The final presidential debate once again demonstrated Donald Trump’s thin grasp of the facts and his willingness to make poorly sourced or inaccurate claims. Hillary Clinton, for the most part, was more factually accurate.
Here’s a roundup of 24 of the more notable claims. As is our practice, we do not award Pinocchios when we do a roundup of claims in debates.
“We have 33,000 people a year who die from guns.”
Clinton is essentially right: There were nearly 34,000 firearm deaths in the United States in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 60 percent were from suicides, not homicides.
“What I said was that I disagree with the way the court applied the Second Amendment in that [Heller] case.”
This is consistent with what Clinton has said about the Heller decision.
The Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in 2008 in Heller v. District of Columbia held that the Second Amendment of the Constitution affords private citizens the right to keep firearms in their homes and that such possession need not be connected to military service.
In a private fundraiser in 2015, Clinton was recorded as saying that the Supreme Court was “wrong on the Second Amendment” and called for reinstating the assault-weapons ban, which expired in 2004. “The idea that you could have an open carry permit with an AK-47 over your shoulder walking up and down the aisles of a supermarket is just despicable,” she said.
On her campaign website, Clinton calls for more comprehensive background checks, repealing the gun industry’s immunity from lawsuits for negligence, revoking the licenses of gun dealers who knowingly supply weapons to straw purchasers and gun traffickers, and toughening laws and regulations to prevent domestic abusers and the mentally ill from obtaining guns. She also calls for a renewal of the assault-weapons ban.
None of these proposals would restrict a person from buying a gun to keep at home for self-defense (unless that person was convicted of domestic abuse).
“I disagreed with the way the court applied the Second Amendment in that case, because what the District of Columbia was trying to do was to protect toddlers from guns and so they wanted people with guns to safely store them. And the court didn’t accept that reasonable regulation, but they’ve accepted many others. So I see no conflict between saving people’s lives and defending the Second Amendment.”
Clinton was referring to the Supreme Court’s decision in Heller v. District of Columbia. But the major issue in the case was not whether children would have access to guns; it was whether the District’s ban on private possession of handguns violated the Second Amendment.
The District had the strictest gun law in the country, prohibiting ownership of handguns and requiring shotguns and rifles to be unloaded and disassembled when they are stored. The court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the District’s ban violated the Second Amendment.
“We hold that the District’s ban on handgun possession in the home violates the Second Amendment, as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote.
One of the arguments that the city government made was that handguns cause accidents that frequently involve children. The city also cited the use of handguns in domestic violence and argued that handguns are particularly vulnerable to theft, and therefore can end up with criminals.
“I feel that the justices that I am going to appoint — and I’ve named 20 of them — the justices that I’m going to appoint will be pro-life. They will have a conservative bent.”
Trump is now strongly against women’s right to abortion, but he once supported it.
In 1999, Trump publicly said he was a supporter of abortion rights as a matter of women’s choice. In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Trump was asked whether he would ban abortions, or at least “partial-birth” abortions. He said he would not, and that he is “pro-choice in every respect.”
“I’m very pro-choice,” Trump said in that 1999 interview. “I hate the concept of abortion. … But still, I just believe in choice.”
But now on the presidential campaign trail in 2016, Trump is a vocal opponent of women’s rights to abortion — even to the point of saying that women who receive illegal abortions should be subject to “some sort of punishment.” Trump explains that he hadn’t given it much thought from a policy perspective when he was a businessman. And now that he is a presidential candidate, he says he is decidedly antiabortion.
Trump likes to say his evolution on abortion views is like Ronald Reagan’s, but we have awarded Two Pinocchios to that claim for lack of context.
“In the ninth month you can take the baby and rip the baby right out of the womb, just prior to the birth of the baby.”
Trump asserted that abortions can take place just one day before birth. This doesn’t really happen.
Most abortions take place early in the pregnancy. One-third take place at six weeks of pregnancy or earlier; 89 percent occur in the first 12 weeks, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights. Only 1.2 percent of abortions — about 12,000 a year — take place after 21 weeks. (The Supreme Court has held that states may not prohibit abortions “necessary to preserve the life or health” of the mother.)
On top of that, Guttmacher says that 43 states already prohibit some abortions after a certain point in pregnancy, such as fetal viability, in the third trimester or after a certain number of weeks. So this is already a rare procedure that is prohibited in much of the country. In fact, there are only four doctors left in the United States who are even willing to perform third trimester abortions.
“That [Clinton’s plan] is a plan that has been analyzed by independent experts which said that it could produce 10 million new jobs. By contrast, Donald’s plan has been analyzed to conclude it might lose 3.5 million jobs.”
