The Fact Checker: Herman Cain

Fact checking the CNN national security debate

Hello, “Steve Gates.” While Rep. Michele Bachmann may have trouble living that blooper down, here are some of the more dubious assertions and facts we heard at the fascinating CNN debate Tuesday night, organized with the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation. We examine 15 statements in all, and as is our practice, may come back to do a deeper look in the coming days.

“This is one thing we know about Barack Obama: He has essentially handed over our interrogation of terrorists to the ACLU. He’s outsourced it to them. Our CIA has no ability to have any form of interrogation for terrorists.”

— Rep. Michele Bachmann

Bachmann’s rhetoric is over the top here. The American Civil Liberties Union has actually been critical of President Obama for continuing many Bush-era anti-terror policies. On the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the ACLU issued a report entitled, “A Call to Courage: Reclaiming Our Liberties Ten Years after 9/11.”

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Fact checking the South Carolina debate

The GOP candidates met for a debate Saturday night sponsored by CBS and the National Journal, with a specific focus on foreign policy and national security. In foreign policy, there is often no right or wrong answer; the results of a policy are often ambiguous and its effectiveness is usually only determined by history. Still, there were a number of statements made by the candidates that were factually challenged, exaggerated or lacking context.

“It’s ironic to me that [Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak, who had been our ally for years, who had done everything he could to help the United States, who had helped us in the Iraq campaigns, who had done literally everything we had requested of him, he was dumped overnight by this administration in a way that signaled everybody in the world, don’t rely on the United States because they’ll abandon you in a heartbeat if they feel like it.”

--Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich

Whether Gingrich is right depends on your definition of “overnight.” At the time, the Obama administration was perceived as acting too slowly and hesitantly to the gathering forces for change in Egypt that began on Jan. 25, in part because of the reasons that Gingrich outlined in his comment. In fact, as we have documented, Obama had even cut back funding for democracy efforts in Egypt in order to curry favor with Mubarak.

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Fact checking the CNBC debate

(Paul Sancya/AP)

Well, we’re glad we don’t have to fact check the number of federal agencies Texas Gov. Rick Perry wants to eliminate. Though the CNBC debate may only be remembered for the very awkward moment when Perry could only name two of the three on his list, here are some of the more dubious facts we heard last night — some of which were suggested by readers using #factcheckthis on Twitter or our Facebook page. As always, we may look deeper at some of these issues later in the week.

“I have never done any lobbying [for Freddie Mac]. Every contract was written during the period when I was out of the office, specifically said I would do no lobbying, and I offered advice. And my advice as a historian, when they walked in and said to me, “We are now making loans to people who have no credit history and have no record of paying back anything, but that’s what the government wants us to do,” as I said to them at the time, this is a bubble. This is insane. This is impossible.”

— Newt Gingrich

While it is not readily apparent what Gingrich may have privately told Freddie Mac executives in exchange for his $300,000 consulting fee, the Associated Press reported in 2008 that “Gingrich talked and wrote about what he saw as the benefits of the Freddie Mac business model.”

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Herman Cain’s rewriting of birth-control history

Bob Schieffer: OK. I want to ask you, since we're on the subject of abortion, there was, at one point back there when the question of Planned Parenthood came up, and you said that it was not Planned Parenthood, it was really planned genocide because you said Planned Parenthood was trying to put all these centers into the black communities because they wanted to kill black babies --

Herman Cain Yes.

Schieffer:  -- before they were born. Do you still stand by that?

Cain: I still stand by that.

Schieffer: Do you have any proof that that was the objective of Planned Parenthood?

Cain: If people go back and look at the history and look at Margaret Sanger's own words, that's exactly where that came from. Look up the history. So if you go back and look up the history -- secondly, look at where most of them were built; 75 percent of those facilities were built in the black community -- and Margaret Sanger’s own words, she didn’t use the word "genocide," but she did talk about preventing the increasing number of poor blacks in this country by preventing black babies from being born.

