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Fact-Checking the GOP Debate

With 11 candidates on stage on Wednesday night, there were bound to be some misstatements, stumbles, and exaggerations.
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With 11 candidates on stage on Wednesday night, there were bound to be some misstatements, stumbles, and exaggerations.

Here are our evaluations of some of the candidates’ misleading statements.

Donald Trump: “Just the other day, two years old, two and a half years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic. I'm in favor of vaccines, do them over a longer period of time, same amount.”

Trump got part of a fact-check to this statement during the debate from Dr. Ben Carson, who rightly said “we have extremely well-documented proof that there's no autism associated with vaccinations.” But Carson also said “we are probably giving way too many [vaccines] in too short a period of time.”

Study after study has shown no possible way that vaccines could cause autism, even in supposedly vulnerable children. You can read more about that body of medical research here.

And the idea of spacing vaccines is not recommended by experts either. CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics do not recommend spacing vaccines and say this can be harmful, leaving children and those around them unprotected against dangerous and sometimes deadly diseases. In a statement, the AAP wrote onThursday morning that “There is no ‘alternative’ immunization schedule. Delaying vaccines only leaves a child at risk of disease for a longer period of time; it does not make vaccinating safer.”

Ted Cruz: “On these videos, Planned Parenthood also essentially confesses to multiple felonies. It is a felony with ten years' jail term to sell the body parts of unborn children for profit. That's what these videos show Planned Parenthood doing”

Cruz is referring to a series of sting videos by anti-abortion group The Center for Medical Progress. He claims that the videos show Planned Parenthood reps confessing to selling parts of fetuses for profit.

He’s correct that selling the fetal tissue “for profit” is a felony, but Planned Parenthood has steadfastly maintained that they did not sell any tissue. In the videos themselves, the reps discuss minimal reimbursement for their preparation and shipping costs, which is allowed. One full two-hour-long video shows the activists, who are posing as staffers from a biotechnology company seeking fetal tissue, wining and dining Dr. Deborah Nucatola, senior director of medical services for Planned Parenthood Federation of America. They discuss how to obtain tissue from aborted fetuses. Nucatola can be heard repeatedly denying the tissue is being sold. "This is not a new revenue stream the affiliates are looking at. This is a way to offer the patient the service that they want, do good for the medical community," she says.

Carly Fiorina: “Yes, we had to make tough choices, and in doing so, we saved 80,000 jobs, went on to grow to 160,000 jobs.”

A lot has been written about Fiorina’s record at Hewlett Packard. She took the helm of the company in 1999, before its merger with Compaq. At the time she started the job, the number of employees at HP was about 86,200, while Compaq had 63,700. After the two companies merged, the total job count was 141,000 in 2002. That grew slightly to 142,000 in 2003, and to 150,000 in 2005. If you add the amount of employees Compaq and HP had before the merger, you’ll arrive at 149,900. Therefore, it’s quite an exaggeration to say she grew jobs after the merger, given that according to these numbers, the number of jobs at the two companies increased by only 100.

Technically, you could say that HP “grew” since it was combined with Compaq, but that’s a factor of the merger itself – not a specific policy by Fiorina or anyone else.

You can read more from the Washington Post Fact Checker here.

Donald Trump: “I say not in a braggadocious way, I've made billions and billions of dollars dealing with people all over the world.”

Trump’s actual wealth has been a murky subject for a while. In the past, he’s claimed to have a net worth of $9 billion or even $10 billion to his name. A Bloomberg Billionaires Index analysis estimated that his net worth is closer to $2.9 billion. It’s hard to know how close Trump’s own estimates could be to the truth, but asset value is not the same thing as net worth. Net worth is calculated with the difference between assets and liabilities. And Trump could be inflating the value of his assets. Under oath in depositions, Trump has admitted to inflating the value of his properties in statements, but “not beyond reason.”

Chris Christie: “I was named U.S. attorney by President Bush on September 10th, 2001.”

Chris Christie was appointed U.S. attorney by George W. Bush on December 8, 2001, according to a New York Times article at the time. The nomination had “been expected for months,” but it was in no way official until months after the 9/11 attacks. Christie’s spokespeople have alleged that he had a conversation from members of the Bush administration before the attacks which, according to Politifact, “set in motion a months-long hiring process.” He might have accepted the job – but he wasn’t formally offered it because background checks had not been completed.

Jeb Bush: “Six million more people are living in poverty than the day that Barack Obama got elected president.”

The Census Bureau says that the number is closer to 5.5 million, so Bush rounded up a little. But the real question is whether it’s President Obama’s fault, which is what Bush is implying. As NPR notes, poverty was trending up during the final years of George W. Bush’s administration (it increased 3% during his presidency). In contrast, the poverty rate since Obama took office has increased 0.2%.

Donald Trump says Bush’s allegation that he donated money to Florida politicians in the hopes of securing support for casino gambling in Florida is “totally false.”

According to press reports from the mid and late-1990s, Trump gave significant donations both to the Republican Party of Florida and to Jeb Bush’s gubernatorial campaign. Bush, who served on the board of a group called “No Casinos,” steadfastly opposed gambling in the state. While it’s not clear that Trump directly asked Republicans in the state to back a proposal allowing Seminoles to operate casinos on tribal property, there’s plenty of evidence that he was keen on a deal that would help him expand his gambling operations there. This September 1 article from CNN has lots more on Trump’s hopes and Bush’s refusal to budge on the issue after his election.

Hallie Jackson and Elissa Nunez contributed.