March 06, 2015

As Obama and nation mark 50th anniversary of Selma's Bloody Sunday, a look back at voting rights fact-checks

This week marks the 50th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday" -- the day police beat voting-rights activists as they attempted to march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala.

President Barack Obama, former President George W. Bush and nearly one-fifth of Congress will be in Selma this weekend to mark the anniversary.

On March 7, 1965, hundreds of peaceful protesters set out to march for voting rights. But as depicted in the movie Selma released earlier this year, police met them on the Edmund Pettus Bridge and attacked them with clubs, whips and tear gas. Selma became a turning point in the civil rights movement, leading to the passage of the Voting Rights Act just five months later under President Lyndon B. Johnson. The law was designed to prevent the denial of voting rights based on race.

In recent years, PolitiFact has fact-checked a wide variety of claims on voting rights, including statements made by Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, as well as by politicians including Gov. Rick Scott. Here’s a look at some of our fact-checks from PolitiFact Florida.

February 26, 2015

Obama commemorates 3rd anniversary of Trayvon Martin's death

@PatriciaMazzei

President Obama used part of his remarks in a reception Thursday honoring African American History month to remember Trayvon Martin, the Miami Gardens teenager killed three years ago in Sanford.

"Today, on the third anniversary of Trayvon Martin's death, showing all of our kids -- all of them -- every single day, that their lives matter -- that's part of our task," the president said, according to a White House transcript. "I want to thank Trayvon's parents for being here on what's a very difficult day for them." 

Trayvon's parents were in the White House East Room for the event. The man who shot the unarmed 17-year-old, George Zimmerman, was acquitted by a jury. The U.S. Justice Department announced this week that it would not charge Zimmerman with a federal hate crime.

The boy's death set off a national debate on racial profiling and self-defense laws.

February 25, 2015

Jeb Bush name-dropped in Obama town hall

@PatriciaMazzei

Only one potential 2016 presidential candidate -- Jeb Bush -- was named at a town hall-style meeting on immigration held in Miami on Wednesday with President Obama.

Moderator José Díaz-Balart cited a statement the former Florida governor made on Facebook after a Texas federal judge temporarily halted Obama's latest executive action on immigration.

"He said last week that you overstepped your authority, and as a consequence you hurt the effort to find a solution to the immigration problem, and all the affected families deserve something better," Díaz-Balart began before asking about Obama's message to his successor.

The president gave a lengthy answer that, at one point, addressed the Bush remark, and received a round of applause.

"I appreciate Mr. Bush being concerned about immigration reform," Obama said. "I would suggest that what he do is talk to the speaker of the House and the members of his party. Because the fact of the matter is that even after we passed bipartisan legislation in the Senate, I gave the Republicans a year and a half -- a year and a half -- to just call the bill. We had the votes. They wouldn't do it."

There was no mention that the bipartisan legislation in question was pushed in part by another possible GOP presidential candidate, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

That time Obama made fun of a TV anchor's dye job

@PatriciaMazzei

Nothing drew more laughter during President Obama's brief visit to Miami on Wednesday than when he made a playful jab at Telemundo and MSNBC anchor José Díaz-Balart.

The quick exchange happened at the end of an hour-long interview about immigration that Díaz-Balart conducted in English and Spanish at Florida International University. Obama was calling on young people to vote.

"It doesn't do any good to push candidates but not then back it up with action," Obama said. "And the action ultimately is going to be getting engaged and involved in the political process. The people who are least likely to vote are young people."

Then he turned to Díaz-Balart and said, "I'm going to include José in the category of being old."

"We're the same age," Díaz-Balart chimed in. "I just look a little younger..."

"He looks a little better," Obama added, pointing at his own graying head, "because, you know, I don't dye my hair."

"I know," Díaz-Balart responded with a smile. "It's called, 'The Obama.'"

The two men shook hands good-naturedly. "I'm exaggerating," Obama said.

Immigration reform will happen, Obama says in Miami: 'There will be a President Rodriguez'

@PatriciaMazzei

Likening immigration reform to the great civil-rights movements in U.S. history, President Barack Obama vowed during a brief visit to Miami on Wednesday to veto any legislation undoing his executive order protecting from deportation up to 5 million people who are in the country illegally.

“In the short term, if Mr. [Mitch] McConnell, the leader of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, want to have a vote on whether what I’m doing is legal or not, they can have that vote,” Obama said, almost daring congressional leaders to challenge him. “I will veto that vote, because I’m absolutely confident that what we’re doing is the right thing to do.”

His veto threat was met with rousing applause from the friendly audience assembled at Florida International University, where Obama taped an hour-long town hall-style meeting hosted by Miami-based Telemundo and sister network MSNBC. The event, moderated by bilingual anchor José Díaz-Balart, was later nationally televised on both networks.

McConnell, of Kentucky, wants a stand-alone bill blocking Obama’s 2014 actions, which were supposed to take effect this week but have been stalled by a Texas federal judge. Boehner, of Ohio, is waiting for the Senate’s move, after House Republicans passed a budget for the Homeland Security Department that wouldn’t pay for the president’s plan.

More here.

January 20, 2015

Fact-checking the 2015 State of the Union

On Tuesday night, President Barack Obama will visit the U.S. Capitol building to present his views on the State of the Union. Afterward, Republicans have put forward U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, to give a response and U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, will give the Spanish translation.

