Reality Check: The week in whoppers

Story highlights

  • A look at some of the most outrageous claims of the week
  • Is the US election rigged? Do the US 'make anything' anymore? Have Trump's accusers been 'debunked'?

Washington (CNN)Here's a round-up of this week's whoppers from the campaign trail and the final presidential debate of the election:

Russian gains in Syria

During an exchange over what to do about the deteriorating situation in Aleppo in this week's debate, Donald Trump made a point about how the Russians were outmaneuvering the United States in Syria.
    "They had a ceasefire three weeks ago," he said. "A ceasefire, the United States, Russia and Syria. And during the ceasefire, Russia took over vast swatches of land, and then they said we don't want the ceasefire anymore."
    They did?
    While the ceasefire seemed to hold for several days, there were more than 200 Russian and Syrian airstrikes during the weekend of September 23-25, with one witness telling CNN that it was a level of bombing that had never been seen before.
    On October 3, the US announced it was suspending talks with Russia and accused Moscow and Syria of violating the ceasefire through "intensified attacks against civilian area, targeting of critical infrastructure such as hospitals and preventing humanitarian aid from reaching civilians in need."
    There was no mention of Russians seizing any territory.

    Shading the truth on Heller

    Early on in the debate, Hillary Clinton sought to defend herself from the charge that she was anti-gun and why she disagreed with the Supreme Court's 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, which affirmed an individual's right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment.
    Clinton said that she "disagreed with the way the court applied the Second Amendment in that case, because what the District of Columbia was trying to do was to protect toddlers from guns and so they wanted people with guns to safely store them. And the court didn't accept that reasonable regulation, but they've accepted many others."
    In a 5-4 decision, the justices struck down parts of a DC law that made it a crime for anyone to carry an unregistered firearm and prohibited the registration of handguns. In effect, the district had imposed a virtual ban on the possession of any handgun within city limits. And yes, the law also required any legally owned firearms, such as rifles and shotguns, kept in a person's home be unloaded, disassembled or fitted with trigger locks.
    Now it could be argued that latter provisions were designed to protect toddlers from accidentally shooting themselves or others if they were to get their hands on a loaded rifle without a trigger lock. But the question before the Supreme Court really boiled down to whether DC could ban handguns for self-defense and whether the firearm safety requirements made it too difficult for homeowners to defend themselves.
    Indeed, after the Heller decision, DC passed a law making a person liable if he or she knowingly stored a firearm in a way that a child under the age of 18 could gain access to it. A similar law in San Francisco was challenged after the Heller decision. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that law and, so far, the Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal of that decision.

    The murder rate in the US 'is the highest it's been in 45 years'

    When Trump said this at a Colorado rally earlier this week, we cut him some slack, figuring it might have been a slip of the tongue. After all, he had been saying that last year saw the largest increase in the homicide rate in the country's largest cities in 45 years. Given the fact that the murder rate in 2014 was one of the lowest ever recorded, it is plausible the increase in percentage terms in 2015 was dramatic.
    But then he said it again on Friday at a rally in Fletcher, North Carolina.
    Is it true? Not even close.
    According to FBI figures for murder and non-negligent homicides, the rate per 100,000 residents for 2015 was 4.9 -- sure, that's an 11% jump from the 4.4 rate in 2014. But it's far less that what it was 45 years ago (7.9) and what it was 25 years ago (9.8).

    We don't make anything?