Mark Zandi, a well-respected economist at Moodys Analytics, did issue a report saying that if Trump’s economic plans were fully implemented, 3.5 million jobs would disappear, incomes would stagnate, debt would explode, and stock prices would plummet. (This compares to an anticipated increase of 6 million jobs under current Obama administration policies.) Zandi, in another report, also said that if Clinton were able to fully implement her economic plans, the economy would add an additional 3.2 million jobs during the first four years of her presidency. Combined with anticipated job creation under current law, that adds up to 10.4 million jobs.
But both reports were highly dubious that either candidate would be able to get their plans through Congress, including Trump even if Congress was controlled by Republicans — because so many of his positions are such a departure from Republican principles. Even so the report said the U.S. economy would likely suffer under a Trump presidency. (The report was issued in June and Moodys has not issued an updated report that would reflect additional policies announced by Trump, including a revised tax plan, but the report said Trump’s trade policies would be especially damaging.)
“He shipped jobs to 12 countries, including Mexico.”
This is correct. Trump has a long history of outsourcing a variety of his products and has acknowledged doing so. We know of at least 12 countries where Trump products were manufactured: China, the Netherlands, Mexico, India, Turkey, Slovenia, Honduras, Germany, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam and South Korea.
Further, Trump products transited other countries through the packaging and shipping process — meaning workers in more than 12 countries contributed to getting many of Trump’s products made, packaged and delivered to the United States.
“Just like when you ran the State Department, $6 billion was missing. How do you miss $6 billion? You ran the State Department, $6 billion was either stolen. They don’t know. It’s gone, $6 billion.”
We had previously given Trump Four Pinocchios for this false claim, apparently aimed at rebutting news stories about the nearly $1 billion loss that he claimed in a 1995 tax return that was made public by the New York Times.
Trump misunderstands a $6 billion figure that appeared in a 2014 management alert from the State Department Inspector General. The alert summarized a variety of recent audits that indicated paperwork deficiencies in closing out contracts that were issued in Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa. But no money is missing or lost, a point that the IG emphasized in a letter to The Washington Post in 2014. Instead, the alert highlighted missing paperwork, not dollars.
Trump is also wrong to blame Clinton. We examined the audit reports referenced in alert and concluded that easily two-thirds, or perhaps more, concerned contracts that predated Clinton’s tenure at State.
“I started with a $1 million loan … but I built a phenomenal company.”
Trump consistently lowballs the help he got from his father, suggesting he got his start when he obtained a $1 million loan. “My father gave me a small loan of a million dollars,” he told NBC in October, which he claimed he had to pay back with interest. “A million dollars isn’t very much compared to what I built.”
But that ignores the fact that he joined his father’s thriving real estate business after college and that he relied on his father’s connections as he made his way in the real estate world.
For instance, Fred Trump — along with the Hyatt hotel chain — jointly guaranteed the $70 million construction loan from Manufacturers Hanover bank, “each assuming a 50 percent share of the obligation and each committing itself to complete the project should Donald be unable to finish it,” according to veteran Trump chronicler Wayne Barrett in his 1992 book, “Trump: The Deals and the Downfall.”
Trump also benefited from three trusts that had been set up for family members. In 1976, Fred Trump set up eight $1 million trusts, one each for his five children and three grandchildren, according to a casino document. (That today would be worth about $4 million in inflation-adjusted dollars.) The casino document lists several other loans from Trump’s father to his son, including a $7.5 million loan with at least a 12-percent interest rate that was still outstanding in 1981.
The Wall Street Journal on Sept. 23 reported that a 1985 casino-license document showed that Donald Trump owed his father and father’s businesses about $14 million.
In a 2007 deposition, Trump admitted he had borrowed “a small amount” from his father’s estate: ‘I think it was like in the $9 million range.” And as Trump’s casinos ran into trouble, Trump’s father also purchased $3.5 million gaming chips, but did not use them, so the casino would have enough cash to make payments on its mortgage — a transaction that casino authorities later said was an illegal loan.
“She destroyed 33,000 emails criminally, criminally, after getting a subpoena from the United States Congress.”
Trump is technically correct on the timeline, but Clinton’s staff had requested the emails to be deleted months before the subpoena, according to the FBI’s August 2016 report. Moreover, there’s no evidence Clinton deleted the emails in anticipation of the subpoena, and FBI director James B. Comey has said his agency’s investigation found no evidence that any work-related emails were “intentionally deleted in an effort to conceal them.”
