ST. LOUIS - In a sometimes nasty second presidential debate, there were again several calls by the candidates for fact-checkers to referee competing statements, which we are happy to oblige. But even when Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton weren’t calling out each other on the facts, we found many of their uncontested claims to be misleading or false.
• Clinton exaggerated when she said the U.S. was now “energy independent.” The country imported 11% of total energy consumed in 2015.
• Trump falsely said he never tweeted “check out a sex tape” in the wee hours of the morning a few days after the first presidential debate. He did.
• Trump told Clinton “after getting the subpoena” to turn over documents related to the Benghazi investigation “you delete 33,000 emails.” A contractor managing Clinton’s server deleted the emails. There is no evidence Clinton knew when they were deleted.
• Trump also said Clinton’s emails were “acid washed,” calling it a “very expensive process.” Neither statement is true. The emails were deleted using a free software program that does not involve the use of chemicals.
• Clinton said there is “no evidence that anyone hacked the server I was using.” That is true, but the FBI said it was “possible” that her email system was hacked because she sent and received emails in “the territory of sophisticated adversaries.”
• Clinton said intelligence officials said this week that Russians were behind political hacking attacks in the U.S. Trump said, “She doesn’t know if Russia is doing the hacking.” Clinton is closer to the truth.
• Clinton claimed she was holding up Abraham Lincoln as an example of leadership when she defended “back room” deals. Turns out, she did.
• Trump distorted the facts about a rape case that Clinton was involved in as a legal aid lawyer in 1975, wrongly accusing Clinton of “laughing at” the victim.
• Both candidates distorted the other’s tax plan. Trump said Clinton was “raising everybody’s taxes massively,” when two analyses concluded almost all of the tax increases she proposes would fall on the top 10%. And Clinton claimed Trump’s plan “would end up raising taxes on middle class families.” Some families would see increased taxes, but on average middle-income taxpayers would get a tax cut.
• Trump wrongly claimed that Clinton’s 2008 campaign manager said on TV that the campaign had started the false rumor that Obama was not born in the U.S.
• Trump wrongly claimed that Clinton wanted to implement a government-run, “single-payer,” health care system, like Canada’s, and he cherry-picked high proposed premium increases in the Affordable Care Act exchanges.
• Clinton went too far in saying an ACA provision to allow young adults to stay on their parents plans until age 26 was “something that didn’t happen before.” At least 31 states had similar provisions before the law was enacted.
• Trump said that “Ambassador [Chris] Stevens sent 600 requests for help” before he was killed in an attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, in September 2012. But not all 600 were requests for security upgrades, nor were they all from Stevens.
• The candidates disagreed over Clinton’s role in a U.S. response to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons. Both had a point. Clinton was in office when President Obama said Assad’s use of chemical weapons would cross a “red line for us,” but she was gone when Obama failed to back up his threat.
• Clinton claimed that since the Great Recession the gains have all gone to the top, but a 2016 economic report said that in 2014 and 2015 “the incomes of bottom 99% families have finally started recovering in earnest.”
• Trump again claimed without evidence that “many people saw the bombs all over the apartment” of the San Bernardino shooters.
And there were more claims that we’ve heard before on trade, foreign affairs and nuclear weapons.
The second of three presidential debates was held on Oct. 9 at Washington University in St. Louis. The much-anticipated town-hall-style matchup came as both candidates were facing renewed scrutiny: Trump for lewd comments about women made in 2005 but just released on Oct. 7, and Clinton for the public release of hacked emails from her campaign. As in the first debate, we found plenty of distortions of fact.