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VERIFY: Fact-checking the first Democratic debate

Our VERIFY team fact-checked what the candidates said during the opening debate of the 2020 presidential campaign.

Ten Democrats seeking the presidency faced off on a Miami stage Wednesday night in the opening debate of the 2020 campaign, with 10 more on tap Thursday.

Our VERIFY researchers fact-checked what all ten candidates had to say in their pitches to the American people. 

CLAIM: Senator Booker said he had pledged to stop taking money from Corporate PACS and pharmaceutical groups.

This claim is VERIFIED, true.

In a June, 2017 interview, the senator told NPR that he had paused accepting donations from pharmaceutical companies in response to public criticism.

“"Well, we put a pause on even receiving contributions from pharma companies because it arouses so much criticism and just stopped taking it," Booker told NPR's Rachel Martin.”

According to data kept by the non-profit group Open Secrets, Booker had previously accepted donations from Pharmaceutical companies, but hasn’t received any since his announcement in 2017.

- Jason Puckett

Senator Elizabeth Warren made a claim that social media really noticed.

“There’s a $23 trillion market coming for green products…we should have that 1.2 million manufacturing jobs.”

That $23 trillion figure is VERIFIED, true.

Our researchers found a report from October 2018 from the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, which estimates that’s how much the green climate industry will be valued at by 2030. That includes things like clean energy, infrastructure and transportation.

Our Verify team could not trace the 1.2 million green manufacturing  figure. However, the International Labour Organization, a "tripartite U.N. agency" says that 24 million new jobs would be created globally by 2030 as the world moves towards a green economy"

- Eliana Block

CLAIM: Senator Booker said that Amazon and Halliburton paid no taxes last year.

This claim is VERIFIED, true, but only when talking about federal taxes.

Amazon and Haliburton are among 60 companies the Institute on Taxation and Economic Police listed as paying nothing in federal taxes. 

ITEP’s analysis did not include foreign, state, or local taxes. Netflix, for example, paid nothing in federal taxes but did pay $130 million in foreign taxes.

It’s true that these companies didn’t pay federal taxes in the U.S., but the claim that they paid “no taxes” is false.

SOURCE: Amazon 10-K filed to SEC and Halliburton 10-K filed to SEC 

- TJ Spry and Jason Puckett 

CLAIM: Senator Warren said that seven children die a day from gun violence

That claim is outdated, the number used to be seven, but has since dropped to six due to a change in how the data is calculated. 

The number Sen. Warren stated has been repeated for years. It was first documented in 2016 by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. They totaled gun deaths of people ages 0 through 18 from the years 2013 through 2014.

The total was about 7,838 people killed which averaged out to about 7.15 deaths per day.

Brady Campaign Data show that the numbers have been tested a few times since that 2016 report and the numbers have been roughly the same.

The current Brady Campaign Data no longer includes ages 17-19 in their total. The number in their most recent report shows that six children, not seven are killed each day.

- Jason Puckett 

CLAIM: Gov. Inslee said he was the first to create a public health care option in the U.S. 

This claim is VERIFIED, true.

Earlier this year Inslee became the first in the U.S. to sign into law legislation that would make Washington the first state to enter the private health insurance market with a universally available public option.

Washington’s plan is more of a hybrid model though, where the state dictates the terms of the public option plans but hire private insurance companies to administer them.

CLAIM: Representative Ryan said that “the bottom 60% haven’t seen a raise since 1980. The top 1% control 90% of the the wealth.”

The Congressman’s numbers on the top wealth percentage are wrong. His numbers about the bottom 60% not seeing a raise are misleading.

Data from the Congressional Budget Office show that the bottom 80% of Americans have actually seen income rise since 1979. There isn’t data specifically addressing the bottom 60%, so it’s impossible to completely invalidate the claim.

The Federal Reserve data shows that the richest 1% of the country control roughly 32% of the US wealth, not 90%.

- The Associated Press

CLAIM: Senator Cory Booker said during the debate that "we have a nation that has more African Americans under criminal supervision now than all the slaves in 1850." 

His team also tweeted that claim out during the debate. But is that striking figure accurate? 

Turns out, this isn't the first time he's used that phrase, but in every other case he makes this statement about African American MEN, specifically. So we're counting this one, as a slight slip-up. Our VERIFY researchers checked the 1850 census, which listed 872,924 African American male slaves between the ages of 15-100.

According to data from the Bureau of Justice, in 2016 there were 467,000 African American men incarcerated in state and federal prisons. Additionally, there were 289,208 African American men parolees, and 771,351 on probation.

So yes, we can VERIFY, that while Booker made a minor error in his delivery during the debate, it is true that more African American men are under police supervision now than the number of African American male slaves in 1850. 

- Eliana Block and Mia Salenetri 

CLAIM: Former U.S. Housing and Urban Development secretary Castro claimed that he would do something that hadn’t been done before and make sure women are legally paid equal to men.

Castro said, “I would do something starting with something we should have done a long time ago, which was to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. And also pursue legislation so women are paid equal pay for equal work in this country. It’s past time we do that.”

While data from the Bureau of Labor shows women earn, on average, 82 cents for every dollar a man earns, it is already illegal to pay men more than women since the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963.

It’s not clear whether Sec. Castro meant he would add new legislation to enforce these rules differently, but the claim that it is currently legal to pay men more than women is False.

Source: The Equal Pay Act of 1963

CLAIM: Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar claims for every dollar a white man earns, African American women make 61 cents.

The claim is VERIFIED, true.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the annual median income for non-Hispanic white males is $62,422 compared to the $37,479 annual median income for African American women. So by analyzing those numbers, African American women make nearly 60 cents to every dollar a white man makes.

- Jack Norcross 

CLAIM: Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar said that the prices for 2,500 drugs have gone up in double digits since President Trump took office. 

The claim is VERIFIED, true, according to a report from Pharmacy Benefits Consultants. The industry group listed many pharmaceutical products that experience price increases as high as 1,467%. 

Additionally, an investigation by the Associated Press found in the first seven months of 2018 there were 4,412 brand-name drugs with price increases. 

- Andrew Weil 

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