Video: Fact checking debate claims

NBC News and news services
updated 10/15/2008 11:44:30 PM ET 2008-10-16T03:44:30

Facts went astray on tax cuts, negative campaign advertising and oil exports when Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain engaged Wednesday in their third and final presidential debate.

Some examples:

McCAIN: Claimed that Obama has spent more money on negative ads than any other presidential candidate. That's probably true — given that Obama will have raised and spent more than any other candidate.

THE FACTS: By one measure, however, McCain was wrong when he said that 100 percent of his ads weren't negative. According to one study, by the University of Wisconsin Advertising Project, 100 percent of McCain's ads have been negative.

The McCain campaign sent out an e-mail with a CMAG comparison (covering Sept. 12-Oct. 11) of how much money the two campaigns have spent on negative and positive advertising. It does back up McCain's statements that Obama is spending more than $40 million on negative advertising, but it also shows that he's spending nearly $30 million on positive advertising. According to this release, McCain is spending more than $27 million on negative ads and only $5 million on positive ads. McCain is only running 11,471 positive ads compared to nearly 60,000 negative ads, according to the release. Comparatively, Obama is running 48,729 positive ads and more than 80,000 negative ads.

So, yes, Obama is spending lots of money on negative ads, but he's also spending much more money on ads as a whole. But percentage wise — according to the CMAG numbers — McCain is spending nearly 85 percent of his total advertising budget on negative advertising. Obama is spending roughly 60 percent of his total advertising budget on negative advertising.
— NBC News' First Read

___

OBAMA: "Every dollar that I've proposed, I've proposed an additional cut, so that it matches."

THE FACTS: The bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates that his programs would add $281 billion to the deficit at the end of his first term. The analysis includes Obama's proposals for saving money.
— The Associated Press 

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McCAIN: "We have to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't like us very much."

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THE FACTS: This is a reference to U.S. spending on oil imports. McCain has repeatedly made this claim. But the figure is highly inflated and misleading. According to government agencies that track energy imports, the United States spent $246 billion in 2007 for all imported crude oil, a majority of it coming from friendly nations including neighboring Canada and Mexico. An additional $82 billion was spent on imported refined petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel and fuel oil. A majority of the refined products come from refineries in such friendly countries as the Netherlands, Canada, the United Kingdom, Trinidad-Tobago and the Virgin Islands.
— The Associated Press

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McCAIN: Said that Obama is opposed to off-shore drilling. That's only partially true. Obama had opposed it, but later said he'd support it as part of a bigger compromise.

THE FACTS: From the the Palm Beach Post this past August: "U.S. Sen. Barack Obama said today he would be willing to open Florida's coast for more oil drilling if it meant winning approval for broad energy changes. 'My interest is in making sure we've got the kind of comprehensive energy policy that can bring down gas prices,' Obama said in an interview with The Palm Beach Post. 'If, in order to get that passed, we have to compromise in terms of a careful, well thought-out drilling strategy that was carefully circumscribed to avoid significant environmental damage — I don't want to be so rigid that we can't get something done,' Obama said."

McCain once opposed offshore drilling, too.
— NBC News' First Read

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McCAIN: "We can eliminate our dependence on foreign oil by building 45 nuclear power plants right away."

THE FACTS: For nuclear power to lower oil dependency would require a massive shift to electric or hybrid-electric cars, with nuclear power providing the electricity. No new U.S. nuclear reactor has been built since the 1970s. Although 15 utilities have filed applications to build 24 new reactors, none is expected to be built before 2015 at the earliest. Turmoil in the credit markets could force cancellation of some of the projects now planned, much less spur construction of 45 new reactors, as reactor costs have soared to about $9 billion apiece.
— The Associated Press

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OBAMA: "I want to provide a tax cut for 95 percent of working Americans, 95 percent."

THE FACTS: Obama constantly says this. But the independent Tax Policy Center says his plan would cut taxes for 81.3 percent of all households in 2009.
— The Associated Press

___

McCAIN: "Now, we have allocated $750 billion. Let's take 300 of that billion and go in and buy those home loan mortgages and negotiate with those people in their homes, 11 million homes or more, so that they can afford to pay the mortgage, stay in their home."

