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FACT CHECK: The Jan. 14 GOP presidential debate

Posted: 9:22 PM, Jan 14, 2016
Updated: 2016-01-15 19:33:34Z
FACT CHECK: The Jan. 14 GOP presidential debate
DONALD TRUMP: Among Syrian refugees and migrants coming into Europe, “there look like very few women. Very few children.”
 
Donald Trump repeated a false notion Thursday at the South Carolina Republican debate that the flight of Syrian refugees and other migrants is largely men.
 
“When I looked at the migration, when I looked at the line … where are the women?” Trump said. “There look like very few women. Very few children. Strong, powerful men. Young. And people are looking at that and saying, ‘What’s going on?’ ”
 
Trump made a similar claim in October. It was False then, and it’s False now.
 
We asked Trump’s campaign for more information about his claim but did not hear back. However, there are two databases that track the movements of migrants in Europe and Syrian refugees. Neither supports his statement.
 
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees registers and tracks Syrian refugees in camps spread over several nations, including Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and North African countries. According to numbers as of Dec. 31, 2015, the total comes to more than 4.6 million.
 
Of those 4.6 million, 50.7 percent are female and 51.8 percent are children (boys and girls) 17 years old or younger. So the majority of refugees are:
  • Women
  • 17 or younger.
 
In all, only 22.7 percent of refugees across the Middle East and North Africa being counted by the U.N. were men older than 18.
 
Looking at the migrant crisis more broadly only slightly helps Trump’s case.
 
The U.N. also tracks so-called "sea arrivals," refugees and migrants who cross the Mediterranean Sea to continental Europe. The counts a little more than 1 million people who have crossed into Europe since the start of 2015, with almost 3,800 dying during the journey.
 
The U.N. breaks those migrants into three categories: Adult men, 49 percent; Adult women, 19 percent; and children, 31 percent.
 
Our ruling: We rate this statement False.
 
Data curated by InsideGov
 
TED CRUZ: “We have the lowest percentage of Americans working today of any year since 1977.”
 
During the Republican presidential debate in North Charleston, S.C., Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, took aim at the nation’s economic record under President Barack Obama.
 
“The millionaires and billionaires are doing great under Obama,” Cruz said. “But we have the lowest percentage of Americans working today of any year since 1977. Median wages have stagnated. And the Obama-Clinton economy has left behind the working men and women of this country.”
 
We decided to fact-check Cruz’s statement that we have the lowest percentage of Americans working today since 1977.
 
Cruz is on to something. One key employment statistic known as the civilian labor force participation rate is at its lowest level since the 1970s. This statistic takes the number of Americans in the labor force -- basically, those who are either employed or who are seeking employment and divides it by the total civilian population.
 
Here’s a chart going back to the mid 1970s.
 
When the civilian labor force participation rate is low, it’s a concern, because it means there are fewer working Americans to support non-working Americans.
 
But we’ll offer two asterisks for Cruz’s statement.
 
First, as we’ve noted before, a notable factor in the decline of the labor-force participation rate is the aging of the Baby Boom generation. As more adults begin moving into retirement age, the percentage of Americans who work is bound to decline.
 
When we last looked at this question in 2013, Gary Burtless, a Brookings Institution economist, told us he had estimated that the labor-force participation rate would have fallen in recent years on the basis of aging alone.
That said, Cruz has a point that the recession exacerbated that decline. In a weak job market, some people who might otherwise want a job may return to school, become full-time parents or retire early.
 
Second, there’s another way to read Cruz’s words. He said “the lowest percentage of Americans working” since 1977, which could also refer to a different statistic, the employment-population ratio. This statistic takes the number of people who are employed and divides it by the civilian population age 16 and above.
 
The difference in this case is that using the employment-population ratio, Cruz’s statement is incorrect. Unlike the labor-force participation rate, the employment-population ratio has actually been improving in recent years, although it’s below its pre-recession highs.
 
Here’s a chart showing this statistic over the same time frame:
 
If you exclude the Great Recession, the employment-population ratio was last at its current rate in 1984, not 1977.  So by that measurement, he’s close.
 
Our ruling: We rate the claim Mostly True.
Data curated by InsideGov
 

JEB BUSH: Of Hillary Clinton - "She's under investigation by the FBI"

Actually, Clinton is not under FBI investigation. The inquiry to which Bush refers revolves around the private email server Clinton used while serving as secretary of state.  And it is not a criminal investigation.
 
In July 2015, the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community sent what is called a security referral to members of the executive branch. A security referral is essentially a notification that classified information might exist in a location outside of the government’s possession. In this case, the location was Clinton’s private email server.
 
Soon after, the New York Times incorrectly reported that the inspectors general requested a criminal investigation into Clinton’s email use — as opposed to a security referral. But the newspaper later issued two corrections. The referral was in connection with Clinton’s account, not whether Clinton herself mishandled information, and did not allege criminal activity.
 
Officials told reporters at the time that the FBI was not targeting Clinton specifically.
 
As part of its inquiry, the FBI has looked into the security setup for Clinton’s home server and a thumb drive that has copies of Clinton’s work emails. But most details of the investigation have remained secret. It’s even unclear at this point whether the FBI probe is just a preliminary inquiry or if it has evolved into a true investigation, according to Politico.
 
