Thursday, October 01, 2020

Fact-checking the ninth Democratic debate

Feb 20. 2020
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By The Washington Post · Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo, Sarah Cahlan · NATIONAL

The ninth Democratic presidential debate of the 2020 campaign, hosted by NBC, MSNBC and the Nevada Independent, had six candidates, lasted two hours - and did not have many statements that merited fact-checking. Here are seven claims that caught our attention. Our practice is not to award Pinocchios in debate roundups.

"Well, if I go back and look at my time in office, the one thing that I'm really worried about, embarrassed about, was how it turned out with stop-and-frisk. When I got into office, there were 650 murders a year in New York City. And I thought that my first responsibility was to give people the right to live. That's the basic right of everything. And we started it. We adopted a policy which had been in place. The policy that all big police departments use of stop-and-frisk. What happened, however, was it got out of control. And when we discovered, I discovered, that we were doing many, many, too many stop-and-frisks, we cut 95 percent of it." - Former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg

Bloomberg's claim that he cut 95 percent of stops-and-frisks, which disproportionately targeted black and Hispanic men in New York City while he was mayor, relies on a selective parsing of the data.

He inherited the city's stop-and-frisk policy from his predecessor, Rudy Giuliani, but it was the Bloomberg administration that ramped up the practice by New York police. In Bloomberg's first 10 years in office, stops-and-frisks increased nearly 600 percent, reaching a high point of about 686,000 actions in 2011.

According to FactCheck.org, "Bloomberg gets to his figure of a 95% cut by cherry-picking the quarterly high point of 203,500 stops in the first quarter of 2012 and comparing that with the 12,485 stops in the last quarter of 2013 - a decline that would not have been possible without the numbers ballooning earlier in Bloomberg's tenure."

Bloomberg said he later discovered that the stop-and-frisk policy had gotten out of control and ramped it down, but that claim misses some context. For starters, Bloomberg continued to defend the policy until recently, disowning it only before he joined the presidential race.

In addition, his administration was buffeted by lawsuits challenging the practice, and a federal judge ruled in 2013 that the way New York police officers were conducting the stop-and-frisks was unconstitutional. It was in the face of those legal challenges and rulings that New York reduced stops-and-frisks under Bloomberg.

 

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"Let's get something straight. The reason the stop-and-frisk changed is because Barack Obama sent moderators to see what was going on when we sent him there to say, 'This practice has to stop.' The mayor thought it was a terrible idea. We send them there, a terrible idea. Let's get the facts straight. Let's get the order straight. And it's not whether you apologize or not. It's the policy." - Former vice president Joe Biden

Biden's claim is misleading, stretching the minor role the Justice Department played in the legal proceedings over New York's stop-and-frisk policy under Bloomberg.

A federal judge, Shira Scheindlin, ruled in 2013 that the way New York police officers had been conducting stops-and-frisks of predominantly black and Hispanic men was unconstitutional. The ruling came amid a series of legal challenges brought by groups such as the ACLU.

The Justice Department under Obama filed a "statement of interest" months before Scheindlin's ruling. It took no position on whether stop-and-frisks violated constitutional rights.

"The United States takes no position on the fact-dependent first question of whether NYPD's stop-and-frisk practices violate constitutional standards such that Plaintiffs should prevail on the merits of their claims," the filing says. "The United States files this Statement of Interest only in order to assist the Court on the issue of remedy, and only should it find that NYPD's stop-and-frisk practices are unlawful."

The department said an independent monitor should be appointed in that case, something Bloomberg had opposed. The claim from Biden also suggests the White House was directing these moves from the Justice Department, which is typically verboten as prosecutors and department lawyers are supposed to exercise independence.

In response to Biden's debate claim, a top ACLU official tweeted: "One of the greatest movements I ever had the privilege of being a part of is the multiracial, multigenerational, multiethnic movement that rose in NYC against Bloomberg's racist policing program. That's what ended stop-and-frisk. Not Biden, not Obama."

 

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"You know that from the moment from the moment we passed that signature legislation, Mike called it a disgrace." - Biden

Biden gets this mostly right, but some context is required. In a speech in 2010, after the Affordable Care Act was passed, Bloomberg gave a speech at Dartmouth College.

"We passed a health care bill that does absolutely nothing to fix the big health-care problems in this country. It is just a disgrace," he said, according to a report by CNN. "The president, in all fairness, started out by pointing out what the big problems were, but then turned it over to Congress, which didn't pay any attention to any of those big problems and just created another program that's going to cost a lot of money."

He went on to say: "It's really sad because they say they've insured or provided coverage for another 45 million people. Except there's no doctors for 45 million more people and unless they fix immigration and let people who come here for medical education stay here, those people are just going to do the same thing. They're going to have to go to the emergency rooms where they've been except that now it's going to cost a lot more money."

As Bloomberg noted, he did write an opinion article for the Daily News supportive of a health-care overhaul bill.

 

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"You have been unusual among Democrats . . . the Democrat among all of the senators running for president, most likely to vote for Donald Trump's judges." - Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg

"I have opposed and not supported two thirds of the Trump judges. So get your numbers right and I am in the top 10 to 15 of opposing them." - Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

In this tiff over Senate votes for judges, Buttigieg and Klobuchar offered dueling statistics that were apples and oranges. He was comparing her to senators running for president, while she responded in terms of how she compared to all Senate Democrats.

Buttigieg was referring to her record in 2017-2018, which earned her an "F" rating from a left-leaning group, Demand Justice. The group said she voted for Trump's district court nominees 70 percent of the time when there were roll-call votes and supported nine of Trump's 31 circuit court nominees. Only three Democrats ranked lower on the list.

But Buttigieg was wrong in claiming that Klobuchar had the worst rating among senators running for president. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., who recently dropped out, was ranked two slots below her. He tied on the number of votes on district court nominees but voted for 11 circuit court nominees.

Brian Fallon, executive director of Demand Justice, tweeted: "Klobuchar was one of the worst Senate Democrats in 2017-2018 when it came to voting for Trump's judges. She has changed in 2019 since running for President. Which is welcome. But in 2017-2018, she supported two thirds of Trump nominees."

The Klobuchar campaign, citing a methodology that also counted voice votes, said she supported Trump's judges 33.5 percent of the time, which would place her as the seventh most-opposed Democrat. But ahead of her are five candidates who have run for president, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., leading the list. The only senator who ran for president who opposed fewer judges is again Bennet, under this accounting.

 

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"I'd like to talk about who we're running against, a billionaire who calls women 'fat broads' and 'horse-faced lesbians.' And, no, I'm not talking about Donald Trump. I'm talking about Mayor Bloomberg." - Warren

She was referring to this line in a booklet given to Mike Bloomberg on his 48th birthday, and recently published in The Washington Post, that supposedly included actual quotes made by Bloomberg, including this one:

"The Royal Family - what a bunch of misfits - a gay, an architect, that horsey faced lesbian, and a man who gave up Koo Stark for some fat broad."

 

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"We are giving voice to people who say we are sick and tired of billionaires like Mr. Bloomberg seeing huge expansions of their wealth while a half a million people sleep out on the street tonight." - Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

This is a favorite line of his - he used it twice during the debate - but the way Sanders frames it is exaggerated. His number came from a single-night survey done by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to measure the number of homeless people. For a single night in January 2018, the estimate was that 553,000 people are homeless.

But the report also says that two-thirds - nearly 360,000 - were in emergency shelters or transitional housing programs; the other 195,000 were "unsheltered" - i.e., on the street, as Sanders put it. The number has been trending down over the past decade. It was 650,000 in 2007.

 

 

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