The team of reporters, researchers and editors across CNN listened throughout the speeches
They selected key statements and rated them true; mostly true; true, but misleading; false; or it's complicated
The Democratic Party gathered in Philadelphia on Tuesday for the second night of its convention, and CNN’s Reality Check Team put the speakers’ statements and assertions to the test.
The team of reporters, researchers and editors across CNN listened throughout the speeches and selected key statements, rating them true; mostly true; true, but misleading; false; or it’s complicated.
Reality Check: Hillary Clinton’s history with same-sex marriage equality
By Ali Foreman, CNN
“Could have been sooner.” During the primary season, “Saturday Night Live” comic Kate McKinnon schooled Hillary Clinton on punctuality when it came to supporting same-sex marriage equality.
At the star-studded second night of the Democratic National Convention, former President Bill Clinton praised his wife’s efforts toward international human rights – focusing on women and the LGBT community.
“She went to Beijing in 1995 and said that women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights,” he said. “She worked to empower women and girls around the world.”
While many would agree the first major party female presidential nominee has aggressively advocated gender equality, it’s important to question whether she made “the same exact declaration on behalf of the LGBT community” as Bill Clinton claimed.
Hillary Clinton initially expressed staunch disagreement with same-sex marriage during her first run for Senate. In early 2000, she stated plainly: “I think a marriage is as a marriage has always been, between a man and a woman.” She quickly clarified that she was strongly supportive of civil unions, but maintained her stance against same-sex marriage well into her term as senator.
In 2006, she told gay rights activists that she would support same-sex marriage if it was introduced in New York. However, she still expressed greater comfort with “states making the decisions.”
Throughout the 2008 presidential campaign, Clinton remained opposed to same-sex marriage. She did come out and support repealing portions of the Defense of Marriage Act – a law her husband signed in 1996 that prohibited same-sex couples from accessing certain benefits.
In 2011 Clinton declared, “Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights,” and following her resignation in February 2013, she quickly came out in support of the growing marriage equality movement, saying LGBT Americans should be treated as “full and equal citizens, and they deserve the rights of citizenship. That includes marriage.”
While Hillary Clinton has certainly warmed to the gay community during her political career, Bill Clinton’s implication that Hillary has supported gay rights throughout the years is false.
Ex-Attorney General Eric Holder
Reality Check: Eric Holder on crime and incarceration stats
By Sonam Vashi, CNN
Holder ran through several statistics on the criminal justice system, and we’re going to unpack them, one by one.
“At a time when our justice system is out of balance, when one in three black men will be incarcerated in their lifetimes …”
We’ve looked at this claim before. This figure comes from the Sentencing Project, a criminal justice think tank, released a report in 2013 with this conclusion. However, that report, which was submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, was based on 2001 data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Since then, incarceration rates for black males have decreased by about 23% between 2001 and 2014.
While the “one in three” figure may be outdated, it’s clear that black males have disproportionately high imprisonment rates – ones that are 3.8 to 10.5 times higher for all ages than white males and 1.4 to 3.1 times higher than Hispanic males, according to the BJS. Holder’s claim is mostly true.
“And when black defendants in the federal system receive sentences 20% longer than their white peers, we need a president who will end this policy of over-incarceration.”
That’s true, at least for black males, according to a 2013 report from the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Between December 2007 and September 2011, federal judges gave sentences to black men that were 19.5% longer than those given to white men for similar crimes.
“Now, as attorney general, I launched sweeping reforms of our federal criminal justice system and reduced its reliance on draconian mandatory minimum sentences.”
That’s also true. Holder is well-known for making criminal justice reform a central part of his tenure, and he saw mandatory minimum sentences, which set minimum binding prison terms for certain crimes, as a civil rights issue. In 2015, Holder touted that federal prosecutors sought mandatory minimum sentences less often after his reforms and bringing fewer prosecutions for illegal drugs.
“And as a result, we cut the federal prison population and the crime rate – together – for the first time in more than 40 years.”
The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report measures violent crime, which includes murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. In 2014, the violent crime rate was the lowest it has been since it peaked in the 1990s.
And in 2014, the federal prison population decreased for the first time since the 1970s, by 2%, according to numbers from the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Holder is correct in saying that both measures went down simultaneously for the first time in decades, but his statement is missing some context. Violent crime hit a small uptick last year, according to preliminary numbers from the FBI, and it’s on the rise so far this year, according to a midyear violent crime survey. Additionally, as we noted for a claim for President Barack Obama last week, the overall violent crime rate has been steadily declining since the 1990s. So, violent crime was already on a downward trend before Holder or Obama took office. It’s not fair to credit this administration for any increases or decreases in those rates without noting that larger trend.