CNN's Reality Check team spent the night putting the Democratic candidates' statements and assertions to the test
The team of reporters, researchers and editors across CNN listened throughout the town hall, selected key statements and then rated them True; Mostly True; True, but Misleading; False; or It's Complicated
The Democratic candidates for president gathered in Iowa for CNN’s Democratic Town Hall on Monday, 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 listened throughout the town hall, selected key statements and then rated them True; Mostly True; True, but Misleading; False; or It’s Complicated.
Reality Check: Sanders on universal health care
By Debra Goldschmidt, CNN
Sen. Bernie Sanders said, “The United States today is the only major country on earth that doesn’t guarantee health care to all people as a right.”
The World Health Organization issued a report in 2014, saying, “the USA is currently the only high-income country without nearly universal health-care coverage.”
As we determined in December based on the WHO report, our verdict is true.
Reality Check: Sanders “a good athlete”
By Gisela Crespo, CNN
Sanders talked about his athletic skills, describing himself as a “good athlete” though “not great.” The senator mentioned that the basketball team he played for at his elementary school won a borough championship. In the book “The Jews of Capitol Hill: A Compendium of Jewish Congressional Members,” author Kurt F. Stone writes that the school, P.S. 197 in Brooklyn, did win a borough championship while Sanders played.
Politico Magazine reports that in high school, Sanders was cut from the basketball team but that he was “good on the track team.”
A New York Times profile of the presidential candidate mentions that he was co-captain of the track team at James Madison High School.
The Times also reports that in 1957 he finished third in a one-mile race.
Sanders did not exaggerate his athletic prowess, so we rate his claim true.
Reality Check: Sanders says income inequality greater than any year since 1928
By Tami Luhby, CNNMoney
Sanders promises to battle income inequality, which he says is greater now than in any year since 1928.
The Pew Research Center, citing research from University of California-Berkeley economic professor Emmanuel Saez, agreed in a December 2013 note.
Saez’s studies, which are based on Internal Revenue Service data, says inequality has been increasing since the 1970s and is now similar to the late 1920s, just prior to the Great Depression.
Pew references a Saez report that found in 1928, the top 1% earned 23.9% of all pretax income, while the bottom 90% took home 50.7%. In 2012, the top 1% controlled nearly 22.5% of all pretax income, while the share of the bottom 90% fell below 50% for the first time (to 49.6%).
The recent peak in the top 1%’s income share came in 2007, just before the start of the Great Recession.
More recent data from Saez, however, found that the income gap narrowed slightly in 2013. That’s mainly because the wealthy pushed income into 2012 to avoid higher tax rates that took effect the following year.
In 2013, some 20.1% of all pretax income went to the top 1%, while 51.1% went to the bottom 90%.
Reality Check: Sanders on pay inequality for women
By Lisa Rose, CNN
During a discussion on the economy, Sanders said he wants to raise women’s wages. He declared that female workers earn 79 cents on the dollar compared to men.
Sanders’ ratio is off a bit. Women are doing slightly better, earning 83 cents on the dollar compared to all men, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report released in November. That is the highest ratio since the BLS began comparing women’s earnings to men’s in 1979, when female workers made 62 cents on the dollar compared to men.
Sanders punctuated his point by stating that the pay disparity is greater for women of color. That is, indeed, true. African-American women earn 68 cents on the dollar compared to white men, according to the BLS. The earnings of non-white Hispanic women are 61 cents on the dollar compared to white men. White women earn 82 cents on the dollar compared to white men.
Based on the latest data, we rate this claim mostly true.
Reality Check: Sanders led opposition to the Iraq War
By Sonam Vashi, CNN
Sanders said, “I would remind you, and remind the viewers, that in 2002, when George W. Bush and Dick Cheney said we should go to war in Iraq, Bernie Sanders listened very carefully and I said, ‘No. I think that war is a dumb idea.’ I helped lead the opposition to that war. And if you go to my website, listen to what I said, and sadly enough, it gives me no joy, much much what I feared would happen, did happen.”
Sanders was in the House of Representatives at the time. In October 2002, he made a statement on the floor of the House that criticized the idea of invading Iraq, citing concerns about international law and unintended consequences.
“Who will govern Iraq when Saddam Hussein is removed and what role will the U.S. play in ensuing a civil war that could develop in that country? Will moderate governments in the region who have large Islamic fundamentalist populations be overthrown and replaced by extremists?” he asked.
