Friday, October 31st, 2014

Checking the Truth-O-Meter readings for Cicilline, Gemma

The first major debate of Rhode Island's 2012 election season takes place Tuesday night at Rhode Island College as Democrats David Cicilline, the incumbent from the 1st Congressional District, and Anthony Gemma, the businessman making his second try for the seat, go head to head in an event co-sponsored by WPRI-TV and The Providence Journal.

The PolitiFact Rhode Island team decided to use the occasion to revisit how the two candidates have scored on the Truth-O-Meter.

Unlike his first run two years ago, this year Gemma hasn't registered on our counter of credibility. His public appearances have been limited and he's said little that would prompt people to ask, "Is that really true," which is the question that often prompts a PolitiFact check.

(His news conference last week involving allegations of voter fraud certainly sparked that kind of question, but he offered few checkable details.)

Gemma WAS mentioned this year in an item we did when an abortion rights group accused him of changing his pro-life stance during the 2012 campaign. We rated that statement by NARAL Pro-Choice America as True.

Two years ago, when he first ran against Cicilline and two other Democrats, we gave Gemma a Mostly True when he accused primary opponent Bill Lynch of telling three lies in ten seconds. One falsehood: Gamma hadn't even bothered to vote in the 2008 presidential election.

Also in 2010, Gemma got a False for asserting that Rhode Island voters are moving away from the Democratic party and become increasingly non-affiliated, a trend the data didn't bear out.

And we tried -- but failed -- to come up with a ruling on Gemma's assertion that he had more contacts on the "Linked In" business social network than President Obama. The problem: Linked In would not release the data.

In contrast, we've rated 13 statements by Cicilline since the 2010 campaign. He's gotten two Trues, two Mostly Trues, two Half Trues, four Mostly Falses and two Falses. He's also earned one Pants on Fire.

The Pants on Fire ruling was on a comment he made during a speech on the House floor that the WIC program for women and children cost "less than $100 per person" and "more than 18 percent of residents" in his district depend on it to make ends meet. In that speech, we counted four false statements in 46 seconds.

Cicilline received False rulings when he claimed that, as mayor, he had "ushered in $3 billion in new investment" (the amount was vastly overstated) and when he said his Republican opponent this year, Brendan Doherty, wants to raise the age requirement for Social Security for anyone born after 1960 "with no regard for the challenges it would cause for people working in physically demanding occupations" (there was no real evidence).

We'll be on the lookout Tuesday night for interesting statements to check. If you hear any, email us: PolitiFact@ProvidenceJournal.com.