Fact Checking The Democratic Debates in Nevada

LAS VEGAS — Democrats graced the stage on Wednesday night in the latest presidential Democratic debates. They made a lot of claims that require a fact check, so let’s see which claims are true, false or somewhere in the middle.

Wednesday night’s Democratic debate was arguably the most aggressive one in the party’s yearlong search for a nominee.

The candidates took aim at debate newcomer Michael Bloomberg, who had to defend his divisive record on race and women.

JOE BIDEN’s claim about Mike Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk policy:

“He has stop-and-frisk, throwing close to five million young black men up against a wall.”

MIKE BLOOMBERG, on the stop-and-frisk policing policy when he was New York mayor: “What happened, however, was it got out of control and when we discovered — I discovered — that we were doing many, many, too many stop and frisks, we cut 95 percent of them out.”

THE FACTS: The former vice president is citing a number incorrectly.

Police made almost 5-million stops when Bloomberg was mayor of New York City, according to the city’s branch of the ACLU. Of those stops, 2.6-million involved black Americans. The report goes on to say that nearly nine out of 10 stopped-and-frisked New Yorkers were ultimately found to have been innocent.

However, what Bloomberg said is a distortion of how stop and frisk declined. That happened because of a court order, not because Bloomberg learned that it was being overused.

In Bloomberg’s first 10 years in office, the number of stop-and-frisk actions increased nearly 600 percent from when he took office in 2002, reaching a peak of nearly 686,000 stops in 2011. That declined to about 192,000 documented stops in 2013, his final year as mayor.

Bloomberg achieved his claim of a 95 percent cut by cherry-picking the quarterly high point of 203,500 stops in the first quarter of 2012 and comparing that with the 12,485 stops in the last quarter of 2013.

The former mayor defended the practice even after leaving office at the end of 2013 and only apologized for it a few weeks before declaring his candidacy for presidency.

BERNIE SANDERS’ claim on Bloomberg’s party past:

“Maybe we should also ask how Mayor Bloomberg, in 2004, supported George W. Bush for president, put money into Republican candidates for the United States Senate when some of us, Joe and I and others, were fighting for Democrats to control the United States Senate.”

THE FACTS: Sanders is correct here.

Bloomberg was a registered Republican at the time and appeared at the National Convention in 2004.

He has flip-flopped parties a few times. Before 2001, he was a Democrat. Then from 2001 to 2007, a Republican, and an Independent after that. He registered again as a Democrat in 2018.

MIKE BLOOMBERG, citing his philanthropy’s work with the Sierra Club: “Already we’ve closed 304 out of the 530 coal fire plants in the United States, and we’ve closed 80 out of the 200 or 300 that are in Europe.”

THE FACTS: He is wrongly taking credit for driving the U.S. coal industry to its knees.

The U.S. coal industry’s plunge is largely due to market forces, above all drops in prices of natural gas and renewable energy that have made costlier coal-fired power plants much less competitive for electric utilities. Bloomberg has indeed contributed huge sums to efforts to close coal plants and fight climate change, but against the backdrop of an industry besieged on other fronts.

U.S. coal production peaked in 2008, but since then has fallen steadily. That’s due largely to a boom in oil and gas production from U.S. shale, begun under the Obama administration, that made natural gas far more abundant and cheaper, and falling prices for wind and solar energy, partly because of improving technology in the renewable sector.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reaffirmed in a report in December the extent to which the market has turned away from coal.

ELIZABETH WARREN: Claim about Bloomberg calling women ‘fat broads’ and ‘horse-faced lesbians’

“A billionaire who calls women fat broads and horsed face lesbians, and no I’m not talking about Trump I’m talking about mayor Bloomberg.”

THE FACTS: The senator is referencing a quote from a booklet of alleged Bloomberg-isms gifted from an employee to Bloomberg for his birthday in 1990.

The introduction of the book says, “these are all actual quotes,” according to CNN. Bloomberg has denied saying any of them.

MIKE BLOOMBERG’S claim about his record on women:

“In City Hall, the person that’s the top person, my deputy mayor, was a woman, and forty percent of our commissioners were women.”

THE FACTS: Bloomberg is right about his deputy mayor, but the claim about his commissioners is tricky. 

There are 34 department heads in New York City, but there are also many others given the commissioner title. We found a 2007 article that listed 40 women on the Commission for Women’s Issues, with all of them carrying the title “commissioner.” 

CNN reported that Warren wanted Bloomberg to release women who signed nondisclosure agreements regarding accusations that the former mayor allegedly made sexist and misogynistic remarks around and towards women. 

ELIZABETH WARREN: Buttigieg’s health care plan is “a thin version of a plan.”

PETE BUTTIGIEG: His own proposal “is the plan that solves the problem.”

THE FACTS: Warren, a Massachusetts senator, is quick to dismiss a plan that would cover virtually all U.S. citizens and legal residents.

An analysis of health care overhaul plans by the Urban Institute and the Commonwealth Fund found that an approach like the one advocated by Buttigieg, a former South Bend, Indiana, mayor, would reduce the number of uninsured people from 32 million to below 7 million, mainly people without legal permission to be in the country.

The proposal from Buttigieg features a new government-sponsored “public option” plan that even people with employer-sponsored coverage could join voluntarily.

AMY KLOBUCHAR on her winning elections in Republican-held areas:

“I’m the one on this stage that had the highest voter turnout of any state in the country when I led the ticket, as well as bringing in rural and suburban voters. And I’ve done that as well. And I’m the only one with the receipts to have done that in Republican congressional districts over and over again.” 

THE FACTS: This is partly true. While Minnesota has the highest voter turnout rate of any state during her Senate campaign runs, she is not the only Democratic candidate who has won Republican-control districts.

For example, Biden has won in Republican congressional districts. 

“Biden first won the 1972 election to be senator from Delaware and was repeatedly re-elected to serve in that position by considerable margins until he became vice president in 2009. During that time, Delaware’s sole congressional district was held by Republicans from 1973 to 1983, and from 1993 to 2011,” stated CNN.

The Associated Press and CNN contributed to this story.