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MANCHESTER, N.H. —If you’ve been following PolitiFact’s journey in New Hampshire, you may have noticed we haven’t covered a rally for former President Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner. That’s because PolitiFact was denied press access to two of his rallies this week. We’ll try again for Trump rally access this weekend as a new PolitiFact team rotates in.
Although we’ve been shut out of his rallies, we’ve still been listening to Trump. Our fantastic political team has been covering his claims as Senior Correspondent Lou Jacobson and I hotfoot it from one live New Hampshire campaign event to the next.
Senior Correspondent Amy Sherman examined Trump’s misleading claim that former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is seeking Democrats to "infiltrate" next Tuesday’s Republican primary election. (Registered Democrats can’t vote in the Republican primary.) And Staff Writer Samantha Putterman checked a Trump ad falsely claiming, "Haley’s plan cuts Social Security benefits for 82% of Americans." (Haley’s plan wouldn’t affect current beneficiaries or Americans anywhere close to retiring, let alone 82% of the U.S. population.)
A personal note: I’ve been working at PolitiFact for a little over a year now. This culture of teamwork and dedication to getting voters the facts even when challenges arise is one of the things I’ve come to love most about our newsroom. If you want to help our team sort fact from fiction in 2024, please consider donating to our nonprofit newsroom.
Lou and I started our third day of fact-checking in New Hampshire by visiting the WMUR-TV office. We then headed down the street to an event for Democratic candidate Dean Phillips at the University of New Hampshire at Manchester.
As we walked, we found some leftover signs for entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who suspended his campaign Monday after finishing fourth in the Iowa caucuses.
Leftover Vivek Ramaswamy signs in Manchester, New Hampshire. (Ellen Hine/PolitiFact)
There were fewer people at this event than we saw yesterday at Ron DeSantis’ Hampton town hall and Nikki Haley’s campaign stop in Rochester. But the room where Phillips spoke was so small, it felt even more packed than the others. Supporters stood in the front with signs while guests and media filled the chairs, stood along the walls and sat on the floor.
Entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who ran as a Democratic candidate for president in 2020, introduced Phillips to discuss his vision for the future of artificial intelligence.
Philips compared inaction on AI policy now to inaction on climate change a century ago. AI "can be beautiful, but it also has great risks," Phillips said. "It's going to disenfranchise this economy. It's going to be disruptive in ways that we can actually anticipate. But if we do nothing now, which is what is happening right now in Washington, nothing."
But President Joe Biden issued an executive order in October for the "safe, secure, and trustworthy development" of AI. His administration has also secured voluntary commitments from 15 A.I. companies to safely develop the technology. And in Congress, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law has held several hearings concerning AI.
Phillips pivoted to pitching himself as an alternative to Biden in the upcoming primary. (He has polled between 6% and 28% against Biden among New Hampshire Democrats in recent weeks.) Phillips criticized the Washington establishment and touted his record for bipartisanship, claiming, "I come to you as the second most bipartisan member of the entire United States Congress."
The Minnesota Democrat seemed to be citing his scorecard from the Common Ground Committee, a nonpartisan organization that scores elected officials on their bipartisanship. Phillips is tied with Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., for the second-highest score behind Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev.
After Phillips’ speech, we decamped to WMUR to do some writing. Lou checked claims from Haley’s Rochester event while I edited a video for our TikTok and wrote this newsletter.
Around 4:30 p.m., we headed down to the WMUR studio. Lou was filming a live segment based about three policies DeSantis has proposed that the U.S. Supreme Court has frowned upon in the past. We first noticed DeSantis mentioning these proposed policies at Tuesday night’s CNN town hall and heard a few of them again Wednesday at his campaign event in Hampton.
After stopping for a proper dinner this time (if you don’t know about our Slim Jim feast, read more here), we were back to New England College for Nikki Haley’s CNN town hall. We weren’t the only media outlet in the press room, but the in-person media attendance was pretty sparse.
Haley took voter questions about conflict in the Middle East, climate change and her past comments about Trump and Biden’s ages. Most of her answers consisted of political rhetoric and opinions, the kind of things we don’t fact-check.
Moderator Jake Tapper pressed Haley on her comments from earlier this week that the United States has "never been a racist country." Tapper noted that Haley’s home state of South Carolina seceded from the Union and "fought a war to defend the enslavement of Black people."
Haley defended her comments, and when pressed by Tapper, said, "I refuse to believe that the premise of when (the Founding Fathers) formed our country was based on the fact that it was a racist country to start with."
This is the second time in less than a month that Haley’s comments about American history have landed her in hot water. She received blowback after a December town hall when she didn’t cite slavery as a cause of the Civil War. (She later said that "of course the Civil War was about slavery.")
"Whatever individual people fought for can become complicated, but there’s no doubt that the Confederacy was founded on the basis of protecting enslavement," William Alan Blair, a Penn State University historian and author, told PolitiFact for our primer on the Civil War’s causes and run-up.
As we’ve fact-checked candidates from the campaign trail this week, one throughline has become clear: DeSantis, Haley and Phillips are all trying to appeal to voters who don’t want to see a Biden-Trump rematch. These three have taken swings at their own parties, and pitched themselves as candidates who would bring fresh perspectives and major changes to Washington.
If you’ve made it this far, I want to hear from you, readers: What do you think about a possible Trump-Biden rematch in 2024? Email me at [email protected].
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