Republican debate: CNN's Reality Check team vets the candidates' claims

Debate reality check: Who was telling the truth?
Debate reality check: Who was telling the truth?

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Debate reality check: Who was telling the truth? 01:10

Story highlights

  • CNN's Reality Check team spent the night putting their statements and assertions to the test
  • The team of reporters, researchers and editors across CNN selected key statements and rated them: True; Mostly True; True, but Misleading; False; or It's Complicated.

Washington (CNN)The Republican candidates for president gathered in Milwaukee for their fourth debate Tuesday, and CNN's Reality Check team spent the night putting their statements and assertions to the test.

The team of reporters, researchers and editors across CNN selected key statements and rated them: True; Mostly True; True, but Misleading; False; or It's Complicated.

Marco Rubio

    Reality Check: Rubio on welders and philosophers
    By Dylan Byers, CNN Money
    "Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers," Sen. Marco Rubio said.
    The numbers are available at the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
    Rubio: 'Welders make more money than philosophers'
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    Rubio: 'Welders make more money than philosophers' 00:48
    The median salary for philosophy professors is $63,630, according to BLS. The median salary for welders is $37,420.
    Verdict: False

    Ted Cruz

    Reality Check: Cruz on wealthiest counties
    By Theodore Schleifer, CNN
    Sen. Ted Cruz argued Tuesday night that it was no easier to observe the corruption of Washington than by looking at the median income of those who live near it, saying that six of the nation's 10 wealthiest counties are near the nation's capital.
    "The rich do great with big government. They get in bed with big government," Cruz told the Milwaukee audience. "This is why six of 10 wealthiest counties in America are in and around Washington, D.C."
    That's true -- Falls Church, Loudoun County, Fairfax County and Arlington County in Virginia, along with Montgomery County and Howard County in Maryland rank in the top 10 wealthiest counties in the country, according to the most recent census figures.
    But the presumption that those economies are entirely dependent on government jobs and largess doesn't square with economic profiles of the counties.
    In counties like Fairfax, the largest employer is not a federal agency, but the county public school system. The largest industry in Arlington County and Montgomery County is the government, for instance. Close to as many people in those counties work in professional, scientific and technical services, but there is not clear data on how many of those employees are government contractors.
    So while "big government" might have something to do with these counties' wealth, it's hardly the sole driver. But it is the main one.
    Verdict: True
    Reality Check: Cruz on impact of immigration on wages in the United States
    By Eve Bower, CNN
    Sen. Ted Cruz said, "It is not compassionate to say we're not going to enforce the laws and we're going to drive down the wages for millions of hard-hard-working men and women. That is abandoning the working men and women."
    Cruz implies that undocumented immigration puts greater downward pressure on wages in the United States than legal immigration, and that the impact of immigration on wages is significant. There has been extensive research on this topic, and the results for the general population do not support Cruz's claims.
    Ted Cruz talks immigration and economy
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    Ted Cruz talks immigration and economy 00:53
    A 2015 study published in the Southern Economic Journal found that every 1 percentage point increase in the portion of a population that is undocumented actually causes an increase in the wages of documented workers equivalent to 0.44%, based on data from the state of Georgia.
    In a widely-cited 2001 study on the impacts of immigration on the United States economy, economists noted that immigration makes a "very small" impact on the wages of native-born Americans overall. The report cites estimates that for every 10% increase in the share of a population that is foreign-born (whether documented or undocumented), the wages of native-born workers fall by less than 1%, "often an amount not statistically different from zero," the study's authors say.
    But the report notes that the impact on wages does vary by workers' skill level. In recent decades, the only group of native-born workers to experience a "sizable" decline in wages due to the impact of immigration is workers who do not have a high school diploma. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of October 2015, there were almost 10.7 million Americans age 25 and older in the labor force who did not have a high school diploma.
    While most American workers see no difference in their wages as a result of immigration, the specifics of Cruz's claim are accurate. Cruz said "we're going to drive down the wages for millions of hard-hard-working men and women" and there are more than 10 million Americans in the class most vulnerable to wage pressures.
    Verdict: True

