The Republican Party gathered in Cleveland on Thursday for the fourth night of its convention, and CNN’s Reality Check Team put the speakers’ statements and assertions to the test.
The team of reporters, researchers and editors across CNN listened throughout the speeches and selected key statements, rating them true; mostly true; true, but misleading; false; or it’s complicated.
Reality Check: Trump on police officers killed
By Sonam Vashi, CNN
“The number of police officers killed in the line of duty has risen by almost 50% compared to this point last year,” the Republican nominee said.
Even with the recent, tragic shootings of police in Dallas and Baton Rouge, the number of officers killed in the line of duty is actually about the same as this point last year, according to data from the Officer Down Memorial Page. If we look at just police killed by gunfire, 31 officers have been killed this year, compared with 17 killed in the first seven months of 2015. That’s an 82% increase.
But using percent-increase stats for such small data sets can be misleading, and 2015 was one of the safest years for police officers in history. Regarding police officers killed by gunfire during the past decade, the annual average of deaths is about 50 per year. If police deaths continued at the current rate this year, we would expect about 56 police shooting deaths in 2016. That number is not too far from the annual average, even though fatal shootings of police are up from last year.
To the families and friends of those slain police officers, the statistics likely do not matter.
We’re going to rate Trump’s claim about police deaths as true, but misleading, because even though police shooting deaths are up by a significant amount from this time last year, they are not far off from the annual average.
Reality Check: Trump on the state of the economy
By Ryan Browne and Tami Luhby, CNN
Trump made a series of claims about the current state of the American economy, focusing particularly on the fortunes of Hispanics and African-Americans.
“Nearly four in 10 African-American children are living in poverty,” Trump said.
According to the 2014 US Census, 36% of black youth under 18 were indeed living in poverty.
That’s close enough, therefore we rate his claim as true.
Trump also said that “58% of African-American youth are not employed.”
The left-leaning Economic Policy Institute last year found that 51.3% of black and 36.1% Hispanic high school graduates, age 17 to 20, were underemployed. That means they either don’t have a job, aren’t working as many hours as they would like or aren’t currently looking for work but would like a job.
The comparable number for whites was 33.8%.
The official unemployment rate for black youth, age 16 to 24, is 14.9%. For Hispanic youth, it’s 11.6%, while for white youth, it’s 10%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The government data is not limited to high school graduates and has a wider age range.
By comparison, the overall national unemployment rate is 4.9%.
The EPI underemployment number is relatively close to 58%, but Trump said “not employed” as opposed to under employed. The unemployment number is 14.9%, three times the national average, but still not 58%. Therefore, the verdict is false.
And regarding Hispanics, Trump said that there are “2 million more Latinos are in poverty today than when the President took his oath of office less than eight years ago.”
According to the US Census, from 2008-2014, the number of Hispanics living in poverty grew by slightly more than 2 million during that period.
As a result, Trump’s claim is true.
Trump also talked about the challenge of Americans leaving the workforce, saying, “Another 14 million people have left the workforce entirely.”
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics does indeed say that from January 2009 to June 2015, an additional 13,988,000 people left the workforce, so Trump’s number of 14 million is correct.
However, Trump seems to imply that the increase is tied to a poor economy, while it is possible that some of the growth is due to economic factors; a significant portion is also due to the aging and large-scale retirement of baby boomers, the large subset of Americans born between 1946 and 1964.
Therefore we rate this verdict true, but misleading.
Reality Check: Timing of Iran nuclear deal
By Jamie Crawford, CNN
Trump seemed to criticize the timing of the international deal over Iran’s nuclear program, saying it occurred just after the seizure of 10 US Navy sailors by Iranian forces after their vessels strayed into Iranian waters.
“We all remember the images of our sailors being forced to their knees by their Iranian captors at gunpoint. This was just prior to the signing of the Iran deal, which gave back to Iran $150 billion and gave us absolutely nothing — it will go down in history as one of the worst deals ever negotiated,” Trump said.
The landmark agreement between Iran, the United States and five other governments was reached in Vienna, Austria, on July 14, 2015, after over two years of negotiations over the final contours of the agreement, but it was not until January 12 of this year that 10 US Navy sailors were held for hours in Iran after two small U.S. naval vessels entered Iranian waters.
Trump may be referring to the actual implementation of the nuclear deal on January 16, just four days after the incident with the sailors, when the deal entered into full force following a determination that Iran had completed the necessary steps in a deal to restrict its nuclear program, which allowed for the lifting of international sanctions against Iran to begin.
