Sunday, October 26th, 2014

Fact-checking the final Iowa debate

To defend allegations that she got facts wrong, Rep. Michele Bachmann cited PolitiFact's fact-checking from the last debate.
To defend allegations that she got facts wrong, Rep. Michele Bachmann cited PolitiFact's fact-checking from the last debate.

The Fox News debate Thursday night offered the Republican presidential candidates something of a closing argument with less than three weeks until the Iowa caucuses.

The debate included an interesting offering of factual claims, many of which sounded familiar to us.

The most provocative was one from Rep. Michele Bachmann about . . . us.

Bachmann cited PolitiFact in response to a complaint from Newt Gingrich that she wasn't being accurate with a claim about his work for Freddie Mac.

Bachmann said, "After the debate that we had last week, PolitiFact came out and said that everything I said was true."

But in fact, Bachmann earned two ratings from us at that debate, a Mostly True for her claim that Newt Gingrich advocated for the individual mandate in health care and a Pants on Fire for her claim that Mitt Romney set up a health plan in Massachusetts that is "socialized medicine."

We then rated Bachmann's new claim and gave it a Pants on Fire. (The fact that Bachmann would cite us was interesting given that her PolitiFact report card shows 60 percent of her ratings have been False or Pants on Fire.

Newt Gingrich spent much of the debate emphasizing his conservative credentials to rebut arguments from Bachmann and others. He used one of his favorite talking points, that when he was speaker of the House, he "balanced the budget for four straight years, paid off $405 billion in debt." But we checked the numbers and found he's off on both counts. We rated that claim False.

Jon Hunstman, who has been talking about the need for energy independence, repeated a claim he had made before in New Hampshire, saying that "in this country … we have more natural gas than Saudi Arabia has oil." We don't, although we currently produce more natural gas than Saudi Arabia produces oil, so we rated it Mostly False.

Responding to Bachmann's criticism of his work for the mortgage giant Freddie Mac, Gingrich said, "I never lobbied under any circumstance." We checked with experts on lobbying who said that, while he was technically correct that he wasn't a registered lobbyist, that giving strategic advice, as he did, is widely considered a way of using political influence without having to register. We rated his statement Half True.

We also checked former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's claim that President Barack Obama "racked up as much debt as almost all of the other presidents combined." Romney was using a talking point he's used before in the campaign, but this time he mixed up several elements and earned a ruling of Mostly False.

Back to Bachmann, we checked her claim that Gingrich "made an affirmative statement that he would not only support but he would campaign for Republicans who were in support of the barbaric procedure known as partial-birth abortion." She correctly stated what Gingrich told the Republican National Committee in 1998, but she left out the context, including Gingrich saying that he was being a pragmatist in order to maintain a majority in Congress hoping to pass a ban on the procedure. We rated it Mostly True.