Schieffer: So you would not see any advantage to having young mothers get counsel and advice that Planned Parenthood could give them? I mean, with so many black babies born out of wedlock --

Cain:  There are a lot of centers that offer sincere counseling rather than Planned Parenthood claiming to be those centers when, in fact, they would rather for the young lady to come in and say they want to get an abortion and facilitate that. Plenty of centers out there genuinely do that. What I'm saying is Planned Parenthood isn’t sincere about wanting to try to counsel them not to have abortions.

— exchange on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” October 30, 2011

There’s a lot to chew over in this conversation between “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer and GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain, in which Cain tried to emphasize his opposition to abortion rights after giving contradictory answers the week before. Given the emotions involved in the abortion debate, we venture into this issue with trepidation.

 But we are interested in historical accuracy, and Cain urged people to “go back and look at the history and look at Margaret Sanger’s own words” to find the evidence that she wanted to “kill black babies.”

 So let’s examine what the founder of Planned Parenthood actually said, and whether 75 percent of Planned Parenthood’s facilities were built in African American communities. (The Cain campaign did not respond to a request for clarification about whether he was speaking about the past or currently, so we will examine both.)


The Facts

 Margaret Sanger (1879-1966) was a birth-control activist who founded what is now known as Planned Parenthood. Birth control — a phrase Sanger coined — was illegal in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century, and a major goal was to make it available to all women, not just the rich who could afford devices purchased in Europe.

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Herman Cain and abortion: Flip-flop-flip?

(Scott Olson/GETTY IMAGES)
“I am pro-life from conception... I don’t believe government should make that decision.”

— Herman Cain, interviewed by John Stossel on Fox Business, Oct. 11, 2011

“What it comes down to is not the government’s role or anybody else’s role to make that decision. Secondly, if you look at the statistical incidents, you’re not talking about that big a number. So what I’m saying is it ultimately gets down to a choice that that family or that mother has to make.”

— Cain, during an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan, Oct. 19, 2011

  “That first clip that you played was taken out of context... I simply said, if you get pushed to that extent, the family isn't going to be thinking about what the laws are at that point. They're going to be thinking about their family member and that baby. That's what I mean by it was taken out of context.”

Cain, on Fox and Friends, Oct. 24, 2011

Confused yet by Herman Cain’s position on abortion?

 Politics 101 says that any major-party candidate needs to have a position on abortion — and then stick to it. Just mouth the exact same sentence over and over again and you won’t get in trouble.

 Cain has violated that rule repeatedly in recent weeks. We dare you to watch the clips below and tell us whether he’s for abortion rights or against them. In both cases, he actually sounds vaguely pro-choice.

 So were his words taken out of context, as he claimed Monday?


The Facts 

Here’s the transcript of what Cain said on CNN:

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Fact checking the CNN Republican debate in Las Vegas


The Republican debate hosted by CNN’s Anderson Cooper Tuesday night was certainty lively and at times feisty. Here’s a tour through some of the “facts” tossed around by the candidates. We may come back to some other facts later in the week.

“And all of the claims that are made against [Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan], it is a jobs plan. It is revenue neutral. It does not raise taxes on those that are making the least. All of those are simply not true.”

— Business executive Herman Cain

Cain constantly asserts this about his plan — which would institute a 9 percent income tax, a 9 percent business transaction tax and a 9 percent sales tax — but the respected and nonpartisan Tax Policy Center on Tuesday issued the first comprehensive report on the impact of the “9-9-9” plan on individual taxpayers.

While the report said that the tax plan appeared to raise the same amount of revenue as the current system, it said that the bottom 80 percent of taxpayers, including the working poor, would see a tax increase while the wealthiest Americans would earn big tax cuts. So Cain is flat wrong when he asserts it will “not raise taxes on those making the least.”

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Herman Cain’s 999 plan: a misleading pitch


“9-9-9 will pass, and it is not the price of pizza because, it has been well-studied and well-developed… The problem with that analysis [that it will not raise enough revenue] is that it is incorrect. The reason it's incorrect is because they start with assumptions that we don't make. Remember, 9- 9-9 plan throws out the current tax code. ... Now, what 9-9-9 does, it expands the base. When you expand the base, we can arrive at the lowest possible rate, which is 9-9-9.”