    Jeb Bush

    Reality Check: Bush says Clinton moved left on Keystone, TPP
    By Marshall Cohen, CNN
    Jeb Bush on Tuesday night accused Hillary Clinton of moving to the left on two key issues.
    "She is a captive of the left her party to the point now where she was for the (Pacific) trade agreement, now she is against it. She hinted she was for the (Keystone) XL pipeline, now she's opposed to it."
    Bush is correct that the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Keystone pipeline have played a major role in the Democratic primary campaign. And Clinton has faced pressure from her liberal critics to oppose Keystone and TPP. So did Clinton really flip on both issues?
    As secretary of state, Clinton said she was "inclined to support" the Keystone XL pipeline. She also said TPP "sets the gold standard" for future trade deals. She did hedge her bets on both issues, and was careful with her comments, but she made it clear during her tenure that she was leaning in favor of both Keystone and TPP.
    During her presidential campaign, she faced countless attacks from Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders and she eventually moved to the left on both issues. Clinton announced her opposition to the Keystone pipeline in September, saying it would harm the environment. One month later, she came out against TPP.
    Verdict: True

    Donald Trump & Carly Fiorina

    Reality Check: Who met Putin?
    By Tom LoBianco, CNN
    When it comes to U.S.-Russian relations, a little chest-puffing is hardly new. But two Republicans vying for the White House did some exaggerating of their own with their claims of meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
    "I got to know him very well because we were both on '60 Minutes,' we were stable mates. We did well that night," Trump said Tuesday night.
    Trump also implied last month that the two had spent some time in together before the show in comments last month on CBS' "Face the Nation."
    "I think the biggest thing we have is that we were on '60 Minutes' together and we had fantastic ratings. One of your best-rated shows in a long time," he joked. "So that was good, right? So we were stable mates."
    Fiorina took a swipe at Trump when she responded later and, in the process, overstated Trump's claim.
     Trump: I met Putin on '60 Minutes'
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    "One of the reasons I said that I would not be talking to Vladimir Putin right now, although I have met him as well, not in a green room for a show, but in a private meeting," Fiorina said.
    Trump never directly said that the two met, but he did imply it. But that's not the case. The Putin interview was conducted in Putin's home in Russia.
    On the other hand, Fiorina has met Putin. Though something that Fiorina leaves out of her recollection of meeting with Putin: she praised the Russian leader following their meeting in 2001, before the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation conference, when she praised his leadership and the promise for a new Russia.
    "I keep wondering how it is that I got positioned to speak in the slot before the President of the Russian Federation -- on the subject of change, no less, " Fiorinia said, according to a copy of the speech posted on Hewlett Packard's website. "Hewlett-Packard has been at the center of a lot of change in our 62-year history. But President Putin was elected president in the first democratic transition in Russia in 1,000 years. Talk about giving new meaning to the word 'invent.'"
    Verdict for Trump: False
    Verdict for Fiorina: True

    Carly Fiorina & Ted Cruz

    Reality Check: Fiorina and Cruz on the size of the tax code
    By Marshall Cohen and Julie In, CNN
    The length of the U.S. federal tax code came up at least twice in the debate.
    Asked about tax policy, Carly Fiorina said that "innovation and entrepreneurship is crushed by the crushing load of a 73,000-page tax code."
    So that begs the question: Is the tax code really that long?
    Fiorina is likely referring to an oft-cited report from CCH, a leading tax research company. The report is used by tax professionals and it is more than 72,000 pages long. However, it includes much more than the actual tax code. It contains thousands of pages of regulations, legal analysis and explanations.
    When you look at the actual tax-related statues passed by Congress, as published by the Government Printing Office, it comes out to 2,652 pages, according to the Tax Foundation.
    Verdict: False
    Along the same theme, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said, "There are more words in the IRS code than there are in the Bible."
    The IRS's Taxpayer Advocate Service recognizes the complexity of the tax code, noting in its 2014 Annual Report to Congress that the code has "reached nearly 4 million words." The calculation was made by utilizing Microsoft Word's "word count" feature and leaving in components such as amendment descriptions and cross-references.
    Most sources agree that the King James Bible contains almost 800,000 words.
    Cruz is correct in stating that the IRS code contains more words than the Bible (in this case, the King James Version).
    Verdict: True