PolitiFact compiled a helpful timeline of events relating to Clinton’s release of her emails, based on the FBI report. From their timeline:
On July 23, 2014, the State Department agreed to produce records pertaining to the 2012 attacks in Libya, for the House Select Committee on Benghazi’s investigation. In December 2014, Clinton aide Cheryl Mills told an employee of the company that managed her server to delete emails on her server unrelated to government work that were older than 60 days.
On March 4, 2015, the Benghazi Committee issued a subpoena requiring Clinton to turn over her emails relating to Libya. Three weeks later, between March 25 and 31, the employee realized he had not deleted the emails that Mills requested in December 2014, he told the FBI. The employee then deleted the emails and used a program called BleachBit to delete the files.
For our list of 15 fact checks on the Clinton email controversy, go here.
“If you look at your voter rolls, you will see millions of people that are registered to vote … that shouldn’t be registered to vote.”
Trump cited a 2012 Pew Center on the States study as the source of this claim during the debate, while indicating that there may be potential voter fraud during this election. But this study looked at ways to make the election system more accurate, cost-effective and efficient. It did not say that these problems indicated signs of isolated or widespread voter fraud.
About 24 million (1 in every 8) voter registrations were significantly inaccurate or no longer valid because people moved, had died or were inactive voters. More than 1.8 million records for people who are deceased, but whose registrations were still on voter rolls.
About 2.75 million people were registered to vote in more than one state. This could happen if voters move to a new state and register to vote without notifying their former state. Outdated technology, shrinking government budgets and paper-based registration systems contributed to inaccuracies and inefficiencies.
For more, see our Four-Pinocchio fact checks of Trump’s voter fraud statements.
CLINTON: Well, you know, once again, Donald is implying that he didn’t support the invasion of Iraq. I said it was a mistake. I’ve said that years ago. He has consistently denied what is…
CLINTON: … a very clear fact that…
CLINTON: … before the invasion, he supported it
Clinton suggested people Google “Donald Trump Iraq” to find evidence that he supported the war in Iraq. You would probably find our many fact checks. We have awarded Trump’s claim that he opposed the Iraq war Four Pinocchios, compiled a timeline of all of Trump’s comments prior to the invasion in March 2003, and even a video documenting how this is a bogus claim.
Trump expressed lukewarm support the first time he was asked about it on Sept. 11, 2002, and was not clearly against it until he was quoted in the August 2004 Esquire cover story titled “Donald Trump: How I’d Run the Country (Better).”
But by the middle of 2004, many Americans had turned against the war, making Trump’s position not particularly unique. In light of Trump’s repeated false claim that the Esquire article shows he was against the war in Iraq, Esquire has added an editor’s note to its August 2004 story, saying, “The Iraq War began in March 2003, more than a year before this story ran, thus nullifying Trump’s timeline.”
On Obamacare, “the premiums are going up 60, 70, 80 percent.”
Premiums are expected to increase overall in 2017, but Trump is cherry-picking from the highest proposed increases in the insurance marketplace.
State-by-state weighted average increases range from just 1.3 percent in Rhode Island to as high as 71 percent in Oklahoma. But the most common plans in the marketplace will see an average increase of 9 percent, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s July analysis. These plans have been used as the benchmark to calculate government subsidies.
The vast majority of marketplace enrollees (about 8 in 10) receive government premium subsidies. They are protected from a premium increase (and may even see a decrease) if they stay with a low-cost plan. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “anecdotal examples of premium hikes or averages across insurers can provide a skewed picture of the increases marketplace enrollees will actually face.”
“We take care of illegal immigrants — people who come into our country illegally — better than we take care of our vets.”
Broadly speaking, people who are in the United States illegally aren’t granted the same rights as people here legally — both civilians and veterans. Unauthorized people, who are not granted any deferred-action status that deems them lawfully present in the country, are not eligible to receive Social Security benefits or any other federal means-tested benefits.
And even though the unauthorized population can’t collect the benefits, they paid about $12 billion into the cash flow of the Social Security program in 2010, according to the Social Security actuary. (Some undocumented immigrants could theoretically collect benefits — illegally — if they’ve overstayed their visas or falsely obtained a Social Security number.) That means the U.S. government gets far more than it pays out when it comes to unauthorized immigrants.
To support this claim, Trump’s campaign has cited three instances of veterans being treated “worse” than illegal immigrants: consequences for criminal convictions, cost to the government, and wait times. We explored each point in depth and found each lacking in evidence.
“I do not add a penny to the national debt.”
This lacks some context. Clinton is saying she would not add to the debt already projected to grow.
The national debt is projected to grow by $9 trillion over the next decade. But Clinton’s plan would not add significantly more to the debt, according to the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which has analyzed the economic impact of every proposal by both nominees. She would add $200 billion over a decade, which is a relatively small amount compared to the debt. Trump’s plans would add $5.3 trillion to the debt.
