Donald Trump GOP houston debate 04
Reality check: Did Donald Trump hire illegal workers?
03:21 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

The Republican candidates for president gathered in Houston

It was their last debate before Super Tuesday

CNN teams selected key statements and rated how true they were

Washington CNN  — 

The Republican candidates for president gathered in Houston on Thursday for their last debate before Super 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.

Donald Trump

Reality Check: Trump on American taxes

By Kate Grise and Tami Luhby, CNN

Donald Trump reprised a claim he’s made in past debates, saying the United States is the “highest taxed country in the world.”

Responding to a question about his plan to cut taxes, Trump said, “If you look at what’s going on, we have the highest taxes anywhere in the world. We pay more business tax, we pay more personal tax.”

As CNN’s Reality Check team did when Trump made this claim two weeks ago, we’ll look at each part of his claim that American individuals and businesses pay more taxes than any other country.

So, do Americans really pay more individual taxes than citizens of any other country in the world?


America ranked 17 out of 34 Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development member countries for total tax revenue per capita in 2014. In America, the tax revenue per capita is $14,203.90. In Luxembourg, the country with the highest tax revenue per capita, that rate is almost $50,000. Norway’s tax revenue per capita hits more than $38,000. Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland round out the top five countries with the highest tax revenue per capita.

OECD’s 34 member countries are advanced, industrialized nations, which makes their data valuable in comparing the United States to similar countries. China, Russia and India are not included in the OECD’s list because they are not member countries.

We can also look at total tax revenue as a percentage of the country’s gross domestic product. This time, America ranks even lower – 27th out of 34 OECD member countries in 2014. America’s tax revenue is 26% of the country’s GDP. Denmark tops the list, with its tax revenue being equal to 50% of the country’s GDP.

Looking at whether American citizens face the highest taxes, we rate Trump’s claim as false.

Turning to companies, it’s true that American businesses face the highest official corporate tax rate. The federal rate stands at 35%.

But that’s not what many companies actually pay. The Government Accountability Office found that large, profitable U.S. corporations paid an average effective federal tax rate of 12.6% in 2010, thanks to things like tax credits, exemptions and offshore tax havens.

U.S. corporate tax collection totaled 2.6% of GDP in 2011, according to the OECD. That was the 11th lowest in a ranking of 27 wealthy nations.

So when it comes to American corporations, we rate Trump’s statement as true, but misleading. The United States has the highest official corporate tax rate, but that’s not what many companies actually pay.

Reality Check: Trump has a dirty mouth

By Sonam Vashi, CNN

Asked about former Mexican President Vicente Fox’s comments from earlier Thursday (“I’m not going to pay for that f**king wall!”), Trump said, “I saw him make the statement. I saw him use the word that he used. I can only tell you, if I would have used even half of that word, it would have been a national scandal. This guy used a filthy, disgusting word on television and he should be ashamed of himself and he should apologize, OK?”

However, the businessman has a history that shows his own mouth might need to be washed out with soap. Cover your ears, children.

In April 2011, he blasphemed at a large Las Vegas rally on oil prices (“We have nobody in Washington that sits back and said, ‘You’re not going to raise that f***king price!’”), on putting tariffs on China (“Listen, you mother***kers, we’re going to tax you 25%!”) and on military presence abroad (“We build a school, we build a road, they blow up the school, we build another school, we build another road they blow them up, we build again, in the meantime we can’t get a f***king school in Brooklyn.”). Listen for yourself in the (bleeped) Vine below.

That’s not even counting the profanity he’s uttered during this campaign season. Whether it’s wanting to “bomb the s**t out of” ISIS, calling Cruz a “pussy,” or casually cursing during interviews, Trump’s indignation over Fox’s expletive seems a bit feigned when it comes to his own history. We rate Trump’s outrage as %$*#.

Reality Check: Trump on paying for the wall with Mexico

By Tami Luhby, CNNMoney

Trump has long said he wants to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and get the Mexican government to pay for it. More recently, he’s been tying the issue to America’s trade deficit with its southern neighbor.