    A bedrock idea of Trump's campaign is that the country's manufacturing sector has been hollowed out, mainly as a result of what he sees are bad trade deals. But at times Trump's dystopian vision of the country's manufacturing landscape goes way too far, as it did during Wednesday's debate.
    "We don't make our product anymore," he said. "It's very sad, but I am going to create a ... the kind of a country that we were from the standpoint of industry. We used to be there. We've given it up."
    Given the loss of manufacturing jobs, it is tempting to moan, as Trump does, that the US doesn't make things anymore. But as CNNMoney's Chris Isidore and Jon Ostrower reported this week, US factories are producing three to five times more output than in the early 1950s to mid-1960s, and that manufacturing output set a record last year in inflation-adjusted terms.
    For example, according to Isidore and Ostrower, Boeing, the country's largest exporter, "delivered 768 airliners in 2015, up 163% in 10 years. Archrival Airbus delivered its first US-assembled airliner from its new Alabama factory in April, and Brazilian plane maker Embraer recently moved assembly of its smallest private jets to Florida."
    At the same time, U.S. auto production is "within 7% of record levels, making 12 million cars and trucks a year. Not only have GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler all been hiring and investing in US plants, but foreign automakers are expanding operations here as well. The largest BMW plant in the world is now in South Carolina, and the plant exports most of the cars it builds there."
    And the CNNMoney writers say "the boom isn't just about big-ticket items. Chemical production hit a record $797 billion last year, up 30% in the last 10 years. The chemical boom has been fueled by the record US energy boom, which has made oil and natural gas particularly cheap. Petroleum is a key raw material for many chemicals, most of which are produced using energy from natural gas."
    Sure jobs have been lost in manufacturing due to automation, greater efficiency and, of course, globalization. But to say that the country has given up making things is just plain wrong.

    It's rigged!

    Amid the accusations of a rigged election, of dead people voting and people casting ballots many, many times, Trump read this excerpt from a 2012 Washington Post blog post at a rally in Wisconsin.
    "Non-citizen votes could have given Democrats the pivotal 60th vote needed to overcome filibusters in order to pass health care reform ... and other Obama administration priorities," he read. "It is possible that non-citizen votes were responsible for Obama's 2008 victory in North Carolina."
    Trump is basing his claim on research published in 2014 by academics at Old Dominion University. Using the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, the researchers drew samples of non-citizens, and asked them if they were registered to vote and if they cast ballots in the 2008 and 2010 elections.
    In the paper, which was excerpted in The Washington Post, Jesse Richman and David Earnest concluded that their "best guess" was that 6.4% of their sample voted in 2008 and 2.2% did so in 2010.
    Given the fact there were nearly 20 million non-citizens of voting age living in the country at that time, the two claimed that is was possible that these percentages could have made the difference in some close elections.
    Since non-citizens tend to favor Democratic candidates, the academics postulate that the votes of non-citizens could account for Al Franken's razor thin, 312-vote win in the Minnesota Senate race in 2008. Franken went on to provide the Democrats the 60th vote to overcome a filibuster and pass the Affordable Care Act. The professors also said it was possible that non-citizen votes were responsible for Barack Obama's close victory in North Carolina during the 2008 presidential contest.
    The Old Dominion academic came under sharp criticism, including a peer reviewed study in The Washington Post that stated, "there is absolutely no evidence from the data that non-citizens voted in recent presidential elections."
    In the face of some criticism of their methodology and with Trump using their work to bolster his point of a "rigged" election, the academics have clarified their point. Writing on his website this week, Richman noted that the number of non-citizens voting is so low that it can only change the outcome of extremely close elections. "But one should keep in mind that such elections can be swayed by any number of factors that arguably bias election results toward or against particular parties or candidates."
    In an interview, Richman was more succinct.
    "Frankly, Al Franken's race was so close you could tell all kinds of stories about what tipped the balance," he said.


    In the debate, Trump was asked about the allegations that he has sexually assaulted women.
    "Well, first of all, those stories have been largely debunked," he replied.
    Have they?
    Here is what we know about these allegations, spanning more than 35 years and involving at least 10 women who have come forward with sexual assault claims against Trump.
    Trump has challenged the allegations by calling the women liars and threatening litigation.
    "Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign," Trump said during remarks in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. "Total fabrication. The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over."
    There is no question that these charges against Trump are being disputed. But to say they have been largely debunked goes too far.