Monday, June 25, 2018
Politics

PolitiFact: Fact-checking John Kerry on the Sunday shows

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry appeared on all five major Sunday news shows making a strong case that Russian-backed Ukrainian separatists were responsible for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, and that Russia is complicit in the separatists' actions.

"Russia has armed the separatists. Russia has trained the separatists," Kerry told ABC This Week host George Stephanopoulos.

On all five Sunday programs, Kerry listed a litany of circumstantial evidence connecting Russia to the separatists operating in eastern Ukraine, and then connecting the separatists to the shooting down of the Boeing 777 passenger jet.

While some of Kerry's comments relied on intelligence reports that we are unable to see, Kerry did say separatists bragged about shooting down an aircraft on social media.

"We know that very shortly thereafter, separatists were bragging in the social media about having shot down a transport plane," Kerry said on Fox News Sunday. "We know that the so-called defense minister of the People's Republic of Donetsk, Mr. Igor Strelkov, actually posted a bragging social media posting of having shot down a military transport. And then when it became apparent it was civilian, they pulled it down from social media."

Kerry's recounting of the posts of Strelkov largely checks out.

The U.S. State Department confirmed that the post Kerry was referring to came from Strelkov's profile on VKontakte, Russia's version of Facebook. The post was uploaded about 30 minutes after the Malaysia Airlines flight crashed and talked about a military transport plane being shot down.

"We have warned them — not to fly 'in our sky'," the post said, linking to two videos showing some sort of explosion from a distance that are similar to other videos of the Malaysia Airlines crash.

The post has since been deleted, leading Kerry and others to conclude that it was removed after Strelkov realized that it was a civilian plane. Strelkov says the information in the post came from members of the separatists movement and that the announcement about the transport plane going down was not an official one.

It's impossible to know with certainty Strelkov's role in the post, or when the post was pulled, but we do know that it came from within the separatist movement, as Strelkov himself said. So we rate Kerry's claim Mostly True.

In between interviews, Kerry was caught on an open microphone talking to an aide about Israel's military incursion into Gaza. "It's a hell of a pinpoint operation," Kerry was heard telling the aide, a description that many interpreted to contradict Israel's claims that its military operations in Gaza are narrowly focused. Kerry struggled to explain his comments to Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace.

"It's tough to have these kind of operations. I reacted, obviously, in a way that anybody does with respect to young children and civilians," Kerry said.

On Meet the Press, Kerry was asked to defend the record of President Barack Obama's administration abroad. Kerry ticked off a list of accomplishments.

"The facts could not be more clear. The United States of America has never been more engaged in helping to lead in more places than we are now," Kerry said. "I just came back from China where we are engaged with the Chinese in dealing with North Korea. You will notice since the visit last year, North Korea has been quieter. We haven't done what we want to do yet with respect to the denuclearization, but we are working on that moving forward. With respect to Syria, we struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out."

We wanted to check Kerry's assertion that the United States got "100 percent" of the chemical weapons out of Syria.

It was an ambitious goal set by the United States with the cooperation of Russia. And in large measure, it was met.

On June 23, Ahmet Üzümcü, director general of the United Nations body in charge, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, declared a major benchmark had been cleared.

"The last of the remaining chemicals identified for removal from Syria were loaded this afternoon aboard the Danish ship Ark Futura," Üzümcü said.

Paul Walker, a long-time chemical weapons inspector with the Green Cross, an independent security group, called this an historic accomplishment. But Walker said the job wasn't done. "Syria must still clarify a number of reported discrepancies in its official declaration to the OPCW, including the exact amounts of its declared chemical weapons stockpile, its facilities, and the history of its program development," Walker said in a statement.

Walker also noted that Syria still had 12 locations where chemical weapons had been stored or made that should be dismantled.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Syria had agreed to measures to deal with some of those facilities, but not all. A further mission was under way. According to news reports, until that work was done, the agency could not say for certain that Syria was free of all chemical weapons.

As such, Kerry's claim rates Mostly True.

Lauren Carroll, Jon Greenberg and Linda Qiu contributed to this report. Aaron Sharockman is editor of PunditFact.com.

Comments
A jogger accidentally crossed into the US from Canada and was detained for two weeks

A jogger accidentally crossed into the US from Canada and was detained for two weeks

The coast of White Rock, British Columbia, in western Canada looks to be an ideal place for a run, with its sweeping views of the Semiahmoo Bay to the west and scores of waterfront homes and seafood restaurants to the east. That’s what 19-year-old Ce...
Published: 06/24/18
Why a small-town restaurant owner asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave - and would do it again

Why a small-town restaurant owner asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave - and would do it again

LEXINGTON, Va. - Stephanie Wilkinson was at home Friday evening - nearly 200 miles from the White House - when the choice presented itself.Her phone rang about 8 p.m. It was the chef at the Red Hen, the tiny farm-to-table restaurant that she co-owned...
Published: 06/24/18
Six candidates waltz into their seats as qualifying ends. The rest still have a fight

Six candidates waltz into their seats as qualifying ends. The rest still have a fight

Six local candidates across Tampa Bay — all county commissioners and city council members — effectively won their elections Friday by default: No one qualified to run against them.The rest still have a fight.Some will square off in an Aug. 28 primary...
Published: 06/22/18
Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

TAMPA — A Democrat has officially joined the race for Hillsborough County sheriff.Gary Pruitt, a 50-year-old former Tampa police corporal who now works as director of security at a local mall, qualified Friday to challenge Republican Sheriff Chad Chr...
Published: 06/22/18
Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

So Hillsborough County commissioners — most of them, anyway — want voters to consider dropping political parties from certain elections, making those races nonpartisan instead.This would mean when you go to vote in those elections, you won’t know if ...
Published: 06/22/18
Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

NEW PORT RICHEY — A seasoned historic hotel renovator and operator is going to take a crack at getting New Port Richey’s city-owned Hacienda Hotel back into action. New Port Richey City Council members, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, u...
Published: 06/20/18
Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis stepped into a growing controversy over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, criticizing the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexican border and saying that "populism" and "creating psychosis" are not t...
Published: 06/20/18
Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Well, that didn’t last long.U.S. Army veteran Michael Sean McCoy filed to run as the Republican candidate in the State House, District 57 race just hours after incumbent State Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, announced he was stepping down.McCoy, who live...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bay’s most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trump’s border...
Published: 06/19/18
‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

SEATTLE — The call came at mealtime — an anonymous threat demanding $5,000 or her son’s life. So Blanca Orantes-Lopez, her 8-year-old boy and his father packed up and left the Pacific surfing town of Puerto La Libertad in El Salvador and headed for t...
Published: 06/19/18