Editor’s Note: Part of the CNN Republican debate fact-checking series
Rep. Ron Paul challenged Newt Gingrich on whether or not he asked for a deferment during the Vietnam War as the two participated in Saturday night’s Rebublican candidates’ debate in New Hampshire. “I think people who don’t serve when they could and they get three or four or even five deferments aren’t – they have no right to send our kids off to war and not be even against the wars we have,” Ron Paul said.
The Statement: “The fact is, I never asked for deferment. I was married with a child. It was never a question.” - Newt Gingrich
The facts: Gingrich turned 18 in 1961, as U.S. involvement in Vietnam was escalating. But he continued his studies, getting an undergraduate degree in 1965, his Master’s in 1968 and his doctorate in 1971.
According to the Selective Service, prior to 1971 “a man could qualify for a student deferment if he could show he was a full-time student making satisfactory progress in virtually any field of study. He could continue to go to school and be deferred from service until he was too old to be drafted.”
In addition, the fact that Gingrich had two daughters – born in 1963 and 1966 – gave him a III-A classification, putting him far back in the line of people who might have been called to serve.
Verdict: True, but incomplete. Gingrich is correct, that he was not eligible for the draft. But that does not mean he could not have been one of the 3 million Americans who ultimately served in the war.
That fact seems to be something he has considered. “Given everything I believe in, a large part of me thinks I should have gone over,” he told Vanity Fair in 1989.
CNN’s Julie In contributed to this story