Thursday, December 18th, 2014

PolitiFact Florida: Fact-checking the Tampa Republican debate

The candidates debate in Tampa. (Tampa Bay Times photo by Edmund D. Fountain)
The candidates debate in Tampa. (Tampa Bay Times photo by Edmund D. Fountain)

The Republican debate in Tampa turned into a sparring match Monday night as Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney attacked each other on their records in political office.

Gingrich began the debate with a spirited defense of his record as speaker of the House of Representatives. He repeated a claim we've heard before, that "When I was speaker, we had four consecutive balanced budgets." In fact, two of those balanced budgets occured after he left office. We rated that claim False.

Romney attacked Gingrich for his record, claiming that "at the end of four years, he had to resign in disgrace. We interviewed experts about Gingrich's resignation and found that it was more complicated than Romney described.

Gingrich sought to downplay his work for Freddie Mac, the government-chartered mortgage company, by saying it was a government-sponsored enterprise just like credit unions and rural electrical co-operatives. We checked and found the list of GSEs is actually quite small and does not include credit unions and electrical co-ops. Pants on Fire!

Romney criticized President Barack Obama's jobs record, saying that "we have 25 million Americans out of work." We found the number of unemployed depends what measurement you use and the usual figure is about half that figure. We rated the claim Half True.

Romney also criticized Gingrich for his consulting work at Freddie Mac, the mortgage loan giant. Romney said Gingrich's contract was with the lobbyists at Freddie Mac. We looked at the 2006 contract the Gingrich campaign released the night of the debate and concluded Romney was right. We rated his statement True.

Romney also accused Gingrich of once supporting cap and trade. "When I was fighting against cap and trade, the speaker was sitting down with Nancy Pelosi on a sofa encouraging it," Romney said. We found that Half True. Romney once supported cap-and-trade efforts, and Gingrich's couch episode didn't explicitly mention the policy. 

Rick Santorum, meanwhile, defended oil pipelines by noting that high gas prices had caused the economic downturn in Florida. We rated his statement Mostly False. Gas prices didn't help, but other problems -- the housing market, for example -- were more salient. 

On a different note, Gingrich answered a question about making mandating English-only. Gingrich said one language was needed to unify a diverse country, noting that 86 languages are spoken at Miami Dade College. We looked into that detail about the Florida school and found it True.