Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

PunditFact: Fact-checking the Sunday March 23 news shows

Mitt Romney returned to the Sunday news shows — for the third time in 2014 — to criticize President Barack Obama's handling of Russia and the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

Speaking on CBS' Face the Nation, Romney attacked the president for not anticipating Russia's move to annex Crimea from Ukraine.

"There's no question that the president's naiveté with regards to Russia, and his faulty judgment about Russia's intentions and objectives, has led to a number of foreign policy challenges that we face," Romney told host Bob Schieffer.

Romney rattled off a list of Russian aggressions, from supporting the governments in Syria and North Korea, to harboring former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. And how do we retaliate?

Obama, Romney said, stopped plans to build a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe "as a gift to Russia."

"What he should have done from the very beginning was have the judgment to understand that Russia was not our friend, that Russia had very different ambitions and interests than we did, and that you have to stand strong," Romney said.

We can't check what Obama should have done, but we can look at Romney's assertion that Obama nixed a missile defense program in Eastern Europe "as a gift to Russia."

Yes, Obama killed plans for a missile defense shield based in Poland and the Czech Republic that was an idea of President George W. Bush's administration. But Obama has plans of his own to protect the United States and its allies from long-range missile attacks.

We find Romney's claim Half True.

Obama abandoned Bush's missile defense plan partly at the urging of the man who helped propose the idea in the first place — Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

The defense shield was being built to protect the United States and its allies from Iran (not Russia) and American intelligence suggested the United States would be better off focusing on short- and medium-range attacks.

"Making the Russians happy wasn't exactly on my to-do list," Gates wrote in his memoir Duty.

As part of the change in strategy, the United States still plans to place a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, just not the one Bush proposed, said Lance Janda, chairman of the Department of History and Government at Cameron University.

The United States will address the ballistic missile threat with Aegis missiles in Eastern Europe by 2018, and perhaps earlier.

"While our decision to cancel the sites in 2009 eased tensions with Russia — which deeply opposed the sites — we also had legitimate security reasons for not moving forward and in that sense it's not like we were really doing Putin a 'favor,' " Janda said. "And we're certainly not leaving Poland or the Czech Republic exposed."

We also heard on Sunday from an unlikely pundit, actor Matt Damon.

Speaking on ABC's This Week, Damon discussed an initiative he is spearheading to deliver cleaner water to the developing world.

To drive home point, Damon delivered a startling statistic.

"Every 20 seconds, a child dies because they lack access to clean water and sanitation. Every 20 seconds, three kids every minute somewhere on planet Earth," Damon said. "Not here. Our kids aren't going to die from diarrhea. That's just an inconvenience to us in the West. But it is a stark, terrifying reality to billions of people on the planet."

Damon is accurately describing the problem. But his specific statistic is from 2004 and outdated, PunditFact finds. We rate his claim Half True.

The Bourne series star is using decade-old research from UNICEF and the World Health Organization, which found that 1.5 million deaths a year in children younger than 5 were from diarrhea caused by tainted water.

Due to poor sanitation conditions in much of the developing world, millions of people are risking their health virtually every time they take a sip of water. Infection in the intestinal tract from tainted water often leads to diarrhea. It can last days or weeks, and if persistent can cause death due to fluid loss. Young children are especially at risk because of their weaker immune systems.

But while the problem remains serious, conditions have improved, new research shows. More recent reports from the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put the number at about 760,000 deaths a year. That would mean a child dies every 40 seconds from water-related illness. Still a harrowing statistic, but not quite what Damon said.

Staff writers Steve Contorno and Katie Sanders contributed to this story. Aaron Sharockman is the editor of PunditFact.com.

The statement

The United States stopped plans to build a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe "as a gift to Russia."

Mitt Romney, on CBS' Face the Nation

The ruling

PunditFact ruling: Half True

Yes, Obama killed plans for a missile defense shield based in Poland and the Czech Republic that was an idea of President George W. Bush's administration. But Obama has plans of his own to protect the United States and its allies from long-range missile attacks. We rate the claim Half True.

The statement

"Every 20 seconds, a child dies because they lack access to clean water and sanitation."

Matt Damon, on ABC's This Week

The ruling

PunditFact ruling: Half True

The popular actor is using an outdated statistic in his ABC appearance that claimed 1.5 million deaths from diarrhea caused by tainted water. More recent reports put the number at about 760,000 deaths a year. That said, Damon is accurately highlighting a little-known problem to an American audience. We rate the claim Half True.

PunditFact: Fact-checking the Sunday March 23 news shows 03/23/14 [Last modified: Sunday, March 23, 2014 11:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trump's new order bars almost all travel from seven countries

    National

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Sunday issued a new order banning almost all travel to the United States from seven countries, including most of the nations covered by his original travel ban, citing threats to national security posed by letting their citizens into the country.

    President Donald Trump speaks to reporters Sunday upon his return to the White House in Washington.
  2. Somehow, Rays' Chris Archer remains just shy of being an ace

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Chris Archer had another bad game Sunday.

    Chris Archer is sputtering to the finish line, his rough start on Sunday his fourth in his past five in which he hasn’t gotten past four innings.
  3. In Mexico City, hopes of finding quake survivors dwindle

    World

    MEXICO CITY — Five days after the deadly magnitude 7.1 earthquake, the hulking wreckage of what used to be a seven-story office building is one of the last hopes: one of just two sites left where searchers believe they may still find someone trapped alive in Mexico City.

    Rescue workers search for survivors inside a felled office building in the Roma Norte neighborhood of Mexico City on Saturday.
  4. GOP health bill in major peril as resistance hardens among key senators

    National

    WASHINGTON — The floundering Republican attempt to undo the Affordable Care Act met hardening resistance from key GOP senators Sunday that left it on the verge of collapse even as advocates vowed to keep pushing for a vote this week.

    Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a moderate, said Sunday that it was “very difficult” to envision voting for this health-care bill.
  5. Baghdad orders Kurdistan region to hand over borders, ports

    World

    BAGHDAD — Iraq's central government in Baghdad ordered the country's Kurdish region to hand over all border crossings and airports to federal government control late Sunday night, hours before the region is set to carry out a controversial referendum on support for independence.

    Iraqi Kurds climb the fence into a soccer stadium during a rally in Irbil, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, on Friday. Kurds will vote in a referendum today on the creation of their own country.