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The third night of the 2016 Republican National Convention, fact-checked

A Ted Cruz supporter holds a sign during his speech on the third day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Wednesday, July 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)  A Ted Cruz supporter holds a sign during his speech on the third day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Wednesday, July 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

A Ted Cruz supporter holds a sign during his speech on the third day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Wednesday, July 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Allison Graves
By Allison Graves July 20, 2016
By Neelesh Moorthy July 20, 2016

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence made his official debut as Donald Trump’s running mate Wednesday at the Republican National Convention, talking up his ticket’s credentials and denouncing the prospect of a "third Obama term" under Democrat Hillary Clinton.

"It’s change versus status quo, and my fellow Republicans, when Donald Trump becomes president of the United States of America, the change will be huge!" Pence said.

As much as the crowd embraced Pence, some vocal delegates soured on Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who delivered the last part of his speech over a chorus of boos from the floor when he didn’t endorse Trump.

Instead, Cruz asked voters to "vote their conscience" and stressed the importance of protecting Americans’ constitutional rights.

Before Pence took the stage, the crowd listened to former House speaker Newt Gingrich, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and a trio of Floridians, including Gov. Rick Scott.

Here’s our fact-checking rundown of statements from Pence and other speakers from the convention’s third night.

(Check our coverage of nights one and two.)

Fact-checking Mike Pence

During his speech, Pence went after Clinton for her perceived callous response to the Benghazi attacks.

"It was Hillary Clinton who left Americans in harm's way in Benghazi and after four Americans fell said, 'What difference at this point does it make?,’ " he said.

The "what difference" quote has been the source of several fact-checks, with varying degrees of accuracy. This one, however, significantly distorted what actually happened.

Clinton has taken responsibility for the security lapses in Benghazi as the head of the State Department, But the report from the House Benghazi committee did not place blame directly on Clinton, but rather on broader administrative failings — in line with findings from several committee investigations.

The "what difference" quote comes from a contentious and lengthy exchange with Rep. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., during a 2013 hearing on Benghazi, a year after the attacks, and was not, as Pence suggests, a statement directed at four dead Americans.

We rated this statement Mostly False.

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Pence joked at his acceptance speech that most people don’t know who he is. So he offered up his record as Indiana’s governor, an office he’s held since January 2013.

"We in Indiana have a $2 billion surplus, the highest credit rating in the nation, even though we've cut taxes every year since I became governor four years ago," he told the crowd.

It’s true that Indiana has received the highest credit rating from Standard and Poor’s, Moody’s, and Fitch Ratings since 2010.

However, Indiana isn’t the only state with that distinction, according to a recent long-term compilation of state-by-state credit ratings. As of May 2014, that’s a distinction shared by 14 other states.

We rated this statement Mostly True.

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Pence presented himself as a savvy steward of tax dollars, investing a "record" amount into education.

"In my home state of Indiana, we prove every day that you can build a growing economy on balanced budgets, low taxes, even while making record investments in education and roads and health care," he said.

Did Pence really make "record investments in education?" It depends on how you count.

In raw dollars, yes, Pence did. Adjusted for inflation, there were larger investments in 2010 and 2011, before he became governor. That being said, educating spending is on the rise under Pence’s leadership.

On balance, we rated this statement Half True.

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Pence said more Indiana residents are working under his leadership.

"There are more Hoosiers going to work than ever before," he said.

Pence’s claim is right on the numbers, which last stood at 3.07 million in May 2016. Those statistics don’t mean as much as Pence implies, however. Much of the increase in jobs stems from population growth, and experts said looking at employment rates is a better measurement of the economy,

By that metric, 2000, not 2016, is Indiana’s historical peak. Pence’s statement is misleading, so we rated it Half True.

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Cruz snubs Trump endorsement

The only mention of Trump in Cruz’s convention speech was a brief note of congratulations, infuriating delegates who wanted an endorsement.

Cruz’s speech made us wonder whether he signed party loyalty pledges.

All of the Republican candidates were supposed to sign a loyalty pledge by the Republican National Committee, but we never found a copy of the pledge on Wednesday. However, in May, a RNC spokesperson told PolitiFact Florida that all of the GOP candidates signed a pledge.

We found several instances where Cruz said he would support the nominee in early 2016, but in late March, Cruz’s tone shifted after Trump had promised to "spill the beans" on Cruz’s wife Heidi.

A week after he dropped out, Cruz told conservative talk show host Glenn Beck that picking a presidential candidate "is not a choice that we as voters have to make today."

See our more in-depth analysis of the "pledge" here.

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"Death to America," revisited

Cruz berated the Democratic Party over the Iran nuclear deal backed by the Obama administration, pointing to Iran’s hostility toward the United States as evidence it’s a bad idea.

