November 30, 2015

Obama's stalled promise to close Guantánamo Bay

President Barack Obama's 2008 promise to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay had another setback on Nov. 25 when he signed a law that makes it tougher to achieve his goal.

The National Defense Authorization Act prohibits the use of funds to close Gitmo. It also bans using funds to transfer or release detainees to the United States or to construct or modify facilities in the United States to house detainees from Gitmo. The administration had been crafting a plan to move at least some of the remaining captives to military prisons in the United States, potentially to Colorado, Kansas or South Carolina.

The law appears to make it impossible for Obama to close the facility where 107 captives remained as of Nov. 23.

In a statement when he signed the bill on the eve of Thanksgiving, Obama said that he was "deeply disappointed" that Congress failed to move toward closing the detention facility.

Keep reading from PolitiFact about Obama's stalled promise.

November 24, 2015

Jeb Bush's misleading claim about Barack Obama not hosting Republican senators for dinner until 2013

During a campaign stop in Atlantic, Iowa, on Nov. 11, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush told a very detailed and specific story to underscore Democratic President Barack Obama’s alleged unwillingness to work with Republicans in the U.S. Senate.

Here's what he said:

"The story I tell all the time is about a Republican senator that was invited by the White House to have dinner with the president. And so he’s going up the rickety elevator to go up to the residence, the second floor, and the eager aide to President Obama says with great excitement, ‘Senator, you’re the first Republican he’s had dinner with in the residence since he’s been president.’ And that’s the fifth year."

Obama is so unwilling to work with Senate Republicans, Bush alleges, that he didn't even invite one to dine at the White House until his fifth year in office. But is it true? Did Obama really wait until 2013 to host a Republican for dinner at the White House?

See what Jason Noble of PolitiFact Iowa found.

November 20, 2015

PolitiFact: 5 questions about Syrian refugees

Whether the United States should accept Syrian refugees has become an urgent debate in the days since the terror attacks in Paris. At least 30 governors have said they’re against letting refugees into their states because of fears that terrorists could hide among those seeking political asylum.

Civilians are fleeing Syria — where more than 200,000 people have been killed in the conflict — by the thousands. Some have called their migration the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II.

The unrest began in 2011 with protests against President Bashar al-Assad, in the wake of the pro-democracy Arab Spring. Assad’s regime responded with violence, and the country spiraled into a civil war. But it isn’t just pro-Assad vs. anti-Assad groups. There are several sects fighting one another, one of which is the terrorist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Some have questioned whether one of the ISIS terrorists who participated in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks was a Syrian refugee who resettled in Europe. That fact remains unconfirmed; authorities are still investigating. The six Paris attackers identified so far were French and Belgian nationals. Nonetheless, many American politicians are concerned that allowing Syrian refugees to settle in the United States would leave the country vulnerable.

There are a lot of questions about Syrian refugees coming to the United States. Here are some answers from PolitiFact's Lauren Carroll and Linda Qiu

November 16, 2015

Obama to award Presidential Medal of Freedom to Gloria and Emilio Estefan



President Barack Obama plans to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, to Gloria and Emilio Estefan, a source told the Miami Herald on Monday.

The Cuban-American power couple from Miami will be among the17  medal recipients named by the White House on Monday afternoon, along with other luminaries such as the late baseball player and manager Yogi Berra, theater composer Stephen Sondheim and film director Steven Spielberg. Obama will present the medals Nov. 24 at the White House.

Singer Gloria Estefan will be recognized as an artist "who introduced Latin music to a global audience." Her husband, music producer Emilio Estefan, will be recognized for having "influenced a generation of artists" and "helped popularize Latin music around the world."

A publicist for the couple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Estefans have been involved in politics for years. They hosted a fundraiser with Obama at their Miami Beach home in 2010 -- while maintaining that their interest in politics is nonpartisan -- and Gloria Estefan asked Obama questions for a Univision program in 2009. Earlier that year, Obama had named Emilio Estefan to a commission to study the creation of a national Latino museum.

The 17 recipients are: Yogi Berra (posthumous), Bonnie CarrollShirley Chisholm (posthumous), Emilio EstefanGloria Estefan, Billy Frank, Jr. (posthumous), Lee HamiltonKatherine G. JohnsonWillie Mays, Barbara Mikulski, Itzhak Perlman, William RuckelshausStephen SondheimSteven SpielbergBarbra StreisandJames Taylor and Minoru Yasui (posthumous).

Photo courtesy HBO

November 06, 2015

Obama rejects Keystone XL Pipeline

President Barack Obama on Friday rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, moving to bolster his environmental legacy after reviewing for seven years what’s become the nation’s most heated political dispute over climate change, jobs and energy development.

Obama said he made the decision after Secretary of State John Kerry told him Friday that the State Department review had determined that the pipeline was not in the national interest.

“The pipeline would not have a made a meaningful long-term contribution to our economy,” Obama said from the Roosevelt Room in the White House. “Shipping dirtier crude oil into our country would not have increased America’s energy security.”

Keystone was expected to create thousands of construction jobs, but only about 35 permanent employees. (PolitiFact has an explainer about those jobs.)

Read more from the McClatchy Washington Bureau here.

November 05, 2015

From Nazis to gay prisoners to vaccines, Ben Carson’s claims keep PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter busy

GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson, who brings his book tour to Miami and Fort Lauderdale today, has made several controversial statements that have drawn much interest on PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter.

PolitiFact has fact-checked Carson 17 times as of Nov. 4 and rated the majority of his claims on the false side (we rated three Half True). The retired pediatric neurosurgeon has made claims about gay prisoners, illegal immigrants and vaccines, among other topics.

