WASHINGTON — The Republican candidates for president gathered in Detroit on Thursday for their 11th debate, and CNN’s Reality Check Team spent the night putting their statements and assertions to the test. The team of reporters, researchers and editors across CNN selected key statements and rated them true; mostly true; true, but misleading; false; or it’s complicated.
Marco Rubio: Reality Check: Rubio on Trump’s diminutive digits
It wasn’t long into Thursday night’s GOP presidential debate in Detroit that the size of Donald Trump’s hands came under the microscope.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was asked, after long denouncing the use of personal attacks in the campaign, why he recently changed tactics and chose to make more personal attacks on Trump. Moderator Chris Wallace noted that in recent days, Rubio made very personal attacks, including a jab he made at the size of Trump’s hands during a campaign rally in Virginia on Sunday.
Rubio responded to Wallace, saying the focus should be on “the issues that matter to this country.” But Trump wanted to talk about Rubio’s hand slur: “Nobody has ever hit my hands. I have never heard of this,” Trump said. “Look at those hands. Are they small hands? And he referred to my hands if they are small, something else must be small. I guarantee you there is no problem. I guarantee you.”
Trump seemed to think Rubio’s hand slur was a lightly veiled insult to Trump’s manhood.
So what did Rubio actually say?
Rubio told the Virginia rally: “He’s always calling me Little Marco. And I’ll admit he’s taller than me, he’s like 6′ 2″, which is why I don’t understand why his hands are the size of someone who is 5′ 2″. Have you seen his hands? They’re like this. And you know what they say about men with small hands? You can’t trust them.”
While Rubio’s comment wasn’t an explicit reference to Trump’s masculine endowment, it does appear Rubio’s jab at Trump was aimed, well, below the belt.
Donald Trump: Reality Check: Trump on Rubio’s worst Senate absentee record
Trump brought up Rubio’s truancy record in the Senate a couple times.
“This guy has a number one, the number one absentee record in the United States Senate,” Trump said.
He later added, “The real con artist is Sen. Marco Rubio, who was elected in Florida and who has the worst voting record in the United States Senate. He doesn’t go to vote. He’s absent.”
Rubio has missed 224 of 1,512 roll call votes, or 15%, since he has been in the U.S. Senate, according to GovTrack, a leading government transparency website. Compared with a median of 1.7% of missed roll call votes from the lifetime records of current senators, Rubio’s percentage is quite high. Rubio also had the worst voting attendance record of any senator for 2015.
Rubio has defended his absences, citing the presidential campaign and saying that voting is only one part of a job that also requires constituent services. His office has previously stated that Rubio is one of the few senators with young children who do not live in Washington, and he spends as much time in Florida with them as possible.
However, GovTrack also analyzed how presidential campaigns affect candidates’ voting records and found that Rubio’s missed votes were still the most of current and former senator presidential candidates from the 2016 election cycle — higher than Sen. Ted Cruz. But it was lower than the missed votes from the 2008 election candidates; both President (and former Sen.) Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain had worse voting attendance records during a comparable time frame.
The most no-show senator of all time was Sen. Maryon Allen, who served for five months in 1978 after her husband died in office. She missed 43.5% of the roll call votes during that time.
Trump doesn’t specify a time frame for his claim, but because Rubio had the No. 1 absentee record last year, we rate Trump’s claim as true.
Reality Check: Trump on spending cuts
Trump has said the country can afford his tax cuts, which will add trillions to the nation’s deficit, because he will cut waste, fraud and abuse. Asked on Thursday for specifics, he cited cutting down the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as squeezing better discounts out of drug companies.
“Department of Education. We’re cutting Common Core. We’re getting rid of Common Core. We’re bringing education locally. Department of Environmental Protection. We are going to get rid of it in almost every form … Because of the fact that the pharmaceutical companies are not mandated to bid properly, they have hundreds of billions of dollars in waste,” Trump said.
CNNMoney looked at this in January. It found that even if Trump cut the EPA and Education Department entirely, it would save less than 3% of the $3.7 trillion the federal government spent in the past year. The nation spent $90 billion on education and $7 billion on the EPA.
As for saving hundreds of billions from negotiating with pharmaceutical companies, that would be hard to do since Medicare is estimated to have spent $77 billion on drugs in 2015, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Total spending on drugs, which includes outlays by private insurers, was just under $300 billion in total in 2014, federal National Health Expenditures data.
Can Trump make up for his tax cuts by cutting two federal agencies and negotiating with drug companies? Our verdict: false.
