Stand up for facts and support PolitiFact.

Now is your chance to go on the record as supporting trusted, factual information by joining PolitiFact’s Truth Squad. Contributions or gifts to PolitiFact, which is part of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Poynter Institute, are tax deductible.

More Info

I would like to contribute

Graham promoting himself as foreign policy expert
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham announces his bid for the presidency on June 1, 2015, in Central, S.C. (AP Photo) U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham announces his bid for the presidency on June 1, 2015, in Central, S.C. (AP Photo)

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham announces his bid for the presidency on June 1, 2015, in Central, S.C. (AP Photo)

Nancy Badertscher
By Nancy Badertscher September 21, 2015

Lindsey Graham on Sunday, August 31, 2008 in an interview on ABC News "This Week"

Joe Biden "voted against the first Gulf War. He opposed the surge. He wanted to partition Iraq."

John McCain’s campaign readily acknowledges Joe Biden’s expertise in national security matters. But that isn’t stopping McCain surrogates from questioning the Democratic vice presidential nominee’s judgment, especially when it comes to Iraq policy.

McCain ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., raised the issue in an Aug. 31, 2008, interview on ABC News’ This Week, implying that Biden lacked the backbone to stand up to powerful foes or to fix broken governments.

"He has national security experience. But experience and judgment need to come together. He voted against the first Gulf War. He opposed the surge. He wanted to partition Iraq," Graham said in response to a statement about Biden’s national security experience.

On the campaign trail, Biden makes the case that he has the requisite toughness to go head-to-head with foreign leaders. As an example, he points to a 1993 encounter with Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic during the Balkan wars in which he called Milosevic a war criminal to his face. But Biden’s two votes on the eve of war in 1991 clearly show he favored continued economic sanctions over the use of military force. For this reason, we ruled Graham’s statement True.


Lindsey Graham on Sunday, July 27th, 2014 in comments on CNN’s "State of the Union"

Russia "has an economy the size of Italy."

While the fighting in Ukraine stirs memories of the Cold War, there’s little appetite in the United States to get into a military showdown with Russia. Where’s there’s bipartisan support is to get Europe to take stronger stand.

Sen. Graham said on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday that President Barack Obama should be getting the European Union nations into line.

"They’re dysfunctional political organization, Europe is," Graham said. "And without American leadership organizing Europe and the world, you see people like (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, who has an economy the size of Italy — he’s playing a poker game with a pair of 2s and winning."

Really? Russia is the world’s second-largest producer of natural gas and the third-largest producer of oil, and it has an economy the size of Italy?

In terms of nominal GDP, Graham is correct. But if you run the numbers a different way and measure purchasing power parity, Russia’s economy is larger than Italy’s.

Graham’s statement is accurate but needs additional information. We rated his claim Mostly True.


Lindsey Graham on Sunday, October 5th, 2014 in comments on CNN’s "State of the Union

Under sequestration, the military was cut "down to the smallest Army since 1940, the smallest Navy since 1915."

The United States has upped its operations in Iraq and Syria, but Graham says the military is shrinking.

On CNN’s State of the Union Sunday morning, Graham criticized President Barack Obama for what he said are "half-measures" in thwarting terrorist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

"We’re cutting the CDC’s budget, the NIH budget. We’re taking the military budget under sequestration cuts down to the smallest Army since 1940, the smallest Navy since 1915. We’re destroying the Intelligence Committee."

There’s a lot in there, but the idea that the U.S. military — by far the largest in the world in terms of spending — is as small as it was nearly a century ago caught our attention.

Graham was counting the number of ground troops in the Army and the number of ships in the Navy. He’s got the numbers right, but it’s not a fair comparison because technology and capabilities have grown so much in the past century. The Army and Navy of today are much more capable than they were decades ago, even with fewer soldiers and ships. A better comparison is to look at how the U.S. military stands up relative to other nations.

Graham’s statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details and takes things out of context, so we rated it Half True.

Lindsey Graham on Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015 in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper

The USA Freedom Act undercuts privacy because "the phone records will be in the hands of the phone companies with hundreds of people available to look at the records, versus 20 or 30 people in the government."

The Senate passed the U.S.A. Freedom Act, which affects the National Security Agency’s bulk phone data collection program, June 2, 2015.

Soon, the government will no longer be able to accumulate Americans’ phone records in bulk. But Graham says this doesn’t settle any concerns over privacy.

in a CNN interview, he said he opposes the Freedom Act and would have preferred to keep the Patriot Act as is.

"The (metadata) provisions I don’t like at all," Graham said of the Freedom Act in a June 2 interview with Jake Tapper. "Basically, you’ve undercut privacy now. All of the records will be in the hands of the phone company with hundreds of people available to look at the records versus 20 or 30 people in the government."

We took a look into Graham’s claim that because of the Freedom Act, hundreds of phone company employees will now have access to the phone records, as opposed to just a couple dozen government employees currently.

But here’s the rub: The phone companies have always held this data, and the new law doesn’t change that.

The new law eliminates the NSA bulk collection program, but it does not affect how the companies themselves maintain their records, other than some standardization measures. The law does not cause the phone records to change hands, nor does it create new databases or record-keeping systems.