"Theirs is the party that thinks ISIS is a ‘JV team,’ that responds to the death of Americans at Benghazi by asking, ‘What difference does it make?,’" Cruz said. "That thinks it's possible to make a deal with Iran, which celebrates as holidays ‘Death to America Day’ and ‘Death to Israel Day.’ "

(We previously fact-checked a claim about Clinton’s "what difference does it make?" comment here.)

Cruz made a similar statement about "Death to America Day" in 2015. For proof, a spokesperson pointed to a 1987 report from the Associated Press, which said Tehran Radio had dubbed  Nov. 4, the day of the Iranian student takeover of the U.S. embassy, as ''Death to America Day.''

A 2013 New York Times story also said "hard-liners" in Iran planned to mark the day as a "Grand Day of Death to America." From reading other news stories, it seems that, at least in Tehran, Nov. 4 is marked every year. However, experts said Nov. 4 was neither a national holiday nor officially called "Death to America Day."

Gary Sick, a scholar at Columbia University’s Middle East Institute, told us that "Death to America" is an Iranian revolutionary slogan shouted or chanted "at most events related to the revolution."  He was unaware that it was the formal name of the day or event, adding, "This slogan is shouted every Friday at the weekly prayer services held across Iran."

Because this day is not a holiday on the calendar or formally designated Death to America Day, PolitiFact Texas rated Cruz’s earlier statement Mostly False.

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Gingrich on Muslims, Syrians

Gingrich said that the United States has nothing to fear from the majority of Muslims. But the few who are dangerous, he said, are too many.

"Pew Research finds that just 9 percent of Muslims in Pakistan support ISIS," Gingrich said. "Unfortunately, that 9 percent is 16 million people. And that’s just one country."

We checked his math, and it’s correct. However, there are differences between "favoring" ISIS, which was the word used by the Pew survey question, than "supporting" ISIS, or taking up arms for the terrorist group.

Gingrich’s statement rates Mostly True.

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Gingrich also attacked Clinton’s stated plan to increase the number of Syrian refugees brought to America.

"We know that Hillary Clinton and President Obama lie to the American people when they say they can safely screen the Syrian refugees," he said. "They cannot.  And yet Hillary wants to increase the number by 500 percent."

Clinton has said she wants to increase the number of Syrian refugees from Obama’s proposed 10,000 to 65,000 — an increase of 550 percent.

However, Gingrich makes it sound like there is no robust system in place to vet refugees. In reality, the refugees admissions process actually involves the FBI as well as the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense and other agencies, plus in-person interviews and screenings by non-governmental organizations.

With that caveat, we rate Gingrich’s statement Mostly True.

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Stagnant economy

Scott said America is desperate for new leadership because its economic situation is in disarray.

"Today America is in a terrible world, record-high debt," he said. "Our economy is not growing.."

One way to measure this is looking at gross domestic product, which, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, has grown by between 1.5 and 2.5 percent every year since 2012.

In addition to the growing GDP, experts also disputed Scott’s claim, pointing to other positive economic signs such as growing private sector jobs and a declining unemployment rate.

The economy might not be growing as fast as Scott would like, but it is growing. We rated his claim False.

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Bills, bills, bills

Clinton has made a point to attack Trump for defaulting on payments to contractors, many of which are to small businesses. Taking the stage, Las Vegas casino magnate Phil Ruffin came to Trump’s defense.

"He always pays his bills promptly," he said. "You won't hear that. Promptly, no discounts."

This conflicts with a USA Today investigation, which found at least 60 lawsuits involving allegedly unpaid bills. Trump has acknowledged he often renegotiates contracts or won’t pay if he is dissatisfied with services rendered.

Ruffin’s prepared remarks, when discussing his relationship with Trump, emphasized the statement was supposed to refer to his own personal dealings.

"Through it all, Donald always paid his bills promptly, with no discounts," the prepared remarks stated.

That’s not what he said live, however, before millions of TV viewers. We rated Ruffin’s claim False.

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Deserting the Democrats

Prior to the primetime speeches of the convention, Republican pundit Hugh Hewitt clashed with former Gov. Howard Dean, D-Vt., on MSNBC.

"A million Democrats deserted Howard’s party and joined my party because of Donald Trump in Ohio this year," Hewitt said.

Party affiliation for Ohio voters is determined by what ballot a voter requests during the primary. Data from the Ohio secretary of state shows Hewitt was exaggerating the number of Democrats who switched to Republican ballots.

Based on voter registration data, the GOP did pick up a million new voters, but 910,131 were unaffiliated beforehand.

Only 115,762 switched from Democrat to Republican, and that’s a far cry from a million.

Experts also warned to not mistake correlation with causation, because those voters could potentially have switched over to vote for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who won his state’s primary. If that’s the case, voters who switched to the GOP might have done so to vote against, not for, Trump.

We rated Hewitt’s claim Mostly False.

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The third night of the 2016 Republican National Convention, fact-checked