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Fact-checking the New Hampshire Democratic debate

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton debate in New Hampshire. (Getty) Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton debate in New Hampshire. (Getty)

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton debate in New Hampshire. (Getty)

Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan December 20, 2015

ISIS and terrorism were major topics at the Democratic debate on Saturday night at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton used the venue to take a shot at Republican primary frontrunner Donald Trump, saying that his rhetoric is a gift to ISIS.

"We also need to make sure that the really discriminatory messages that Trump is sending around the world don't fall on receptive ears," Clinton said during the debate. "He is becoming ISIS's best recruiter. They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists."

Not having heard that before, our eyebrows went up when we heard Clinton’s comment, and we weren’t alone. The Twittersphere, on both the right and the left, picked up on Clinton’s statement and questioned whether she had any evidence for it.

Extensive Google searches did not turn up any evidence. And the response from the Clinton campaign did not point to any specific videos.

The campaign pointed to an NBC News article that quoted Rita Katz of the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors the social media activities of Islamic terrorist groups.

"They love him from the sense that he is supporting their rhetoric," she said. "They follow everything Donald Trump says. When he says, 'No Muslims should be allowed in America,' they tell people, 'We told you America hates Muslims and here is proof.' "

The article also quoted David Phillips, director of the Program on Peace-Building and Rights at Columbia University's Institute for the Study of Human Rights, saying that "Trump's incendiary anti-Muslim comments will surely be used by ISIS social media to demonize the United States and attract recruits to fight in Iraq and Syria."

But while such quotes support the notion that ISIS could be making recruiting videos, or will do so, they do not support Clinton’s contention -- offered in the present tense -- that they are currently doing so. tweeted at J.M. Berger, author of the book ISIS: The State of Terror, and Berger tweeted back, "I would be surprised if they had and we didn't hear about it in a big way."

For now, it seems that Clinton has turned speculative left-of-center rhetoric into fact. At PolitiFact, the burden of proof is on the person making the claim. We’ll update our fact-check in the event solid evidence emerges. But for now, that evidence does not exist. The Clinton campaign did not provide any evidence that this is already happening -- only that it could be happening, or that it may in the future. If ISIS was using Trump for recruitment videos, we would expect a frenzy of media coverage over it. We rated this statement False.  

Martin O'Malley, Hillary Clinton and gun control

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said he has the best record on gun issues among the Democratic candidates.

"Secretary Clinton changes her position on this every election year, it seems, having one position in 2000 and then campaigning against President (Barack) Obama and saying we don't need federal standards," O’Malley said.

We found that O’Malley does have a point that Clinton’s rhetoric and her position on a few specific gun control measures shifted from 2000 to 2008, and then from 2008 to 2015. 

In 2000, in the wake of the Columbine, Colo., school shooting, Clinton was emphatic about her support for gun control. In 2008, she dropped her support for a gun license and registration proposal and positioned herself to the right of her major opponent, then-Sen. Obama. While Clinton also advocated for leaving some gun control to the states, she still advocated for federal gun control efforts, and she never said "we don’t need federal standards."

In 2015, Clinton has been more forceful with her support for gun control than she was in 2008 -- closer to her rhetoric in 2000.

While Clinton’s positioning on gun control has shifted between election cycles, it wasn’t nearly as dramatic as O'Malley made it out to be. We rated his claim Half True.

Bernie Sanders on health care spending

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is a long time supporter of a single-payer health care system for America and he used some international comparisons to bolster his proposal. 

"We spend almost three times per capita as to what they spend in the U.K. --  50 percent more than what they pay in France," Sanders said.

Data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development back him up. In 2013, total spending on health care in the United Kingdom was about $3,200 per person. In France, they spent a bout $4,100. In the United States, spending topped $8,700. Do the math and Sanders is correct.

We rated this claim True.

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Fact-checking the New Hampshire Democratic debate