Seven candidates made the stage for Tuesday night’s debate in Charleston, South Carolina, taking place days ahead of the state’s Democratic primary — the first nominating contest in the South.
We’re fact-checking them in real time.
Did Bloomberg release his tax returns as New York City mayor?
“We had our tax returns out 12 years in a row,” Bloomberg said during the debate while pledging the same radical transparency as president.
That’s not exactly true. During his three terms as mayor of New York City, Bloomberg made highly redacted, vague versions of his tax documents available to reporters for a couple hours each year — not the full and complete returns. In fact, this reporter — more than a decade ago — was one of the many who reviewed those documents and attempted to glean details from the limited information provided.
Who wrote the bill?
No, not “Medicare for All.” Amy Klobuchar and Joe Biden got into it over who wrote which gun control bill before making it clear they wanted an independent arbiter.
“I am the author of the ‘boyfriend loophole’ that says that domestic abusers can’t go out and get an AK47,” Klobuchar said.
“I wrote that law,” Biden interjected.
“You didn’t write that bill. I wrote that bill,” Klobuchar said.
“I did. I wrote the bill the Violence Against Women Act that took out of the hands of people who abused their —” Biden said.
“We’ll have a fact-check look at that,” Klobuchar fired back.
As a senator, Biden wrote the Violence Against Women Act, which stopped people who were convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from buying guns. But it only covers certain relationships, like married couples or those who have children with their victim. Klobuchar wrote a bill that would close that loophole by including stalkers or dating partners who aren’t already covered.
So while Biden’s off the mark in the beginning, he catches up in the end. He’s right to note that the VAWA is stalled in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not acted on three gun control bills passed by the Democratic-controlled House in 2019. Last February, the House passed a law closing the “Charleston loophole,” which allows the sale of a firearm if a background check is not completed within three days. It’s a loophole that allowed Dylann Roof to obtain the weapon he used to murder nine people at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015. Last March, the House passed a bill that would expand background checks for gun purchases to include buys made at gun shows, online and other private sales.
And in April 2019, the House voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act with new language that would close the so-called boyfriend loophole Klobuchar mentioned — a change opposed by the powerful National Rifle Association.
Did Sanders vote five times against the Brady Bill?
Joe Biden hammered Bernie Sanders over his record on guns multiple times Tuesday night, while Sanders defended himself as a reliable supporter of gun control.
“Walking distance from here is Mother Emanuel church,” Biden said. “Nine people shot dead by a white supremacist. Bernie voted five times against the Brady Bill, and wanted a waiting period — no, let me finish — a waiting period of 12 hours.”
It’s true that Sanders has had a voting record that many gun control advocates consider checkered, aligning more fully with the Democratic Party on the issue in recent years. And he did vote against multiple iterations of the Brady Bill that required waiting periods for people buying guns — five times in total, according to PolitiFact.
Biden also hit Sanders for his 2005 vote to shield gun manufacturers and dealers from legal liabilities, which Sanders was asked by a debate moderator.
“I have cast thousands of votes, including bad votes. That was a bad vote,” Sanders acknowledged.
He went on to defend his record: “I have today a D- voting record from the NRA. Thirty years ago, I likely lost a race for the one seat for Congress in Vermont because 30 years ago, I opposed— I supported a ban on assault weapons.”
While Sanders is right that his most recent rating from the NRA is a D- and he did lose his 1988 congressional race, multiple outlets have said the reason he lost isn’t so clear cut.
When did Bloomberg scale back stop-and-frisk?
Mike Bloomberg again claimed Tuesday night that he reined in the use of stop-and-frisk after it got “out of control.”
“We let it get out of control, and when I realized that, I cut it back by 95 percent and I’ve apologized and asked for forgiveness,” he said.
This is still a false representation of events. Bloomberg championed and expanded the stop-and-frisk policing practice — the strategy that gave police the authority to detain people suspected of committing a crime and led to a practice of stopping mostly black and Hispanic men — during his three terms of mayor of New York City.
The practice was scaled back significantly thanks to a 2013 court order declaring the policy unconstitutional, not Bloomberg’s change of heart.
Is half of America living paycheck to paycheck?
Sanders argued that the economy wasn’t working for working people Tuesday, claiming that “real wage increases” were less than 1 percent for the average worker and that “half of our people are living paycheck to paycheck.” Is he right?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, real average hourly earnings increased 0.6 percent for the year that ended in 2019. Meanwhile, it’s true that several studies have found that roughly half of all Americans live paycheck to paycheck — here’s one from this year and another from last year.
Did two states kick hundreds of thousands of people off the voting rolls?
“Wisconsin has kicked hundreds of thousands of people off of their voting rolls. Georgia kicked 100,000 off,” Amy Klobuchar said Tuesday.
It’s true that Georgia recently purged 100,000 inactive voters off the voting rolls, but Wisconsin hasn’t yet actually completed its purge yet: the voter registration of more than 200,000 Wisconsin voters is caught up in litigation and an appeals court put the planned purge on hold last month.
It’s important to note that purges — the elimination of inactive voters off the rolls — are a normal part of roll maintenance. Voting rights activists say purges must be done carefully, however, so that active voters aren’t caught up in them. There is some indication that the proposed Wisconsin voter roll purge and Georgia’s aggressive purges are indeed catching active voters.