Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Fact-checking candidate Barack Obama

President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign rally at the Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio, on May 5, 2012.
President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign rally at the Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio, on May 5, 2012.

With speeches in Ohio and Virginia and a new Web character named Julia, President Obama has kicked off his re-election campaign.

Here’s a look at some of our recent fact-checks:

Says Mitt Romney is proposing a "tax cut that gives an average of $250,000 to every millionaire in this country."

In a May 5, 2012, campaign speech in Columbus, Ohio, Obama said, "My opponent won’t tell us how he’d pay for his new, $5 trillion tax cut -- a tax cut that gives an average of $250,000 to every millionaire in this country."
   
For an independent assessment of Romney’s plan, we turned to the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center, a think tank that, among other things, evaluates the tax proposals submitted by presidential candidates.

The Tax Policy Center found that under Romney’s proposal, people with $1 million or more in annual cash income will receive an average tax cut of $250,535. Those in the millionaire category will receive a tax cut of 11.8 percent, easily the highest of any income group. Collectively, the tax savings for millionaires would amount to nearly one-third of all the tax benefits that result from Romney’s plan.
   
We rated the statement True.

"Under the Romney/Ryan budget, interest rates on federal student loans would be allowed to double."

The Obama campaign has created Julia, a character on its website, to show the contrasts between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. "The Life of Julia" is a Web cartoon that claims Julia would have a richer and more rewarding life under Obama than under Romney.

Here’s the claim about Julia at age 25: "Under President Obama: After graduation, Julia's federal student loans are more manageable since President Obama capped income-based federal student loan payments and kept interest rates low. She makes her payments on time every month, keeping her on track to repay her student loans."

"Under Mitt Romney: Under the Romney/Ryan budget, interest rates on federal student loans would be allowed to double, affecting Julia and 7.4 million other students."

We found that the evidence suggested otherwise.

Romney opposes allowing the rates to double, and House Republicans -- including House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. -- have voted to stop it from happening. Their approach to pay for the extension may not suit the White House, but it’s inaccurate to say the rates would double. We rated the claim False.

• Says Mitt Romney "has refused to say whether he would have vetoed or signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act."

Our second fact-check of "The Life of Julia" looked at the Obama administration's claim that Romney "has refused to say whether he would have vetoed or signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act."

The act, the first bill signed by President Barack Obama on Jan. 29, 2009, made it easier for workers to pursue wage discrimination claims. Just seven Republicans voted for the bill.

Did Romney refuse to say whether he would have signed it, as Obama did? That’s essentially what happened in an ABC News interview in April, but the claim leaves out some details that matter to Julia. Romney also said he  "certainly support(s) equal pay for women," and has "no intention of changing that law." Still, the Obama campaign is correct that he dodged the question, so we rated the claim Mostly True.

Says Mitt Romney's comments indicated he would not have pursued Osama bin Laden.

A Web ad from President Barack Obama’s campaign about the death of Osama bin Laden asks, "Which path would Mitt Romney have taken?" The ad featured former President Bill Clinton saying Obama "took the harder, and more honorable path," when he approved the May 2, 2011, strike that killed the terrorist mastermind.
   
By contrast, it portrayed Romney as less committed to the effort to kill the al-Qaida leader. It says Romney once criticized Obama for "vowing to strike al-Qaida targets inside Pakistan if necessary."
   
Then it shows a clip of CNN’s Wolf Blitzer quoting Romney as saying in April 2007, "It's not worth moving heaven and earth and spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person."

By using that quote, the ad indicates that Romney would not have pursued the al-Qaida leader. Indeed, that's how headlines described the April 27, 2012, ad. But a conservative blogger pounced on the ad's implication, saying it took Romney’s "heaven and earth" quote out of context.

We concluded that the Obama campaign was right that Romney used those words, but by cherry-picking them, it glosseed over comments describing his broader approach. Romney said he wanted to pursue all of al-Qaida, not just its leaders.

The ad took Romney’s words out of context, but got part of the story right. We rated it Half True.

Under Republican economic policies, "the typical American family saw their incomes fall by about 6 percent."

During an April 18, 2012, speech at Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio, President Barack Obama painted a picture of economic decline for American families resulting from Republican economic policies. We looked specifically at a passage that said "the typical American family saw their incomes fall by about six percent" during the time when Republican economic policies were in force.
   
We found that Obama had a point that incomes for the "typical" family have fallen since 2000 when adjusted for inflation. But he used a time frame that treated Obama’s tenure and George W. Bush’s tenure equally. Treating them the same produces a decline of about 3 percent, not the 6 percent he cited.

Meanwhile, on Obama’s larger point of blaming Republicans for the weak economy, we found a consensus among experts that Obama is partly, but not completely, on defensible ground. On balance, we rated the statement Half True.