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PolitiFact Florida | Tampa Bay Times
Sorting out the truth in state politics

PolitiFact Florida's Top 5 fact-checks of 2015

Florida was center stage in the national political scene in 2015 as several state residents ran for president.

PolitiFact Florida's most popular fact-checks of the year stemmed from statements made by or about presidential candidates, including former Gov. Jeb Bush, GOP front-runner Donald Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

The central topics were guns, immigration and terrorism.

Here are the top 5 items of 2015, counting down to the most popular.

5 Bush said Florida has the most concealed-weapons permits in the nation, nearly twice as many as Texas.

While at the National Rifle Association convention in April, Bush took a swipe at former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was in the presidential race at the time. Bush said Florida had the most concealed-weapons permits, "nearly double that of the second state, which is Texas." Bush was correct that Florida leads the nation in the sheer number of gun permits, with about 1.4 million. However, eight states have a higher per capita rate of gun permits than Florida. Texas has about 826,000 permits, so Florida has about 1.7 times as many permit holders. But second place goes to Pennsylvania, with slightly more than 1 million permits. We rated Bush's statement Mostly True.

4 Trump wildly inflates the number of illegal immigrants in the United States

In an interview on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Trump said the number of illegal immigrants in the United States is "30 million, it could be 34 million." But the Department of Homeland Security put the number of illegal immigrants at about 11.4 million as of January 2012. Other independent groups that research illegal immigration estimate the population is between 11 million and 12 million. We found no compelling evidence that the number could be as high as Trump said, and he provided no proof. We rated his claim Pants on Fire.

3 Carson incorrectly said doctors are spacing out vaccines after realizing there are too many.

CNN's Jake Tapper brought up the topic of vaccines during a September debate in California, where the state had suffered from a measles outbreak the previous year. Carson defended vaccines, but then claimed pediatricians have cut down on the number and proximity of vaccines because they recognize there have been "too many in too short a period of time." Actually, leading medical organizations have concluded that the scheduling of vaccines — including multiple ones at once — is safe.

While some pediatricians acquiesce to requests by parents to delay vaccines, that's not a decision by doctors based on scientific evidence. We rated this claim Pants on Fire.

2 Bush wrongly said that members of the military at recruiting offices were not allowed to have guns.

Bush said, "A law was passed, apparently in the Clinton administration, about whether, in recruiting offices … Marines or other military should be able to have guns. Apparently it is prohibited." He made the claim after a shooting rampage in Chattanooga, Tenn., at two military sites left five military workers dead. In 1992, the Defense Department issued a directive, not a law, that limited weapons to military personnel who held certain jobs, such as positions in law enforcement. But the directive was actually issued under President George H.W. Bush, Jeb Bush's father. And while the Army issued a regulation implementing the directive in 1993 — two months after Clinton was in office — experts say it is not the sort of matter that would typically rise to the attention of a president. We rated Bush's claim Mostly False.

1 An updated look at statistics on black-on-black murders.

In 2013, we fact-checked a tweet related to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watchman who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, a black Florida teenager. The tweet stated, "In the 513 days between Trayvon dying, and today's verdict, 11,106 African-Americans have been murdered by other African-Americans." We rated the statement, based on 2005 data, Mostly False, because the number was a rough guess. We updated our report following the April 2015 death of Freddie Gray, a black man in Baltimore who died while in police custody. Experts told us that most people — whether black or white — are murdered by people in their own racial group, and that has held true for decades. So while most blacks are killed by blacks, it's also true that most whites are killed by whites. That's because most murder victims are killed by someone they know, experts said.

Times staff writer Joshua Gillin contributed to this report.

PolitiFact Florida's Top 5 fact-checks of 2015 12/31/15 [Last modified: Thursday, December 31, 2015 8:48pm]
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