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Fact-checking the third night of the Democratic National Convention
President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton wave to the crowd during the third day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. (AP) President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton wave to the crowd during the third day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. (AP)

President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton wave to the crowd during the third day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. (AP)

Allison Graves
By Allison Graves July 28, 2016
By Neelesh Moorthy July 28, 2016

President Barack Obama squarely denounced Donald Trump’s portrayal of the United States as lawless and weak, saying he is ready to pass the baton off to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to build on the country’s progress.

"This year, in this election, I’m asking you to join me — to reject cynicism and reject fear and to summon what’s best in us; to elect Hillary Clinton as the next president of the United States, and show the world we still believe in the promise of this great nation," Obama said in his speech headlining the convention’s third night.

Wednesday saw more of the party’s bigwigs, with speeches from Vice President Joe Biden and Clinton’s running mate Tim Kaine.

Kaine commented on his time in the Senate, saying that behind closed doors Republicans acknowledged "how fantastic a senator Hillary Clinton was."

"Hillary has a passion for kids and families. Donald Trump has a passion, too — it’s himself," Kaine said as he accepted the Democratic vice presidential nomination. "With Hillary it’s not just words, it’s accomplishments."

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, endorsed Clinton as he discredited the Republican nominee’s business accomplishments, saying the "richest thing about Donald Trump is his hypocrisy."

"Trump says he wants to run the nation like he’s running his business? God help us!" Bloomberg said. "I’m a New Yorker, and I know a con when I see one."

Earlier in the night, service members and relatives of deceased military personnel thanked Clinton for helping military families and endorsed her as a qualified commander-in-chief. Christine Leinonen, whose son Christopher "Drew" Leinonen was killed in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, also took the stage to call for stricter gun control.

Several speakers denounced Trump’s "ignorance" on climate change, too, including California Gov. Jerry Brown.

Let’s take a look at the truth behind what was said on the convention stage. (Here’s our coverage from night one and night two.)

Respecting America

Obama criticized Trump for saying he would not support the North Atlantic Treaty Organization if other countries didn’t "pay up."

"Well, America’s promises do not come with a price tag. We meet our commitments," Obama said. "That’s one of the reasons why almost every country on Earth sees America as stronger and more respected today than they did eight years ago when I took office."

Polls have not directly measured "strength and respect," but in general polls show America is viewed more positively now than eight years ago. Gallup, Pew, and BBC News reach the same conclusions.

Obama’s claim has a point, but not on "strength" and "respect" specifically. We rate his statement Mostly True.

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Low illegal immigration

Obama pointed to the decrease in illegal immigration and the crime rate as proof of America’s progress.

"Ronald Reagan called America 'a shining city on a hill,' " Obama said. "Donald Trump calls it 'a divided crime scene' that only he can fix. It doesn’t matter to him that illegal immigration and the crime rate are as low as they’ve been in decades, because he’s not offering any real solutions to those issues."

For this fact-check we focused on Obama’s statement about decreased illegal immigration and crime.

It’s hard to count the number of illegal immigrants, but the number of people apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol, although imperfect, offers the best indicator available.

Those data show a mostly steady decline to 337,117 apprehensions in the 2015 fiscal year. In contrast, apprehensions peaked in 2000, when more than 1.6 million were logged. You would have to go back 44 years, to 1971 to see a lower nationwide apprehension rate, actually.

Crime rates have been decreasing for years now. There's been some preliminary data from early 2015 and partial comparisons as late as early 2016 indicating an uptick, but the trend is still downward sloping.

We rated Obama’s statement Mostly True.

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Economic attacks against Trump

Kaine said Trump’s economic policies are so risky that even a man who advises conservatives warns against them.

"John McCain’s chief economic adviser during the ’08 race ... estimated that Trump’s promises would cause America to lose 3.5 million jobs," Kaine said.

Kaine was referring to an analysis of Trump’s economic proposals published by financial firm Moody’s Analytics, which concluded a Trump presidency would cost millions of jobs. The lead author of this report was Mark Zandi, whom Kaine said was the chief economic adviser of former Republican presidential nominee John McCain.

