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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis holds a campaign event at Wally's, a packed restaurant-bar in the Seacoast town of Hampton, N.H., on Jan. 17, 2024. (Louis Jacobson/PolitiFact) Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis holds a campaign event at Wally's, a packed restaurant-bar in the Seacoast town of Hampton, N.H., on Jan. 17, 2024. (Louis Jacobson/PolitiFact)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis holds a campaign event at Wally's, a packed restaurant-bar in the Seacoast town of Hampton, N.H., on Jan. 17, 2024. (Louis Jacobson/PolitiFact)

Ellen Hine
By Ellen Hine January 18, 2024

HAMPTON, N.H. — Hello from New Hampshire! PolitiFact is in the Granite State this week covering the run-up to the state’s presidential primary Jan. 23. We’re collaborating with our partner WMUR-TV to fact-check candidates and talk with voters about their concerns in 2024. 

I’m Ellen Hine, PolitiFact’s audience engagement producer, and I’m here in Manchester, New Hampshire, with Senior Correspondent Louis Jacobson. We’ve been traversing icy roads and frosty weather to fact-check candidates at their campaign events. If you want to follow our work on the ground in New Hampshire, make sure to sign up for our PolitiFact Daily newsletter and follow us on social media.

We were in Henniker, New Hampshire, on Tuesday night to check Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ CNN town hall. (Read more about our adventures here.) And we’ll be back in Henniker tonight to fact-check former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s town hall with the network. 

If you want to see more on-the-ground fact-checking like this during the 2024 election, please consider supporting PolitiFact with a donation. Readers like you make our independent, nonpartisan fact-checking work possible. 

Wednesday started with breakfast from a local coffee shop in Manchester and then a stop at WMUR. Lou filmed a segment on President Joe Biden comparing former President Donald Trump with Herbert Hoover, who was president during the Great Depression’s onset in 1929. Biden’s jab that Trump and Hoover were the only presidents to lose jobs didn’t mention the coronavirus pandemic, which prompted unemployment to spike in Trump’s fourth year in office. Biden took office as the pandemic was receding and benefited from the steady flow of Americans back into jobs.

Then, we drove an hour east to Hampton on New Hampshire’s seacoast, where DeSantis was holding a town hall at a local restaurant called Wally’s. I deeply enjoyed the sign. 

DeSantis spent the hour-and-a-half-long event touting his record on COVID-19 and education policies and lobbing attacks on Haley and Trump. He repeated a few claims we’ve checked before, such as:

"I’m the only one running that (has) delivered on 100% of his promises." We tracked 15 of DeSantis’ campaign promises from when he first ran for governor of Florida. His pledge to reduce TV and cellphone tax and his promise to reduce the corporate income tax were both rated Promise Broken. 

"In fact, there was a school in Miami Dade County, there was this book of poems from, I guess, a lady that did a poem at Biden’s inauguration, and the school decided to move it from (the) elementary library to middle school library. And that was it. And the media said that somehow, they were banning these poems. And it’s like, this has nothing to do with the state." We've previously rated the claim that Miami-Dade County banned "The Hill We Climb," a poem Amanda Gorman wrote and later read at President Joe Biden’s inauguration, from elementary schools as Mostly False. A single school decided to move the poem to its library’s middle-school section after a parent’s complaint. Some younger students can still access the poem if they can show they read at a fifth grade level while access for others is restricted.

DeSantis also repeated a talking point that piqued our interest on Tuesday. During his CNN town hall, DeSantis voiced support for imposing term limits for members of Congress, enacting a line-item veto for presidents and enabling state authorities to enforce immigration laws. But the U.S. Supreme Court has said the law prohibits all three of these proposed policies.

So, you can imagine how our fact-checker ears perked up when, a few hours later at a town hall in Rochester, Haley said she also supported term limits for members of Congress. 

Haley’s event was much shorter than DeSantis. (According to NBC News, Haley hasn’t taken voters’ questions onstage since a controversial comment about the cause of the Civil War last month.) She still packed a number of claims about foreign policy, fentanyl and immigration into her speech, including:

"We have had 8 million illegal immigrants come to the border." We rated a similar claim Mostly False. Immigration officials have encountered migrants 8.1 million times during Joe Biden’s presidency, but the data represents events not people. 

China now has "the largest naval fleet in the world. They have 370 ships. They'll have 400 ships in two years. We won't even have 350 ships in two decades." That's Half True. Haley's numbers are accurate, but experts say that simply counting ships omits context about a country’s true military capabilities. Ship counts ignore overall ship size, warfighting capabilities and overall geographic reach, all of which are metrics showing the United States maintains an edge over China.

"We've had more people, more Americans, die of fentanyl than the Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam wars combined." We’ve rated that claim True. About 65,300 service members died in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan combined. About 127,000 Americans died from drug overdoses involving a synthetic opioid other than methadone in 2020 and 2021, federal data shows. These deaths were primarily because of fentanyl. 

We’re looking forward to covering Haley’s CNN town hall tonight, and a talk between Democratic presidential candidate Dean Phillips and Andrew Yang about the future of artificial intelligence. Tag us on social media @politifact or email me at [email protected] with any fact-check suggestions or questions you have. 

