PolitiFact Florida’s Top 5 stories for November

Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (AP)
Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (AP)

Statements by South Florida’s GOP presidential rivals Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio led PolitiFact Florida’s website in November, touching on taxes and Rubio’s spending while speaker of the Florida House.

Here are the five most-read fact-checks from November, counting down to the most popular:

5. Marion Hammer, a former National Rifle Association president: "Forty-five states allow open carry of firearms."

Groups both for and against stricter gun laws told us there are five states that have laws banning open carry for handguns: California, Florida, Illinois, New York and South Carolina.

It’s worth remembering, however, that the laws in some open-carry states are not as permissive as Hammer makes it seem. Several states have restrictions on the open carry of certain types of firearms, and in some places the rules are stricter than others.

We rate Hammer’s statement Mostly True.

4. Rubio: "There was never a single shred of evidence presented to anyone" that the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, were "spontaneous, and in fact, the CIA themselves understood that early on."

There was some initial confusion about what sparked the Sept. 11, 2012, attack, which occurred while Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. Even though investigations showed that some officials thought it was a terrorist attack immediately, there at least appeared to be some question among top officials about whether an anti-Muslim video could have played a role.

Adding to the confusion was that the Benghazi attack occurred around the same time as protests over the video in Cairo, Egypt. United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice talked about the video several times on Sunday talk shows following the attack and said, "We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned."  Later that month, the CIA changed its assessment after determining that no protests occurred outside the Benghazi facility before the deadly attacks on the consulate.

So Rubio exaggerated when he said there wasn’t a "single shred of evidence," but he has a point that much of the early evidence pointed strongly to terrorism. Overall, we rated his statement Half True.

3. The Republican Party of Florida: "How many concerts would Taylor Swift have to perform to pay off one day of interest on our national debt? She would have to perform every day for three years."

The statement was based on information from the conservative Heritage Foundation. While the think tank’s math is based on old estimates, the point that it would take an inordinate amount of time to pay just a single day’s interest on the $18-trillion national debt is valid.

Because Swift likely makes a lot more money these days, so she could probably pay the bill even faster. We rated the statement Mostly True.

2. Florida Democratic Party: "Marco Rubio spent $400K of your tax dollars remodeling offices, and building a members-only lounge."

It was actually more than that.

Rubio spent almost $560,000 to move around offices, renovate meeting spaces and open a dining area in the Capitol. Other speakers have spent more or less than that, as they saw fit. Democratic leadership at the time didn’t quibble with the changes, although Rubio did face some criticism over the moves, especially when he ran for U.S. Senate.

We rated the Democrats’ statement True.

1. Bush: "My plan actually gives the middle class the greatest break: $2,000 per family."

Middle-class families could potentially realize a higher percentage tax break under, based on Bush’s plan. But that’s only counting those who would file their tax returns using the standard deduction, something the very wealthy aren’t likely to do.

Even with caps on itemized deductions, a range of experts said the wealthiest Americans stand to benefit more than the middle class under Bush’s plan, thanks to his proposed changes in corporate, estate and other taxes.

Bush’s statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression, so we rated this statement Mostly False.

Also hot this month...

Our May 2015 report on statistics on black-on-black murders drew considerable traffic following Donald Trump’s Pants on Fire tweet about crime statistics showing blacks kill 81 percent of white homicide victims.  

We previously looked at the statistics about race and murder following the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watchman who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, a black Florida teenager.

Spot a claim we should fact-check? Email [email protected] or tweet us #PolitiFactThis.