Although the actual implementation of the deal with Iran occurred four days after the incident with the US sailors, Trump referenced the signing of the deal which occurred the previous July. We rate his comments as false.
Reality Check: Vetting Syrian refugees
By Sonam Vashi, CNN
Trump repeated a claim we’ve heard several times.
“My opponent has called for a radical 550% increase in Syrian — think of this, this is not believable but this is what’s happening. A 550% increase in Syrian refugees on top of existing massive refugee flows coming into our country already under the leadership President Obama,” he said. “She proposes this despite the fact that there’s no way to screen these refugees in order to find out who they are or where they come from.”
In September 2015, the White House announced it planned to admit10,000 Syrian refugees this fiscal year. Shortly after that, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the US would gradually increase the total number of refugees accepted from any country to 100,000 in 2017 from the current cap of 70,000.
Since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, fewer than 2,500 Syrian refugees had been admitted to the US as of last year. More than half of those refugees are children, according to senior administration officials.
On CBS News’ “Face the Nation” last September, presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was asked if the current US plan to increase the number of admitted Syrian refugees to 10,000 was enough. She replied, “I would like to see us move from what is a good start with 10,000 to 65,000 and begin immediately to put into place the mechanisms for vetting the people that we would take in.”
Clinton’s proposed increase in Syrian refugees is a 550% increase of the Obama administration’s plan, which also aims to increases the total amount of refugees from all countries admitted to the US. So the first half of Trump’s claim is true.
Where he goes awry is in the second half, when Trump says there’s “no way to screen these refugees.”
Several government and law enforcement agencies are engaged in the process of screening refugees.
Refugees that come to the US undergo several screenings, such as biographic checks, in-person interviews, fingerprinting and medical screenings — all of which involve multiple federal intelligence and security agencies.
Syrian refugees in particular go through additional screening, called the Syria Enhanced Review process, which uses information collected from the UN refugee agency to determine whether an applicant needs to go through a fraud or national security unit. Those units then conduct individualized research on each applicant’s story and records. Syrian refugee applications can take much longer to process than the average case processing time of 18 to 24 months. Mark Toner, a deputy State Department spokesman, called the refugee vetting process “the most stringent security process for anyone entering the United States.”
The effectiveness of these procedures may be a matter of debate, but to say that there is “no way to screen” refugees is false.
Reality Check: Women’s wages in the labor force
By Julie Block, CNN
Ivanka Trump claimed that women represent 46% of the US labor force and “40% of American households have female primary breadwinners.” In 2014, she said, women made 83 cents for every dollar earned by a man, though single women without children earned 94 cents to a man’s dollar, while married mothers only made 77 cents. Her point? “Gender is no longer the factor creating the greatest wage discrepancy in this country — motherhood is.”
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that, in 2015, women did indeed make up 46.8% of the total employed persons. Research from the Pew Research Center in 2015 showed that 40% of families with children under the age of 18 at home include “mothers who earn the majority of the family income,” up from 11% in 1960 and 34% in 2000. Nearly 63% of these “breadwinner moms” are either unmarried or are not living with their spouses.
The bureau also reported that women’s median earnings in 2014 were 83% of those of male full-time wage and salary workers — in other words, women made 83 cents for every dollar earned by a man, as Trump claimed. According to the bureau’s data, the median usual weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers for single women without children in 2014 was 94% of that of single men without children, as Trump claimed. Widows, divorcees, separated people and those who have never been married were included under the umbrella of “single.” However, the median usual weekly earnings for full-time wage and salary workers for married women with children in 2014 was nearly 81% of that of married men with children. That would equate to 81 cents to the male dollar — not 77 cents, as Trump claimed in her speech.
Other than this discrepancy, Trump’s numbers appear to be correct. For this reason, CNN found her claims to be mostly true.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus
Reality Check: Priebus on Obama admin negotiating with terrorists
By Ryan Browne, CNN
Priebus slammed the Obama administration’s handling of terrorism Thursday.
“No more negotiating with terrorists. If they want to take us down, we will take them down.”
Priebus seems to be implying that President Barack Obama has negotiated with terrorists, but have such negotiations ever occurred?
Starting in 2012, the administration did engage in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, leading to 2015’s deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
The State Department has consistently designated Iran as the No. 1 state sponsor of terrorism in the word.
But Iran is charged with sponsoring terrorism not committing acts of terror itself.
Another potential case supporting Priebus accusation is the Obama administration’s effort to secure the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
The administration agreed to release five Taliban prisoners from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for Bergdahl’s freedom.
This deal caused critics to accuse the administration of negotiating with terrorists.