Kaine is using Zandi’s Republican credentials to make the point that even Republicans think Trump’s proposals would be bad for the economy. But Kaine forgot to mention an important point about Zandi.

Zandi donated the maximum amount to Clinton’s primary campaign this election,  and has a record of donating to Democrats starting in 2007.

An exception to this, however, is in 2008 when Zandi gave more than $2,000 to McCain, as well as serving as an economic adviser. He was not the chief adviser.

Identifying Zandi as an economic adviser to McCain leaves a lot out of the story, so we rated Kaine’s statement Half True.

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Kaine cited other analysts predicting massive debt increases during a Trump presidency.

Independent analysts, Kaine said, "found Trump's tax plan, a gift to the wealthy and big corporations, would rack up $30 trillion in debt."

The figure does come from a report by the nonpartisan Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center. However, Kaine cherry-picks the number.

The analysts said Trump’s tax plan would cost $30 trillion over a 20-year time frame. Using a 10-year time frame, that number is only $11 trillion. Kaine also ignores other studies, such as one by Moody’s Analytics, that predicts at most a $9.7 trillion increase in 10 years.

Experts do generally agree, however, that Trump’s tax plan would benefit the rich as well as large corporations.

We rated Kaine’s statement Half True.

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American productivity

Biden tried to paint a picture of a robust America after more than seven years of Obama’s leadership.

"Not only do we have the largest economy in the world, we have the strongest economy in the world," Biden said. "We have the most productive workers in the world. And given a fair shot, given a fair chance, Americans have never ever ever let their country down."

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development tracks GDP per hour for advanced nations. Since 2010, the group found, Luxembourg and Norway have been more productive than the United States.

America earned $62.40 per hour worked in 2014, compared to $79.30 in Luxembourg.

Biden’s claim is close but not quite on the mark. We rate the statement Mostly True.

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‘Gaming’ the system

Bloomberg said Donald Trump has taken advantage of foreign workers, despite claiming to be tough on immigration.

Trump "games the U.S. visa system so he can hire temporary foreign workers at low wages," Bloomberg said.

We found that Trump hired cooks, wait staff and housekeepers at his Mar-A-Lago Club in Florida through legal H-2B visas. The majority of people on these visas are young Mexicans, although some reports say Trump sought European workers.

In order to obtain visas, businesses must prove they were unsuccessful at filling positions with American workers. Reports from the resort showed that many of the American applicants, who applied through CareerSource Florida, a local workforce development board, were not hired because they didn’t meet certain job requirements.

After the spots weren’t filled, the Labor Department certified 685 H-2B visas for the Mar-A-Lago Club between 2008 and 2015.

One expert said that hiring foreign workers is not unusual for businessmen.

"Gaming the system" is subjective, but Trump did use H-2B visas to hire workers at his resort in Florida. For this reason, we rated Bloomberg’s statement Mostly True.

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‘Gambling’ away retirement benefits

One of the night’s first speakers, outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, attacked what he considered the careless policies of a Trump-Pence ticket.

"Donald Trump and Mike Pence want to gamble with your retirement benefits in the stock market," Reid said. "Republicans want to tear down the pillars of middle-class security."

Trump and Pence actually differ on their approaches to social security. Trump has repeatedly said this election he does not want to change the social security apparatus, although he did call for privatizing the system 16 years ago.

Pence, on the other hand, supported a 2005 proposal that would allow workers to invest some payroll taxes into private investment funds.

Reid’s claim takes liberties with Trump’s hands-off approach to social security policies. We rate his statement Mostly False.

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Trump and immigration

U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., warned delegates that Trump’s immigration policy would target Latino families.

"Donald Trump, when you take pride in your outright ignorance of world affairs, when you promise the mass deportation of Latino families, when you dismiss officer-involved shootings of African-Americans, when you degrade women, Donald Trump, you unite us," Bass said

We took a look back at all of Trump’s comments on the subject and found that Trump has promised to deport undocumented immigrants, not just "Latino families." Not all Latinos in the country are undocumented, and not all undocumented immigrants are Latino.

As far as mass deportations, Trump said throughout the primary race that he would round up "in a very humane way" the millions of undocumented immigrants in the country and send them back to their native countries.