That $200 billion could be canceled out by Clinton’s business tax reform plan, which is estimated to generate $275 billion in revenue. At that point, indeed, her plan would “not add a penny to the national debt” beyond its currently projected growth.
If the full $275 billion is generated, it would even result in a modest deficit reduction. But since Clinton has not released a detailed plan for the business tax reform plan, the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has not been able to score it yet.
“We are encouraged that Clinton continues to largely pay for her new spending and that Trump has made substantial improvements to his plan, including a less costly tax plan and new spending cuts,” the group wrote in its analysis. “Unfortunately, neither candidate has presented a proposal to address our growing national debt and put it on a more sustainable path, nor have they offered a proposal for shoring up the Social Security, Medicare, or Highway trust funds. As it currently stands, Donald Trump’s proposals would still substantially worsen the debt.”
“The Border Patrol agents — 16,500 — plus ICE last week, endorsed me. First time they’ve ever endorsed a candidate.”
How can a federal agency, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, endorse a candidate? Trump is actually referring to the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, which is the union representing ICE officers. The National Border Patrol Council, the organization representing 16,500 Border Patrol agents, also endorsed Trump. Both unions said this was the first time they endorsed a presidential candidate.
“I know [Warren] Buffett took hundreds of millions of dollars.”
This answer was in reference to the a recent New York Times report that Trump had reported a $916 million loss in 1995, which would have been large enough to allow Trump to avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years. As he did in the second debate against Clinton, Trump named Buffet to say that Clinton’s wealthy supporters had also avoided taxes.
But Buffet has rejected this claim. He said he never took advantage of the same tax rules that may have allowed Trump to use his loss of $916 million to avoid paying any federal income taxes.
“I have paid federal income tax every year since 1944, when I was 13. (Though, being a slow starter, I owed only $7 in tax that year.) I have copies of all 72 of my returns and none uses a carryforward,” Buffet said in a statement.
“We at the Clinton Foundation spend 90 percent — 90 percent of all the money that is donated on behalf of programs of people around the world and in our own country.”
Clinton is correct. The Clinton Foundation does not dole out grants, like a typical foundation, but instead directs the donations it raises directly for specified charitable activities. So simply only looking at the grants does not tell the whole story about the foundation’s activities.
The American Institute of Philanthropy’s “Charity Watch” gives the Clinton Foundation an “A” rating for its efficiency (the top rating is A+). It says the foundation spends 88 percent of its expenses on programs and 12 percent on overhead. It also says the Clinton Foundation spends just $2 to raise $100.
“What she doesn’t say is that President Obama has deported millions and millions of people just the way it is.”
Interestingly, this is a fact-checked talking point by immigration activists who had criticized Obama for deporting too many people.
But this is misleading, because it is based on statistics that include both removals and voluntary returns, as reported by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A “return” means that the person can leave the country and reenter later with a visa.
The Los Angeles Times, which dug into Obama’s deportation record, found in 2014 that immigration data show “immigrants living illegally in most of the continental U.S. are less likely to be deported today than before Obama came to office.”
“Hillary Clinton wanted the wall. Hillary Clinton fought for the wall in 2006 or thereabouts. Now, she never gets anything done, so naturally the wall wasn’t built. But Hillary Clinton wanted the wall.”
Not exactly. Clinton supported the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which authorized the construction of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. The fence is mostly vehicle barriers and single-layer pedestrian fence. Trump has called for a border wall of precast concrete, as tall as 30 to 60 feet.
In a January 2016 interview with Jorge Ramos, Clinton said the fence is different from Trump’s wall. “So we do need to have secure borders and what that will take is a combination of technology and physical barrier. … I voted for border security and some of it was a fence.” PolitiFact found that Trump has said the fencing under the Secure Fence Act of 2006 “was such a little wall, it was such a nothing wall.”
“I questioned it, and I questioned NATO. Why aren’t the NATO questioned — why aren’t they paying? Because they weren’t paying. Since I did this — this was a year ago — all of a sudden, they’re paying. And I’ve been given a lot — a lot of credit for it.”
This is a ridiculous statement. Trump repeatedly made misleading claims about the burden-sharing in the NATO alliance. His comments made little impact on NATO, and he has received no credit for any changes in defense spending by NATO countries. All countries are supposed to spend 2 percent of the gross domestic product on defense spending, a goal few have met — which has long been an issue in the alliance.
“She’s taking in tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, who probably in many cases — not probably, who are definitely in many cases, ISIS-aligned, and we now have them in our country.”
