignore the fact that there are both costs and benefits to illegal immigration — and also to dealing with the issue, especially if all undocumented immigrants are ejected from the country, as he proposes. The Federation for American Immigration Reform says that undocumented immigrants cost U.S. and state governments $113 billion a year in welfare programs. There are benefits as well, because illegal immigrants pay payroll taxes and cannot collect the benefits.


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Gov. Scott Walker: “We balanced a $3.6 billion budget deficit. We did it by cutting taxes $4.7 billion.”


The facts: Walker overstates his success. First, he legally had to balance the state budget. The “deficit” he described is the difference between the amount of money that state agencies were asking to spend and the amount of projected tax revenue. It’s fair to include those requests, but that skews this figure higher. Wisconsin’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau has set the figure at $2.5 billion, without agency requests. The $3.6 billion deficit figure applies only to Walker’s first budget. But his tax-cut figure, $4.7 billion, is over the time he has been governor — since January 2011. This distorts the actual net tax cuts under Walker, which total more like $2 billion.

Washington Post