Fact-checking the Republican presidential debate

Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio, left, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz at Thursday night’s debate.
Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio, left, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz at Thursday night’s debate.
Published March 12, 2016

GOP presidential contenders struck a more civil tone in their Miami debate Thursday night, discussing foreign policy and trade positions while limiting the name-calling to Common Core.

When CNN moderator Jake Tapper asked Donald Trump about what he specifically didn't like about the education standards, the billionaire repeated an oft-used criticism.

"Education through Washington, D.C., I don't want that," Trump said. But is that an accurate description of the Common Core State Standards?

The education benchmarks for English and math were unveiled in 2010 after state school officials, nonprofits, teachers, parents and experts settled on broad education goals.

Despite repeated criticisms of a supposed federal mandate for schools, Washington was not a player in that game. The only thing that involved the federal government is that President Barack Obama has given states with education standards a leg up when applying for grant money.

We rated Trump's statement False.

Friends to Israel

Although the candidates have portrayed themselves as big fans of Israel, Ted Cruz suggested Trump is not the ally he claims to be.

"On Israel, Donald has said he wants to be neutral between Israel and the Palestinians," Cruz said. "As president, I will not be neutral."

Trump did say that during an MSNBC town hall in February. He has repeatedly said that in order to be an effective negotiator, he believes he must approach the two sides with neutrality.

But Cruz is omitting Trump's comments and actions that have shown support for Israel, including that he endorsed Benjamin Netanyahu.

"I am a big fan of Israel," Trump said in the video endorsement. "And frankly a strong prime minister is a strong Israel."

We rated Cruz's statement Half True.


When Tapper said Cruz had changed his position on the contentious Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, the Texas senator was quick to correct him.

"There are two different agreements," Cruz said. "There's TPA (Trade Promotion Authority), and TPP. I opposed TPP, and have always opposed TPP, which is what you asked about."

The record shows that Cruz took no position on the TPP treaty itself until the full text became public. Then he said he opposed it.

However, when Cruz first supported granting the president the key authority to finalize the TPP, he spoke positively about the concept of the trade deal. He described in the Wall Street Journal how it could bring millions of customers to American business owners.

When the treaty moved from being a concept to actual text, Cruz opposed it. His statement glosses over his initial backing of the idea of the trade treaty.

We rated this claim Mostly True.

Financing foreign aid

Shoring up Social Security was a major topic at one point, with candidates discussing how they would address shortfalls that will affect the future of the program.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio scoffed at Trump's suggestion that cutting foreign aid would help plug the budget gap. The amount the United States spends on aid pales in comparison to the overhaul Social Security spending needs.

"I'm against any sort of wasting of money on foreign aid, but it's less than 1 percent of our federal budget," Rubio said.

Several reports put the amount of foreign aid in the ballpark of what Rubio said at the GOP debate — and it has been consistently in the single digits or less.

We rated this claim True.

C. Eugene Emery Jr. and Jon Greenberg contributed.