Trump has no evidence to make this claim. The United States accepted about 13,000 Syrian refugees in the 2016 fiscal year, and Clinton wants to increase that number. But refugees spend as long as two years being vetted by U.S. counterterrorism experts. So not only would it be difficult to infiltrate the system, but it would be time-consuming, compared to simply getting a tourist visa to enter the country.
The State Department says that about 78 percent of those accepted have been women and children; 58 percent are children, split roughly between girls and boys.
“The NAFTA deal signed by her husband is one of the worst deals ever made of any kind, signed by anybody. It’s a disaster.”
This is such an over-the-top statement. There are estimates from left-leaning groups that claim as many as one million jobs were lost by NAFTA. But these are not universally accepted estimates. Many economists say that the job losses in manufacturing cannot be easily blamed just on NAFTA.
Manufacturing was already under stress before the agreement was reached in 1993, while the U.S. economy has transitioned away from manufacturing toward services. Advocates of the agreement instead point to the export-related jobs that they say have been created through the trade with Mexico and Canada. The Congressional Research Service in 2015 concluded the “net overall effect of NAFTA on the U.S. economy appears to have been relatively modest.”
No one really knows the job impact of various trade agreements, but both sides will argue vigorously over the figures. Then-President Bill Clinton famously declared that “I believe that NAFTA will create a million jobs in the first five years of its impact.”
Two years later, after a financial meltdown in Mexico and the collapse of the peso evaporated any job gains from NAFTA, the economist who generated million-job forecasts famously said he would stay away from job forecasting in the future.
“Those stories [of women saying Trump assaulted them] have been largely debunked. Those people — I don’t know those people. I have a feeling how they came. I believe it was her campaign that did it.”
Trump has no evidence that the Clinton campaign was behind the stories; indeed, The Washington Post approached Kristin Anderson after receiving a tip and spent days trying to convince her to go on the record.
Trump also falsely claims that the allegations by women who have come forward in recent days have been debunked. That’s not the case at all, as many have provided corroboration from friends or relatives who heard about Trump’s alleged behavior at the time it happened. Here are some examples:
Her allegation: While at a Manhattan nightclub in the early 1990s, Trump slid his fingers under her miniskirt, moved up her inner thigh and touched her vagina through her underwear.
- Kelly Stedman, a friend. She said she was told about the incident at a women’s brunch a few days later. The women found themselves “laughing at how pathetic it was” on Trump’s part.
- Brad Trent, a New York photographer. He says he heard the story from Anderson at a dinner in 2007. “It was just girls saying stories about how they got hit on by creepy old guys,” Trent said of the conversation around the table.
Her allegation: While interviewing Trump in 2005 for an article for People magazine about the first anniversary of his third marriage, Trump lured her into a room at Mar-a-Lago and abruptly kissed her, forcing his tongue down her throat. He then said they were going to have an affair.
- Marina Grasic, who has known Stoynoff for more than 25 years. She said she got a call from her friend the day after the attack, detailing exactly how Trump pushed Stoynoff against a wall.
- Liz McNeil, at the time a reporter for People (she is now an editor). She said that she heard about the incident the day after Stoynoff returned from her assignment. “She was very upset and told me how he shoved her against a wall,” she said.
- Mary Green, another People reporter (now editor) who had just returned to New York. “In an early conversation we had in her office, she told me about what happened with Donald Trump,” Green said. “She was shaky, sitting at her desk, relaying that, ‘He took me to this other room, and when we stepped inside, he pushed me against a wall and stuck his tongue down my throat. Melania was upstairs and could have walked in at any time.’”
- Liza Hamm, part of a “tight-knit’ group of friends. “Natasha has always been a vivacious person who wants to believe in the best of people, and this experience definitely messed with that outlook,” she said.
- Paul McLaughlin, Stoynoff’s former journalism professor. He said Stoynoff called her at the time of the alleged incident seeking advice on how to handle it: “She didn’t know what to do, she was very conflicted, she was angry, she was really confused about how to deal with this.” After a discussion, he said, Stoynoff decided it would be best if she kept the incident to herself.
Her allegation: Trump in 2005 kissed her directly on the lips after she introduced herself and said she was a receptionist who worked for a company that did business with Trump.
- Brianne Webb, her sister. She said Crooks called her immediately about the incident as soon as she returned to her desk. “Being from a town of 1,600 people, being naive, I was like, ‘Are you sure he didn’t just miss trying to kiss you on the cheek?’ She said, ‘No, he kissed me on the mouth.’ I was like, ‘That is not normal.’ ”
- Clint Hackenburg, her boyfriend at the time. After he asked her that evening how her day had gone, “she paused for a second, and then started hysterically crying.”
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