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Fact Checking The First Presidential Debate


But let's check some of the candidates' facts from last night's presidential debate. It's not hard to find items to check because they directly disagreed about so many facts, for example, this on global warming.


HILLARY CLINTON: Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. I think it's real.

DONALD TRUMP: I did not.

CLINTON: I think science is real.

TRUMP: I do not say that.

INSKEEP: NPR's Scott Horsley is here once again. Scott, OK, did Donald Trump say that global warming was a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese?

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: He did. And, you know, as you can hear there Donald Trump has been brazen in his willingness to walk away from past statements. But facts are stubborn things and so are tweets. The fact is Donald Trump did tweet back in 2012 (reading) the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive.

He has also...

INSKEEP: OK. So that leads to a secondary fact check, if I can very quickly. So sorry, Scott. Is global warming - if he says global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese - or he did say it - let's just ask that. Is global warming a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese?

HORSLEY: The scientific consensus is that global warming is a real phenomenon.

INSKEEP: OK. There you go. Secretary Clinton - we should move on here quickly - made another allegation that Trump denied. Let's listen.


CLINTON: You even at one time suggested that you would try to negotiate down the...

TRUMP: Wrong.

CLINTON: ...National debt of the United States.

INSKEEP: Did Donald Trump suggest that he would negotiate down the debt?

HORSLEY: Trump did go on CNBC last May. And he was asked, should the U.S. pay less than 100 cents on the dollar? And he said, you know, I have done that in my own business ventures. Now, the idea that the U.S. would not be a rock solid borrower caused something of a firestorm. And so Trump had to go on several additional shows in the coming days, where he tried to clarify what he meant. He didn't really clarify anything. He did say he was not in favor of defaulting on the debt, but that he'd be open to some kind of refinancing. A lot of people walked away sort of scratching their heads about what Donald Trump felt.

INSKEEP: OK. So maybe the word suggested there by Secretary Clinton would make that a roughly correct statement. He said something like that, but there was a lack of clarity. Another factual disagreement, Donald Trump said that Hillary Clinton favored a big trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, until Donald Trump was attacking trade deals. And then Clinton changed her mind. She responded. Let's listen to that.


CLINTON: That is just not accurate. I was against it once it was finally negotiated and the terms were laid out. I wrote about that in - I wrote about...

TRUMP: You called it the gold standard.

CLINTON: Well, I hope...

TRUMP: You called it the gold standard of trade deals.

CLINTON: And you know what?

TRUMP: You said it's the finest deal you've ever seen.


TRUMP: And then you heard what I said about it. And all of a sudden, you were against it.

CLINTON: Well, Donald, I know you live in your own reality.

TRUMP: Oh, yeah.

CLINTON: But that is not the facts. The facts are - I did say I hoped it would be a good deal. But when it was negotiated...


CLINTON: ...Which I was not responsible for, I concluded it wasn't. I wrote about that in my...

TRUMP: So is it President Obama's fault...

INSKEEP: A fact checker's dream here. Scott Horsley, what was the timing of Secretary Clinton on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and changing her position, if you can say that she changed her position?

HORSLEY: Well, Clinton was secretary of state when the Obama administration launched the effort to negotiate the partnership. And as secretary, she did boast the agreement would be the gold standard for modern transparent trade agreements with strong protections for labor and the environment. Once she left the administration, she was somewhat less enthusiastic. She wrote in her book that it makes sense to reserve judgment on the TPP.

But she's still unbalanced, seen to be a supporter, saying that the agreement would not be perfect. It would have higher standards that would help business and workers in the U.S. And when she did finally come out against the agreement last fall, it probably had as much to do with what Bernie Sanders was saying as what Donald Trump was saying.

INSKEEP: But she did come out against an agreement that she had supported before it was finally negotiated in the past?

HORSLEY: She was against it after she was for it.

INSKEEP: OK. Let's look at another thing - or listen to another thing that they said during that debate. They were asked - the candidates were asked by the moderator Lester Holt about police stopping and frisking people on the streets.


LESTER HOLT: Stop and frisk was ruled unconstitutional in New York because it largely singled out black and Hispanic young men.

TRUMP: No, you're wrong. It went before a judge who was a very against-police judge. It was taken away from her. And our mayor - our new mayor - refused to go forward with the case. They would have won her appeal. If you look at it throughout the country, there are many places where it's allowed.

HOLT: The argument is that it's a form of racial profiling.

TRUMP: No, the argument is that we have to take the guns away from these people that have them and that are bad people that shouldn't have them.

INSKEEP: Scott Horsley, a lot in there. What's true?

HORSLEY: Well, Lester Holt was right. Stop and frisk was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge. New York did appeal that ruling. But then once the new mayor, Bill de Blasio came in, he was not a supporter of stop and frisk. So the case was settled and the appeal was dropped. This was part of a broader discussion of crime. As we said, Donald Trump paints a very dark picture of inner cities that are just hellish. We've got some new stats from the FBI yesterday showing there has been an increase in violent crime and murder between 2014 and 2015.

Much of that concentrated in a number of big cities. Overall though, it's important to note crime is still well below the levels we saw in past decades. Clinton and Trump also had a back and forth about what happened to crime in New York after stop and frisk was ended. Clinton said murders went down. Trump said they went up. We'll call that a tie. There was an increase in 2015. So far this year, though, murder in New York City is on the decline.

INSKEEP: Scott Horsley, we've got time for one or two more items here. And let's listen to one of Hillary Clinton's accusations about Donald Trump's business career.


CLINTON: I have met a lot of the people who were stiffed by you and your businesses, Donald. I've met dishwashers, painters, architects, glass installers, marble installers, drapery installers - like my dad was - who you refused to pay when they finished the work that you asked them to do.

INSKEEP: Now, Trump appeared to acknowledge this when he said he didn't pay people when they did lousy work. Has he in fact stiffed people?

HORSLEY: He has. And Trump said last night, look I was working for myself, I was working for my family, and I was working for my business. Because Donald Trump has refused to release his tax returns, we don't know as much about his business as we would like to. We do know some things, though. His first public company, Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts, lost a lot of money, even as Trump himself was handsomely rewarded. Trump has blamed the downfall on broader forces affecting Atlantic City. But we know he'd drain cash out of the business to pay personal debts. And the contractors, including small businesses, lost money along with Trump's investors.

INSKEEP: OK. One final, very quick thing. Donald Trump seemed to differ on his own quote last night when Lester Holt read it to him. He noted that Trump had said something about Hillary Clinton not having a presidential look. And Trump came back and said I referred to stamina. What was the actual quote?

HORSLEY: He did say look.

INSKEEP: He said presidential look. OK. Well, we could go on for quite some time, checking facts from this debate last night. So much was said. But, Scott, you've given us a good start on this Tuesday morning. Thanks for joining us. Really appreciate it.

HORSLEY: My pleasure, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.

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