PolitiFact will be there to check the facts.

For 2015, we’ve staffed up and added new technology to our toolkit. We plan on live blogging the speeches here on our website via ScribbleLive with fact-checks, rulings and analysis as the night goes on. We’re partnering with Genius to annotate the speeches to provide important context and vetted, independent sources of information. And when our work is done in the early morning hours, we’ll send a priority email to our Kickstarter supporters to let them know.

Read more from editors Angie Drobnic Holan and Aaron Sharockman.

December 22, 2014

Obama's claim about the cost of each Gitmo inmate

On his second day in office in 2009, President Barack Obama ordered that the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, be closed within a year.

But it remains open nearly six years later, largely because of a difficulties figuring out what to do with the detainees who remain there.

On CNN’s State of the Union Dec. 21, 2014, host Candy Crowley asked Obama if the detention facility will be closed by the end of 2015.

"I’m going to be doing everything I can to close it," Obama said. "It is something that continues to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world, the fact that these folks are being held. It is contrary to our values, and it is wildly expensive. We’re spending millions for each individual there."

We wondered: Are American taxpayers spending millions of dollars per year for every detainee held in Cuba?

Turn to Lauren Carroll's fact-check from PunditFact.

President Obama brings hope to Cuba, but will Castro bring real change?

@MarcACaputo

The U.S. president who brought us a hope-and-change campaign has helped spread the same message to Cuba after announcing the two countries would try to normalize relations.

But it’s likely Cuba will experience far more hope and far less change, at least in the short term.

Blame the Castro government for that. It doesn't want to change.

Raul Castro said as much on Wednesday, when he and Barack Obama simultaneously made the historic announcement of détente between the Cold War foes. Castro made sure to suggest socialism was in Cuba to stay, that he wasn’t “renouncing any of our principles.”

“The heroic Cuban people,” Castro said Wednesday, “will continue to be faithful to our ideals of independence and social justice.”

Putting aside the irony of a totalitarian state’s leader talking about “social justice,” Castro’s speech Wednesday was notable not just for what he said, but for how he said it — in his green army fatigues. The message was clear: the revolution lives. Cuba remains in a state of battle.

In war, truth is often the first casualty. But to Castro’s credit he has been honest about his intentions to remain wedded to a financial system that doesn’t work for the people, only for the select group of political-military elites who live like princes while their countrymen scrounge for food.

More here

December 19, 2014

Campaigning on Cuba issues is no longer so straightforward in Florida

@MarcACaputo

Talking about U.S. policy toward Cuba used to be relatively easy for politicians in Florida: say “Cuba libre” or “Cuba sí, Castro no.”

Support for sanctions and the embargo was a given.

But no longer.

The reaction to President Barack Obama’s historic announcement Wednesday to try to reestablish diplomatic ties with Cuba was the latest sign yet that attitudes in the Cuban-American community are changing or, at least, are far more complex than many would think.

Less than half of Cuban-Americans — 47 percent to be exact — favored the embargo in a Latino Decisions poll of 400 highly likely Florida Hispanic voters taken in the final days of the 2014 elections.

Opposition to the embargo stood at 39 percent among likely Cuban-American voters — a result that Latino Decisons pollster Gary Segura found surprisingly high. “The Cuban-American leadership that supports the embargo has to be in a panic over this,” he said.

The poll also showed that only 33 percent of Cuban-American respondents said the embargo was very important. But 32 percent said the issue was not important.

So the intensity of those voters who favor the embargo isn’t overwhelming, according to the poll.

The Latino Decisions poll echoes results from Florida International University’s annual Cuba poll. FIU’s last survey, in May, found 51 percent of Cuban-American voters favored the embargo in Miami-Dade County, which has the nation’s largest concentration of people of Cuban descent, nearly 900,000 people.

More here

December 18, 2014

From penniless Cuban exile to billionaire GOP moneyman, Mike Fernandez says Obama's Cuba action 'long overdue'

@MarcACaputo

Mike Fernandez arrived in the United States as a 12-year-old penniless immigrant in 1964 after his family fled Cuba. Today, he's one of Miami's most-respected and influential businessmen, a health-insurance billionaire and a GOP moneyman who dutifully supports fellow Republicans in the area.

Except on one issue today: President Obama's decision to restore diplomatic ties with the regime in Cuba.

"I am not a fan of President Obama but after 50 plus years, this is long overdue," Fernandez, who has just penned a new book called Humbled by the Journey said via email when asked his opinion.

Fernandez's opinion is significant not just because of his party registration and provenance, but because of his age as well. He's 62, old enough to remember the revolution, his father's small sandwich shop in Manzanilla and the life of an immigrant in America. So except for the billions he earned as a health insurance whiz, he's just like most older exiles, who are the most-likely to support the embargo.

Here's his whole statement:

"I feel the pain that Cuban Americans feel. I feel the pain that the Cuban people have been forced to unjustly experience. Trust me, I feel the pain. Having said that, As Americans we lost 58,000 of our sons in Vietnam and 15 years later, we established diplomatic relationships with our former enemy. I am not a fan of President Obama but after 50 plus years, this is long overdue.

History has been written, lives have been lost, millions have suffered but it’s time to turn the page on the 'Cuba book.' Let us focus on helping the Cuban people versus hurting the regime. Biology will soon take care of them."