“We have a trade deficit with Mexico of $58 billion a year. And that doesn’t include all the drugs that are pouring across and destroying our country. We are going to make them pay for that wall. Now, the wall is $10 billion to $12 billion,” Trump said.

It’s true that the trade deficit with Mexico was $58 billion last year. But that doesn’t mean the Mexican government can pay for the wall … not to mention whether they’d even agree to.

The deficit means that private firms in Mexico have earned more money from trading with the U.S. than U.S. firms have earned from trade with Mexico, said Gary Hufbauer, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

“It not like it’s a pot of money available to the Mexican government,” he said.

So it’s false that the trade deficit gives Mexico the money to pay for the wall.

CNN also looked at the cost of building the wall. Construction experts said a wall fashioned out of pre-casted concrete panels – similar to those that run alongside highways – would be the most workable choice.

Based on the price of highway panels, the price tag for the wall alone would cost around $10 billion, which is not accounting for the cost of construction that would take at least four years over the border’s diverse terrain.

Other construction estimates have come in much higher. A retired estimator and economist for one of the nation’s largest construction firms calculated it would cost nearly $25 billion, according to The Washington Post.

We rate Trump’s claim that building the wall would cost between $10 billion and $12 billion as false.

Reality Check: Trump accidentally calls himself out

By Amy Gallagher and Chad Weaver, CNN

Trump said, “I don’t repeat myself. I don’t repeat myself.”

But by our count, he repeated himself at least 20 times during the debate.

Some examples:

“Because the country will become a dynamic economy. We’ll be dynamic again.”

“We will have a dynamic economy again.”

“We have the highest taxes anywhere in the world.”

“We have the highest taxes in the world.”

“I’ve hired tens of thousands of people over my lifetime. Tens of thousands …”

“Let me talk. I’ve hired tens of thousands of people.”

“And by the way, I’ve hired – and by the way, I’ve hired tens of thousands of people over at my job. You’ve hired nobody.”

We rate his claim false. False.

Reality Check: Trump on “Israeli Day Parade”

By Lisa Rose, CNN

Trump touted his bona fides as a supporter of Israel during the debate, sparring with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz over which one of them is a more devoted booster of America’s close ally. Trump said, “I was the grand marshal, (walking) down Fifth Avenue a number of years ago for the Israeli Day Parade.”

And Trump added, “I received their Tree of Life award and many of the greatest awards given by Israel.”

The real estate tycoon indeed marched in a parade called Salute to Israel in 2004. The New York Daily News reported that Trump was heckled by pro-Palestine activists chanting, “You’re fired.”

Trump said he has close ties with the nation he has yet to visit as a candidate. He was scheduled to go there in December but canceled the trip after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized him for proposing a travel ban on Muslims in the wake of the San Bernardino attack.

The Tree of Life prize is awarded by the Jewish National Fund, a charity that supports environmental initiatives and land development in Israel. A number of Jewish organizations have honored Trump over the years for his philanthropy, but the government of Israel has not yet given him a prize as he claimed Thursday.

Verdict: True, but misleading.

Ted Cruz

Reality Check: Cruz on Wall Street Journal article on Arizona immigration

By Tami Luhby, CNNMoney

In a heated debate about illegal immigration, Cruz noted that undocumented workers fled Arizona after the state cracked down on them. He cited a Wall Street Journal story that outlined the impact on state and business spending.

“What the state of Arizona has seen is the dollars they’re spending on welfare, on prisons, on education, all of those have dropped by hundreds of millions of dollars, and the Americans, and for that matter, the legal immigrants, who are in Arizona, are seeing unemployment drop, are seeing wages rise,” Cruz said.

The number of undocumented workers in Arizona dropped by 40% between 2007 and 2012, the Journal writes, citing a Pew Research Center report.

Here’s what the Journal article actually said about the economic impact of that decline:

• The number of students enrolled in intensive English courses in Arizona public schools fell from 150,000 in 2008 to 70,000 in 2012 and has remained constant since. Schooling 80,000 fewer students would save the state roughly $350 million a year, by one measure.

