PolitiFact Florida’s Top 5 fact-checks for February 2016

Republican presidential candidates traded jabs with Donald Trump at Thursday night's debate over health care and plans for replacing Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Claims from Republican and Democratic presidential candidates — and a dire prediction for the Tampa Bay area about climate change — dominated the Truth-O-Meter as primary season officially kicked off in February.

Here’s a look at our top five most-read new fact-checks in the month leading up to Super Tuesday, counting down to our most popular item:

5. Sierra Club: "Our community (Tampa Bay) is one of the 10 most threatened by the sea level rise in the world."

The chairman of the Tampa Bay chapter of the club warned Hillsborough County commissioners in a letter about the effects of increasing carbon pollution by building more roads. He cited credible research that showed the region is among the most at risk of property damage from coastal flooding. Bailey is conflating the research with the effects of sea level rise, but several experts told us the problems are related. The top 10 at-risk communities, in terms of assets, are Miami, Greater New York, New Orleans, Osaka-Kobe, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Nagoya, Tampa-St. Petersburg and Virginia Beach. Bailey should have been more specific, because other major cities could be considered worse off than Tampa Bay using other measurements, but it’s striking the region faces such great danger. We rated the statement Mostly True.

4. Ted Cruz: Says Marco Rubio "went on Univision, and in Spanish he promised that he would not on the first day in office rescind President Obama's illegal executive action."

In a Fox News interview, the Texas senator cherry-picked a portion of a statement Rubio made in an April 2015 interview about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Rubio said that he wouldn’t undo the program immediately because it would be disruptive, but he said that it would have to end eventually and could not be permanent policy. Initially, Rubio said that he hoped it would end after an immigration bill passed but then in November 2015 said it would end even if Congress fails to act. Cruz was misleading by omitting Rubio’s full comments, so we rated this claim Half True.

3. Trump: Says Jeb Bush "said he would take his pants off and moon everybody ... Nobody reports that."

Bush did talk about mooning people, as Trump brought up during a South Carolina debate. Bush wasn’t threatening to really moon people, but rather saying he felt he was getting no campaign coverage. And his comments were limited to an interview with the Boston Globe. The Globe reported on Feb. 6 that Bush said, "I could drop my pants. Moon the whole crowd. Everybody would be aghast, except the press guys would never notice." Because Trump omitted Trump’s statement was misleading, so we rated it Mostly False.

2. Marco Rubio: "It has been over 80 years since a lame-duck president appointed a Supreme Court justice."

Rubio said this at a South Carolina debate, referring to President Barack Obama’s potential nomination of a successor for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Ronald Reagan nominated Anthony Kennedy in November 1987. Kennedy was confirmed during Reagan’s final year of office in February 1988. Reagan’s timeline doesn’t exactly line up with what Obama faces, but it’s hard for us to see how Obama can be considered a lame duck but not Reagan. Both were second-term presidents who knew they would not serve again but did not yet know who their successor would be. We rated Rubio’s claim Mostly False.

1. Bernie Sanders: "Making public colleges and universities tuition-free, that exists in countries all over the world, used to exist in the United States."

During a New Hampshire debate, Sanders defended his call for free college tuition. There are at least nine advanced countries that offer free college, including the recent addition of Germany. There was a time in the United States when some public colleges and universities charged no tuition. However, tuition has never been set as a national policy — it is a decision for each school or state government officials. And some colleges charged tuition dating back to the 1800s. We rated this statement Mostly True.


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