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a 2024 Republican presidential candidate, poses for selfies with town hall attendees Jan, 17, 2024, in Rochester, New Hampshire. (Louis Jacobson/PolitiFact)
Fact-checks of the week
  • Wait, what? When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a Concord, New Hampshire, town hall that U.S. tax dollars "have gone to promote transgenderism in Bangladesh," we had to look into it. Since 2018, the U.S. has invested in aid programs in Bangladesh that support gender-diverse people. But PolitiFact found no evidence that this money was used to persuade people to adopt a new gender identity or undergo gender transition, as some hearing DeSantis’ statement might be led to believe. The money supports a community describing itself as "hijra" or "third-gender" — not necessarily "transgender" — that has existed for centuries and that the Bangladeshi government had worked to recognize. We rate this claim Half True.
  • At the border. Republican primary presidential candidate Nikki Haley has pledged to deport people who have entered the U.S. illegally under President Joe Biden’s administration. On Jan. 5, she said, "The 8 million that have come in illegally … and they only sent back 142,000, should scare everybody." There have been 8.1 million encounters with migrants nationwide under Biden, but that number does not represent unique individuals, and not all who were stopped were allowed to stay in the U.S. The 142,000 refers only to Immigration and Customs Enforcement removals in fiscal year 2023. But migrants can be sent out of the U.S. in other ways. There have been 3.6 million removals, returns and expulsions under Biden’s administration. We rate this claim Mostly False.
  • Closing the gap. Ahead of South Carolina’s February primary, President Joe Biden appealed to the state’s Black voters by touting his administration’s efforts to bolster racial equity in the economy. "The racial wealth gap is the smallest it’s been in 20 years, under my watch," he said Jan. 8 in Charleston. By one measure, the white-Black wealth ratio, that checks out. In 2022, that ratio modestly narrowed to the smallest it’s been in 20 years. By a different measure, the dollar amount difference in wealth, the white-Black gap widened to more than $240,000. That’s the largest disparity since 1989, the earliest year recorded in the Federal Reserve data. For a partially accurate claim in need of context, we rate this statement Half True.

Knowing the facts has never been more important. Please consider donating to PolitiFact today. 

Former President Donald Trump, the front-runner in the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, appears Jan. 17, 2024, at a campaign event in Portsmouth, N.H. (AP)
Donald Trump’s Iowa caucus win, and early call controversy

If you tuned in late to television coverage of the Jan. 15 Iowa caucuses, even a half-hour late, the suspense was already over. The major networks had declared Donald Trump the winner.

Trump, the former president and 2024 Republican presidential front-runner, was expected to win. (He garnered 51% of the vote, or 56,260 votes). Trump told his supporters, "This is the third time we’ve won, but this is the biggest win."

Trump is wrong. He’s won it twice, and 2020 was not competitive. In 2016, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, won the Iowa caucuses with about 27.6% of the vote. Trump finished second with 24.3%. In 2020, Trump captured 97% of the vote to defeat former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, a nominal challenger. 

The media’s call for Trump on Monday night rankled some people, notably James Uthmeier, campaign manager for the second-place finisher, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, because it came with voting far from over. Uthmeier told NBC News reporter Dasha Burns, "I just need people to understand this is a grave concern. This challenges the very foundation of our democracy to have winners announced before voting."

NBC News’ Chuck Todd defended NBC’s call, telling NBC News NOW anchor Tom Llamas, "When it is a double-digit victory like this, 20 to 30 points in any of this, whether we’re doing primaries, caucuses or general elections, you’re going to get an early call and projection because of the data we have." Todd later added, "If this were a close race, we wouldn’t have called it."

The Associated Press also called the race early. Elections and democracy reporter Robert Yoon wrote that the decision hinged on an analysis of initial returns and results of AP VoteCast, a survey of voters who planned to caucus. Yoon said that in traditional primaries, the AP doesn’t declare winners before the last polls are scheduled to close. But Iowa, Yoon wrote, has neither "polls" nor fixed times when all voting ends; there’s an 8 p.m. ET deadline for caucus voters to arrive and deliberate.

Read more from Poynter.

Migrants wait Oct. 19, 2023, to be processed by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol in Eagle Pass, Texas. (AP)
Ask PolitiFact: Answering your question about border crisis responsibility

"What branch of government is ‘really’ responsible for the crisis at the border?" a reader asked PolitiFact in a recent email. Is it the president or Congress? "I realize it’s very complicated," the reader also wrote.

Unpacking who is to blame for the high numbers of immigrants at the border is complicated, but we spoke with immigration experts to get their insights.

Here’s what they said. 

  • Who is to blame for the immigration crisis? The federal government directs immigration and the U.S. political system is arranged so each branch checks and balances the others. "Each of the three branches of government has a role to play in immigration law and policy, and each has failed," Cornell University immigration law professor Stephen Yale-Loehr said. "The result: a quagmire, where nothing gets resolved and matters get worse every day."
  • Congress has failed to update immigration laws for decades. The legislative branch passes and changes immigration laws. So, it’s up to the House of Representatives and the Senate to decide how people come to the U.S., and what penalties people face if they enter the country illegally. Congress also has a final say on how much funding is appropriated to the agencies that apply those immigration laws.
  • Presidents enact policies, but these can change with each administration. Although Congress creates immigration laws, the executive branch must apply them. This includes the president and departments and agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department and Justice departments. 
  • Courts can stop or start immigration policies, which can cause confusion and instability. The courts are responsible for ensuring that laws are constitutional and that the policies presidents make align with laws Congress has passed. As presidents increasingly rely on executive actions because of Congress’ inaction, the courts have become more active in ruling on immigration policies.

Read Staff Writer Maria Ramirez Uribe’s full report.

Quick links
Pants on Fire

Do you smell smoke? 

Here's your Pants on Fire fact-check of the week: A video of an orb exploding is not from Miami mall Jan. 1. Police said teenagers exploding fireworks, not aliens, caused the fracas.

See what else we've rated Pants on Fire this week. 

PolitiFact Senior Correspondent Louis Jacobson and Copy Chief Matthew Crowley contributed to this week's newsletter.

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