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RECAP: Fact-checking the Republican presidential debate in Detroit
Mina Abgoon, Politifact
11:37 PM, Mar 3, 2016
12:43 PM, Mar 4, 2016
Insults between candidates flew from the get go in Thursday’s Republican debate in Detroit, a fiery start to the first match since a majorly defining Super Tuesday.
Donald Trump, who has proven himself as the party’s undisputed frontrunner, took the stage alongside Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Ohio Governor John Kasich.
The immediate insults soon morphed into discussions on actual policy -- but viewers were left with a major question: How much truth did the candidates’ claims have?
We’ve teamed up with PolitiFact to rate some of the statements from Thursday’s debate regarding major issues as true or false.
Fact Check #1: Kasich said, “I beat Hillary Clinton more than anybody, more than 11 points,” referring to polling averages.
We looked at polling averages to assess the validity of Kasich’s statement, taking polling averages from RealClearPolitics.com – which averages the most recent polls – as well as the range of results since Feb. 1
The data confirms Kasich’s assertion that he beats Clinton "by more than anybody" still in the race – however, it shows that his edge over Clinton is 7.4 points. That number is still higher than any of the other Republican candidates.
On average, Trump actually loses to Clinton by 3.4 points.
Though it isn’t entirely true that Kasich beats Clinton by 11 points, he did so in his strongest recent poll -- USA Today-Suffolk poll taken between Feb. 11 and Feb. 15.
However, emphasizing that one poll is a bit of cherry picking.
Mostly True – Kasich beats Clinton more than any of the other Republican candidates, but has only beaten her by 11 points once.
Fact Check #2: Trump said Marco Rubio has “the No. 1 absentee record in the United States (Senate), he doesn't show up to vote.”
The facts show that Rubio does receive the “most truant” award, if we’re looking at the past year. From March 2015 through March 2016, Rubio missed 125 votes out of 263 – giving him an absentee rate of 41 percent.
If we look beyond that and examine the career records of the all the Republican presidential candidates, Rubio is in fact tied with one of his rivals, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
It's worth nothing that most of Rubio’s skipped votes came after April 13, the date he announced his candidacy.
"It's not unusual for presidential candidates to miss Senate votes," Rubio spokeswoman Brooke Sammon told the Tampa Bay Times. "Sen. Rubio remains fully engaged in the issues important to Florida and helping Floridians, and as he travels the country to talk about his agenda to help the middle class, there will be no doubt where he stands on any important issues before the Senate."
As for overall attendance, Cruz and Rubio both have a career absentee rate of 14.8 percent.
Both candidates are far from the worst-ever offenders, coming out ahead of President Barack Obama who missed 24.2 percent of votes in his brief Senate career.
Another Senator, Maryon Allen, D-Ala., racked up a 43.5 percent absentee rate during her five-month stint in the Senate in 1978.
Mostly True – Trump’s statement was accurate if we’re looking at votes missed in this past year.
Fact Check #3: Trump said the wives of the 9/11 hijackers "knew exactly what was happening" and went back to Saudi Arabia two days before the attacks to watch their husbands on television flying the planes.
"They left two days early with respect to the World Trade Center and they went back to where they went and they watched their husband on television flying into the World Trade Center, flying into the Pentagon and probably trying to fly into the White House except we had some very, very brave souls on that third plane,” he said, in part.
This isn’t the first time Trump has made this claim.
During the December 15 GOP debate in Las Vegas, Trump was more specific, saying that friends, family, girlfriends "were put into planes and they were sent back, for the most part, to Saudi Arabia. They knew what was going on. They went home and they wanted to watch their boyfriends on television."
But is this true?
Citing a 9/11 Commission report, Politifact found that of all the hijackers, not one had a wife, girlfriend or family member in the United States during the days or months leading up to the hijackings.
Not all were pinpointed, but "they sure weren’t living in the United States," Philip D. Zelikow, executive director of the 9/11 Commission, told PolitiFact in mid-December.
It’s worth noting that Trump’s words might reflect some confusion with the hastily organized departures of members of Osama bin Laden’s extended family -- not any wives or girlfriends of bin Laden himself -- a few days after the attack.
False – pants on fire false, actually.
Fact Check #4:Cruz said "Donald Trump has written checks to Hillary Clinton not once, not twice, not three times. Ten times. And four of those checks were not to her Senate campaign. It wasn't that she was the New York senator and it was a cost of doing business. It was to her presidential campaign."
Though we found that Trump has indeed given multiple donations to Clinton, including to her 2008 presidential campaign, Cruz's count is too high.
Looking at records of Trump’s donations, it appears that he made only seven donations in total to Clinton, not four, while only two of those were presidential contributions.
Furthermore, the total amount of Trump donations to Clinton’s presidential campaign were refunded in November 2009.
It wasn't clear who requested the refund.
On a side note, other members of Trump’s family also gave donations Clinton over the years totaling nearly $15,000.
Half True – While Cruz has a point that Trump has made multiple campaign donations to Clinton, he overstated the amounts.