Trump also may be softening his position, without offering specifics and no mention of mass deportation on his campaign website. On balance, we rated Bass’ statement Half True.

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Denying evolution

California Gov. Jerry Brown criticized Pence for his views on evolution.

"It’s not surprising that Trump chose as his running mate a man who denies that there's such a thing as evolution," Brown said.

Spokespeople for both Brown and Pence pointed us to a 2009 interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who asked Pence if he believed in evolution.

"I embrace the view that God created the heavens and the earth and the seas and all that’s in them," Pence said repeatedly.

We found his statement consistent with the views of Creationism, rather than those of evolution. We rated Brown’s claim True.

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Stronger background checks

On a night that saw testimonials from victims of gun violence, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said most Americans favor stronger background checks.

"Listen, 90 percent of Americans want our background check system strengthened and expanded to cover more gun sales so that dangerous weapons don't fall into the wrong hands," Murphy said.

Currently, federal licensed dealers are required to conduct checks. Private sellers are not.

Several polls have yielded a 90 percent figure — including polls from Quinnipiac University, the New York Times and Pew Research Center, among others. Some have questioned the polls, noting that responses to actual gun control legislation is less enthusiastic.However, Murphy accurately cites the numbers. We rate his statement True.

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A military ‘disaster?’

Former Navy Adm. John Hutson attacked Trump’s respect towards the military, as Trump has named himself the "law and order candidate."

Trump "called the military that I served in a disaster," Hutson said.

The quote is comes from a January Republican debate.

"I'm very angry because our country is being run horribly, and I will gladly accept the mantle of anger. Our military is a disaster," Trump said at the debate.

However, Trump has also criticized the military’s declining budget and Obama’s military policies on other occasions.

The quote is real, but to interpret it as insulting the military is an unflattering interpretation. We rate Hutson’s claim Mostly True.

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Clinton on climate change

Bill Clinton used his speech to promote his wife’s record of public service including her record on climate change. Along these lines, Bill Clinton cited the Copenhagen Accord of 2009.

"She put climate change at the center of our foreign policy. She negotiated the first agreement ever — ever — where China and India officially committed to reduce their emissions," Bill Clinton said.

As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was certainly involved in negotiating the deal, which did include emission reductions for China and India, which had previously called for cuts to be concentrated in developed nations. But the agreement was loose, by design—instead of signing the accord, the participating countries officially "took note" of it. The voluntary aspect of the Copenhagen Accord has been the subject of criticism by environmentalists.

Because Bill Clinton’s account doesn’t provide this useful context, we rated it Half True.


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Poverty in the Clinton years

In a video introducing Bill Clinton’s convention speech, he advanced a bold claim about the accomplishments of his administration that we’ve encountered before.

"We moved 100 times as many people out of poverty as moved out when President (Ronald) Reagan was in office, with 40 percent more jobs," Clinton said.

We’d checked the claim about poverty when Hillary made it in July and October of 2014, and it's about five times to high, if you use a consistent time frame. The right number is still impressive, but the Clintons keep referring to the inflated figure instead.

The 40 percent number, on the other hand, is basically right, though favorable economic conditions at the outset of the Clinton administration may have played a role.

Part of this statement is wrong; part of it is accurate. We called it Half True.


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Trump’s business practices

Did Trump leave investors in Florida condos hanging? Kaine suggested that he did, taking payments for himself while the buildings were left unbuilt and investor deposits disappeared.

"Retirees and families in Florida — they believed Trump when he said he'd build them some condos. Thousands of them. They paid their deposits, but the condos, they were never built. He just pocketed their money and walked away. They lost tens of thousands of dollars, all because they believed Donald Trump," Kaine said

The two projects Kaine was referring to were named after Trump, and may have been sold based on his reputation, but Trump was not involved in the projects beyond that point. The developers paid Trump for the use of his name. The projects never went forward, and many investors lost money—so Trump did take money away from the project while investors were stiffed.

Kaine, however, left out relevant context about Trump’s level of involvement, so we rated his statement Half True.


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Fact-checking the third night of the Democratic National Convention