The biggest flip-flops by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton
At PolitiFact, we’ve rated hundreds of statements by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. But we’ve also been on the lookout for examples of the presidential nominees flip-flopping on significant policy issues.
Our Flip-O-Meter judges whether someone has been consistent on an issue. The rating is not designed to make a value judgment. Indeed, voters often like politicians who are flexible and have the ability to compromise or adapt their positions to the wishes of constituents. Still, accusations of shifting positions are so common in politics that it is valuable to have us provide an analysis of a shift and rate the amount of change.
Here are six examples of the candidates earning a Full Flop from PolitiFact -- three for each candidate.
Donald Trump on whether Barack Obama was born in the United States
Trump led a years-long movement to prove that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya and thus ineligible to be president. To cite just a few examples:
• "A book publisher came out three days ago and said that in his written synopsis of his book, he said he was born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia. His mother never spent a day in the hospital," Trump said in 2012.
• "His grandmother in Kenya said, 'Oh no, he was born in Kenya and I was there and I witnessed the birth.' Now, she's on tape and I think that tape's going to be produced fairly soon ...The grandmother in Kenya is on record saying he was born in Kenya," Trump said, incorrectly, in 2011.
• Trump made an identical false claim in a 2011 Today show interview: "His grandmother in Kenya said he was born in Kenya and she was there and witnessed the birth, okay?"
He then abandoned that position in a speech in Washington Sept. 16, 2016.
"Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy," Trump said. "I finished it. I finished it. You know what I mean. President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again."
His reversal rated a Full Flop.
Donald Trump on whether he’s had a relationship with Vladimir Putin
For much of the campaign, Donald Trump has been nagged by allegations of connections to Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin.
Prior to early 2016, Trump seemed to tout his ties to the Russian leader.
• When Thomas Roberts of MSNBC asked Trump, "Do you have a relationship with Vladimir Putin? A conversational relationship or anything that you feel you have sway or influence over his government?" Trump responded, "I do have a relationship, and I can tell you that he's very interested in what we're doing here today." -- interview, November, 2013
• "I own Miss Universe, I was in Russia, I was in Moscow recently and I spoke, indirectly and directly, with President Putin, who could not have been nicer, and we had a tremendous success. -- address at the National Press Club, May 2014
• "As far as the Ukraine is concerned … if Putin wants to go in -- and I got to know him very well because we were both on 60 Minutes. We were stablemates, and we did very well that night." -- portion of an answer at the Fox Business News debate, Nov. 2015. (For the record, Putin and Trump were actually on separate continents.)
Later, though, Trump changed his tune.
On July 27, 2016, Trump said at a press conference in Florida, "I never met Putin -- I don't know who Putin is. He said one nice thing about me."
And on July 31, 2016, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos said to Trump, "Let's talk about Russia. You made a lot of headlines with Russia this week. What exactly is your relationship with Vladimir Putin?" Trump responded, "I have no relationship to -- with him. I have no relationship with him."
We rated this a Full Flop.
Donald Trump on whether the federal government should set a minimum wage
Currently there is a federal minimum wage -- currently $7.25 -- that serves as a floor beneath which no state’s minimum wage can fall. Any states, however, can set their minimum wage level higher than $7.25.
On May 8, Trump said on NBC’s Meet the Press that he preferred that states -- not the federal government -- act on their own to raise the minimum wage.
"I would like to see an increase of some magnitude," Trump told NBC’s Chuck Todd. "But I'd rather leave it to the states. Let the states decide." When Todd asked specifically, "Should the federal government set a floor" for the minimum wage?" Trump replied, "No. I'd rather have the states go out and do what they have to do."
But on July 27, Trump said during a press conference in Florida, "I would like to raise it to at least $10." A journalist then followed up, "You said we need to raise it to $10. … Are you talking about the federal minimum wage?" Trump confirmed, "Federal."
In both instances, Trump emphasized that he prefers the states to raise their minimum wages on their own. Still, we concluded that Trump’s contrast on the question of a federal minimum wage hike was pretty stark. We rated this a Full Flop.
