CNN fact checks the 2016 Republican debates

Story highlights

  • The team will pick the juiciest statements, analyze them, consult issue experts and then rate them
  • The team rates each claim either True; Mostly True; True, but Misleading; False; or It's Complicated

Washington (CNN)The CNN Fact-Checking Team worked through Thursday night to check some of the most notable claims made by all 17 Republican presidential candidates at the two debates hosted by Fox News.

The team, comprised of researchers, editors and reporters across CNN, picked the juiciest statements, analyzed them, consulted issue experts and then rated them either True; Mostly True; True, but Misleading; False; or It's Complicated.
Fact check: Ted Cruz says part of Iran deal includes lifting sanctions against leader of Quds Force.
    Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's assertion that part of the Iran deal includes lifting sanctions against Qassem Suleimani, the Quds Force leader, is partially true. According to the White House, Soleimani -- who was accused of involvement in the Shia insurgency against U.S. forces during the Iraq War -- would not have United Nations sanctions lifted against him until eight years into a completed deal. Even then, U.S. sanctions will continue to be in place, according to the White House, and those sanctions are not connected to the Iran deal.
    There is another Soleimani who will have sanctions lifted sooner, but he's not a part of the Quds Force. Ghasem Soleimani is the director of Uranium Mining Operations at the Saghand Uranium Mine.
    We find Cruz's claim Mostly True.
    Fact check: Marco Rubio on allowing abortions in certain instances.
    Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida disagreed with debate moderator Megyn Kelly for suggesting that he supports exceptions to an abortion ban in cases of rape and incest.
    But the record shows otherwise.
    Although Rubio has said he personally believes life begins at conception and that all human life is worthy of protection, Rubio cosponsored S. 1670, the Senate's Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act of 2013. The legislation would have prohibited abortion except in certain circumstances, including if "the pregnancy is the result of rape, or the result of incest against a minor."
    We find Rubio's claim False.
    Fact check: Ted Cruz on "majority" of people on stage supporting "amnesty."
    If "amnesty" is defined as any proposal that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, Cruz is correct. At least five of the other nine candidates have supported citizenship at one point.
    • Rubio was a leading advocate for the so-called Gang of Eight's immigration reform package that includes that path. He has since tried to distance himself from that bill.
    • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has acknowledged that he supported amnesty before publicly recanting after conversations with border-state governors, a change of heart he reiterated Thursday.
    • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called on President Barack Obama and Congress to "step up to the plate" and put forward a plan to secure the borders and create a pathway to citizenship in a 2010 interview with Jake Tapper. He has since disavowed that stance, recently calling it a "garbage" idea.
    • Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has at times supported immigration proposals that include citizenship, though he now advocates for "earned legal status." He told Charlie Rose in 2012 that he backed "a path to citizenship, which I would support and that does put me probably out of the mainstream of most conservatives."
    • Donald Trump has been wishy-washy on what specifically he would do, but he said as recently as last month that he would be open to a pathway to citizenship for some, saying, "We try and work something out" with a merit-based system.
    • Ohio Gov. John Kasich recently reaffirmed his openness to a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, saying on "Meet the Press" that "hard-working" immigrants who have become part of the American culture should have an opportunity to stay.
    • Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee told The Washington Post in 2010 that a pathway to citizenship was "the rational approach," and he also was supportive of the Gang of Eight's immigration push.
    • It's not clear that Ben Carson ever explicitly supported a pathway, though he did imply in his 2013 book, "America the Beautiful," that it was immoral to deny citizenship to immigrants who provide cheap labor.
    • Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky voted against the Senate bill in 2013 but has stressed that there has to be an "openness to compromise."
    We find Cruz's claim True.
    Fact check: Kasich's Ohio economic story.
    Kasich said, "Our Medicaid is growing at one of the lowest rates in the country, and finally, we went from eight billion in the hole to two billion in the black. We've cut five billion in taxes and we've grown 350,000 jobs."
    It's true that Ohio had an $8 billion budget gap when Kasich took office in 2011, but he was required to close it. The state does have a $2 billion surplus and has created 330,000 jobs since he took office.
    Kasich has heavily cut taxes, but the two governors before him also cut income taxes, according to Robert Greenbaum, associate professor at Ohio State University. But his claims on his tax cuts and balanced budgets driving economic growth and job creation are misleading since Ohio trails the nation in both. The nation's gross domestic product had a 2% compound annual growth rate, while Ohio's was 1.9%.
    We find Kasich's claim to be True, but Misleading.
    Fact check: Donald Trump says Mexico sends its criminals across the border.
    Trump said that Mexico sends its criminals across the border while the U.S. does nothing.
    "They send the bad ones over because the stupid leaders of the United States will take care of them and that's what's happening, whether you like it or not," he said.
    But the Pew Center shows that the number of undocumented immigrants coming from Mexico has actually declined after the recession of 2008 and the undocumented population is stable at 11 million people.
    The Pew report also notes that the deportations hit a record high in 2013, around 400,000 per year, and many were criminals.
    We find Trump's claim to be False.
    Fact check: Rubio says Hillary Clinton has been in office longest of anyone on the debate stage.
    Rubio said: "This election cannot be a resume contest. It's important to be qualified, but if this election is a resume competition, than Hillary Clinton is going to be the next president because she's been in office and government longer than anybody else running here tonight."
