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For the Republican presidential candidates who took the debate stage in Boulder, Colorado, each contender was seeking a breakout moment, and many took opportunities to jab at their opponents or the CNBC moderators. Angie Holan of Politifact joins Gwen Ifill to fact-check some of candidates’ claims.
The crowded field of Republican candidates took to the debate stage for the third time last night, this time in Boulder, Colorado.
And by the time they were done, the chess pieces had shifted once again.
The face-off, on CNBC, was expected to focus on the economy, and, for a time, it did.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO, Republican Presidential Candidate:
I'm not worried about my finances, I'm worried about the finances of everyday Americans who today are struggling in an economy that is not producing good-paying jobs while everything else costs more.
DONALD TRUMP, Republican Presidential Candidate:
We're reducing taxes to 15 percent. We're bringing corporate taxes down, bringing money back in, corporate inversions.
CARLY FIORINA, Republican Presidential Candidate:
Big government favors the big, the powerful, the wealthy and the well-connected, and crushes the small and the powerless.
But with 10 Republicans crowded on stage — four others debated separately — it quickly became clear each was looking for a breakout moment.
For Floridians Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, it came when the former Florida governor criticized Rubio for skipping Senate votes to campaign.
JEB BUSH, Republican Presidential Candidate:
Marco, when you signed up for this, this was a six-year term, and you should be showing up to work.
I mean, literally, the Senate, what is it, like a French work week?
You can campaign, or just resign and let someone else take the job.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you.
Well, I have been… SEN. MARCO RUBIO: Here's the bottom line.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
I'm not — my campaign is going to be about the future of America. It's not going to be about attacking anyone else on this stage.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie also took jabs at the now lagging Bush after he'd answered a question about regulating fantasy football.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, Republican Presidential Candidate:
Are we really talking about getting government involved in fantasy football?
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE:
We have — wait a second. We have $19 trillion in debt. We have people out of work. We have ISIS and al-Qaida attacking us. And we're talking about fantasy football? Can we stop?
Ohio Governor John Kasich lashed out at front-runners Trump and Ben Carson, suggesting neither is serious enough to be president.
GOV. JOHN KASICH, Republican Presidential Candidate:
We're just going to have a 10 percent tithe and that's how we're going to fund the government? And we're going to just fix everything with waste, fraud, and abuse? Or that we're just going to be great? Or we're going to ship 10 million Americans — or 10 million people out of this country, leaving their children here in this country and dividing families?
Folks, we've got to wake up. We cannot elect somebody that doesn't know how to do the job.
And he said, oh, I'm never going to attack. But then his poll numbers tanked. He has got very — that is why he is on the end.
A running theme: candidates who came prepared to question the questioners.
SEN. TED CRUZ, Republican Presidential Candidate:
The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don't trust the media.
SEN. TED CRUZ:
This is not a cage match. How about talking about the substantive issues people care about?
I know the Democrats have the ultimate super PAC. It's called the mainstream media who every single day…
John, do you want me to answer or do you want to answer?
How are we going to do this?
Because, I have got to tell you the truth, even in New Jersey, what you're doing is called rude.
The Republicans face off again next in Wisconsin, while Democrats debate next month in Iowa.
Now we take a deeper look at some of the candidates' claims last night, from medical supplements, to gender and jobs, to spotty voting records.
For that, we are joined by Angie Holan, editor of PolitiFact, an independent fact-checking journalism Web site and a division of The Tampa Bay Times.
Angie, I want to plunge right in by talking first about Dr. Ben Carson, who is currently in many polls leading the race. He was asked about his connection to a nutritional supplement company, and this is what he said.
This — there is a company called Mannatech, a maker of nutritional supplements, with which you had a 10-year relationship. They offered claims that they could cure autism, cancer. They paid $7 million to settle a deceptive marketing lawsuit in Texas, and yet you're involvement continued. Why?
BEN CARSON, Republican Presidential Candidate:
Well, that's easy to answer. I didn't have an nvolvement with them. That is total propaganda, and this is what happens in our society, total propaganda.
I did a couple of speeches for them. I do speeches for other people. They were paid speeches. It is absolutely absurd to say that I had any kind of a relationship with them.
