Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

PunditFact fact-checks the June 15 news shows

Radio talk show host Laura Ingraham holds a flier criticizing Eric Cantor on "This Week" on June 15, 2014.
Radio talk show host Laura Ingraham holds a flier criticizing Eric Cantor on "This Week" on June 15, 2014.

Iraq’s descent into violence and chaos led the Sunday news shows, as pundits and political leaders debated what actions the United States should take next. In domestic news, the shows dissected the political stunner of the week: Republican majority leader Eric Cantor’s loss to primary challenger David Brat.

One pundit had the unusual role of getting some credit for Cantor’s ouster. Talk show host Laura Ingraham had repeatedly attacked Cantor, especially for his position on immigration, in the weeks leading up to the election. Appearing on ABC’s This Week, Ingraham said voters knew "that if Eric Cantor went back to Washington, that was a green light for immigration reform."

As evidence for that, Ingraham said Cantor "was the co-author of the House GOP principles on immigration reform. Both the New York Times and Washington Post said that this captured the essence of what was in the Senate immigration bill." We decided to check the record on Cantor’s role.

We soon found that the House GOP principles didn’t have listed authors. But the House Republican leadership, which included Cantor, put the principles together and presented them in January, so Ingraham was right that Cantor had a role in their creation.

The document generated plenty of news coverage and editorials, partly for its poor reception among rank-and-file members who disagreed with House leaders. Speaker of the House John Boehner soon distanced himself from immigration legislation, saying he likely could not pass an immigration bill and blaming President Barack Obama for not being trustworthy in enforcing immigration laws.

We couldn’t find evidence that the newspapers called the House principles "the essence" of the Senate bill, though. Instead, both news organizations portrayed the principles as an opening for more negotiations between the House and the Senate. (The New York Times characterized it as "more of an attempt to test the waters than a blueprint for action.")

So while Ingraham has a point in that Cantor had a role in creating the document, the two major newspapers didn’t describe it as equivalent to the Senate legislation. We rated Ingraham’s statement Half True.

Divisions within the Republican Party, on immigration and other issues, raised questions about how it will handle the race for the presidency in 2016.

Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer asked Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus about how the party will be able to field a successful candidate. Priebus said Republicans had many candidates to choose from and that Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton was a flawed candidate. Priebus derided the rollout of her new book, Hard Choices, and claimed her poll numbers are sinking.

Specifically, Priebus said her approval ratings went from 70 to 52 in 18 months; we checked his numbers. We found that her poll numbers have dropped, but not by as much as Priebus claimed. He used a poll that was an outlier; a synthesis of the major polls showed her approval ratings declined from 58.2 percent to 52.6 percent.

Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll, analyzed polls that have asked Clinton-specific questions at multiple times and found an average decline in those polls of about 8 points in the last 12-20 months.

Considering a broader array of polling led us to rate Priebus’ statement Half True.

We should also note that when voters are asked who they would pick if the election were held today, Clinton wins out against the major Republican candidates, including Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and Rand Paul.