Hillary Clinton on same-sex marriage
Clinton came out in support of same-sex marriage in 2013 after more than a decade of opposing it. Clinton supported civil unions for gay couples -- a form of commitment without the title marriage -- but as public opinion shifted toward support for same-sex marriage, so did Clinton.
For instance, in July 2004, Clinton spoke on the Senate floor against a proposed federal amendment to ban same-sex marriage. (The amendment ultimately failed.) While she opposed it, she added that she believed that marriage was "a sacred bond between a man and a woman."
As she was running for president in May 2007, she answered a questionnaire for the Human Rights Campaign -- an LGBT advocacy group. In response to a question about whether marriage should be made legally available to two committed adults of the same sex, Clinton marked that she was "opposed" though she stated she supported civil unions.
But on March 2013, after leaving her position as secretary of state, Clinton announced her support for same-sex marriage in a Human Rights Campaign video on March 18, 2013.
"LGBT Americans are our colleagues, our teachers, our soldiers, our friends, our loved ones. And they are full and equal citizens, and they deserve the rights of citizenship. That includes marriage. That’s why I support marriage for lesbian and gay couples. I support it personally and as a matter of policy and law, embedded in a broader effort to advance equality and opportunity for LGBT Americans and all Americans."
We gave Clinton a Full Flop.
Hillary Clinton on the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Clinton addressed the big, multilateral trade deal with Asian nations on a number of occasions after official negotiations began in 2010 (CNN counted at least 45 comments).
We noted that Clinton’s remarks as a member of the Obama administration were fairly favorable to the proposed agreement, even though she typically said that details still needed to be hammered out and the final deal had to meet certain standards. Before she left the State Department in 2013, she called the effort "exciting," "innovative," "ambitious," "groundbreaking," "cutting-edge," "high-quality," "high-standard" and "gold standard."
• July 8, 2012, remarks with a Japanese official: "The United States welcomes Japan's interest in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which we think will connect economies throughout the region, making trade and investment easier, spurring exports, creating jobs."
• Nov. 5, 2012, remarks in Australia: "This TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field. And when negotiated, this agreement will cover 40 percent of the world's total trade and build in strong protections for workers and the environment."
After she began running for president, however, her view turned more dim. At the time, she was facing a strong primary challenge from Bernie Sanders, a strong opponent of the deal.
Eventually, in an Oct. 7 statement, Clinton officially came out against it. "I still believe in the goal of a strong and fair trade agreement in the Pacific as part of a broader strategy both at home and abroad, just as I did when I was secretary of state," Clinton said. "I appreciate the hard work that President Obama and his team put into this process and recognize the strides they made. But the bar here is very high and, based on what I have seen, I don't believe this agreement has met it."
We rated Clinton’s reversal a Full Flop.
Hillary Clinton on the Cuba embargo
Lifting the longstanding U.S. trade embargo on Cuba would require action by Congress. In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Helms-Burton Act, which prevents the embargo from being lifted until Cuba holds free and fair elections, frees political prisoners and allows for a free press and labor unions.
During her 2000 campaign for Senate, Clinton clearly stated that she wasn’t ready to lift the Cuba embargo. Then, during her first bid for president in 2007, Clinton repeatedly called for reforms in Cuba before any such changes to the embargo.
In a December 2007 debate, Clinton said: "Until there is some recognition on the part of whoever is in charge of the Cuban government that they have to move toward democracy and freedom for the Cuban people, it will be very difficult for us to change our policy."
By 2014, however, she was a critic of the embargo. In her 2014 book Hard Choices, Clinton wrote that near the end of her tenure as secretary of state, she recommended that Obama review the embargo. She wrote that the embargo "wasn’t achieving its goals, and it was holding back our broader agenda across Latin America. After 20 years of observing and dealing with the U.S.-Cuba relationship, I thought we should shift the onus onto the Castros to explain why they remained undemocratic and abusive."
Finally, in a speech in Miami on July 31, 2016, Clinton forcefully stated that she believes it is time to drop the embargo. "The Cuba embargo needs to go, once and for all," she said at Florida International University July 31.
We rated this a Full Flop.