— Herman Cain, Washington Post-Bloomberg debate, October 11, 2011

 A family of four making $50,000 a year “are still going to have some money left over.”

— Cain, on MSNBC, October 12, 2011

It almost sounds like something out of the movie “Dave,” in which the accidental president enlists his accountant friend, Murray Blum, to help him figure out the federal budget.

 During Tuesday’s Washington Post-Bloomberg debate, Herman Cain, the former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza, named Rich Lowrie of Cleveland as “my lead economist” who helped develop Cain’s signature “9-9-9” plan for overhauling the federal tax system. “He is an economist, and he has worked in the business of wealth creation most of his career,” Cain said.

 Actually, according to Lowrie’s Linked-In profile, he has a bachelor’s degree in accountancy from Case Western Reserve University, not economics. Lowrie, in an e-mail, said he did not consider himself an economist, just “senior economic advisor” to the Cain campaign. Donor information maintained by shows he has donated $1,500 to Cain in 2010 and 2011, but also contributed $2,300 to Mitt Romney in his first run for the presidency in 2007.

Okay, so Cain may have exaggerated the qualifications of his economic guru. But he has forcefully defended his ‘9-9-9’ plan, both during Tuesday night’s debate and on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown” on Wednesday. Many readers have asked us to examine the plan and explain it, so let’s take it for a test drive.


The Facts

 The “9-9-9” label is actually a bit of misnomer. Cain would toss out much of the current federal tax code and replace it, eventually and only temporarily, with three taxes — a 9 percent income tax, a 9 percent business transactions tax and a 9 percent federal sales tax. On paper, the first two look like cuts, because payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare (now nearly 15 percent, including corporate contributions) would be repealed. The sales tax would be new, on top of existing state sales taxes.  

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Fact Checking the Post-Bloomberg debate

Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. speaks during the presidential debate sponsored by The Washington Post and Bloomberg at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, on Tuesday. Talk show host Charlie Rose moderates the event, featuring eight Republican candidates. (Toni Sandys - THE WASHINGTON POST)
That was certainly a fascinating debate Tuesday night sponsored by The Washington Post and Bloomberg. We posted 13 fact checks during the debate, assisted by Post reporters Josh Hicks and Lori Montgomery, and as is our practice will possibly delve more deeply into some issues in the coming days.

“Mr. Cain, in the past, you've been rather critical of any of us who would want to audit the Fed. You said — you've used pretty strong terms, that we were ignorant and that we didn't know what we were doing, and therefore there is no need for an audit anyway because if you had one you're not going to find out everything because everybody knows everything about the Fed.”

— Ron Paul to Herman Cain

“First of all, you have misquoted me. I did not call you or any of your people ‘ignorant.’ I don't know where that came from…Now, so you got to be careful of the stuff that you get off the Internet because that's just not something that I have said.  And I have also said, to be precise, I do not object to the Federal Reserve being audited.”

— Cain’s response

It seems Cain has forgotten his own words. We did do some Internet research, and found that Ron Paul had uploaded this clip below on Monday. (Talk about a gotcha question!) You can listen to the clip, but here is what Cain said:

"Some people say that we ought to audit the Federal Reserve. Here's what I do know. The Federal Reserve already has so many internal audits it's ridiculous. I don't know why people think we're gonna learn this great amount of information by auditing the Federal Reserve. I think a lot of people are calling for this audit of the Federal Reserve because they don't know enough about it. There's no hidden secrets going on in the Federal Reserve to my knowledge.”

Okay, so he didn’t say “ignorant.” But he certainly implied it.

“While this country was losing 2½ million jobs, Texas was creating 1 million jobs.”

— Rick Perry

The Texas governor is playing three-card monte with these figures. You have to look quickly to figure out how he manipulates the statistics.

During Obama’s presidency, the nation has lost about 2 million jobs (The number varies by about 800,000 depending on whether you count January 2009; Obama took office on Jan. 20.)

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