Fact-checking Alan Grayson, candidate for U.S. Senate

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson will run for Senate in Florida in 2016. (Getty)
U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson will run for Senate in Florida in 2016. (Getty)

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, a liberal firebrand, will take on fellow Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy for a Senate seat in 2016.

The seat is currently held by Sen. Marco Rubio, who is running for president.

Grayson, who represents the Orlando area and was first elected in 2008, is known for his soundbite attacks against Republicans. Among his more famous lines: He described the GOP health care plan as "if you do get sick, die quickly," he compared Dick Cheney to a vampire and he said that the "Republican Party of Florida smells worse than a rotting carcass."

We have fact-checked Grayson 24 times since 2009.

Here is a snapshot of his PolitiFact scorecard.

(See Grayson’s file on the Truth-O-Meter, which updates dynamically as we post new fact-checks.)

Grayson will challenge Murphy, who announced in March that he is running for Senate. Murphy, who lives in Jupiter, has built a reputation as a middle-of-the-road Democrat who has joined the GOP on certain votes, including backing the Keystone XL Pipeline, which President Barack Obama opposed. Murphy ousted U.S. Rep. Allen West in a swing district in the Treasure Coast in 2012.

On the Republican side, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera is expected to announce July 15, while U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis announced in May. U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller is considering a bid.

Here’s a look back at some of our fact-checks related to Grayson:

Fundraising

Murphy announced in April that he had raised $1.25 million during the first quarter.

Later in the month, Grayson boasted of his own populist fundraising: "I’m the only member of the House of Representatives who raised most of his campaign funds in the last election from small contributions of less than $200."

That’s accurate. Grayson’s small donations equaled 57 percent of his donations during the most recent cycle, putting him ahead of second-place finisher U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, at 47 percent, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. We rated this claim True.

Foreign affairs

In 2013, as the United States seemed to be headed toward a congressional showdown over whether to authorize a bombing of Syria -- and before Russia brokered a proposal that seemed to slow the rush to a military strike -- Grayson offered several arguments against military action during an interview with the Washington Post’s Wonkblog column.

In the event of a U.S. strike on Syria, "the Russians will replace the weapons immediately. They’ve said it on the record. They’ve suggested they might even replace it with better stuff."

That’s something of an exaggeration. Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s comments -- the only ones that could support a claim about what Russia has said "on the record" -- suggested that Russia was reserving the right to replace Syrian military hardware destroyed by a U.S. attack. But the Russian leader’s own words did not go as far Grayson suggested. Grayson didn’t provide proof that Russia said it "will" pursue that course, or that Russia would do so "immediately." There was also no indication that Russia would supply Syria with more advanced weapons than the ones destroyed. We rated the claim Mostly False.

Income inequality

In 2012, Grayson went on Thanksgiving to hand out turkey sandwiches to employees at Walmart and told them about their right to join a union.

Walmart employees are paid so little, he argued, they often seek government programs for help.

"In state after state, the largest group of Medicaid recipients is Walmart employees. I'm sure that the same thing is true of food stamp recipients. Each Walmart ‘associate’ costs the taxpayers an average of more than $1,000 in public assistance," Grayson wrote in a Huffington Post column.

Comprehensive evidence wasn’t available, but we found considerable evidence that echoed Grayson’s point about employee dependence on public health assistance in several states. His claim about Walmart employees on food stamps is not as substantiated, but we did not find any substantial evidence that contradicted his point.

His claim about the $1,000 cost had the least support, because it was based on two outdated studies. Also, the presence of Walmart at the top of the list is not necessarily unexpected, given its size and the nature of wages for retailing. We rated his claim Mostly True.

Attacks on Daniel Webster

In 2010, Grayson lost re-election by 18 points to former Florida House Speaker Daniel Webster. Grayson lost in a tea party wave in a competitive district, but he was also criticized for his harsh rhetoric against Webster.

In one TV ad, Grayson labeled his opponent "Taliban Dan Webster." Grayson said that Webster "thinks wives should submit to their husbands." Grayson took some lines from a Webster video out of context -- the actual point of Webster's 2009 speech was that husbands should love their wives. We rated Grayson’s claim False.

Grayson then ran in a different district and won in 2012.