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How have the Democratic candidates fared on the Truth-O-Meter?
The five Democratic candidates will debate Oct. 13, 2015. (AP Photos) The five Democratic candidates will debate Oct. 13, 2015. (AP Photos)

The five Democratic candidates will debate Oct. 13, 2015. (AP Photos)

Linda Qiu
By Linda Qiu October 12, 2015

After two Republican debates and the summer of Donald Trump, the 2016 Democratic candidates will finally get their own showdown.

The first Democratic debate, held by CNN on Oct. 13 in Las Vegas, will run two hours, an hour shorter than the second GOP debate, and feature half the amount of candidates.


As frontrunner Hillary Clinton prepares to take on top challenger Bernie Sanders, three second-tier candidates — Martin O’Malley,  Jim Webb, and Lincoln Chafee — may see their stars rise if they catch voters’ attention. Pre-debate, we wanted to see how the five candidates have fared on the Truth-O-Meter.

Hillary Clinton

The former senator, secretary of state and First Lady has spent more than three decades in the public eye, so it’s no wonder that we at PolitiFact have fact-checked more claims by Clinton than her Democratic rivals combined.

We’ve put 127 claims made by Clinton on the Truth-O-Meter since 2007, when we first launched and when she made her first bid for the White House:

A noted wonk, Clinton’s statements run a gamut of policy topics from the economy and voting rights to the platforms of her Republican opponents.

This election cycle, we’ve written extensively about her private email server. Clinton said in late August that her emails wouldn’t be public if she hadn’t asked for it. That’s Mostly False. Her emails have been under the scrutiny of a congressional probe into the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya. Her claim that there have been seven previous investigations rates Mostly True.

Beyond the email saga, we’ve also noted her flip-flops and looked at claims about her past. Conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza earned a Pants on Fire for his outlandish claim that a photograph of a 21-year-old Clinton featured a Confederate flag in the background.

Bernie Sanders

The dark horse of the 2016 Democratic contest, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders rose to national prominence this summer and continues to make gains in the polls.

We’ve looked at 30 claims made by the democratic-socialist dating back to March 2015, when Sanders hadn’t yet thrown his hat into the ring:

Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of Sanders’ numbers-heavy statements are about his favorite topic: Income inequality. He repeatedly says that the top 0.1 percent of Americans have almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. We rated it Mostly True.

Outside of economic claims, we’ve also noted his consistent position on gay marriage and his unconventionally un-liberal record on guns as well as how he differs from Clinton and the rest of the 2016 field. One viral graphic circulated on social media claimed that Clinton’s top 10 donors are mainly banks and corporations while Sanders’ are labor unions. That’s Mostly True.

Martin O’Malley

Clinton and Sanders refuse to attack each other, but former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley will take on both.

Beyond going after Clinton for her Wall Street ties and Sanders for his record on guns, the former mayor of Baltimore’s statements echo an array of progressive issues from Planned Parenthood to income inequality. Overall, we’ve looked at 12 claims made by O’Malley:

This summer, O’Malley was ridiculed by conservatives for his claim that climate change contributed to the rise of ISIS. But it’s not, in the words the head of the Republican National Committee, "absurd," and in fact we rated it Mostly True.

Jim Webb

Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb is a latecomer to the race, having announced his candidacy in July.

PolitiFact Virginia first fact-checked Webb in 2011. Altogether, we’ve looked at nine claims by the decorated Vietnam War veteran and Reagan administration official (including but limited to claims about Reagan, veterans, and Appalachia):

Webb, a champion of prison reform, earned a Mostly True for his claim that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. The only other country with a higher rate is Seychelles, an island nation that many consider an outlier.

Lincoln Chafee

When former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee announced his candidacy in June, he made a splash with a bold and unique policy suggestion: adopting the metric system.

PolitiFact Rhode Island has been looking at Chafee’s claims since 2010, when he was running for governor. Since then, we've logged 15 claims by Chafee on the Truth-O-Meter (many are about his state but, there’s one about Curt Schilling and yes, one about the metric system):

Chafee said he’s not the only politician who’s considered converting to the metric system. In fact, Ronald Reagan "talked about it" too, though Reagan’s interest in the issue was much less passionate than Chafee’s. PolitiFact Rhode Island rated the claim Half True.

Bonus: Lawrence Lessig

Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig is the odd candidate out this debate — literally.

Lessig, whose entire candidacy is aimed at reforming campaign finance, was not invited to Tuesday’s debate because none of the polls include him. PolitiFact has examined one claim by Lessig on, you guessed it, campaign finance.

Bonus: Joe Biden

Vice President Joe Biden is still flirting with the idea of joining the race. Though he doesn’t plan on attending the debate, CNN’s preparing a podium for him just in case. We’ve looked at 69 claims by Biden:

The gaffe-prone Biden said in February that "there’s a very identifiable Somali community" in his hometown of Wilmington, Del. According to the Census Bureau, there are only 15 Somalis living in Delaware. Pants on Fire!

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How have the Democratic candidates fared on the Truth-O-Meter?