U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, posted this tweet Aug. 21: "@GovernorPerry has also falsely claimed car bombs were exploding in El Paso (safest city in USA)."
O’Rourke’s tweet included a link to a KTSM-TV, Channel 9 in El Paso, news story, last updated Aug. 3, 2010, stating Perry had twice mischaracterized bombings in Ciudad Juarez, in Mexico across from El Paso, by saying "bombs going off in El Paso."
The story said Perry, speaking in Laredo about border violence, said: "When the governor candidate of Tamaulipas is assassinated across the border, when a car bomb goes off in El Paso, when we have intersections blocked in Nuevo Laredo and gun battles raging, we know there's a problem." The KTSM-TV story said Perry was likely referring to a car bomb that went off in Juarez two weeks before. The story said Perry also referred to those bombs going off on the streets of El Paso during an interview with Fox News.
That we knew.
"You’ve got bullets hitting the city hall in El Paso," Perry said in a July 28, 2010, interview with Greta Van Susteren of the Fox News Channel. "You’ve got bombs exploding in El Paso."
Two days later, Perry spoke in a similar vein during a visit to Laredo. "When a car bomb goes off in El Paso ... we know there's a (security) problem," said Perry, according to KGNS-TV, a Laredo station.
In an August 2010 fact check, we rated Perry’s bullets-and-bombs claim Half True. Bullets coming from across the border had hit El Paso’s seat of city government. But no bombs had exploded in El Paso. One had gone off in Juarez.
At the time, we asked Darrel Petry, a spokesman for the El Paso Police Department, if, as Perry said, bombs were exploding in El Paso. Petry replied: "I am not aware of any bomb going off in El Paso." If that had happened, he said, "I think I would have put the press release out."
A Perry spokeswoman replied to our inquiry by noting that on July 15, 2010, a car bomb was set off in Ciudad Juarez's downtown, killing several people. The Associated Press quoted authorities saying the explosion was in retaliation for the arrest of a top leader of the La Linea gang, which works for the Juarez drug cartel. The bomb, which blew up a parked car, was described by the AP as bringing "a new dimension of terror" to the Mexican drug wars. The Washington Post reported: "The assailants drew police and medical workers to the scene by leaving a bound, wounded man in a police uniform near an intersection and then calling in a false report that an officer had been shot." The Post and other news outlets said the bomb was then set off by a cell-phone signal.
Late last week, we didn’t immediately hear back from O’Rourke’s office when we asked if Perry had more recently asserted bombs were exploding in El Paso.
Another punto: We've previously identified flaws in descriptions of El Paso as the country's safest city.
In May 2013, we rated Half True such a claim. CQ Press crime-rate rankings suggested El Paso had the lowest crime-rate ranking of 33 cities with 500,000 residents or more, a conclusion drawing on 2011 crime statistics gathered by the FBI.
But "safest" is not that simple. The FBI advises against using its figures to rank cities. Also, CQ Press stopped attaching the "safest" label to its crime-rate rankings years ago, saying the label conveys a perception rather than a fact. It gave us pause, too, that in 2011, El Paso had higher violent-crime and burglary rates, according to FBI-collected figures, than at least one other large city.
That’s it for this blast from the past.
Truth-O-Meter articles, "El Paso leader says El Paso 'safest' city of its size in country," PolitiFact Texas, May 30, 2013; "Rick Perry says violence from Mexico reaching El Paso, with bullets flying and bombs exploding," PolitiFact Texas, Aug. 5, 2010