Saturday, September 20th, 2014

Fact-checking the Fox News-Google GOP debate

Rick Perry and Mitt Romney spar during the Fox News/Google Republican presidential debate Thursday in Orlando.
Rick Perry and Mitt Romney spar during the Fox News/Google Republican presidential debate Thursday in Orlando.

After several debates that were so similar they sometimes felt like reruns, Thursday night's debate in Orlando brought some new twists, the appearance of former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and questions from YouTube.

The event, sponsored by Fox News and Google, was part of Presidency 5, a straw poll of Florida Republican activists.

To be sure, there was some familiar turf.

When he was asked about boosting the economy in Texas, Gov. Rick Perry mentioned the state's efforts at tort reform. We've previously checked his claim that tort reform attracted 21,000 more doctors to Texas. We rated that False.

Mitt Romney again attacked Perry about his comments on Social Security and Romney proved once again he must have a well-worn copy of Perry's book Fed up! Romney said that in the book, Perry said Social Security was unconstitutional. We checked that against the text and rated it Mostly True. He also said that Perry wrote that Social Security was a failure. We rated that True.

Romney also criticized the expansion of the federal government.

"I believe government is too big," he said. "It's gone from 27 percent of our economy in the years of JFK to 37 percent of our economy." We've rated that Mostly True.

Romney also complained about President Barack Obama's foreign policy, saying that Obama "went around the world and apologized for America." We examined Obama's remarks when he traveled around the world and found little to support that claim. We rated that Pants on Fire

Johnson was asked about U.S.-Cuba policy. His reply was about a balanced budget.

"I think the biggest threat to our national security is the fact that we're bankrupt, so I am promising to submit a balanced budget to Congress in the year 2013, and included in that is a 43 percent reduction in military spending."

Bankrupt?

The country's not in great financial shape, but it's not bankrupt. We rated his claim False.

There was a spirited back and forth over immigration focusing largely on Perry's position on illegal immigrants. Romney criticized him for a Texas policy that allows illegal immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition. PolitiFact Texas examined a similar claim from Rick Santorum about Perry's actions and rated it True.

Perry explained his position by saying, "If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they've been brought there by no fault of their own, I don't think you have a heart. We need to be educating these children, because they will become a drag on our society."

Perry said the way to secure the border was to put more "boots on the ground," but he said the federal government "has not engaged (in border security) at all." We checked the numbers from the U.S. Border Patrol and other agencies and found that to the contrary, there's been a substantial increase in the federal effort. We rated Perry's statement Pants on Fire.

One point of agreement by the candidates was their dislike of President Obama. Michele Bachmann said that Obama "has the lowest approval ratings of any president in modern times." But we checked the historical numbers from Gallup and found plenty of presidents were lower. We rated her claim Pants on Fire.

 

We'll be updating this story as we post more fact-checks.