Reality Check: Trump on 9/11 hijackers’ wives
Trump was asked whether he still supported targeting the family of terrorists as part of a U.S. counterterrorism strategy. Trump reaffirmed his stance and referenced the families of the terrorists who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks, claiming they had prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks and saying that this knowledge justified including the families of terrorists on a list of targets.
Trump said: “The wife knew exactly what was happening. They left two days early with respect to the World Trade Center and they went back to where they went and they watched their husband on television flying into the World Trade Center, flying into the Pentagon, and probably trying to fly into the White House, except we had some very, very brave souls on that third plane. All right? I have no problem with it.”
The 9/11 Commission Report, the most exhaustive report on the attacks and the 19 hijackers, does not show any evidence to support this claim.
According to the report, only two of the hijackers were married, and there is no evidence that either of the wives of the two hijackers had ever traveled to the United States, much less left the U.S. two days before the attacks.
“None of the 9/11 terrorists could have ‘sent their wives home’ before the attacks because, as you suggest, none of them brought female companions to the United States,” Philip D. Zelikow, executive director of the 9/11 Commission, told The Washington Post in December.
One of the hijackers did have a German girlfriend that had visited him in the United States, but her last visit to America was months before the attacks.
The 9/11 Commission contains no evidence that supports Trump’s claim.
Ted Cruz: Reality Check: Cruz beat Trump five times
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz claimed he has beaten Trump five times during the primaries.
During a plea to voters who think “nominating Donald Trump would be a disaster,” Cruz said, “We have demonstrated not once, not twice, not three times, but five separate times we have beat Donald and if you don’t want him to be the nominee, then I ask you to stand with us as a broad coalition of people who believe in the Constitution, believe in freedom, and want to turn this country around.”
A quick look at results in the states that have held primaries or caucuses shows Cruz’s record as having only won four states so far: Iowa, Texas, Oklahoma and Alaska.
But Cruz said “five separate times we have beat Donald.” The key word being “beat”… so in what states did Cruz do better than Trump?
Minnesota, where Rubio took the most votes. But Cruz came in second ahead of Trump’s third-place finish.
Our verdict on Cruz’s claim he has “beat Donald” five separate times is true.
Reality Check: Cruz on Obamacare as a job-killer
Asked how he would bring back manufacturing jobs to Detroit, Cruz said he would lift regulations. And his No. 1 target is Obamacare.
“As president, I will repeal Obamacare, the biggest job-killer in America,” he said.
In fact, Obamacare is not a job-killer, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research and Education Trust survey released in September.
The report showed that only 4% of employers with at least 50 employees said they shifted some staffers to part-time hours so they wouldn’t qualify for health care, and another 4% said they were reducing the number of full-time employees they planned to hire because of the cost of health benefits. Kaiser found that 10% of employers reported that they were changing workers from part-time to full-time status to enable them to obtain coverage.
An ADP Research Institute study had similar findings. One reason may be that the economy has been improving. Some companies interviewed by ADP said they may increase their part-timers’ hours to retain talent and reduce training costs.
As to whether employers are cutting jobs because of Obamacare, it’s nearly impossible to determine from Labor Department data since the economy is recovering and adding jobs. The number of people who can only find part-time jobs has declined in recent years, signifying companies are hiring more full-time workers.
Reality Check: Cruz on Trump hiring immigrants
One of Trump’s most frequent claims on the campaign trail is that he will do the most for American workers, in part because he has a long record of creating jobs and employing “tens of thousands” of people. On Thursday night, Cruz sought to weaken this claim, saying that many of those who were hired were brought in from overseas, including at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club resort: “Down in Florida that hotel has brought in hundreds of foreign workers.”
In August, Reuters analyzed data from the Department of Labor and found that, since 2000, companies owned by Trump had “sought to import at least 1,100 foreign workers on temporary visas,” including about 70 “foreign workers” who had recently been requested to serve as cooks, wait staff and cleaners at the Florida resort.
Cruz noted that though the resort jobs were in high demand in Palm Beach, few locals have actually been hired: “Roughly 300 applied. Donald hired 17,” he said, referring to federal data published in The New York Times last week.
“It’s almost impossible to get help,” Trump has said.
Cruz’s accusations about Trump hiring workers from overseas are true.
But from there, Cruz departed into claims that were more difficult to substantiate: “His record right now is one of repeatedly hiring illegal aliens and abusing American workers.”
