Thursday, December 14, 2017
Politics

Fact-checking the Republican presidential debate

Trailing in the polls, Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz took turns Thursday hammering at billionaire Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump at the CNN debate in Houston.

Rubio repeatedly brought up the downsides of Trump's business record: starting a "fake university," declaring bankruptcy four times and employing undocumented immigrants to work on Trump projects.

"He hired workers from Poland, and he had to pay a million dollars or so in a judgment," Rubio said. "That's a fact. People can look it up. I'm sure people are Googling it right now, 'Trump Polish workers.' You'll see $1 million for hiring illegal workers on one of his projects. He did."

We Googled "Trump Polish workers" and found Rubio's claim to be Half True.

In 1980, Trump's contractor — not Trump himself — hired 200 undocumented Polish workers to demolish a building to make room for Trump Tower in Manhattan. Trump said he didn't know.

The lawsuit sought $1 million in damages, and a judge ruled Trump had to pay $325,000. But the case was appealed and before it was retried, Trump settled out of court. So it's unclear how much he ended up paying.

Trump forgets his own video blog

Cruz hit Trump on foreign policy, saying Trump agreed with Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama on toppling the Moammar Gadhafi regime in Libya. But Trump begged to differ.

"He said I was in favor in Libya," Trump said, sounding perplexed. "I never discussed that subject. I was in favor of Libya? We would be so much better off if Gadhafi would be in charge right now."

Trump's never-discussed-that line rates Pants on Fire!

Trump discussed the subject at length in his own 2011 video blog (hat tip to BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski) before the U.S. intervention.

"But we have go in to save these lives; these people are being slaughtered like animals," Trump said in 2011. "It's horrible what's going on; it has to be stopped. We should do on a humanitarian basis, immediately go into Libya, knock this guy out very quickly, very surgically, very effectively, and save the lives."

Trump and socialized medicine?

Cruz also tried to hit Trump over his past stated support for a single-payer health care plan that covers all Americans. But Cruz went too far in describing Trump's recent views.

"For decades, Donald has been advocating socialized medicine," Cruz said. "What he said is the government should pay for everyone's health care. And in fact, a couple of debates ago, he said if you don't support socialized health care, you're heartless."

Did Trump actually say that about socialized medicine? In a Republican debate?

No. Pants on Fire!

Trump did not say those words, or anything like them, in any recent debate. He advanced the idea of more competition among private insurance companies, and he said the government should take care of those who can't afford insurance.

We asked the Cruz campaign for their sources and didn't hear back. But in an interview on CBS News' 60 Minutes in September 2015, Trump did say, "Everybody's got to be covered."

However, in context, he was talking about people who don't make enough money to pay for insurance. Asked what he would do and who would pay, Trump said, "I would make a deal with existing hospitals to take care of people, (and) the government's gonna pay for it."

It's clear from the full interview that Trump did not say that the government should pay for everyone's health care. He made that point again in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on Jan. 31, saying that Cruz's attacks showed "maybe he's got no heart."

That doesn't at all amount to Trump supposedly saying, "If you don't support socialized health care, you're heartless."

Trump didn't open up immigration debate

The debate started with a discussion of illegal immigration, and Trump was quick to remind everyone that it's his signature issue.

"If it weren't for me … (illegal immigration) wouldn't even be a big subject," he said.

We found roughly the same amount of articles in major newspapers discussing the topic in the 51 days before Trump's campaign announcement June 16, 2015, and the 51 days that followed.

Trump's talk about building a wall — and making Mexico pay for it — certainly has made headlines. But debate about America's immigration system and proposed changes preceded the billionaire businessman's candidacy for president.

We rated his claim False.

Rubio on Obamacare 'bailout fund'

Rubio also knocked Trump for his lack of policy specifics and knowledge.

"You may not be aware of this, Donald, because you don't follow this stuff very closely, but here's what happened," he said. "When they passed Obamacare, they put a bailout fund in Obamacare. ... We led the effort and wiped out that bailout fund."

We rated Rubio's statement Mostly False.

The "bailout fund" he mentioned is actually a provision in the Affordable Care Act called risk corridors. This program was designed to temporarily aid insurers as they adjusted premiums to cover sicker enrollees.

By October 2015, it became apparent the risk corridors program didn't work so well in the first year. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced the program took in $362 million in user fees for 2014, while less successful insurers asked for a total of $2.87 billion, leaving a $2.5 billion shortfall CMS can't pay.

Rubio argues he "wiped out" the risk corridors program by pushing language in a spending bill to prevent the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from being able to cover expenses for risk corridors from its own budget (rather than from fees taken in by the risk corridors program).

But experts have said Rubio is wrong to call the program a bailout, because the program is supposed to pay for itself through fees from insurers. Furthermore, the program hasn't been "wiped out." At best, Rubio and Congress have temporarily limited one potential way CMS could have covered insurance companies' losses. We'll have to see what happens when the program expires after 2016 — then any outstanding bills will be due, one way or another.

Times staff writers Joshua Gillin and Jon Greenberg contributed to this report. Read more rulings at PolitiFact.com.

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