We rated Graham’s claim False.

ROAD TO 2016

Lindsey Graham

Age: 60, July 9, 1955 (age 60), Central, SC

Political party: Republican

Political experience: Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, 3rd Congressional District, South Carolina, in 1994. Elected to the United States Senate in 2002 and was re-elected in 2008 and 2014. Serves on the Senate Budget, Judiciary, Armed Services and Appropriations committees.

Professional: Six and a half years, United States Air Force active duty as an Air Force lawyer.

Education: Earned his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of South Carolina

Family: Single

Interesting factoid: Adopted his sister after his parents died.



Lindsey Graham U.S. Senate bio

"Graham bets on foreign experience in White House bid announcement," By By Alexandra Jaffe, CNN on Monday, June 1, 2015

"Stressing National Security Experience, Lindsey Graham Announces Run For President," By Alex Pappas, The Daily Caller, June 1, 2015

"Focus on Donald Trump at ‘Undercard’ Debate Irks Low-Polling Candidates," By Trip Gabriel and Matt Flegenheimer, The New York Times, Sept. 16, 2015

Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter

Our Sources

Lexis-Nexis, Transcript of Lindsay Graham interview, Aug. 31, 2008

CQ Almanac, 1991 and 2002

New York Times, "Confrontation in the Gulf; Congress Acts to Authorize War in Gulf," by Adam Clymer, Jan. 13, 1991

New York Times, "Threats and Responses: The Congressional Reslution; Bush Strikes Deal for House Backing on Iraq," by Elisabeth Bumiller and Alison Mitchell, Oct. 3, 2002

Wall Street Journal, "Sen. Biden Opposes Iraq 'Surge,' " by Yochi J. Dreazen, Dec. 26, 2006.

CNN, State of the Union, transcript, July 27, 2014

CIA, World Factbook, accessed July 27, 2014

World Bank, world economic data, accessed July 27, 2014

Economist, "Kroners And Swiss Francs Are Still Overvalued," July 27, 2014

New York Times, "Gazprom Cuts Russia’s Natural Gas Supply to Ukraine," June 16, 2014

Business Insider, "Here's How Dependent Russia's Economy Is On Oil And Gas," July 23, 2014

Moscow Times, "Managing Russia’s Economic Decline," March 17, 2014

Forbes, "Oil a problem for Russian economy, official says," April 3, 2012

U.S. Energy Information Administration, oil price data, accessed July 27, 2014

U.S. Energy Information Administration, Russia analysis, accessed July 27, 2014

Email interview, Kevin Bishop, Graham spokesman, July 27, 2014

CNN, "State of the Union" transcript, Oct. 5, 2014

Department of Defense, Quadrennial Defense Review, March 2014

Department of the Navy, Status of the Navy, Oct. 3, 2014

Department of the Navy, Active Ship Force Levels 1886-present, accessed Oct. 5, 2014

Department of Veterans Affairs, "America’s Wars," accessed Oct. 5, 2014

New York Times, "Pentagon Plans to Shrink Army to Pre-WWII Level," Feb. 23, 2014

Washington Post, "Debt-panel failure would result in ‘devastating’ defense cuts, Panetta says," Nov. 14, 2011

Center for a New American Security, "Gambling with Ground Forces," March 2014

CNN, "Graham: Hillary would be able to tear Rand apart," June 2, 2015

The Guardian, "NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily," June 6, 2013

Wall Street Journal, "U.S. Collects Vast Data Trove," June 7, 2013

New York Times, "House Votes to End N.S.A.’s Bulk Phone Data Collection," May 13, 2015

Associated Press, "AT&T, Verizon And Sprint Push Back Against The NSA, Too," May 3, 2014

Washington Post, "Everything you need to know about the NSA’s phone records scandal," June 6, 2013

Washington Post, "Piercing the confusion around NSA’s phone surveillance program," Aug. 8, 2013

Washington Post, "Here’s how the government justifies sucking up your phone records," July 22, 2013

Washington Post, "USA Freedom Act: What’s in, what’s out," June 2, 2015

U.S. News and World Report, "How Long Cellphone Companies Store Your Call Records," May 22, 2015

National Journal, "Senate Passes Major NSA Reform Bill," June 2, 2015

The President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, "Liberty and Security in a Changing World," Dec. 12, 2013

FCC, "Protecting Your Telephone Calling Records," March 31, 2014

PolitiFact, "Mark Udall says ordinary Americans' business records caught up in surveillance net," June 13, 2013

PolitiFact, "McConnell vs. Paul on the Patriot Act and telephone records: What the government accesses," June 2, 2015

Email interview, Graham spokesman Kevin Bishop, June 3, 2015

Email and phone interview, Verizon spokesman Ed McFadden, June 3, 2015

Email interview, Watson Institute fellow Timothy Edgar, June 3, 2015

Email interview, Cato Institute senior fellow Julian Sanchez, June 3, 2015

Email interview, Cornell engineering professor Stephen Wicker, June 3, 2015

Email interview, EFF spokeswoman Rebecca Jeschke, June 3, 2015

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Nancy Badertscher

Graham promoting himself as foreign policy expert