The Iran nuclear deal has been a hot topic in the Democratic primary battle between U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and challenger Tim Canova. The South Florida district is heavily Jewish, and Israel has been skeptical of the deal.
In a mailer, Canova sided with three Jewish members of Congress who voted against the deal.
"In challenging times Israel needs true friends in Congress. When called on to protect Israel, some legislators step up," states the mailer, showing photos of U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel of Palm Beach County and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York. "Others don’t. Debbie Wasserman Schultz waffled back and forth before voting for the Iran nuclear deal, choosing party and personal political ambition over principle."
But how would Canova have voted on the deal? His answers haven’t been clear. In a debate on CBS4, host Jim DeFede asked Canova to clarify his position.
We decided to look at Canova’s statements about the Iran deal and put them on our Flip-O-Meter, which examines a candidate’s record on a topic without casting a value judgment on any changes. We found that Canova hasn’t really changed position, but he hasn’t always provided full answers, either.
(Canova isn’t Jewish, but his stepfather is Jewish, and Canova said he has spent time in Israel including living on a kibbutz, a communal living area. Wasserman Schultz was the first Jewish woman from Florida elected to Congress.)
Canova’s statements about Iran nuclear deal
In 2015, Iran and five other world powers reached a deal. The agreement aims to extend the time it would take for Iran to make a nuclear bomb, subjects some of Iran’s major nuclear facilities to constant monitoring and creates conditions for lifting economic sanctions against Iran.
Wasserman Schultz announced she would support the deal, saying that it wasn’t perfect but that it "promotes the national security interests of the United States and our allies and merits."
On his website, Canova doesn’t say how he would have voted; however, he says that he would not support scrapping it.
"While I have criticized several deficiencies in the Iran nuclear deal (no international agreement is ever perfect), now that it has been entered into, I support its full implementation," he wrote.
Canova has repeatedly outlined his criticisms of the deal, including that Iran "can simply mothball rather than destroy the centrifuges, thereby allowing them to restart a nuclear program for military use in the future." He also criticizes the inspection protocols and the relief of sanctions.
Canova’s most complete statements about his position on the Iran deal stem came in an interview with the Sun Sentinel editorial board in August 2016.
"I expressed reservations and criticism about the Iran agreement," Canova said. "Now that it has been adopted, I am for strict implementation."
When interviewed by Sentinel reporter Anthony Man, Canova acknowledged that he had made some conflicting statements.
Man: "You earlier this year said that you would have voted for it."
Canova: "Oh, I’ve been quoted both ways."
Man: "You told me you would have voted for it. Is that accurate?"
Canova: "I’m not so sure that’s accurate. Look, I’m not going to sort of play that game. I don’t know exactly how I would have voted because I wasn’t sitting in the seat, but I do know I criticized some aspects of it."
Man: "In January, you said the deal wasn’t perfect, but you would have voted for it under the circumstances. You don’t believe that anymore?"
Canova: "I don’t know if I would have voted for it. ... In a conversation when you called me at home you caught me off guard, I was a candidate for about a week. Did I say that? Maybe. I honestly don’t know how I would have voted for it."
Editorial page editor Rosemary O’Hara asked Canova, if the deal was on the table today, how he would have voted.
Canova: "I don’t know. ... I’m not a member of Congress, I didn’t have any kind of briefings the way Debbie Wasserman Schultz did, so I don’t think it's fair for me to say I would have voted for it, (or) I would have voted against it. I don’t know."
In a debate on CBS4’s Facing South Florida on Aug. 14, host Jim DeFede asked Canova if he would have voted for or against the agreement.
"When the question is asked as a hypothetical -- would I have seen classified information -- that’s when I have said who knows," Canova said. "But quite frankly I can say right here that was not a good agreement for a couple reasons. First of all, Iran is the biggest funder of Hezbollah and Hamas, (and) to release $100 billion in assets (to Iran) right away without doing it incrementally is what I found to be dangerous and unsettling. And quite frankly, my position is the same as dozens of other Democrats who voted against the agreement."
We looked for other statements Canova made about his own position on the Iran deal.
"She voted for the Iran deal, and I’m against the agreement," he told The Forward in July.
Richard Bell, Canova’s campaign manager, told PolitiFact Florida that The Forward doesn’t fully explain his position.
On Aug. 1, according to the Times of Israel, Canova told the Sunny Isles Beach Democratic Club: "I was critical of the Iran agreement. How would I have voted? I can’t tell you, I wasn’t a member of Congress."
Bell told PolitiFact Florida that Canova’s position on the Iran nuclear agreement has been consistent.
"He is critical of specific aspects of the Iran deal," Bell said. "Now that it’s been adopted, he is for its full and strict implementation."
Canova has acknowledged that he has "been quoted both ways" on how he would have voted the Iran deal.
He said in January that he would have voted for it, but later in the campaign said multiple times that he didn’t know how he would have voted. He sent a mailer that didn’t say how he would have voted but sided with opponents.
He has been consistent in criticizing the specifics of the deal and in criticizing Wasserman Schultz for her support for it.
Because Canova’s position on the Iran deal has been unclear at different times, we give him a Half Flip.