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  1. Florida Politics

Fact-checking the Democratic debate

Democratic presidential candidates former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders shake hands during their MSNBC Democratic Candidates Debate at the University of New Hampshire on Feb. 4, 2016, in Durham, New Hampshire. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidates former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders shake hands during their MSNBC Democratic Candidates Debate at the University of New Hampshire on Feb. 4, 2016, in Durham, New Hampshire. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Published Feb. 5, 2016

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders traded jabs over political identity and sharp policy differences Thursday in their first head-to-head debate ahead of the New Hampshire primary.

They still ended the debate on good terms. "In our worst days, I think it is fair to say, we are 100 times better than any Republican candidate," Sanders said to close the debate.

That's not for us to fact-check. But we did hear a number of statements by both candidates that needed clarification or were misleading.

MSNBC moderator Rachel Maddow asked Sanders about the Nashua Telegraph complaining recently "that you falsely implied in an advertisement that they had endorsed you when they did not."

Sanders responded, "We did not suggest that we had the endorsement of a newspaper. Newspapers who make endorsements also say positive things about other candidates, and to the best of my knowledge, that is what we did. So we never said, never said that somebody, a newspaper endorsed us that did not. What we did say is blah blah blah blah was said by the newspaper."

Maddow then said, "Just to follow up on that, the title of the ad in question was 'Endorsement.' "

Sanders responded, "But that was only for — that was not to be on television. That's an important point. That was just something — as the secretary knows, you put titles on ads and you send them out, but there was no word in that ad, none, that said that those newspapers had endorsed us."

In this case, the screenshot doesn't lie.

As it happens, Maddow had referred specifically to one of two newspapers cited in the ad, and her choice might have allowed Sanders an out — the ad in question did not explicitly say the Telegraph had endorsed him.

But in his answer, Sanders broadened his response to include "those newspapers," which is a problem because the initial version of the ad did explicitly include text that said the Valley News had endorsed him when it had not.

The Sanders campaign says this ad never made it to television, but that doesn't change the fact that their original campaign video left a misleading impression on on-screen text that the Valley News endorsed Sanders. The newspaper has not endorsed Sanders, and so that word was later taken out.

We rated Sanders' claim False.

Iran in Syria?

Clinton targeted Sanders' relative lack of national security experience.

"A group of national security experts issued a very concerning statement about Sen. Sanders views on foreign policy and national security, pointing out some of the comments he has made on these issues," Clinton said. "Such as inviting Iranian troops into Syria to try and resolve the conflict there. Putting them right on the doorstep of Israel."

In September 2014, Sanders issued a news release. It rejected any thought of sending American ground troops into Syria to fight ISIS. That level of fighting in Syria, he said, should be left to the Muslim nations.

"The war against ISIS, a brutal and dangerous organization, cannot be won unless the Muslim nations which are most threatened — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Turkey, Iran and Jordan — become fully engaged, including the use of ground troops," Sanders said. "The U.S. and the international community should be fully supportive, but the leadership in this war must come from the Muslim world."

During the Democratic debate on Nov. 11, Sanders echoed that point.

"Here's something that I believe we have to do as we put together an international coalition, and that is we have to understand that the Muslim nations in the region — Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Jordan — all of these nations, they're going to have to get their hands dirty, their boots on the ground. They are going to have to take on ISIS."

Warren Gunnels, policy adviser for the Sanders campaign, told us Sanders was promoting the idea of a broad Muslim coalition.

Clinton's claim rates Mostly True.

'All new income'

Sanders largely summed up the biggest theme of his campaign right from the outset of the debate.

"Millions of Americans are giving up on the political process. And they're giving up on the political process because they understand the economy is rigged," Sanders said. "They are working longer hours for low wages. They are worried about the future of their kids. And yet almost all new income and wealth is going to the top 1 percent," he said. "(That's) not what America is supposed to be about."

The issues are whether Americans are working longer hours — on average, they're not — and whether "almost all" new income and wealth is going to the top 1 percent. A lot of it has, but not "almost all."

There's no handy-dandy, universally agreed-upon formula to calculate an exact amount, but the economist that Sanders has been relying on concluded in 2015 that the top 1 percent had accumulated 91 percent of the income gains made from 2009 to 2012. That would be "almost all."

But when the analysis was updated in 2015, the estimate dropped to 58 percent, a ratio Sanders has publicly acknowledged. That may be just over most of the new income, but it's far from "almost all."

This rates Half True.

TPP talkback

Moderator Chuck Todd pointed out that Clinton supported the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal while secretary of state even though she now opposes it.

"I said that I was holding out the hope that (TPP) would be the kind of trade agreement that I was looking for," Clinton said. "I waited until it had actually been negotiated because I did want to give the benefit of the doubt to the (Obama) administration. Once I saw what the outcome was, I opposed it."

Did Clinton really withhold her support until the terms of the proposal had been finalized?

We found Clinton made plenty of strongly supportive comments about the deal while negotiations were still ongoing. Speaking in Australia in 2012, Clinton hailed the deal as "setting the gold standard."

She also used words such as "exciting," "innovative," "ambitious," "groundbreaking," "cutting-edge," "high-quality" and "high-standard" in describing the partnership before she left the State Department in 2013.

It becomes disingenuous to argue, as she's doing now, that she didn't endorse the deal before it was finalized.

We rate her statement Half True.

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

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