February 01, 2016

DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz's misleading claim about debates was the top article for PolitiFact Florida in January


The presidential race kept PolitiFact Florida’s Truth-O-Meter busy in the weeks leading up to the start of voting in the early states.

Our fact-checks of claims by Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and GOP frontrunner Donald Trump were among our most read items.

Here were our Top 5 stories in January, counting down to the most popular.

January 28, 2016

In Clinton-Sanders battle, Wasserman Schultz becomes a target

Like all members of Congress, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz must stand for re-election in November. Unusually, for a six-term incumbent, she’s facing a challenger in the Democratic primary.

But that’s not the election fight Wasserman Schultz is most engaged in now. Instead, she’s become a target in the intensifying battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to become the Democratic party’s presidential nominee. Sanders supporters across the country accuse the South Florida lawmaker of using her powerful post as chair of the Democratic National Committee to tip the scales toward Clinton.

It’s a dispute for which there is no definitive evidence. Even some of Sanders’ most fervent partisans don’t believe it. Wasserman Schultz herself denies it.

“If I wanted to favor a candidate, I would not be DNC chair,” she told McClatchy last week after headlining a fundraiser in Tallahassee, Florida. “I would support that candidate. It’s a pretty convoluted way to help a candidate when I have to actually function neutrally as the DNC chair.”

Keep reading James Rosen's story from McClatchy.

January 21, 2016

Diaz de la Portilla declares campus-carry bill dead for the session

DWS guns@MaryEllenKlas and @MichaelAuslen

The Senate chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmed Thursday that the controversial bill, SB 68, to allow guns on college campuses will not get a hearing in the Senate, even though it is moving swiftly through the Florida House, effectively killed the measure for the session. 

"I don't think this is a Second Amendment issue,'' said Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, whose committee hear all the gun bills. "I think what we're talking about here is campus safety and the best way to address that issue and whether the proposed cure is worse than the disease."

Diaz de la Portilla also refused to hear the campus carry bill last session. He said, however, that he will hear a separate gun bill, SB 300, that would allow concealed-carry license holders to openly display their guns in public and private spaces.

The announcement came on the same day of Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fort Lauderdale, added her voice  to the Democrat's opposition to the array of pro-guns bills moving through the Florida Legislature.

Wasserman Schultz, who served in the Florida Legislature for 12 years, said that she's not only a constituent of the Legislature from Broward County but a mother.

"I'm here to sound the alarm to make sure that they wake up and understand that they should be listening to people,'' she said. As a mother of twins who are juniors in high school, she said, "it's really troubling and disturbing to me to think they could be on a college campus where another student may decide to solve a problem with a gun."

Wasserman Schultz deflects criticism of her handling of DNC: 'I have the skin of an alligator'

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz continued to respond to criticism Thursday over the way she has managed the Democratic National Committee, as Bernie Sanders' supporters suggest she has shown favoritism to Hillary Clinton in the presidential primary.

"The party chair is going to absorb criticism from any candidates, partisans, and it's just the way it is,'' she said after a press conference on guns in the Florida Capitol. "These are people that simply are expressing the normal, understandable frustration over what they think is a sinister thing over every corner. I have to just block that noise out and focus on doing my job. I'm from Florida. I have the skin of an alligator."

Wasserman Schultz, a Broward Democrat, acknowledged she came to Tallahassee to do fundraising for the Florida Democratic Party, her own campaign and the DNC. She said she plans to continue to serve the "full tenure" of our four-year term which ends the day after the inauguration and she deflected criticism that, as former co-chair of Hillary Clinton's unsuccessful 2008 campaign for president, that she is favoring Clinton. 

"If I wanted to favor a candidate, I would not be DNC chair and I would support that candidate,'' she said. "It's a pretty convoluted way to help a candidate when I have to actually function neutrally as the DNC chair."

When asked what the chances were that Bernie Sanders, a self-avowed socialist, of winning the Florida primary, she said she wouldn't handicap the race.

"I'm neutral and my job is to make sure we are getting our party ready,'' she said. "So I don't know what the chances are and I'm not spending any time analyzing the chances of any one of our three candidates. What i do know, is that on each of our debate stages the next president of the United States has stood. Any one of our candidates will beat whatever their nominee is. Because the American people are with us, they want us to build on the economic success."

