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PolitiFact: Fact-checking Mike Pence at the Republican National Convention

Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence acknowledges the crowd after delivering his acceptance speech Wednesday at the Republican National Convention. He spoke of his record as governor of Indiana, among other issues.
Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence acknowledges the crowd after delivering his acceptance speech Wednesday at the Republican National Convention. He spoke of his record as governor of Indiana, among other issues.
Published Jul. 21, 2016

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence made his official debut as Donald Trump's running mate Wednesday at the Republican National Convention, talking up his ticket's credentials and denouncing the prospect of a "third Obama term" under Democrat Hillary Clinton.

"It's change versus status quo, and my fellow Republicans, when Donald Trump becomes president of the United States of America, the change will be huge!" Pence said.

Here's our fact-checking rundown of statements from Pence.

On Indiana credit

Pence joked at his acceptance speech that most people don't know who he is. So he offered up his record as Indiana's governor, an office he has held since January 2013.

"We in Indiana have a $2 billion surplus, the highest credit rating in the nation, even though we've cut taxes every year since I became governor four years ago," he told the crowd.

It's true that Indiana has received the highest credit rating from Standard and Poor's, Moody's, and Fitch Ratings since 2010.

However, Indiana isn't the only state with that distinction, according to a recent long-term compilation of state-by-state credit ratings. As of May 2014, that's a distinction shared by 14 other states.

We rated this statement Mostly True.

On education

Pence presented himself as a savvy steward of tax dollars, investing a "record" amount into education.

"In my home state of Indiana, we prove every day that you can build a growing economy on balanced budgets, low taxes, even while making record investments in education and roads and health care," he said.

Did Pence really make "record investments in education?" It depends on how you count.

In raw dollars, yes, Pence did. Adjusted for inflation, there were larger investments in 2010 and 2011, before he became governor. That being said, education spending is on the rise under Pence's leadership.

On balance, we rated this statement Half True.

On jobs

Pence said more Indiana residents are working under his leadership.

"There are more Hoosiers going to work than ever before," he said.

Pence has a point that more people in Indiana are working today than at any time in history — 3.07 million in May 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, the historical peak Pence cites has more to do with long-term population growth than with the robustness of the economy. Economists agree that the most accurate way to analyze a statement like this is to look at the percentage of people working, not the raw number.

By that metric, 2000, not 2016, is Indiana's historical peak.

According to the Census Bureau's 2015 population estimate — the most recent one available — Indiana has a population of about 6.48 million. So 47.3 percent of Indiana residents were working this year.

By contrast, at the previous raw-number peak in Indiana employment — May 2000 — there were 3.02 million residents working. That year, the state had 6.08 million residents, so the percentage working was 49.7 percent.

In other words, a bigger percentage of Indiana's population was working in 2000 than in 2016. That throws some cold water on Pence's assertion.

Pence's statement is misleading, so we rated it Half True.

On Benghazi

During his speech, Pence went after Clinton for her perceived callous response to the Benghazi attacks.

"It was Hillary Clinton who left Americans in harm's way in Benghazi and after four Americans fell said, 'What difference at this point does it make?' " he said.

The "what difference" quote has been the source of several fact-checks, with varying degrees of accuracy. This one, however, significantly distorted what actually happened.

Clinton has taken responsibility for the security lapses in Benghazi as the head of the State Department. But the report from the House Benghazi committee did not place blame directly on Clinton, but rather on broader administrative failings — in line with findings from several committee investigations.

The "what difference" quote comes from a contentious and lengthy exchange with Rep. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., during a 2013 hearing on Benghazi, a year after the attacks, and was not, as Pence suggests, a statement directed at four dead Americans.

Rep. Johnson pressed Clinton on why State Department officials in Washington didn't call their counterparts in Libya to determine the cause of the attack (protests over a video mocking Islam or a planned terrorist attack).

Clinton told Johnson her priority was figuring out how to rescue them, not pressing them for information, and it wasn't appropriate to talk to the them before FBI interviews. When Johnson continued to press her for a more straightforward answer, Clinton gave her exasperated answer.

"With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided that they'd they go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?" she said.

We rated this statement Mostly False.

Read more fact-checks from the Republican National Convention at