The Taliban is not designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the State Department. But the department did label a branch of the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, a terror group in 2012.
“We didn’t negotiate with Haqqani,” then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told Congress at the time.
Hagel added that negotiations were carried out through an intermediary, the government of Qatar, and not directly with either group.
When asked if the White House considered the Taliban to be a terrorist group, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that they were not officially designated as such.
But, he added, “They do carry out tactics that are akin to terrorism. They do pursue terror attacks in an effort to try to advance their agenda.”
Because the administration admits that the Taliban does “pursue terror attacks” and because Bergdahl’s release was secured via indirect negotiations with the Taliban, we rate Priebus’ claim as mostly true.
Venture capitalist Peter Thiel
Reality Check: US military technology problems
By Jamie Crawford, CNN
Thiel, the co-founder of Pay Pal, made a case that the US government system is broken and woefully behind other nations. “Our nuclear bases still use floppy disks. Our newest fighter jets can’t even fly in the rain,” Thiel said.
Thiel is likely referring to a report from the Government Accountability Office this year that found the US government was spending close to $60 billion a year on operating and maintaining out-of-date technologies. Among the report’s findings was that the Pentagon was still using 1970s-era computing systems that require “eight-inch floppy disks.” Though the report found the Pentagon is planning to replace its floppy systems, we rate this statement as true.
Regarding the statement on fighter jets, Thiel was likely referring to the F-35 Lightning II program which has encountered multiple production and design setbacks and has cost taxpayers millions of dollars. The single-seat, single-engine version of the F-35 had an issue that prohibited the jet from flying within close proximity of thunder and lightning storms due to concerns over the vulnerability of the plane’s fuel tank. In testimony before Congress in 2014, Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan said the problem “is basically behind us.” In the same testimony, Bogdan cited an incident where a the jet was hit by lightning during a test flight while suffering no apparent damage.
While the F-35 program continues to be mired with difficulties, we rate this particular claim as false.
Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn
Reality Check: Marsha Blackburn says 401ks are ‘getting smaller’
By Eve Bower, CNN
Describing the economic strain many Americans are feeling, Blackburn said “our 401ks get smaller, our bills get bigger.”
Blackburn was likely speaking to a general sense of financial insecurity rather than a macroeconomic trend. But we wanted to see what the data shows.
First, some background about 401ks, and the broader category they belong to, so-called “defined contribution” retirement plans.
They were designed as an alternative to traditional employer-sponsored pension plans. And in a very broad sense, 401k performance is a reflection of the stock market overall.
But 401ks allow workers to choose for themselves both how much to put in the account and what kinds of stocks and bonds the account will buy. And partly due to that individual discretion, there is tremendous variance among accounts.
Historically, Fidelity has been one of the largest managers of Americans’ 401k accounts, and they have published aggregate data that let us see the reality Blackburn described.
In the most recent period for which data in available, the first quarter of 2016, the average Fidelity 401k held $87,300. This is $4,500 less than the end of the first quarter of last year — a decline of 4.9%.
So how did the stock market do overall during the same period? One mainstream indicator of overall stock performance, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, fell by just five-tenths of 1% during that period: 0.051%.
There are many reasons why 401ks might have fallen by even more than the market as a whole last year. But one possible risk factor is financial insecurity itself.
The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) finds that, following the 2007 financial crisis, the top 10% of households saw their retirement account balances fall by 5%. But households in the middle (the 50th percentile) saw their retirement account savings fall by 50%.
The EPI notes that in emergencies, some people withdraw funds from retirement accounts — especially in the absence of other savings.
Blackburn’s observation about retirement account balances falling is true.
Ex-NFL quarterback Fran Tarkenton
Reality Check: Tarkenton on new female, immigrant and ethnic minority entrepreneurs
By Julie Block, CNN
Tarkenton said in his speech that “40% of the 530,000 startups each month are started by African-Americans, Hispanics or Asians. Almost a third of small businesses in America are started by immigrants. And nearly 40% by women.”
The 2015 Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurship reported that there were approximately 530,000 “new business owners” each month in 2015, though the report gave no indication that each of these new business owners had their own individual startups. Additionally, 40% of new entrepreneurs were indeed comprised of African-Americans, Latinos, Asians and “other non-white entrepreneurs,” though Tarkenton did not acknowledge the latter in his speech.
The Index also reported that immigrant entrepreneurs accounted for 28.5% of all new entrepreneurs in the United States in 2015, up from just 13.3% in 1997. Women made up 36.8%, down from 43.7% in 1997. Overall, CNN found Tarkenton’s claims about startups created by African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, immigrants and women to be true.