"To listen to any one of the Republican candidates for president, the Bush years were the glory days we should go back to when we were losing 800,000 jobs a month, when we lost 8 million jobs, when you had people declaring bankruptcy to be able to pay for their health care costs. That's where each one of hte candidates on the Republican side want to drag us back and we're not going back and the American people are going to support our party's nominees. We'll have the sixth of hte seventh presidential election where the Democratic nominee has won."

She said she was surprised that both Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio could lose Florida in the GOP primary, based on the current polls that show them fourth and fifth in the GOP line-up.

Continue reading "Wasserman Schultz deflects criticism of her handling of DNC: 'I have the skin of an alligator'" »

DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz's misleading claim about debate schedule

Responding to rampant criticism about the Democratic Party’s presidential debate schedule, Debbie Wasserman Schultz has boasted about viewership numbers.

The critics include party leaders as well as Hillary Clinton’s primary rivals, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. Some Democrats say that the schedule of six debates including some on weekends limits voters’ exposure, giving Clinton an edge.

But Wasserman Schultz says ratings show that voters have had plenty of TV face time with the Democratic candidates.

"In fact, our first debate beat at least two of the Republican debates. And our last debate, compared to the Republican last debate, was just a little bit less than theirs," the Democratic National Committee chair told CNN’s Brian Stelter Jan. 17, hours before the debate over the Martin Luther King weekend in Charleston.

After Stelter pressed her, Wasserman Schultz, a Broward County congresswoman, replied:

"Brian, there's no number of debates that will satisfy everyone. So, I did my best to make sure, along with my staff and along with our debate partners, to come up with a schedule that we felt was going to maximize the opportunity for voters to see our candidates."

Clearly, we can't rate what people within the Democratic party intended. Our fact-check looks at what the outcome was. Did the Democrats "maximize the opportunity" for voters to see their candidates? PolitiFact found there’s no fair reading of the Democratic debate schedule that supports this. See how we rated her statement.

January 12, 2016

Florida reaction to Obama's final State of the Union


Here's what Florida politicians had to say about President Obama's final State of the Union address Tuesday:

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican running for president:

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican running for president:

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat:

It’s frustrating when partisanship prevents the Congress from getting things done. And it’s pretty clear that Americans are fed up with our inability to enact common-sense reforms. While we were able to get a few things passed back in December, there’s still a lot that we need to accomplish. And I will continue to do everything that I can to try to bring people together in a bipartisan way to get things done.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami:

President Obama's final State of the Union Address will be remembered not for what he said, but for what he didn’t say.

The President has failed yet again to use this opportunity to lay out a comprehensive plan to Congress and the American people on how best to defeat ISIS, and instead has opted to try to lull us into a false sense of security that is belied by the facts on the ground here in the U.S. and across the globe.

It's much the same situation with Iran: the President touted his nuclear deal with Tehran, yet what the President didn't say is that, since the deal, we have seen an increasingly bellicose regime flouting the international community, daring us to take action against its illicit behavior and then threatening to walk away from the nuclear deal if we do respond.


Continue reading "Florida reaction to Obama's final State of the Union" »

January 11, 2016

DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz previews SOTU

Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz touted job growth under President Barack Obama in a preview to his State of the Union address.

In a press conference at Weston City Hall, she also introduced her guest to the State of the Union: Mohsin Jaffer, a Muslim American doctor in Broward County.

Wasserman Schultz, who represents parts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties, highlighted Obama's accomplishments.

"He helped bring us from losing 800,000 jobs a month at the end of Bush administration to fast forward to today: 70 straight months of job growth in the private sector. ... He has been able to cut the deficit by two-thirds during his presidency."

In October, PolitiFact fact-checked a claim by Wasserman Schultz: "When we had a conservative Republican president we were losing 750,000 jobs a month." We rated that claim Mostly True. Here is some background about Obama's statement about cutting the deficit.