CNN has previously investigated claims that Trump hired undocumented workers from Poland in the early 1980s, the most specific claim about Trump and undocumented workers that has been made. Trump has denied ever knowing that the workers were undocumented since the hiring was made by a contracting company.
A subsequent legal case regarding Trump’s involvement in withholding wages from the workers was settled out of court. Because of an appeal that was pending at the time, there was never a final verdict on Trump’s knowledge of the workers’ status.
If Trump has since “repeatedly” hired undocumented workers, that has also not been proved; the thousands of workers his companies have brought to the United States have come through legal channels, frequently on temporary visas.
We rate Cruz’s second claim as it’s complicated.
Reality Check: Cruz on Trump’s donations to Hillary Clinton
Ted Cruz questioned how effective Trump will be squaring off against Hillary Clinton in a general election, given his history of donating money to her political campaigns.
“Donald Trump in 2008 wrote four checks to elect Hillary Clinton as president,” Cruz said. “How can you stand on a debate stage with her and say you don’t think she should be president?”
That’s not quite right, according to the Federal Election Commission and the Center for Responsive Politics..
Trump donated one $600 check to Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2007. But Trump also contributed to 2008 GOP nominee Sen. John McCain’s campaign, and gave him more, to boot.
In response to Cruz, Trump acknowledged donating to Clinton. “I supported Clinton,” Trump said. “I supported many other people, by the way.”
Indeed, the businessman, his family and his companies donated more than $10,000 to Clinton dating back to her days as a New York senator in 2002. It’s also true that Trump has donated lots of money to a broad array of politicians. His FEC profile is a testament to his prolific efforts funding candidates, Democrats and Republicans alike.
Amid all the filings, however, we couldn’t find any records of Trump contributions to Clinton in 2008.
Marco Rubio and Donald Trump
Reality Check: Rubio and Trump on results
Rubio said the following: “There is no doubt that Donald has done well in these elections, there’s no doubt about that, the numbers are there. The numbers also say, two-thirds of the people who have cast a vote in a Republican primary or caucus have voted against you, they do not want you to be our nominee.”
Based on CNN’s total of the 15 states that have held primaries or caucuses so far, there have been 9,634,058 votes cast for Republican candidates; 6,268,191 votes went for candidates other than Trump, while the remaining 3,365,867 went to Trump. That figure for candidates other than Trump accounts for 65% of total votes going to a candidate other than Trump, which is pretty close to two-thirds of 100%.
The numbers he cites are well within the margin of error. For that reason, we rate this as true.
Trump said the following of the most recent CNN/ORC poll of the state of the Republican race: “CNN just came out with a poll, a national poll, where he is at 15 (Rubio) and he’s at 14 (Cruz) and I’m at 49.” Trump was correct in saying the latest CNN poll found him with 49% of likely Republican voters based on the sample of voters across the country. The same poll showed Rubio with 16% of support in the poll, and Cruz had 15% support. Trump was only off by 1% for both Rubio and Cruz, again within the margin of error, so we rate his claim as true.
Reality Check: Rubio and Trump on Trump University
Rubio has argued that Trump’s namesake school, Trump University, is part of an elaborate con by the businessman. A key data point: its rating from the Better Business Bureau.
“We have an ‘A’ from the Better Business Bureau,” Trump said.
“That’s false,” Rubio shot back, claiming it is actually a D-minus.
“It is right now an ‘A.’ Once they had the information, it got switched. The only reason it was a ‘D’ was because we didn’t care, we didn’t give them the information. When they got the information, it became an ‘A.’ ”
Trump pledged to “give” the information proving that his rating had been elevated.
As the moderators told him — and Rubio argued — the last available rating was indeed a ‘D-minus.’ The school, now known as the Trump Entrepreneur Institute, currently has no rating: “THE TRUMP ENTREPRENEUR INITIATIVE IS BELIEVED TO BE OUT OF BUSINESS!” the bureau’s site reads.
Media reports at the time say that the school did receive a D- in 2010. And Katherine Hutt, a spokesman for the agency, told Politifact “that the company’s BBB rating has fluctuated between an A+ and a D-.”
And the school has long been investigated by state agencies, including a $40 million lawsuit by the New York Attorney General’s Office.
Trump’s claim is that the school has an “A” “right now.” That is not true. It currently has no rating, even if that may indeed be because of the lack of information he provided.
But Rubio is also incorrect: It is not a D- now, even if it was previously.
We rate both Trump and Rubio’s claims as false.
CNN’s Lauren Jackson and David Siegel contributed to this round-up.