    Rand Paul

    Reality Check: Paul on Democrats presiding over income inequality
    By Kevin Liptak, CNN
    Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul alleged during the debate that income inequality "seems to be worst in cities run by Democrats, states run by Democrats and counties currently run by Democrats."
    A look of Census data provides a clear picture of where the gap between rich and poor is greatest in the United States, and it's not as cut-and-dry as Paul suggests when it come comes to political responsibility.
    For starters, the elected leaders in states and cities have switched from Democrat to Republican, or vice versa, over time. Policies enacted by politicians from both parties have contributed to each place's current economic picture.
    The most commonly used indicator for income inequality is the Gini index, which uses wage data to assign a number to each location. According to Census data, the five metropolitan areas with the greatest income gaps are Bridgeport, Connecticut; New York City; Miami; McAllen, Texas; and New Orleans.
    Three of those cities are currently run by Democrats; the other two are led by Republicans.
    Sen. Rand Paul: Rubio's tax plan 'not very conservative'
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    In the states, the picture is similarly mixed. The state with the highest score on income inequality is New York, where a Democrat has governed since 2007. Before that, a Republican held office for a decade.
    Next on the list in Connecticut, where a Democrat has occupied the statehouse since 2011, preceded by 15 years of Republicans.
    Louisiana is third, currently helmed by a Republican governor but previously governed by Democrats. California and Florida -- two more states that have had governors from both parties over the past two decades -- round out the top five.
    Among the 10 states with the highest income disparity, six currently have Republican governors.
    On the other end, Republican governors led seven of the 10 states with the lower levels of income inequality.
    While Democrats do run cities and states where income inequality is high, Republicans do too. It's not accurate to say Democrats are predominantly in charge of places where it's the highest.
    Verdict: False

    Donald Trump

    Reality Check: Trump on 'Operation Wetback'
    By Sonam Vashi, CNN
    Billionaire Donald Trump claimed Dwight Eisenhower successfully deported 1.5 million immigrants after sending them deep across the border.
    Trump said, "Dwight Eisenhower ... moved a million and a half illegal immigrants out of this country, moved them just beyond the border. They came back. Moved them again, beyond the border. They came back. Didn't like it. Moved them way south. They never came back."
    Eisenhower's policy, named "Operation Wetback," was implemented in 1954 and deported undocumented immigrants deep into Mexico. Many of the undocumented had come through wartime Bracero programs, when American labor needs led to a policy that allowed Mexicans to come to the U.S. for temporary agricultural work. When the temporary contracts were not renewed, many workers became illegal.
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    The exact number that the operation deported is unclear. Eisenhower's attorney general, Herbert Brownell, Jr., said in 1955 that the operation had deported 1 million people, but other researchers put that number closer to 250,000. Between 1953 and 1955, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service recorded more than 800,000 apprehensions, according to Mae M. Ngai's "Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America." Some research shows that more Mexicans may have left the U.S. voluntarily due to fears of apprehension.
    However, Trump never mentioned the inhumane practices that occurred when the INS deported the workers back into Mexico in the 1950s. The transfer process was widely criticized as inhumane. Some deportees were transported in over packed trucks or were dropped off without resources in the desert and died from heat stroke; others drowned after transport on overloaded ships, according to Ngai's book.
    Verdict: True, but misleading

