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FactChecking the New Hampshire Democratic Debate

Summary

Four days before the New Hampshire primary, seven Democratic presidential candidates debated. We found factual distortions on several issues:

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden said Sen. Bernie Sanders “voted to give the gun manufacturers … a loophole that does not allow them to be sued for the crimes they have created.” The law generally shields gun makers from civil lawsuits resulting from the misuse of firearms or ammunition, but it does include some exceptions to allow for suits.
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar accused former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg of flip-flopping on support for Medicare for All, citing a 2018 tweet in which Buttigieg said he supported it “indubitably.” Buttigieg says he supports a Medicare-for-all-who-want-it plan, which he says would put the U.S. on a “glide path” that leads to “a Medicare for All environment.”
  • Businessman Tom Steyer claimed that President Barack Obama got “Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions.” Iran agreed to a nuclear deal, but its intent is unknown. The agreement could delay, rather than end, its ambition.
  • Sanders once again trotted out some of his well-worn claims about health care, including the false idea that the U.S. spends more than twice as much per capita as “any other country” on health care. Six other nations spend more than half of what the U.S. does. 
  • Sanders also claimed that there are 87 million Americans who are uninsured or underinsured — a statistic that includes more than 19 million people who have insurance, but who had gaps in coverage the preceding year — and that there are half a million people “going bankrupt … [b]ecause they have cancer or heart disease, or Alzheimer’s.” That tally is for filings in which medical expenses or bills contributed to the bankruptcy; it does not necessarily mean medical factors were the only reason.
  • Biden again claimed he voted to authorize military action against Iraq in 2002 after President Bush “said he was not going to go into Iraq.” In fact, Bush said war “may” be required.
  • Biden boasted of coordinating the withdrawal of 156,000 U.S. troops from Iraq during Obama’s first term, but was silent on sending 5,000 U.S. troops back to fight Islamic State insurgents during the second term.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren again pitched her “2-cent” wealth tax, but neglected to mention that it would be a 6% tax on net worth over $1 billion.
  • Biden and Sanders argued over the cost of Sanders’ Medicare for All plan, but they again talked past each other. The plan would cost “double” current federal health spending, per some estimates, as Biden said;

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