Wasserman Schultz also highlighted that Obama pushed through the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that legalized same sex marriage and Wall Street reform. She omitted one of Obama's key election promises with a high interest in South Florida: providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Wasserman Schultz said she approached U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, a Muslim and Democrat who represents Minneapolis in Congress, about the idea for members to invite Muslim Americans. About 20 adopted the idea including Alcee Hastings.

She mentioned the "extremely vitriolic and hateful rhetoric perpetrated by Republicans and in some cases at least one Democratic leader against Muslim American community." That was in part a reference to GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump and comments by a Democratic mayor in Virginia, David Bowers.

Wasserman Schultz's guest, Jaffer, grew up in Kenya and emigrated to the United States in 1983. At the time, he said that those with Indian heritage were facing discrimination in Kenya.

When Jaffer was asked by a reporter for his thoughts about Trump, he said: "a lot of his clients are Muslims." (Here is a map by the Washington Post showing where Trump does business in Muslim countries.)

January 08, 2016

DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz to bring Muslim American doctor to Obama's last SOTU

Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz will bring a Muslim-American doctor Mohsin Jaffer of Weston, as her guest to President Obama's last State of the Union address Jan. 12.

In a press release announcing her choice, Wasserman Schultz mentioned "hateful rhetoric" against Muslim Americans including an "outrageous suggestion" to create a national registry. That's a jab at GOP frontrunner Donald Trump -- although she didn't name him. Here is what Trump actually said about a database of Muslim Americans -- as PolitiFact noted many of his comments in November were contradictory or confusing.

From a press release:

Over the past few weeks there has been an alarming rise in hateful rhetoric against Muslim Americans and people of the Islamic faith worldwide.  Leading political figures have made offensive and outrageous suggestions that we should create a national registry of all people of one particular faith and that we should prevent any person of that faith from even entering this great country.

 To combat these hateful comments Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23) and her colleague, Rep. Keith Ellison from Minnesota invited other members of Congress to consider bringing a Muslim-American constituent as their guest to the President’s State of the Union Address on January 12, 2016.  Rep. Wasserman Schultz’s guest is Dr. Mohsin Jaffer of Weston.  He has specialized in the medical care of families and seniors in South Florida for nearly 30 years.  He received his medical degree from the University of Miami in 1987. 

Wasserman Schultz, who represents parts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties, will hold a press conference at Weston City Hall Monday with Jaffer.

Here are who other members of the Florida delegation are bringing:

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio: Conner MacFarlane, an Oviedo native whose father was killed as an Army reservist in Afghanistan.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson: His daughter Nan Helen.

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami: Tara M. Parks, president of Families Affected by Gun Violence

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach: Nezar Hamze, Regional Operations Director for CAIR Florida (The Council on American-Islamic Relations). 

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter: Civil rights attorney Daryl Parks who has represented the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. 

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz Balart, R-Miami: Father-in-law Phil Bakes

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami Gardens: Jeff Tweedy, president of Jeff Tweedy Corp. who has given clothing to graduates of 5,000 Role Models of Excellence

December 24, 2015

AP: Gyrocopter protester to challenge DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz

WASHINGTON — A Florida man who landed a gyrocopter on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol as a political protest says he will run for the congressional seat held by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

Douglas Hughes, a Democrat from Ruskin, Florida, said earlier this month that he intended to run for Congress but only indicated he would challenge a South Florida Democrat. In a court filing Wednesday, he says he will run in Florida's 23rd District, which Wasserman Schultz represents.

Hughes was arrested April 15 after flying through restricted airspace over and around the Capitol. He agreed to plead guilty to a felony and will be sentenced next year. His lawyers argue that the conviction does not make him ineligible to run for Congress.

December 18, 2015

How South Florida members of Congress voted on budget deal


The U.S. House and Senate passed a $1.1 trillion spending and tax-cut package Friday, called the "omnibus" bill. All of South Florida's House members, Republican and Democratic, voted for it. So did Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio missed the vote -- he's campaigning for president in Iowa. He nevertheless issued a statement against it.

The Florida Republican House members voting no: Curt Clawson, Ron DeSantis, Jeff Miller, Bill Posey, Dan Webster and Ted Yoho.

Here's a compilation about what some of the lawmakers had to say:

Continue reading "How South Florida members of Congress voted on budget deal" »