    Ben Carson

    Reality Check: Carson on black teen unemployment
    By Eve Bower and Kate Grise, CNN
    Ben Carson said, "Every time we raise the minimum wage, the number of jobless people increases. It's particularly a problem in the black community. Only 19.8 percent of black teenagers have a job, who are looking for one. You know, that -- and that's because of those high wages. If you lower those wages, that comes down."
    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20.1% of African-Americans aged 16 to 19 have a job, but that doesn't mean that 80% are unemployed because many are in school, not in the labor force.
    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 25.6% of black teens were unemployed in October. That is the measure of those who are unemployed and looking for work.
    Verdict: False
    Reality Check: Carson on minimum wage and unemployment
    By Tami Luhby, CNN Money
    Asked whether he supports a $15 hourly minimum wage, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson said, "Every time we raise the minimum wage, the number of jobless people increases."
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    Whether raising the minimum wage prompts businesses to shed jobs remains a matter of debate. Many studies exist on either side of the argument. But there's at least one case where the jobless rate went down: In 1997, the minimum wage increased to $5.15 an hour, from $4.75 an hour. At the start of that year, there were 7.2 million Americans without jobs. The number of unemployed subsequently fell each month until October 2001. There have been other times when the number of jobless was lower a year after Congress raised the federal minimum wage: 1950, 1961, 1967, 1978 and 1996.
    Verdict: False

    Mike Huckabee

    Reality Check: Huckabee on corporate taxes paid on goods made in China
    By Sonam Vashi and Eve Bower, CNN
    Former Gov. Mike Huckabee said, "China is beating the daylights out of us. They can build stuff we can't because they are not taxing it. When they don't tax capital and labor, and we do. They bring something over here and it's automatically cheaper even without the regulatory environment because they are not embedding the taxes. We are."
    Huckabee claims that China does not tax capital. The definition of "capital tax" varies widely, and can refer specifically to corporate income tax or other types of capital, or both. If "capital" is understood as being all of a corporation's capital, exclusive of spending, it is correct that China does not have a "capital tax," according to a 2015 report on taxation in China by the international consulting firm Deloitte. Contrary to Huckabee's claim, however, the United States does not have a federal "capital tax" either, according to a 2014 Tax Foundation report. China does have a corporate income tax rate of 25%, whereas the U.S. rate is 35%.
    Huckabee's claim about taxes on labor is also incorrect. According to the World Bank, in 2014, Chinese businesses paid an effective labor tax rate of 49.3%. Businesses in the United States paid a far lower effective tax rate at 9.7%.
    Verdict: False
    Reality Check: Huckabee on firing the chair of the Federal Reserve
    By Tami Luhby, CNN Money
    Asked whether he would change leadership at the Federal Reserve, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said "absolutely."
    So, could Huckabee get rid of current chair Janet Yellen when he takes office? Yes, but he'll have to wait until February 2018, a year into his presidency. That's when Yellen's term ends.
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    As much as they may disagree with the Federal Reserve chair, neither the president nor Congress can fire any member of the Fed Board of Governors in the middle of their terms.
    Fed governors serve 14-year terms. The president appoints the chair every four years.
    Verdict: True

    Chris Christie

    Reality Check: Christie stopped Obamacare in New Jersey
    By Kevin Liptak, CNN
    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, defending his record in resisting President Barack Obama's signature health law, said "we stopped Obamacare in New Jersey because we refused to participate in the federal exchange."
    That quote itself is false -- no governor is able to refuse participation in the federal health insurance exchange created by the Affordable Care Act.
    Christie likely meant that as governor, he refused to establish a statewide health insurance exchange. In December 2012, he vetoed a measure that would have created such an exchange in the Garden State. Like many Republican governors, Christie resisted establishing such a marketplace because of his deep opposition to the Affordable Care Act.
    But that doesn't mean New Jersey residents aren't able to participate in Obamacare. Without a state exchange, consumers rely in the federal marketplace accessed on HealthCare.gov.
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    Indeed, thousands of New Jersey residents have obtained health plans that way. The latest estimate from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services indicates 194,194 people in New Jersey had signed up for plans through the federal marketplace.
    Christie's assertion also omits another aspect of the Affordable Care Act, in which the federal government expanded Medicaid for low-income American adults. States had to opt-in to the expansion, and many Republican governors resisted since they claimed their states would end up paying more down the road.
    Christie announced in 2013 he would accept the federal Medicaid expansion for his state.
    Since then, Medicaid enrollment in New Jersey has increased 36%. More than 1.7 million New Jersey residents are in Medicaid and CHIP, the children's health insurance plan, up more than 463,000.
    Christie himself has touted the decision to accept the expansion dollars on the campaign trail, saying it was "the right decision for New Jersey."
    Verdict: False