Fact-checking Trump, Sanders on the Jan. 24 shows

Donald Trump criticized a Ted Cruz attack ad about his love for eminent domain as "false advertising" Jan 24. on "Meet the Press." Is it? (Screengrab)
Donald Trump criticized a Ted Cruz attack ad about his love for eminent domain as "false advertising" Jan 24. on "Meet the Press." Is it? (Screengrab)

The battle for conservative votes between Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has morphed from friendly fire to all-out war ahead of the Feb. 1 Iowa caucus.

A new television ad from Cruz that Trump condemns exemplifies the pre-caucus beef. Cruz’s ad portrays Trump as a selfish businessman who loves eminent domain because it "made him rich, like when he colluded with Atlantic City insiders to bulldoze the home of an elderly widow."

Trump wasted no time attacking the ad Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press.

"I have to tell you his ad, is wrong, because I never knocked down that house," Trump said. "I wanted to get that house to build a major building that would have employed tremendous numbers of people, but then the woman didn't want to sell, ultimately I just said, ‘Forget about it.’ So he's got me bulldozing down a house, I never bulldozed it down. It's false advertising."

Todd said, "Well, all right, the accusation was that that’s what you wanted to do." But Trump stood by his takedown, saying, "No, the accusation was that I did it, and I didn’t do it."

We rate the claim Half True.

Cruz’s ad references a period in the 1990s, prior to a Supreme Court deciding eminent domain could be applied to private commercial development as well as public projects.

Trump planned to build a limousine garage to service the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, N.J., but several pieces of private property were in the way, including a home owned since the 1960s by a widow in her late 60s named Vera Coking. Trump has said he offered Coking millions for her property, but she wouldn’t give up her home. In 1994, New Jersey’s Casino Reinvestment Development Authority threatened to use eminent domain to seize the house.

The dispute ended up in front of the New Jersey Superior Court, which ruled against Trump and the government in 1998. After losing the case, Trump gave up his plan to buy Coking’s house, telling the New York Daily News that he was "no longer an interested buyer."

Both Cruz and Trump are stretching the truth about what happened with a widow’s home. But Trump’s assertion that Cruz "has got me bulldozing down a house, I never bulldozed it down" omits that Cruz’s ad can be interpreted more accurately than Trump acknowledges.

Trump and the ‘Chinese hoax’ of climate change

Speaking of Trump attacks, Democratic candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders cited poll numbers and Trump’s unsavory positions on liberal issues, like raising the minimum wage and climate change, to make the case that he could take Trump in the general election.

"I would very much look forward to a race against Donald Trump," adding that Trump is someone who "thinks that climate change is a hoax, invented by the Chinese," Sanders said on Meet the Press.

Does Trump blame the Chinese for inventing the hoax of climate change? Sanders’ claim rates Mostly True.

The clearest example comes from a tweet Trump sent Nov. 6, 2012. "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."

That certainly gives Sanders some ammo. Trump has somewhat backed off of this tweet, calling the Chinese link a "joke" on Fox & Friends the day after Sanders attacked Trump’s climate change views in the Democratic debate.

"Well, I think the climate change is just a very, very expensive form of tax. A lot of people are making a lot of money," Trump said. "And I often joke that this is done for the benefit of China. Obviously, I joke. But this is done for the benefit of China, because China does not do anything to help climate change. They burn everything you could burn; they couldn't care less."

He may claim he was joking about the Chinese inventing climate change. But Trump has repeatedly called climate change a "hoax" in speeches, tweets and media appearances, and while he hasn’t repeated the charge that China "invented" climate change, he has said that China benefits when the rest of the world takes steps to curb climate change.

For the record, in 2014 we rated the claim that climate change is a "hoax" Pants on Fire.