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Fact Checking The GOP Debate


Now to last night's Republican presidential debate. Voters might have questions about some of the claims the candidates made, so we've invited Bill Adair back to the program. He's the editor of the nonpartisan fact-checking website PolitiFact.com. Bill, welcome back.

BILL ADAIR: Thanks for having me.

BLOCK: Let's start with those numbers 9-9-9. Herman Cain was pressed on his tax plan. Moderator Anderson Cooper of CNN asked him how he would respond to claims from some prominent conservatives who say the plan would actually raise taxes on middle class and lower income voters. And let's listen to how Herman Cain responded.


BLOCK: Bill Adair, where does Herman Cain's defense there rate on your truth-o-meter, as you say.

ADAIR: That one got a false, particularly looking at whether it does not raise taxes on those that are making the least. It was very timely yesterday, the Tax Policy Center, a well-regarded independent group of experts put out a report that said just the opposite, that the overwhelming majority of Americans would face an increase in taxes, particularly people in the lower income range where anywhere from 84 to almost 100 percent of filers in the up to $30,000 a year would face an increase in taxes.

By contrast, it's a great plan, though, if you're a millionaire and the overwhelming majority of millionaires would get a cut that would average about a half million dollars. So, it really is a regressive tax system.

BLOCK: In that group who would face an increase are many Americans who currently pay no income taxes at all.

ADAIR: Exactly. And that's important to recognize that about half of all Americans pay no income tax because of tax credits for children and assorted other tax credits and deductions that take their tax liability down to zero.

BLOCK: For the lowest income Americans?


BLOCK: OK. Bill, a lot of the Republican candidates have been attacking Mitt Romney about his health care plan when he was governor of Massachusetts. And last night was no different. Let's listen to how Mitt Romney responded to Rick Santorum.


BLOCK: A three to one margin in Massachusetts of public approval for the healthcare plan. What did you find?

ADAIR: He's right. That one got a true on the truth-o-meter. Indeed, the latest survey from the Harvard School of Public Health and the Boston Globe shows exactly that, 63 to 21 percent favor the plan. And interestingly, the support for the plan has actually grown. It was two to one before. So, Romney's right. The people of Massachusetts like it.

BLOCK: Mitt Romney took a lot of heat from Rick Perry of Texas last night. And, Bill, you truth-squadded one of Perry's attacks on Romney and that was that he personally had hired illegal immigrants. Let's take a listen to how Romney responded to that.


BLOCK: Now, Bill Adair, this recycles a story that came up some years back, right?

ADAIR: Exactly. We fact-checked this back during the 2008 campaign when Romney was running. It started with the revelation by the Boston Globe that Romney had hired a landscaping firm that employed illegal immigrants. And when he found out about it, Romney says that he told the firm to stop employing illegal immigrants and that went on for about a year. The company continued to do work on his property. And at the end of that, apparently it was discovered that the company was still employing illegal immigrants. And at that point, Romney says he fired the company.

We rated Romney's claim mostly false. This was a tough call for us. We had some debate about whether it should be half true or mostly false. But ultimately, the issue here was that this firm was doing work for him, Romney was interacting with these workers, and we felt that it was, indeed, that they were doing work for him.

BLOCK: So when he says I don't think I've ever hired an illegal in my life...

ADAIR: That's what we rated mostly false.

BLOCK: Rick Perry has been touting his own jobs record in Texas. And in last night's debate, Mitt Romney countered those job creation numbers in Texas with this claim. Let's take a listen.


BLOCK: So Governor Perry calling that an absolute falsehood. Bill.

ADAIR: Well, not quite an absolute falsehood. We rated it half true. Romney is citing a study by the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that wants to reduce illegal immigration. So, obviously this is a group with a position on the issue. And the group used a pretty small sample to come up with a couple of different numbers. The one Romney cited is the highest one, based on the gross number.

But if you look at the actual - another way of calculating it which would be the number of net illegal immigrants, it would be about 27 percent. So it's not as high as Romney says. Also, there are just questions about whether the study really is a thorough look at the issue, so we rated it half-true.

BLOCK: OK. Bill Adair, editor of the nonpartisan fact-checking website, PolitiFact.com, checking on some of the claims made in last night's Republican presidential debate. Bill, thanks very much.

ADAIR: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.