Florida was center stage in the national political scene this year as several state residents ran for president.
PolitiFact Florida’s most popular fact-checks of 2015 stemmed from statements made by -- or about -- presidential candidates, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, former Gov. Jeb Bush , GOP frontrunner Donald Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. The central topics of the fact-checks were guns, immigration and a high-profile nuclear agreement with Iran. Here were the top 10 items of the year counting down to the most popular.
During a debate, Bush said that Florida stood up to Trump when he tried to bring casino gambling to Florida, saying that when Trump "asked Florida to have casino gambling, we said no." We found no proof that Trump ever directly petitioned the state for gambling, but there’s a pile of evidence that Trump was pursuing a deal to operate casinos on Seminole land in Florida. And at the same time, Trump gave money to Bush and the state party during Bush’s 1998 race for governor. Trump said said during the debate that Bush’s comments were "totally false," but it seems Bush had the better part of the argument. We rated Bush’s statement Mostly True.
During a debate, Rubio was forced to defend his record of missed Senate votes and turned the tables on past Democratic presidential candidates. In 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama "missed 60 or 70 percent of his votes," Rubio said, and in 2004, John Kerry missed "close to 60 to 70 percent," while then-Sen. Bob Graham missed "over 30 percent of his votes." His numbers check out, though Obama’s and Kerry’s numbers were over the course of an election year, and Graham missed some votes after heart surgery. Overall, we rated Rubio’s statement True.
A post on Facebook claimed that Rubio said "felons should not have their voting rights restored" but that "convicted felons should be allowed to own guns after they have done their time." The claim was attributed to the Facebook community group "Stop the world, the teabaggers want off." The group is a satirical site, and we found no evidence that Rubio actually said the words attributed to him. Rubio did criticize his 2010 Senate rival Charlie Crist for restoring felon voting rights, but Rubio did not have a stance on the restoration of felons’ gun rights. We rated the claim False.
In July, six major powers including the United States reached an agreement with Iran aimed at preventing Iran from obtaining or developing a nuclear bomb. Rubio, a critic of the agreement, said it meant that "if any other country tries to undermine (Iran's) nuclear program, we have to help them defend themselves against Israel, Egypt, Saudis, our own allies." He pointed to a provision that the United States and other partners would cooperate with training to strengthen Iran’s ability to protect against nuclear security threats, including sabotage. But this provision is targeted at terrorists, not "countries", and certainly not toward U.S. allies. The language offers significant wiggle room about who, if anyone, might provide such assistance. We rated the claim False.
Trump’s controversial campaign could just be a ruse to sabotage the GOP, Curbelo said. After all, the billionaire is so friendly with Hillary Clinton, Trump invited her to his 2005 nuptials. Bill Clinton only made the reception, but Hillary Clinton did have a seat in the first row at the church when Trump wed Melania Knauss. We rated Curbelo’s statement True.
While at the National Rifle Association convention in April Bush took a swipe at former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was in the presidential race at the time. Bush said Florida had the most concealed weapons permits, "nearly double that of the second state, which is Texas." Bush was correct that Florida leads the nation in the sheer number of gun permits, with about 1.4 million. However, eight states have a higher per-capita rate of gun permits than Florida. Texas has about 826,000 permits, so Florida has about 1.7 times as many permit holders. But second place goes to Pennsylvania, with slightly more than one million permits. We rated Bush’s statement Mostly True.
In an interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Trump said the number of illegal immigrants in the United States is "30 million, it could be 34 million." But the Department of Homeland Security put the number of illegal immigrants at about 11.4 million as of January 2012. Other independent groups that research illegal immigration estimate the population is between 11 million and 12 million. We found no compelling evidence that the number could be as high as Trump said, and he provided no proof. We rated his claim Pants on Fire.
CNN’s Jake Tapper brought up the topic of vaccines during a September debate in California, where the state had suffered from a measles outbreak the previous year. Carson defended vaccines, but then claimed sys pediatricians have cut down on the number and proximity of vaccines because they recognize there have been "too many in too short a period of time." Actually, leading medical organizations have concluded that the scheduling of vaccines -- including multiple ones at once -- is safe. While some pediatricians acquiesce to requests by parents to delay vaccines, that’s not a decision by doctors based on scientific evidence. We rated this claim Pants on Fire.
Bush said, "A law was passed, apparently in the Clinton administration, about whether, in recruiting offices … Marines or other military should be able to have guns. Apparently it is prohibited." He made the claim after a shooting rampage in Chattanooga at two military sites left five military workers dead. In 1992, the Defense Department issued a directive, not a law, that limited weapons to military personnel who held certain jobs, such as positions in law enforcement. But the directive was actually issued under President George H.W. Bush, Jeb Bush’s father. And while the Army issued a regulation implementing the directive in 1993 -- two months after Clinton was in office -- experts say it is not the sort of matter that would typically rise to the attention of a president. We rated Bush’s claim Mostly False.
In 2013, we fact-checked a tweet related to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watchman who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, a black Florida teenager. The tweet stated, "In the 513 days between Trayvon dying, and today’s verdict, 11,106 African-Americans have been murdered by other African-Americans." We rated the statement, based on 2005 data, Mostly False, because the number was a rough guess. We updated our report following the April 2015 death of Freddie Gray, a black man in Baltimore who died while in police custody. Experts told us that most people -- whether black or white -- are murdered by people in their own racial group, and that has held true for decades. So while most blacks are killed by blacks, it’s also true that most whites are killed by whites. That’s because most murder victims are killed by someone they know, experts said.
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