His 2002 statement is the best documented evidence of his opposition to the war, and he also voted against the authorization of military force in Iraq in 2002 (one of 133 members of Congress to do so). He also spoke out against the war in a 2007 address to the Senate.
But was he at the forefront of the opposition? We can’t find much evidence of that – at least not to the point of other congressional opposition leaders on the issue, such as Russ Feingold, who gave several speeches against the war and introduced legislation to cut off its funding.
Sanders voted against Iraq War funding six times but supported four funding bills after 2006 (his volunteer-run site offers justifications for why he did fund those bills).
While perhaps not at the level of Feingold or Kennedy, Sanders spoke out against it during a time when opposition to the war in Iraq was rare. (For example, then-New York Sen. Hillary Clinton voted yes on the Iraq War Resolution, as Sanders often notes). We rate his claim that he “helped lead” the opposition mostly true.
Reality Check: O’Malley defends his criminal justice bona fides
By Tom LoBianco, CNN
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley answered a challenge to his support for “zero tolerance” policing strategies when mayor of Baltimore by touting his long-term success at driving down violent crime and incarceration rates.
“By the end of my time as governor, we had driven down violent crime to a 30-year low and we had also driven down our incarceration rate to a 20-year low,” O’Malley said. “You can do both of them at the same time by doing the things that work.”
Maryland’s Uniform Crime Report data for 2014 found that the state’s violent crime rate stood at 441.3 victims per 100,000 inhabitants.
This number is consistent with a long-term trend of declining violent crime in Maryland during O’Malley’s time in office, from 2007-2015.
But Maryland’s drop in the number of violent crimes reported also coincided with a national drop in violent crime reported by the FBI in the same period.
Meanwhile, O’Malley argued that his state-level policies helped reduce the rate of those imprisoned to a 20-year low.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics listed Maryland’s imprisoned population at 19,977 in 1992. By 2002, that number had jumped to 24,162, but by 2012, the number imprisoned had dropped to 22,558.
Maryland’s population, meanwhile, had increased from 4.8 million in 1990 to 5.8 million in 2010, meaning the raw number imprisoned may have increased overall in that roughly 20-year span, but the rate itself decreased.
Reality Check: Clinton on American prosperity under Bill Clinton
By Tami Luhby, CNNMoney
Clinton pointed to the economic record of her husband, Bill Clinton, noting that “what was most important is incomes grew for everybody – not just those at the top. More people were lifted out of poverty, incomes rose in the middle and (for) working people.”
Americans did prosper under President Bill Clinton.
When Clinton took office in 1993, the nation’s median income was $50,421, according to U.S. Census data. In 2000, the last year of his term, the typical American earned $57,724. (It has since fallen to $53,657 in 2014, the most recent year available.)
Meanwhile, the share of Americans in poverty dropped during the Clinton years, from 15.1% in 1993 to 11.3% in 2000.
But the wealthy still did better. The top 1% saw their income nearly doubled during those years, according to data compiled by University of California-Berkeley Economic Professor Emmanuel Saez. The income of the bottom 99% grew by 20.3%.
Reality check: Clinton on her role pushing sanctions on Iran
By Kevin Liptak, CNN
Clinton claimed she led efforts to enact new sanctions on the regime during her tenure as the nation’s top diplomat.
“I spent 18 months putting together the coalition that imposed international sanctions on the Iranians that forced them finally to begin negotiating with us to get an end to their nuclear weapons program,” she said.
It’s a line Clinton has used regularly in her bid for the Democratic nomination, and her campaign has pointed to her efforts pressuring foreign partners – namely Russia and China – to agree to United Nations Security Council sanctions on Iran.
There is evidence that Clinton lobbied her foreign counterparts on the Iran sanctions, including during trips to their capitals and during public remarks. In a speech in January 2010, Clinton warned Beijing it risked isolating itself it it didn’t sign on.
Those UN sanctions were ultimately adopted in June 2010, and President Barack Obama declared them the toughest ever enacted on Tehran.
But that assessment was soon outstripped by unilateral sanctions enacted by the U.S. Congress, which went beyond the U.N. punishment, and that Obama ultimately signed into law.
Top Iranian officials have admitted that sanctions relief included in the Iran deal drove them to begin talks, backing up Clinton’s claim that her push to enact sanctions brought Tehran to the nuclear negotiations.
But while Clinton’s role in pushing foreign countries to adopt the tough UN sanctions is clear, it’s also evident U.S. lawmakers pushed for tough sanctions as well – indeed, tougher sanctions than Clinton was lobbying for abroad.
Verdict: Mostly true.