THE FACTS: Ordering the government to buy up bad mortgages to cut homeowners' monthly payments might sound good, but experts are skeptical. They say the plan McCain is promoting is unlikely to solve the housing crisis that's pushing the economy toward recession. One big problem: The vast majority of the toxic home loans that are clogging financial markets and freezing up credit have been repackaged into complex investments that the government would be hard-pressed to unravel and buy. And the government could end up paying far more than they would ever be worth. That could primarily help banks and lenders with taxpayer money.
— The Associated Press

MCCAIN: "Sen. Obama, as a member of the Illinois state Senate, voted in the Judiciary Committee against a law that would provide immediate medical attention to a child born in a failed abortion. He voted against that."

OBAMA: "If it sounds incredible that I would vote to withhold lifesaving treatment from an infant, that's because it's not true."

THE FACTS: As a state senator, Obama opposed three legislative efforts, in 2001, 2002 and 2003, to give legal protections to any aborted fetus that showed signs of life. The 2003 measure was virtually identical to a bill President Bush signed into law in 2002 — a bill that passed before Obama was in the U.S. Senate, but one that Obama said he would have supported. The state of Illinois already had a law to protect aborted fetuses born alive and considered able to survive. Among those opposed to the state effort was the Illinois State Medical Society, which argued that the bill would interfere with the doctor-patient relationship and expand civil liability for doctors. Critics said the proposed legislation would have undermined the landmark Supreme Court case on abortion, Roe v. Wade, in ways the federal law would not.
— The Associated Press

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OBAMA: Said he would be "completely supportive" of late-term abortion restrictions "as long as there's an exception for the mother's health and life."

THE FACTS: Obama leaves himself a lot of latitude in this answer. A woman's "health" has been so broadly interpreted that it can include conditions, including psychological conditions, that are difficult to diagnose or prove. Anti-abortion advocates say that makes the ban meaningless, because it leaves too much subjective judgment in the equation.
— The Associated Press

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McCAIN: "Senator Obama talks about voting for budgets. He voted twice for a budget resolution that increases the taxes on individuals making $42,000 a year."

THE FACTS: The vote was on a nonbinding resolution and did not increase taxes. The resolution assumed that President Bush's tax cuts would expire, as scheduled, in 2011. If that actually happened, it could mean higher taxes for people making as little as about $42,000.
— The Associated Press

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OBAMA: "We can cut the average family's premium by $2,500 a year."

THE FACTS: If that sounds like a straight-ahead promise to lower health insurance premiums, it isn't. Obama hopes that by spending $50 billion over five years on electronic medical records and by improving access to proven disease management programs, among other steps, consumers will end up saving money. He uses an optimistic analysis to suggested cost reductions in national health care spending could amount to the equivalent of $2,500 for a family of four. Many economists are skeptical those savings can be achieved, but even if they are, it's not a certainty that every dollar would be passed on to consumers in the form of lower premiums.
— The Associated Press

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MCCAIN: Warned a small business owner that he would be fined under Obama's health care plan if he did not provide health insurance for workers.

THE FACTS: Obama's health care plan does not impose mandates or fines on small business. He would provide small businesses with a refundable tax credit of up to 50 percent on health premiums paid on behalf of their employees. Large as well as medium-sized businesses that do not offer meaningful coverage or contribute to the cost of coverage would be required to pay a percentage of payroll toward the costs of a public insurance plan. But small businesses would be exempt from that requirement.
— The Associated Press

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McCAIN: Said of Obama's running mate, Sen. Joe Biden: "He had this cockamamie idea of dividing Iraq into three countries."

THE FACTS: Biden actually proposed dividing Iraq into three semiautonomous regions, not separate countries. He was a prime sponsor of a nonbinding Senate resolution that called for Iraq to have federal regions under the control of Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis in a power-sharing agreement similar to the one that ended the 1990s war in Bosnia.
The Associated Press

This story contains reports from The Associated Press and NBC News.

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