Race to Presidency: Fact-checking the Republican town halls

On Feb. 17 and 18, CNN hosted back-to-back GOP town halls. Presidential candidates Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio debated in Greenville on Wednesday night, while Donald Trump, Jeb Bush and John Kasich debated in Columbia on Thursday night. The evening of Feb. 20, Bush suspended his campaign, so his quotes were not included in this article.

Candidates made the following statements throughout the debates, and The Current staff determined the verdicts after heavy research of reputable sources. Full transcripts of the debate can be found online at CNN, The New York Times and other sources.

* “Now how did that [the government saying it would eliminate poverty] work out? You know, $19 trillion later, 10 times more people on food stamps, more poverty…out-of-wedlock births, crime, incarceration. Everything is not only worse, it’s much worse.”—Ben Carson, on balancing traditional Christian values with social issues

o Debt – According to the U.S. Treasury, the U.S. has a debt of over $19 trillion as of Feb. 2016.

o Food Stamps – The Food Research and Action Center reported that, from November 2010 to November 2015, the number of people in the U.S. using food stamps increased from 45,415,445 to 45,453,806, which equals a 10-percent increase.

o Poverty – According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people below 50 percent of poverty increased from 20,541 in 2010 to 20,803 in 2014.

o Births to unmarried mothers – Childtrends.org reported that, from 1960 to 2014, there was a gradual increase of births to unmarried women. The percentage of all births that were to unmarried women was approximately 33 percent in 2000 and 40.3 percent in 2015.

o Crime and incarceration – According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the number of people incarcerated in the U.S. increased from 500,000 in 1980 to 2.3 million in 2008. However, the Brookings Institute found that since the 1990s, the U.S. has had a steady decline in crime rates; between 1990 and 2012, the rate fell approximately 45 percent.

o VERDICT: Mostly true. The only comment that was wrong was the crime rate, which has gone down.

* “In 2006, for example, when the Democrats took over Congress, Donald Trump and his son gave about three times as much to the Democrats as they did to the Republicans. They helped fund putting Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid as Speaker of the House and Majority Leader of the Senate. They helped set the stage for Obamacare.”—Ted Cruz, on Donald Trump

o The Washington Post reported that, in 2006, Trump gave $25,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. His son, Donald Trump Jr., also donated $22,500 to the committees. That year, both Trumps gave approximately $1,000 to the Republican committees. There are also numerous records of Trump donating large sums of money to Democrats and Democratic groups and significantly less money to Republicans and Republican groups.

o VERDICT: True.

* “And I’ll tell you the problem with the Cuban government. It’s not just a communist dictatorship, it is an Anti-American communist dictatorship. The Cuban government, three years ago, helped North Korea evade U.S. sanctions. They were caught trying to sell missile parts to North Korea

but nothing happened…The Cuban government today harbors hundreds of fugitives of American judicial, Medicare fraud — there are people there who have stolen your money.”—Marco Rubio, on if he would visit Cuba as president

o In 2013, the United Nations Security Council filed economic sanctions against North Korea after the country conducted its third underground nuclear test on Feb. 12. After this sanction passed unanimously, Cuba and Singapore organized illegal shipments of Cuban fighter jets and missile parts to North Korea, as reported by Al Jazeera. Included in the shipment were instructions on how to load and conceal the shipment and how to make false statements to customs officers in Panama.

o A year-long investigation by the Sun Sentinel found that Cubans are legally-permitted to enter the U.S. and return to Cuba without visas or background checks of their criminal histories. Investigators found that Cuban criminals had staged car accidents for insurance fraud, hijacked trucks, sold Medicare numbers and wired money through Western Union.

o In one case, it was found that a Cuban scam artist sent millions of dollars to Cuba, allowing the government to seize $200,000 of that sum.

o Cubans are allowed to come and go so easily because of their refugee status; once they come to the country, they are automatically considered political refugees and can receive welfare, food stamps and more. If they stay in the U.S. for a year and a day, they receive a green card.

o VERDICT: True.

* “And if you look at unemployment with African American youth…it’s 58 percent, 59 percent. Probably even higher than that. If you take African Americans…in prime age, 30, 40, 45, even 50, their numbers are not comparable to what white men or women in business are. It’s not good.”—Donald Trump, on small businesses

o According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of Jan. 2016, the unemployment rate for black or African-American youth aged 16 to 19 years old was 25.2 percent. The unemployment rate for black or African-American adults was 8.8 percent as of Jan. 2016.

o The unemployment rate for white youth aged 16 to 19 years old was 14.4 percent, and the rate for white adults was 4.3 percent.

o VERDICT: The general idea was correct, but the numbers were wrong. While Trump was correct in saying that the “numbers are not comparable to what white men or women in business are,” his statistics were significantly inaccurate.

* “You know, I’ve spent 18 years on the board of Kellogg’s, 16 years on the board of Costco, learned a tremendous amount about business, both domestically and internationally, and a lot of things that people who are politicians who are running have never done.”—Ben Carson, on if he’s qualified to be commander-in-chief

o The Detroit News reported that Carson was on the board of directors for Kellogg’s since 1997, and for Costco Wholesale Corp. since 1999. Both terms on the boards ended when Carson announced he was running for presidency in 2015.

o VERDICT: True.

* “For 80 years it has been the practice that the Senate has not confirmed any nomination made during an election year. And we shouldn’t make an exception now.”—Ted Cruz, on a hearing to replace recently deceased Supreme Court Justice Scalia

o The New York Times reported that, since 1900, the Supreme Court has confirmed six nominees during an election year. The last time a justice was both nominated and confirmed in an election year, as reported by The Washington Post, was in 1940, which is 76 years ago.

o VERDICT: False.

* “We [the U.S.] have the highest combined corporate tax rate in the world…We are the last major industrial country that double taxes its companies from making money overseas. That’s why you have $2 trillion of American corporate cash sitting overseas; $2 trillion is equivalent to the GDP of Russia.”—Marco Rubio, on the economy

o There are 34 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), and, out of those countries, the U.S. has the highest combined corporate tax rate of 39.3 percent. The next highest country is France with 34.43 percent, according to OECD’s database for 2015.

o In an article published by Time, it was found that the U.S. is the only industrialized country that taxes citizens who live in other countries. Bloomberg reported that, as a result, there were approximately $2.1 trillion in profits from U.S. companies overseas last year. Microsoft Corp., Apple Inc. and Google Inc. are among the eight tech firms known for accounting for more than a fifth of this profit.

o The World Bank reported that in 2013, the GDP of Russia was $2.097 trillion.

o VERDICT: True.

* “We [the U.S.] spend more money per pupil than any country in the world by far, and we’re ranked number 30 in the world.”—Donald Trump, on spending cuts

o OECD reported that, in 2011, the U.S. spent approximately $11,000 per full-time-equivalent (FTE) student in elementary and secondary education and more than $25,000 per FTE student in postsecondary education. Although Switzerland spends more per FTE student in elementary and secondary education with almost $15,000 per student, the U.S. dominates expenditures for postsecondary education by over $2,000.

o U.S. spending is also well-above the OECD average for both categories.

o VERDICT: True.

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