Fact checking is important in freelance writing and public speaking and to credibility in general. “Just the Facts, Ma’am” was the plea made by fictional L.A. police detective Joe Friday of the popular1950’s tv series Dragnet.
Fact check: Ironically, according to Wikipedia and Snopes, that catchphrase was misattributed to Sergeant Friday and was actually featured in comedian Stan Freberg’s parody of Dragnet.
The phrase calls into question the credibility of certain “facts” stated by six of the fifteen candidates in the September 16, 2015 Republican presidential debate. Here, for your reading pleasure, is a synopsis by factcheck.org of the misstatements or partial truths presented as facts in the recent debate:
1) “Illegal immigration” costs us “more than $200 billion a year . . . we are spending $200 billion a year on maintaining what we have.” Actually, it could cost taxpayers $137 billion or more to deport the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally, as Trump proposes.
2) Mexico doesn’t have a birthright citizenship policy like the United States. It does.
Trump argued that the 14th Amendment — which holds that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside” — does not guarantee birthright citizenship to immigrants in the country illegally. “And by the way Mexico and almost every other country anywhere in the world doesn’t have that,” Trump said, referring to birthright citizenship. “We’re the only ones dumb enough, stupid enough to have it.”
The U.S. and Mexico use different terminologies, but the two countries’ policies are actually very similar. According to Article 30 of the Mexican Constitution, “The Mexican nationality” is acquired by birth if someone is born within Mexican territory, “whatever their parents’ nationality might be.” Technically, according to the Mexican Constitution, people don’t become “citizens” of Mexico until they turn 18, at which point they can vote, be elected to public office and join the military. That’s true even of babies born in Mexico to Mexican parents.
3) Trump told a story from personal experience linking vaccination to autism, but no link between childhood vaccinations and autism has a scientific basis.
4) Trump said that Wisconsin, under Gov. Scott Walker, has “a huge budget deficit.”
That is not a fact. Wisconsin had a projected $2.2 billion shortfall based on budget requests submitted by state agencies. But those budget requests were pared back, and Walker signed a two-year balanced budget into law on July 12. Wisconsin, like most states, requires that the governor submit and the Legislature pass a balanced budget.
5) Jeb Bush said that Trump donated to his gubernatorial campaign to get him to change his mind on casino gambling in Florida. Trump’s denial that he was ever interested in bringing casino gambling to Florida is contradicted in a legal affidavit by a former Senate president who says he was hired by Trump to do just that.
1) Planned Parenthood videos released by an anti-abortion group showed “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.” But that scene isn’t in any of the videos.
Fiorina’s description matches up with one of the videos in a series the Center for Medical Progress has called “Human Capital” — but only with regard to how an interviewee describes her experience. The scene Fiorina “dares” others to watch is not present in any of the Planned Parenthood videos.
2) She claims that the size of Hewlett-Packard “doubled” during her tenure but leaves out that it was due to a merger with Compaq.
Marco Rubio: U.S. policies to combat climate change would “do absolutely nothing,” asserting that the U.S. acting alone would have a small effect on rising temperatures and sea levels. Experts say U.S. leadership on the issue would prompt other nations to act.
Mike Huckabee: Hillary Clinton was “under investigation by the FBI” because she “destroyed government records.”
Not true. The Justice Department said in a court filing that she had the authority to delete personal emails. The New York Times quoted from the court filing: “There is no question that former Secretary Clinton had authority to delete personal emails without agency supervision — she appropriately could have done so even if she were working on a government server,” the filing said.
Lindsey Graham: Ronald Reagan and then-House Speaker Tip O’Neill “found a way to save Social Security from bankruptcy by adjusting the age of retirement from 65 to 67.” This ignores the accompanying tax increases.
Rick Santorum said legislation he sponsored that would have codified sanctions against Iran failed by four votes: Joe Biden, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
That’s true, but the Bush administration lobbied against Santorum’s bill, and 14 Republican senators also voted against it. The bill passed three months later after a compromise was worked out with the Bush administration, which opposed the bill because it was negotiating with Iran at the time.