Describing the inquiry, FBI Director James Comey told Congress in October 2015, “The FBI is working on a referral given to us by inspectors general in connection with former Sec. Clinton’s use of a private email server.”
 
He declined to give any more specifics.
 
Our ruling: We rate this claim as Half True.
Data curated by InsideGov
 
TED CRUZ: "Well he appointed Eric Holder his attorney general. Eric Holder said he viewed his mission as brainwashing the American people against guns."
 
We raised our eyebrows at Cruz’s mention of Holder and what he said. Is Cruz right?
 
Let’s go to the videotape from back in 1995, a time when there really were such things as videotapes.
 
In January 1995, Holder -- then the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia -- gave a speech announcing a plan to curb gun violence in Washington, D.C.
 
Here’s a portion of the speech, recorded by C-SPAN.
 
“What we need to do is change the way in which people think about guns, especially young people, and make it something that’s not cool, that it’s not acceptable, it’s not hip to carry a gun anymore, in the way in which we changed our attitudes about cigarettes,” Holder said. He later added, “We have to be repetitive about this. It’s not enough to have a catchy ad on a Monday and then only do it Monday. We need to do this every day of the week, and just really brainwash people into thinking about guns in a vastly different way.”
 
So there’s unquestionable video proof that Holder did indeed say what Cruz said he did.
 
That said, we’ll offer two caveats.
 
First, the way Cruz phrased his statement might lead listeners to believe that Holder had talked about “brainwashing” either during his tenure as attorney general or shortly before he was nominated by Obama for the post. That’s not the case -- the remark in question came a full 14 years earlier.
 
Second, Cruz leaves out the context in which Holder was speaking. As the top federal law enforcement official for the District of Columbia, Holder was speaking at a very particular time about a very particular place.
 
At the time, drug-related crime and gun murders in Washington were a serious concern, both locally and nationally. A few years before, D.C. had been dubbed the “murder capital of the world.” In other portions of the speech, Holder can be heard referring specifically to youth violence in the nation’s capital and referencing local officials such as once-and-future mayor Marion Barry.
 
This D.C. focus by Holder is supported by a Jan. 13, 1995, Washington Post article that preceded the speech but which laid out a general overview of Holder’s initiative.
 
“U.S. Attorney Eric H. Holder Jr. said yesterday he is completing the details of a massive law enforcement effort to get guns off Washington's streets,” the article says. “It will target people carrying and selling firearms in the city's most violent neighborhoods.”
 
In addition to tougher law enforcement, Holder was proposing efforts to change " ‘romanticized’ perceptions about guns and violence, especially among young black men.” Holder -- the first African American to serve as U.S. attorney in Washington -- was planning to unveil the speech on Martin Luther King’s birthday.
 
“As a people, did we fight, did we sacrifice, did we die simply to inherit and then bequeath to our children this kind of America where crimes run rampant and fears stalk our citizens?" Holder wrote in a draft of the speech, according to the Post.
 
Holder told the Post that the goal of the effort was designed to reduce violence in Washington by the end of the decade to levels prior to 1986, when crack cocaine sent homicides and shootings soaring.
 
"I believe that if you can really change the way young people, especially young black men, view the possession and use of guns ... you can have a significant impact on the quality of life in this city," Holder told the Post.
 
This is a nuance that Cruz’s statement ignores.

Our ruling: We rate this claim Half True.

Data curated by InsideGov
 
CHRIS CHRISTIE: "So let's set the facts straight. First of all, I didn't support Sonia Sotomayor."
 
Rubio said that Christie endorsed many of the ideas that President Barack Obama supports, “whether it is Common Core or gun control or the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor or the donation he made to Planned Parenthood.”
 
This was right before Christie rebutted Rubio's point.
 
In 2009, Christie was running for governor in New Jersey so he didn’t get to vote on her appointment or play any role in her vetting by the Senate.  But he did make a series of statements about her in 2009 that a Christie campaign spokeswoman sent to us. (It’s not surprising that Christie -- a former federal prosecutor -- was asked to weigh in about a Supreme Court candidate who was from New York and went to college at Princeton in New Jersey.)
 
In a radio debate May 27, 2009 Christie was asked: “Would you have appointed her or even considered her for a top appointment to the bench?”
 
Christie responded, “She wouldn’t have been my choice, no.” When asked to elaborate, Christie said, “Well, no, I mean listen, that’s the question. She wouldn’t have been my choice. Absolutely not. Not my kind of judge.“
 
But two months later, he made comments that showed some support for her confirmation -- although he again said that Sotomayor would not have been his choice.
 
“After watching and listening to Judge Sotomayor's performance at the confirmation hearings this week, I am confident that she is qualified for the position of Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court," said Christie, a former federal prosecutor, according to Politicker New Jersey. "Elections have consequences. One of those consequences are judicial appointments. While Judge Sotomayor would not have been my choice, President Obama has used his opportunity to fill a seat on the Supreme Court by choosing a nominee who has more than proven her capability, competence and ability."
 
He continued: "I support her appointment to the Supreme Court and urge the Senate to keep politics out of the process and confirm her nomination. Qualified appointees should be confirmed and deserve bi-partisan support. Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito deserved that support based on their work as Circuit Court Judges. So does Judge Sotomayor. As a result, I support her confirmation. This is a historic moment and her inspiring success story should not only make the Latino community proud, but all Americans."
 
Our ruling: We rate this claim as False.