Rand Paul and the Truth-O-Meter

Rand Paul announces the launch of his campaign for president on April 7, 2015, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo)
Rand Paul announces the launch of his campaign for president on April 7, 2015, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo)

Updated Wednesday, April 8, 2015, at 2:09 p.m.

As Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., prepared to officially announce his 2016 presidential campaign, we thought we’d review where Paul stands on the Truth-O-Meter. We’ve been fact-checking him since he was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010.

Paul is a medical doctor and an ophthalmologist. His father is Ron Paul, a 2008 presidential candidate and a former member of Congress from Texas who is well known for his libertarian brand of conservatism.

So far, we’ve fact-checked 35 Paul statements, and his ratings have been pretty evenly distributed along the Truth-O-Meter. He’s received eight True ratings, seven Mostly True, seven Half True, four Mostly False, seven False and two Pants on Fire.

As his campaign gets going, we wanted to look back on some of our most interesting fact-checks of Paul. We also fact-checked an attack ad that targeted Paul for his views on foreign policy.

Government spending

Paul often advocates for smaller government and less government spending.

Paul once suggested eliminating foreign aid from the budget entirely. So he raised eyebrows in 2014 when he said, "I haven’t really proposed (phasing out aid to Israel) in the past." in 2011, his office released a budget proposal that included a zeroing-out of foreign assistance, with a section specifically inserted to defend the effect that policy would have on Israel, so we rated this claim Pants on Fire.

More recently, Paul decried the Social Security Administration’s disability benefits. He said, "Over half the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts." We found though that the numbers don’t add up. Back pain and anxiety are included in two broader categories that together don’t even equal close to 50 percent, let alone those two ailments by themselves. We rated that claim False.

We gave a True rating to a claim about the October 2013 shutdown, that "It cost us more to shut the government down than to keep it open."  Numerous independent economic research groups found that the shutdown resulted in overall costs, hindered GDP growth, stalled private-sector activity and increased actual expenditures associated with the logistics of closing the government for two weeks. The government had to pay all of what it normally would have spent during that two-week period and then some.

Other policies

Paul is staunchly opposed to the Affordable Care Act. We looked at a pair of claims from his 2013 appearance on The Daily Show, where he spoke about the uninsured population. He said people choose not to buy insurance "Because of the expense." Survey data supports this claim, so we rated it True. However, Paul also said of uninsured Americans, "half of them made more than $50,000 a year." According to the Census, it’s closer to 30 percent, so we rated the statement False.

Paul has heavily criticized President Barack Obama’s administration for the 2012 terrorist attack on an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. He said former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "was asked repeatedly to provide security in Benghazi on several occasions, including direct cables." The State Department was asked repeatedly for additional U.S. security staff in Libya. But we see no evidence that Clinton herself was made aware of those requests. We rated that claim Mostly False.

An advocate for change in the criminal justice system, Paul said in 2014, "Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts." A government program does give surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies and has contributed to police militarization. The Washington program might not be the cause of police militarization, but it does incentivize and allow that culture to continue. True.

Paul made a dubious statement about the recent Ebola outbreak and it’s potential to spread to the United States -- calling the disease "incredibly contagious," "very transmissible" and "easy to catch." the overwhelming evidence shows that Ebola is less contagious and transmissible than many other diseases. We rated Paul’s claim Mostly False and included it in our 2014 Lie of the Year: exaggerations about Ebola.

Attacking Paul on Iran

On the same day Paul announced his intention to run for president, a political action committee released an ad attacking him for his foreign policy views, claiming that Paul sides with Obama on Iran.

"The Senate is considering tough new sanctions on Iran," the ad’s narrator says. "President Obama says he’ll veto them, and Rand Paul is standing with him. Rand Paul supports Obama’s negotiations with Iran, and he doesn’t understand the threat."

The TV ad comes from the Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America, a Republican political action committee, and will run nationwide.

The nugget of truth here is that Paul has expressed support for the idea of negotiating with Iran, especially if it prevents another war. Additionally, he has not outwardly critiqued nor praised the substance of the Obama administration’s ongoing negotiations. However, Paul believes Congress should play a role in approving any deal, a notable difference from Obama’s position.

Paul differs from some other Republicans who unequivocally oppose the ongoing negotiations, but this difference isn’t enough to say he supports Obama. We rate the statement Mostly False.