President Barack Obama sat for an interview for Sunday’s Meet the Press that served dual purposes: It gave Obama a chance to show resolve against fighting the extremist group Islamic State, and it gave Chuck Todd a newsmaking interview for his debut as the show’s permanent host.
Obama said the United States will go on "some offense" to confront Islamic State (also called ISIS or ISIL), promising to provide more details in a speech set for Wednesday night, the eve of the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
But he also ruled out the use of ground troops, saying the action would not be another Iraq and promising "a broad-based coalition internationally and regionally to be able to deal with the problem."
Todd then remarked that Obama’s response was a "long way from when you described them as a JV team."
"Was that bad intelligence or your misjudgment?" Todd asked.
"Keep in mind I wasn’t specifically referring to (the Islamic State)," Obama replied. "I’ve said that, regionally, there were a whole series of organizations that were focused primarily locally, weren’t focused on homeland, because I think a lot of us, when we think about terrorism, the model is Osama bin Laden and 9/11."
We decided to fact-check what Obama said about the Islamic State, which goes back to an interview Obama gave to the New Yorker in January.
We looked at the magazine article and a transcript of the actual interview first published in theWashington Post, and we contacted David Remnick, the New Yorker editor who interviewed Obama.
At the time, Islamic State (often referred to as by its acronyms ISIS or ISIL) was not a household name. It was often referred to as an al-Qaida-linked group in press reports. But reports from the time clearly indicate that the group was responsible for taking over the city.
The New Yorker published Remnick’s profile on Jan. 27, 2014. In it, he wrote, "In the 2012 campaign, Obama spoke not only of killing Osama bin Laden; he also said that Al Qaeda had been ‘decimated.’ I pointed out that the flag of Al Qaeda is now flying in Fallujah, in Iraq, and among various rebel factions in Syria; Al Qaeda has asserted a presence in parts of Africa, too."
Obama responded: "The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant."
So when Remnick referenced an al-Qaida group taking over Fallujah, it’s clear whom he was talking about.
We rated Obama’s claim that he "wasn’t specifically referring to them" as False.
Todd also asked the president about the news that he won’t be taking executive action on immigration reform before the midterm elections in November. Obama told Todd it wasn’t about the upcoming elections.
But the Meet the Press pundits disagreed.
"Democrats are playing defense this year in the race for the Senate. They’re playing in red states where this issue is always going to red hot," said Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report, one of the show’s panelists. "Taking executive action on anything Republicans could call amnesty would boost the Republican base."
Conversely, if you look at demographics, action on immigration may not play a significant role for boosting Democratic turnout in the Senate races, Todd pointed out.
"Look at this map, you have this great stat," Todd said. "Eight out of the nine states with competitive senate races, Hispanics make up less than 10 percent of the electorate."
Though there’s some deviation in the number of competitive states, nine seems like a pretty safe bet, and the number reported by a good portion of news sources. Those nine states are Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan and North Carolina.
As for the share of Hispanic voting population, Todd is right on the money. According to Census numbers and independent projections from the New York Times, the Hispanic electorate will exceed 10 percent in only one of those states: Colorado. In the other states, it’s 5 percent or lower. We rated Todd’s statement True.
See fact-checks for sources.