Fact Checking the 10th Democratic Presidential Debate

CHARLESTON, S.C. — The 10th Democratic presidential debate was held on Tuesday night and just about every candidate was fielding punches.

The last debate before a crucial stage of the primaries was an unruly affair at times as the Democratic presidential contenders powered past the moderators in a scramble to take credit and occasionally dodge blame on a range of subjects. Distortions ensued.

In fact, former Vice President Joe Biden made a major flub, attacking U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the current frontrunner. Biden’s press team came to his rescue and said he misspoke while talking about gun control.

JOE BIDEN: “A hundred and fifty million people have been killed since 2007 when Bernie voted to exempt the gun manufacturers from liability.”

FACTS: That number, 150 million, is completely off the charts. That is just under half the U.S. population.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is 413,403 and that includes accidental firearm deaths from 2007 to 2018.

More than half of the gun deaths in 2018 were from suicide, says the CDC.

After the debate, the former vice president’s press team said he meant to say 150,000, instead of million.

That is the number of firearm homicides and it is in line with CDC data.

Still talking about gun control, Biden had better luck with this punch back about the Brady Bill, which encompasses background checks and waiting periods.

JOE BIDEN: “Bernie voted five times against the Brady Bill.”

FACTS: PolitiFact rated this same claim back in 2015 and found that Sanders did indeed vote five times against versions of the Brady Bill between 1991 and 1993.

Let’s look at some other things that were said during the debate.

BERNIE SANDERS: “What every study out there — conservative or progressive — says, ‘Medicare for All’ will save money.”

THE FACTS: Not true. Some studies say that, some do not.

Sanders, a Vermont senator, cites a recent medical journal article in The Lancet, which estimated “Medicare for All” would save more than $450 billion annually, or about 13 percent.

But other studies have found a Sanders-like single-payer plan would cost more, partly because free health care would increase the demand for services.

A study last fall from the Commonwealth Fund and the Urban Institute estimated that such a plan would increase national health spending by about $720 billion. A Rand study estimated spending would increase 1.8 percent under a national single-payer plan.

AMY KLOBUCHAR on Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-For-All Care Plan: “The Medicare-For-All Care plan, alone, on page eight clearly says that it’ll kick 149 million Americans off their current health insurance in four years.”

FACTS: According to one prominent healthcare researcher, the Minnesota senator is correct.

A 2014 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 149 million non-elderly Americans had employer-sponsored insurance, which, under Sanders’ proposed bill, would be banned.

A 2017 estimate by the census bureau shows more than 181 million Americans had employee-based insurance.

BERNIE SANDERS: “We have a criminal justice system today that is not only broken, it is racist.  We’ve got more people in jail than any other country on Earth, including China.”

FACTS: This is accurate. According to data from the International Centre for Prison Studies, the U.S. is number one in the world for incarcerated people, at nearly 2.2 million.

China is in second place, with more than 1.5 million prisoners.

AMY KLOBUCHAR: “I am the author of the bill to close the boyfriend loophole that says that domestic abusers can’t go out and get an AK-47.”

BIDEN: “I wrote that law.”

KLOBUCHAR: “You didn’t write that bill, I wrote that bill.”

BIDEN: “I wrote the bill, the Violence Against Women Act, that took (guns) out of the hands of people who abused their wife.”

KLOUBCHAR: “OK we’ll have a fact check look at this.”

BIDEN: “No, let’s look at the fact check. The only thing (is) that that boyfriend loophole was not covered, I couldn’t get that covered. You, in fact, as a senator tried to get it covered and Mitch McConnell is holding it up on his desk right now.”

THE FACTS: Klobuchar, a Minnesota senator, correctly called out the former vice president for seeming to take credit for legislation closing the “boyfriend loophole.” Biden conceded the point, then correctly pointed out that the loophole has not been eliminated in law.

In short, Biden did write the legislation that became the Violence Against Women Act, one of his most prominent achievements. The 1994 law sets out services and specific protections for victims of domestic violence.

Klobuchar took the lead in the Senate on legislation passed by the House that would extend the law’s protections to help women who are threatened by abusive partners who are not a spouse, ex-spouse or parent of a common child — in other words, boyfriends or dating partners. But that effort, opposed by the National Rifle Association, has been hung up in the Senate.

MIKE BLOOMBERG, responding to Elizabeth Warren’s demand that he lift non-disclosure agreements for all women who signed them: “We are doing that, senator.”

THE FACTS: He has not done that.

Bloomberg agreed to release three women from non-disclosure agreements in situations where they specifically identified an issue with him. However, many more former Bloomberg employees have signed such agreements, having to do with the culture and work environment at his company. He has not freed them from their obligation to stay quiet about their complaints.

ELIZABETH WARREN: “At least I didn’t have a boss who said to me ‘kill it’ the way that Mayor Bloomberg is alleged to have said to one of his pregnant employees.”

BLOOMBERG: “I never said that.”

THE FACTS: The woman who made the allegation against Bloomberg recounted it in a legal filing.

Former Bloomberg employee Sekiko Sekai Garrison, 55, filed a complaint against Mike Bloomberg and his company with the New York Division of Human Rights in 1995. In Garrison’s written complaint, she recounted several personal interactions with Bloomberg when she worked at the company.

In one incident, Garrison said Bloomberg approached her near the office coffee machines and asked if she was still married, according to the complaint.

Garrison says she responded that her marriage was great and that she was pregnant with her first child, and alleged that Bloomberg replied: “Kill it.” Bloomberg has denied that the exchange happened, but in her complaint, she transcribed a voicemail she says Bloomberg later left on her voicemail, apologizing and saying he meant the “kill it” remark as a joke. Her complaint was eventually settled as part of a lawsuit with no admission of guilt, and she resigned from the company.

BLOOMBERG, on China’s president, Xi Jinping: “In terms of whether he’s a dictator, he does serve at the behest of the Politburo, their group of people. There’s no question he has an enormous amount of power. But he does play to his constituency.”

THE FACTS: He’s minimizing Xi’s broad powers in China.

Xi serves as the head of the ruling Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee and is also head of state and leader of the party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army. The Politburo and its standing committee are not generally viewed as a check on his power. Although Xi’s moves to accumulate power have been criticized by some non-party intellectuals, he faces no clear rivals or constraints on his power.

However, a faltering economy and the knock-on effects of the coronavirus outbreak that originated in China are seen as placing him under greater pressure than he has previously faced.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.