Here is a snapshot of the three Carson claims that have received the most traffic on PolitiFact, starting with the most popular:

  • "In the class of 1968 at Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow, Mahmoud Abbas was one of the members of that class, and so was Ali Khamenei. And that's where they first established relationships with the young Vladimir Putin."

When we asked Carson's campaign for his evidence, a spokesperson replied: "We are not in the habit of providing Googling support to the media." Abbas may have attended the university, though we don’t know for sure, or when. No credible evidence has yet surfaced to place Khamenei as a student in the Soviet Union -- ever, much less in close proximity to Abbas, or in 1968. And Putin would have been a teenager in 1968, attending school 450 miles away. The idea that the three men developed lifelong ties as students in the late-1960s-era Soviet Union is ridiculous. PolitiFact rated this claim Pants on Fire!

In a telephone interview with the Miami Herald on Wednesday, Carson said his source for that claim was a “Middle Eastern scholar at a university in Texas who is actually writing a book about it right now and translating it into English and should be out next year. He says he has got yearbook information and everything to demonstrate both Abbas and Khamenei were there at that time.”

Continue reading "From Nazis to gay prisoners to vaccines, Ben Carson’s claims keep PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter busy" »

October 28, 2015

When on hot seat for missed votes, Marco Rubio attacked the records of Barack Obama and John Kerry

A major Florida newspaper’s editorial board called for U.S. Sen Marco Rubio to resign because of his record of missed votes in the Senate. The next day, Rubio was asked about it at the CNBC Republican debate in Boulder, Colo.

CNBC anchor Carl Quintanilla asked Rubio about the editorial and if he hated his job.

Rubio countered that the Sun Sentinel had showed "bias" in its endorsements, because a few other senators who ran for president had missed a huge chunk of votes, too.

"Back in 2004, one of my predecessors to the Senate by the name of Bob Graham, a Democrat, ran for president missing over 30 percent of his votes. I don't recall them calling for his resignation. … Later that year, in 2004, John Kerry ran for president missing close to 60 to 70 percent of his votes. In fact, the Sun Sentinel endorsed him. In 2008, Barack Obama missed 60 or 70 percent of his votes, and the same newspaper endorsed him again. So this is another example of the double standard that exists in this country between the mainstream media and the conservative movement."

What was the voting record of Sens. Obama, Kerry and Graham when they ran for president? We decided to check the roll call, as well as the endorsement record.

See what PolitiFact Florida found.

October 23, 2015

Florida among 24 states suing over EPA carbon emissions rule

Obama-Power Plants


Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has joined 23 other states to fight an initiative from President Barack Obama that's intended to combat greenhouse gases and the effects of climate change.

A federal lawsuit challenging a new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule, called the Clean Power Plan, was filed in D.C. this week. The initiative, announced by Obama in August, aims to reduce carbon emissions nationwide by imposing limits on power plants.

In her announcement about the lawsuit today, Bondi said the EPA rule lays out an "unrealistic" timeframe to cut carbon emissions by 2030 and would "require the use of costly and unproven technologies." (Here are the goals for Florida, according to the EPA.)

She said the initiative "would result in dramatically higher electricity bills and significantly less reliable service for families, businesses, hospitals and schools across the country."

“We will not stand by and allow these unlawful and heavy-handed utility regulations to trample our states’ rights and drastically increase electricity prices in Florida,” Bondi said in the statement. “We have seen how President Obama’s overreach has created unease in markets, eliminated competition and increased costs for millions of Americans. This new federal rule promulgated by the EPA will have a similar effect on energy production, access and price in Florida and across the country.”

This isn't the first time Bondi has fought the Obama administration in court. She also unsuccessfully sued over the Affordable Care Act, which the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately upheld.

Those joining Florida in challenging the EPA rule are: West Virginia, Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming, the Arizona Corporation Commission, and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.

Photo Credit: AP

September 29, 2015

What President Obama discussed with Raúl Castro


From the White House:

President Obama met today with President Raul Castro of Cuba to discuss recent advances in relations between the United States and Cuba, as well as additional steps each government can take to deepen bilateral cooperation. The two Presidents discussed the recent successful visit of Pope Francis to both countries.  President Obama highlighted U.S. regulatory changes that will allow more Americans to travel to and do business with Cuba, while helping to improve the lives of the Cuban people.  The President welcomed the progress made in establishing diplomatic relations, and underscored that continued reforms in Cuba would increase the impact of U.S. regulatory changes.  The President also highlighted steps the United States intends to take to improve ties between the American and Cuban peoples, and reiterated our support for human rights in Cuba.

September 18, 2015

Marco Rubio says that President Barack Obama said an attack on Syria 'was going to be a pinprick'

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida defended a 2013 vote not to authorize President Barack Obama to use military force in Syria by saying the strategy wasn’t worth risking American lives.

During a presidential debate in Simi Valley, Calif., on Sept. 16, 2015, radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt asked Donald Trump if he thought three senators — Rubio, Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky — who opposed intervention against Syrian President Bashar Assad were now responsible for the current Syrian refugee crisis. Rubio defended his stance after Trump said he thought they were partly to blame.

"We have zero responsibility, because let’s remember what the president said," Rubio said. "He said the attack that he was going to conduct was going to be a pinprick. Well, the United States military was not built to conduct pinprick attacks."

Rubio went on to say he wanted a strategy that would put "men and women in a position where they can win."

Obama’s Syria policy has been a target for Republicans during the campaign, but did Obama refer to potential strikes against Assad as "a pinprick" attack?

See what Joshua Gillin of PolitiFact Florida found.