• Annual emergency-room spending on noncitizens fell 37% from $167 million to $106 million.

• The annual cost to state prisons of incarcerating noncitizens convicted of felonies fell 11% from $202 million to $180 million.

• Wages rose about 15% for Arizona farmworkers and about 10% for construction between 2010 and 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It’s true that the Journal story said that spending on education dropped by hundreds of millions of dollars.

But Cruz exaggerates the other claims, so we rate them as false.

The savings from fewer incarcerations are much smaller and the Journal doesn’t mention welfare spending. In fact, it notes that undocumented immigrants cannot receive government benefits, including non-emergency hospital care.

Also, while wages have gone up, the story doesn’t specify whether pay is rising for legal immigrants. It noted that some of the low-skilled workers who benefited are native born.

Reality Check: Cruz on everyone’s illegal immigration records

By Kate Grise, CNN

Cruz kicked off the debate by defending his own record on illegal immigration and attacking others on stage.

He made many claims about his record and those of two of the other candidates on stage with him. Let’s look at them one by one.

“I really find it amazing that Donald believes he is the one who discovered the issue of illegal immigration. I can tell you that when I ran for Senate here in the state of Texas, I ran promising to lead the fight against amnesty, promising to fight to build a wall,” Cruz said.

During the race for his Senate race in 2012, Cruz said he opposed amnesty – which to him means no pathway to citizenship or legal status for undocumented immigrants – multiple times.

“Neither party is serious about stopping it. I strongly oppose illegal immigration. I categorically oppose amnesty. I support legal immigrants who come here supporting the American Dream,” Cruz said in an interview with Hot Air in May 2012.

In the same interview, Cruz said, “We need to do everything humanly possible to secure the borders. Electronic surveillance, a wall, helicopters and, most importantly, boots on the ground.”

We rate Cruz’s claim that he campaigned on a promise to fight amnesty and build a wall as true.

Reality Check: Cruz says Trump is for ‘socialized medicine’

By Chip Grabow, CNN

On the topic of health care, Cruz claimed Trump “for decades … has been advocating ‘socialized medicine.’ What he’s said is that the government should pay for everyone’s health care. And, in fact, a couple of debates ago, he said, if you don’t support socialized health care, you’re heartless.”

2016 presidential debates fast facts

Cruz may be confusing “universal health care” with “socialized medicine,” two different things. The former means that everyone gets coverage. Socialized medicine means medicine and hospital services are paid for by taxes.

And while we haven’t found a record of Trump saying this during a debate, on ABC’s “This Week” last month, he did allude to Cruz being heartless. Host George Stephanopoulos reminded Trump that Cruz was telling voters, “A vote for Trump is a vote for Obamacare.” Trump responded, “I want people taken care of. I have a heart. I want people taken care of. If people have no money, we have to help people.” Trump went on, saying of Cruz, “Maybe he’s got no heart.”

We did discover multiple instances as far back as 1999 where Trump has made clear his support of universal health care. Here’s a few of them:

Last September, in an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Trump told Scott Pelley: “I am going to take care of everybody. I don’t care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.”

Pelley: “The uninsured person is going to be taken care of. How? How?”

Trump: “They’re going to be taken care of. I would make a deal with existing hospitals to take care of people. And, you know what, if this is probably –”

Pelley: “Make a deal? Who pays for it?”

Trump: “The government’s gonna pay for it. But we’re going to save so much money on the other side. But for the most, it’s going to be a private plan and people are going to be able to go out and negotiate great plans with lots of different competition with lots of competitors with great companies and they can have their doctors, they can have plans, they can have everything.”

Trump also spoke highly of universal health care in his 2000 book, “The America We Deserve,” where he wrote: “We must have universal health care … I’m a conservative on most issues but a liberal on this one … We need, as a nation, to re-examine the single-payer plan, as many individual states are doing.”

In 1999, Trump flirted with a presidential run as a Reform Party candidate. That year, he told CNN’s Larry King: “If you can’t take care of your sick in the country, forget it, it’s all over. … I believe in universal health care.”

Trump may have an out for some of his claims – he’s often ad