False! Fact Checking The Democrat Debate

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Like all political speeches, rallies, and debates, Thursday’s Democratic debate was full of hyperbole, fearmongering, and lies. Here is a fact check of some of the more important things said on that stage, some true and some false. Though this is by no means an exhaustive list, these are, in my mind, the key points of review from that debate.

Beto O’Rourke, on gun control and the El Paso shooting: “[The El Paso shooting was committed] by a man carrying a weapon he should never have been able to get in the first place.” 

The weapon was manufactured and sold illegally. (link) The shooter had failed background checks trying to purchase legally. The laws on the books failed to stop this. Rating: False 

Warren, on ambitious social programs, including universal healthcare: “How are we going to pay for it? Those at the very top, the richest individuals and the biggest corporations are going to pay more, and middle-class families are going to pay less.” 

If we look at the numbers crunched by the Washington Post (link) based on Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s plan of a tax rate of 70% for those with an annual income above $10 million, we’d be looking at $720 billion over 10 years. By comparison, universal healthcare would cost $32 trillion over 10 years. Warren would have to be pretty magical to not only pay for that by increasing taxes on the rich but to also lower taxes on the middle class at the same time. Rating: False 

Klobuchar, on health care reform: “While Bernie wrote the bill, I read the bill. And on page 8, it says we will no longer have private insurance as we know it.” 

It’s true. Title I, section 107, subsection a of Bernie’s bill (link) states “Beginning on the effective date described in section 106(a), it shall be unlawful for (1) a private health insurer to sell health insurance coverage that duplicates the benefits provided under this Act; or (2) an employer to provide benefits for an employee, former employee, or the dependents of an employee or former employee that duplicate the benefits provided under this Act.” Rating: True 

Booker, on criminal justice reform: “We have more African-Americans under criminal supervision today than all the slaves in 1850.” There were 23 million people in America in 1850, 3.2 million of whom were slaves, according to the 1850 US Census. There were 308 million people as of the last census. According to the NAACP (link), 2.2 million African-Americans are incarcerated. If we expand that to include people on probation, it’s around 4 million. While a larger sum, it’s a much, much smaller percentage. Rating: True, but misleading 

Harris, on gun control, says she will ban the importation of “AR-15-style assault weapons.” Armalite is headquartered in Geneseo, Illinois, and owned by Strategic Armory, who is based out of Phoenix, Arizona. Rating: I doubt it

Booker, on gun control: “Mass shootings are tragedies, but the majority of the homicide victims come from neighborhoods like mine.” 

As Everytown For Gun Safety (link) admits, 31% of gun murders occurred in 50 cities, with those cities comprising only 6% of the US population. Half of gun murders took place in those plus an additional 77 cities, combining to hold less than a quarter of Americans. Rating: True 

Biden, on the Obama administration and immigration: “We didn’t lock people up in cages, we didn’t separate families, we didn’t do all of those things.” 

While the family separation policy was the Trump administration, the idea that there were no holding cells at the border under Barack Obama is ludicrous. In fact, some of the pictures used to hit the Trump administration are actually from the Obama presidency, as proven by this AP fact check: https://www.apnews.com/a98f26f7c9424b44b7fa927ea1acd4d4. Moreover, this defense of the Obama administration by Biden is flawed. The administration deported more illegal immigrants than any other (so far), at 2.9 million (link). Rating: False 

Sanders, on median income: “The average American today… is not making a penny more than he or she made 45 years ago.” 

In today’s dollars, the average American is making about $10k more than he or she would’ve made 45 years ago (link). That’s a rise of 20%. Maybe $10k isn’t a lot to the millionaire Bernie Sanders, but to the average American, that’s quite a few pennies. This is without accounting for the rise in quality of life regardless of income. Rating: False 

Klobuchar, on executive action: “[The president] can do all that without Congress, which is good.” No, it isn’t. Rating: False

Sanders, on education: “We have the highest child poverty rate of any country on earth.” 

First of all, we have to address what “child poverty rate” means. Per the OECD (link), it defines the percentage of children with a household disposable income below the poverty threshold, which is 50% of the median disposable income in each country. So it isn’t global extreme poverty, it’s poverty relative to success. Additionally, the OECD link above shows that no, our child poverty rate is lower than countries like Turkey, Costa Rica, Brazil, or China, and more comparable to Canada than those countries. This is without data from places not in the OECD, which tend to be much poorer. Rating: False.

Sanders, on Venezuela: “To equate what is going on in Venezuela with what I believe is extremely unfair.” 

Sanders praised the late-dictator Nicolas Madura in 2003 (link) and more recently in 2011 said: “These days, the American dream is more apt to be realized in South America, in places such as Ecuador, Venezuela, and Argentina….” (link). Life’s unfair, commie. Rating: False.

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Andrew Bartholomew

Andrew Bartholomew is a politics and election news writer from Iowa City, Iowa. He has previously worked for Young Americans for Liberty and was most recently the political director for a Republican congressional bid.


  1. […] Tuesday’s debate was full of ideological statements, a lot of opinions, and a lot of speculation. Concrete statements were sparse, and instead we saw a lot of political tip-toeing (such as Elizabeth Warren refusing to answer whether her Medicare-for-all plan would involve a tax increase on the middle class). Hopefully we answered a few questions here, and in our fact check on the previous debate. […]

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