Ben Carson says that's total propaganda, that question, Angie. True, false or something in between?
ANGIE HOLAN, PolitiFact:
Well, at PolitiFact, we rated this false. He said he had no involvement. Then he said, well, some paid speeches.
We found the paid speeches. Also, he appeared in videos that the company created to promote their products. Now, the company was controversial because, in 2009, they settled a lawsuit about false claims, basically claims that their supplement could cure cancer. They settled that.
Now, whatever you think of the supplements, the company seemed to see Carson as someone who promoted them. They featured him on their Web site. They created these videos.
He actually takes the product himself, he says.
Yes, he does, and speaks very highly of the product.
And the company only took down these videos when The Wall Street Journal started reporting about it and asking questions. So, overall, the claim that he didn't have an involvement with the company is false.
Let's go to one of the other many claims made last night. One is from Carly Fiorina, the former head of H.P., who doesn't miss an opportunity to go after Hillary Clinton on gender issues. Let's listen to this.
It is the height of hypocrisy for Mrs. Clinton to talk about being the first woman president, when every single policy she espouses and every single policy of President Obama has been demonstrably bad for women.
Ninety-two percent of the jobs lost during Barack Obama's first term belonged to women.
Now, the key number here is that 92 percent. What is actually true, Angie?
You know, this is a funny claim for us, because we have heard it before. In 2012, it was a talking point that Mitt Romney would use and the Republican National Committee.
Now, back then, it was questionable. We rated it mostly false. But, back then, we also didn't have all the numbers yet for Obama's first term. Now we do.
What we found when we looked into the research was that there were a lot of job gains in 2012. The trend that Romney identified actually reversed itself. So, there were job gains for women during Obama's first term, just over 400,000 jobs gained by women. So, overall, we rated this talking point false.
So, were they — was she just cherry-picking the right numbers to use to make the case?
No, the numbers were wrong. Once we had all four years of Obama's first year, there were not job losses to be divided by gender. There were actually job gains.
And I just have to ask you, when you go back to the candidates and you say, hey, we — this is not true, what do they say? Well, in this case, what does she say?
You know, we didn't hear back from the Fiorina campaign.
Now, she has been asked about some of her facts in follow-up interviews, especially the television interviews, and she often just sticks to her points and doesn't back down.
Well, let's go on to Senator Rubio. We saw a little bit of their disagreement about his voting record, but let's listen to senator Rubio's defense.
In 2004, John Kerry ran for president missing close to 60 to 70 percent of his votes. I don't recall the Sun — in fact, The Sun-Sentinel endorsed him.
In 2008, Barack Obama missed 60 or 70 percent of his votes, and the same newspaper endorsed him again. So, this is another example of the double standard that exists in this country between the mainstream media and the conservative movement.
Now, the backstory is that The Florida Sun-Sentinel, his home state newspaper, says he should just quit the Senate, because he's not showing up to vote. And these are the numbers he used in his defense.
We checked the numbers, and he's right. The senators who were running for president, Obama in 2008, Kerry in 2004, and Bob Graham, the Florida senator, they did have those absentee numbers in the ballpark that he mentioned. Kerry's was actually a little worse than he mentioned.
And he was also right that The Sun-Sentinel did do those endorsements. Now, The Sun-Sentinel sayings: Those weren't our Florida senator. You are.
I should mention that Rubio is not running for reelection in Florida. But when we looked at the numbers about senators who run for president, they often have these high absentee rates. Of the current field, Rubio is leading. His absentee rate is about 34 percent.
When you do these checks, and there are a lot more on your Web site, and you go back to them, does it change behavior? Do we get truer statements next time?
You know, it's interesting. We see the candidates react in a variety of ways. Some of them don't change at all and just stick to their talking points. Others do change, and I can't tell you that it's any particular political persuasion.
It seems to be more the candidates themselves, if he or she thinks that accuracy is important.
Angie Holan of PolitiFact, thank you very much.
Thanks for having me.
We will be checking in with PolitiFact throughout the campaign, as they examine speeches, ads and debates. Next month, it will be the Democrats' turn.
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