Fact-checker’s guide to Hillary Clinton's UC Davis speech

Hillary Clinton spoke at UC Davis on Oct. 9, 2017 as part of her tour promoting What Happened, her memoir of the 2016 election. Photo courtesy UC Davis.
Hillary Clinton spoke at UC Davis on Oct. 9, 2017 as part of her tour promoting What Happened, her memoir of the 2016 election. Photo courtesy UC Davis.

In a wide-ranging speech at the University of California at Davis this week, Hillary Clinton said she’ll continue to speak out for women’s rights and child health care and that she’ll denounce what she described "an assault on truth and reason."

The former Democratic candidate for president also pledged to call out the media when it fails to cover substantive news in favor of daily controversies.

Despite her election loss, Clinton told the crowd she won’t disappear from the spotlight.

"I am not going anywhere other than right into the middle of the debate over the future," Clinton said, winning applause.

Hillary Clinton spoke at UC Davis on Oct. 9, 2017. 

The event was Clinton’s only scheduled stop in California promoting What Happened, her memoir of the 2016 election.

Below is a fact-checker’s guide to Clinton’s UC Davis speech.

We earlier rated one of Clinton’s statements on our Truth-O-Meter: Her False claim that there have been more than 270 mass shootings in the United States so far this year "where four or more are killed."

When we examined this claim, we found she misstated a broad definition for mass shootings, which requires a combination of four or more people injured or killed in one event. This definition doesn’t necessarily require anyone to be killed, as four or more injured alone would qualify as a mass shooting.

Under that expansive criteria, there have been more than 270 such crimes so far this year.

Clinton, however, left out the key words "or injured," dramatically changing the threshold for these shootings. There have been a much smaller number of shootings this year where "four or more people are killed," nowhere near the 270 she claimed. We recently took a deep look at the competiting definitions for this crime.

Beyond her mass shooting claim, we explored Clinton’s statements about America’s declining abortion rate; its near universal child health coverage rate; how well she did with the white women’s vote in 2016; and how little the media covered policy during the election.

We did not rate them on our Truth-O-Meter. Instead, we examined whether Clinton provided key context for these claims and whether there was evidence to generally support them.

Here’s our guide:

America has "the lowest abortion rate since Roe v. Wade was decided"

This statement appears to be accurate. It draws on a widely-accepted January 2017 report by the Guttmacher Institute, a research and advocacy group that supports legalized abortion nationwide.

The report estimated there were 926,000 abortions in 2014, or 14.6 procedures for every 1,000 women of childbearing age.

That was a drop of 14 percent from three years earlier. As Clinton said, it’s the lowest rate since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in 1973, according to the report.

The rate has been declining for decades, and is down from a peak of 29.3 percent in 1980 and 1981.

The cause of the decline remains unsettled. Clinton went on to say in her speech at UC Davis that the decline "has something to do with access to birth control."

The Los Angeles Times reported that the study did not look at the reasons for the decline, but the authors and other experts suggested that improved access to contraception played a big role by preventing unintended pregnancies.

Conservative groups have also taken credit for the decline, saying state laws restricting abortion access led to some of the drop-off.

"One thing that most people don’t know is I actually got a higher percentage of white women votes than President Barack Obama did in 2012." 

Clinton received just 43 percent of white women’s votes in the 2016 election. She acknowledged at the UC Davis event that "the white women numbers are a little bit troubling for a lot of reasons."

She made a similar assertion in her memoir, where she noted "I failed to win a majority of white women, although I did better with them than Obama did in 2012."

The national PolitiFact fact-checked this statement.

Here is its analysis:

"Clinton is correct, but her comparison to Barack Obama’s numbers in 2012 obscures a more sobering comparison. Yes, exit polls show that 42 percent of white women picked Obama in 2012. But Clinton’s 43 percent is less than other Democrats in recent memory."

Here’s its list for past Democrats:

Obama 2008 -- 46 percent

Kerry 2004 -- 45 percent

Clinton 1996 -- 48 percent

And here’s PolitiFact’s conclusion:

"While Clinton’s statement is technically accurate, there’s a bit of cherry-picking going on."

"Because of (the Children’s Health Insurance Program), 95 percent of all American children now have health care."

Clinton’s claim about 95 percent of children having health insurance is generally accurate. PolitiFact California found that various health advocacy groups and news reports credit the Children’s Health Insurance Program for playing a key role in guaranteeing coverage for children.

The program, also known as CHIP, is a joint state-federal safety net for families who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to buy private insurance.

The 95 percent figure is backed up by an analysis of the 2016 American Community Survey’s health insurance data by the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute.

"According to the data, the insured rate among children under age 19 is now at an all-time high of 95.3 percent. This continues the upward trend of the children’s insured rate since 2008," the Georgetown policy institute wrote in a blog post in September 2017.

The figure is also supported by data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, which tracks health insurance coverage for children.

Families USA, which advocates for health care consumers, called the CHIP program "a vital part of our nation’s health care system" in a fact sheet describing the program.

Also, in July 2017, the Los Angeles Times published an in-depth report on children’s health insurance in the United States. It concluded "The percentage of children who lack health insurance has been falling steadily for two decades, in large part because of the expansion of public programs such as Medicaid and CHIP."

"There were only 32 minutes that whole year of 2016 on television, on the main networks, both broadcast and cable, talking about policy." 

Clinton made this claim at the UC Davis speech while talking about what she in the past has "described as "a decline of serious reporting on policy." She also added that this decline "got much worse in 2016."

Based on an investigation by the national PolitiFact of similar claims in Clinton’s book, she appears to be right.

Here’s PolitiFact’s analysis:

Calling herself "an unapologetic policy wonk," Clinton bemoaned the triumph of superficial news over true substance. For her, the main impact was too much coverage of her email troubles and too little of immigration, taxes, trade and other big policy issues.

Specifically, she wrote, "In 2008, the major networks’ nightly newscasts spent a total of 220 minutes on policy. In 2012, it was 114 minutes. In 2016, it was just 32 minutes."

This traces back to the work of Andrew Tyndall, a private analyst who logs what the three major networks -- ABC, NBC and CBS -- cover each evening on their national news broadcasts. Tyndall’s stats rely on his personal judgment but his work is cited regularly by media reporters.

A separate, broader analysis of general election news coverage lends further weight to Clinton’s complaint. A report from Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy found that the policy positions of the candidates accounted for 10 percent of all news stories.

PolitiFact has rated nearly 300 statements by Hillary Clinton on its Truth-O-Meter. Visit the national website for more about Clinton’s record with the truth.