    Clinton served as a senator from 2001 to 2009 and as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013. That's 12 years of experience in office and government. She also served as the chair of the Arkansas Educational Standards Committee from 1983 to 1992, which brings her to 21 years.
    • Kasich served as a U.S. representative from 1983 to 2001 and as governor of Ohio since 2011. That's 22 years of experience.
    • Lindsey Graham has served as a U.S. senator and representative and state lawmaker since 1993 for 22 years in office.
    • Walker has served as Wisconsin governor, Milwaukee county executive and a state assemblyman since 1993 for 22 years in office.
    • Rick Perry was a Democrat in Texas for six years before becoming a Republican officeholder from 1990 through 2014 for a whopping 30 years in office and in government.
    Because Clinton has not been in office or government longer than anyone else on the debate stage, we rate Rubio's claim as False.
    Candidates hit Trump early in the 'undercard' debate
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    Candidates hit Trump early in the 'undercard' debate 00:54
    The following fact checks come from the happy hour debate of seven candidates.
    Fact check: Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina says U.S. not arming the Kurds.
    Fiorina said: "The Kurds have been asking us to arm them for three years. We haven't done so."
    In fact, the U.S. is arming the Kurds, but the arms need to go through the Iraqi government.
    "We are arming the Kurds," Defense Secretary Ash Carter told Congress in June. "But we're still doing it through the government of Iraq because we're still trying to support the prime minister in maintaining a decentralized but single unitary Iraqi state."
    We rate her statement False.
    Fact check: Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore's 9/11 warning.
    Gilmore said: "I chaired the National Commission on Homeland Security for the United States. We warned about the 9/11 attack before the 9/11 attack occurred. I was the governor during the 9/11 attack."
    Gilmore was the chairman of the National Commission on Homeland Security and Terrorism, known as the Gilmore Commission, from January 1999 to 2003. This commission ultimately resulted in the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.
    But CNN reported in 2004 that President George W. Bush's August 6, 2001, CIA daily briefing included a warning that "Bin Laden implied in U.S. television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and 'bring the fighting to America.'"
    In his debate statement, Gilmore implies that the government was warned by his commission about the specifics of the 9/11 attacks. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, warnings about any potential attack were vague and incomplete.
    We rate his statement False.
    Fact check: Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said that Trump supports a single-payer health care system.
    Perry said: "I've had my issues with Donald Trump. I've talked about Donald Trump from the standpoint of being an individual who is using his celebrity rather than his conservatism. How can you run for the Republican nomination and be for single-payer health care? I ask that with all due respect."
    Candidates hit Trump early in the 'undercard' debate
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    Candidates hit Trump early in the 'undercard' debate 00:54
    Trump wrote this in his 2000 book: "The Canadian plan also helps Canadians live longer and healthier than America. We need, as a nation, to reexamine the single-payer plan, as many individual states are doing."
    But Trump has since reversed his position, telling The New York Times in 2011: "We had a much different country when I proposed those two things."
    And most recently, on July 31, a spokesman said: "Mr. Trump does not believe socialized medicine is the solution to expanding coverage."
    We rate Perry's claim False.
    Fact check: Fiorina said that Trump has flip-flopped on health care, abortion and immigration.
    Fiorina: "I would also just say this. Since he has changed his mind on amnesty, on health care and on abortion, I would just ask, what are the principles by which he will govern?"
    Trump, as noted above, did change his position on single-payer. As for abortion, he said, "I am very pro-choice" on "Meet the Press" in 1999, but in a recent interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, he said he changed his position.
    And on immigration, Trump did flip: He was once sympathetic to a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants but now says the U.S. should deport them.
    He told Bill O'Reilly in 2011 that the U.S. should determine which undocumented immigrants can stay on a "case-by-case" basis.
    "You know, it's hard to generalize, but you're going to have to look at the individual people, see how they've done, see how productive they've been, see what their references are, and then make a decision," he said.
    Furthermore, in an interview on "Morning Joe" last month, he seemed open to a pathway to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants.
    But on July 30, he told CNN's Dana Bash that he would deport all undocumented immigrants and then allow some of the "good ones" to return.
    We rate Fiorina's claims True.
    Fact check: Perry oversaw the creation of 1.5 million jobs between 2007 and 2014.
    Perry said Texas created 1.5 million jobs between 2007 and 2014, when he was governor.
    See highlights from GOP 'happy hour' debate
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    See highlights from GOP 'happy hour' debate 02:03
    "Not just having been the governor of the 12th largest economy of the world, which I might add we had 1.5 million jobs during that period of time, over that 2007 through 2014 period."
    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Texas had 10,997,356 employed people in December 2007 and 12,570,050 employed people in December 2014. That's an increase of 1,572,694 people.
    But that data includes agricultural workers, and many economists prefer nonfarm payroll data, which shows that Texas had 10,529,900 nonfarm employees in December 2007 and 11,749,500 nonfarm employees in December 2014. That's an increase of 1,219,600 people.
    Texas did add 1.5 million jobs in seven years, but because that measure may not be the best gauge of employment, we rate Perry's claim as Mostly True.
    Read more from the fact-checking squads at Politifact and The Washington Post.