By CNN’s Reality Check Team
(CNN) — The Democratic Party gathered in Philadelphia on Tuesday for the second 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: Hillary Clinton’s history with same-sex marriage equality
By Ali Foreman, CNN
“Could have been sooner.” During the primary season, “Saturday Night Live” comic Kate McKinnon schooled Hillary Clinton on punctuality when it came to supporting same-sex marriage equality.
At the star-studded second night of the Democratic National Convention, former President Bill Clinton praised his wife’s efforts toward international human rights — focusing on women and the LGBT community.
“She went to Beijing in 1995 and said that women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights,” he said. “She worked to empower women and girls around the world.”
While many would agree the first major party female presidential nominee has aggressively advocated gender equality, it’s important to question whether she made “the same exact declaration on behalf of the LGBT community” as Bill Clinton claimed.
Hillary Clinton initially expressed staunch disagreement with same-sex marriage during her first run for Senate. In early 2000, she stated plainly: “I think a marriage is as a marriage has always been, between a man and a woman.” She quickly clarified that she was strongly supportive of civil unions, but maintained her stance against same-sex marriage well into her term as senator.
In 2006, she told gay rights activists that she would support same-sex marriage if it was introduced in New York. However, she still expressed greater comfort with “states making the decisions.”
Throughout the 2008 presidential campaign, Clinton remained opposed to same-sex marriage. She did come out and support repealing portions of the Defense of Marriage Act — a law her husband signed in 1996 that prohibited same-sex couples from accessing certain benefits.
In 2011 Clinton declared, “Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights,” and following her resignation in February 2013, she quickly came out in support of the growing marriage equality movement, saying LGBT Americans should be treated as “full and equal citizens, and they deserve the rights of citizenship. That includes marriage.”
While Hillary Clinton has certainly warmed to the gay community during her political career, Bill Clinton’s implication that Hillary has supported gay rights throughout the years is false.
Ex-Attorney General Eric Holder
Reality Check: Eric Holder on crime and incarceration stats
By Sonam Vashi, CNN
Holder ran through several statistics on the criminal justice system, and we’re going to unpack them, one by one.
“At a time when our justice system is out of balance, when one in three black men will be incarcerated in their lifetimes …”
We’ve looked at this claim before. This figure comes from the Sentencing Project, a criminal justice think tank, released a report in 2013 with this conclusion. However, that report, which was submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, was based on 2001 data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Since then, incarceration rates for black males have decreased by about 23% between 2001 and 2014.
While the “one in three” figure may be outdated, it’s clear that black males have disproportionately high imprisonment rates — ones that are 3.8 to 10.5 times higher for all ages than white males and 1.4 to 3.1 times higher than Hispanic males, according to the BJS. Holder’s claim is mostly true.
“And when black defendants in the federal system receive sentences 20% longer than their white peers, we need a president who will end this policy of over-incarceration.”
That’s true, at least for black males, according to a 2013 report from the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Between December 2007 and September 2011, federal judges gave sentences to black men that were 19.5% longer than those given to white men for similar crimes.
“Now, as attorney general, I launched sweeping reforms of our federal criminal justice system and reduced its reliance on draconian mandatory minimum sentences.”
That’s also true. Holder is well-known for making criminal justice reform a central part of his tenure, and he saw mandatory minimum sentences, which set minimum binding prison terms for certain crimes, as a civil rights issue. In 2015, Holder touted that federal prosecutors sought mandatory minimum sentences less often after his reforms and bringing fewer prosecutions for illegal drugs.
“And as a result, we cut the federal prison population and the crime rate — together — for the first time in more than 40 years.”
The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report measures violent crime, which includes murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. In 2014, the violent crime rate was the lowest it has been since it peaked in the 1990s.
And in 2014, the federal prison population decreased for the first time since the 1970s, by 2%, according to numbers from the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Holder is correct in saying that both measures went down simultaneously for the first time in decades, but his statement is missing some context. Violent crime hit a small uptick last year, according to preliminary numbers from the FBI, and it’s on the rise so far this year, according to a midyear violent crime survey. Additionally, as we noted for a claim for President Barack Obama last week, the overall violent crime rate has been steadily declining since the 1990s. So, violent crime was already on a downward trend before Holder or Obama took office. It’s not fair to credit this administration for any increases or decreases in those rates without noting that larger trend.
Also, the federal and state prison populations have been on a significant rise for the past 40 years. While the 2014 decrease is notable, it doesn’t come close to reversing that larger trend (there were more than 214,000 inmates in federal prisons in 2014, 769% more than the 25,000 federal inmates in 1980).
For missing all of that context, Holder’s claim on the decrease in violent crime and incarceration is true, but misleading.
Ex-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
Reality Check: Trump’s appreciation for dictators
By Sonam Vashi, CNN
Albright pondered Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s statements on world leaders.
“Donald Trump also has a strange admiration for dictators — Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Un, Vladimir Putin. When asked about Putin, Donald Trump said, and I quote, ‘In terms of leadership, he’s getting an A,'” Albright said.
Trump has said many things about many people, but Albright is taking his statements a bit out of context.
Earlier this month, Trump commended Hussein’s killing of “terrorists” in Iraq — but also said Hussein was a “really bad guy.”
“He was a bad guy — really bad guy,” Trump said. “But you know what? He did well. He killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn’t read them the rights. They didn’t talk. They were terrorists. Over. Today, Iraq is Harvard for terrorism.”
For Kim, Trump said in January, “You have to give him credit. How many young guys — he was like 26 or 25 when his father died — take over these tough generals, and all of a sudden — you know, it’s pretty amazing when you think of it. How does he do that? Even though it is a culture and it’s a cultural thing, he goes in, he takes over, and he’s the boss. It’s incredible.”
But Trump prefaced his statement by saying Kim was a “maniac,” and added that, “We can’t play games with him. Because he really does have missiles. And he really does have nukes.”
And in September, Trump said of Putin, “I think in terms of leadership, he’s getting an A.” But that was when Putin and Obama met in New York. The rest of Trump’s quote read, “and our president is not doing so well. They did not look good together.” The quote was comparative to Obama and meant to be critical of the U.S. President.
Trump clearly has a more flippant way of referring to world leaders than many politicians, but it is unfair for Albright to cite his statements without the proper context. Albright’s statement is true, but misleading.
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean
Reality Check: Dean on health insurance expansion
By Tami Luhby, CNNMoney
Dean, a doctor, praised the work Clinton and Obama did to expand health insurance coverage.
“When President Obama took office, he picked up the fight, and with the Affordable Care Act passed, we expanded insurance to 20 million more people. Today, 90% of Americans are covered and we have made so much progress,” he said.
More than 90% of Americans have health insurance now. The number was 90.9% in 2015, according to the latest federal data.
Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in May that 20 million people have insurance because of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. This includes those who obtained coverage on the Obamacare exchanges — just more than 11 million people — and from other provisions of the law, such as allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26.
We rate Dean’s statement true.
Reality Check: Mike Pence’s record
By Chip Grabow, CNN
Dean went after Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, criticizing him on several points.
Starting with Pence’s record on health care, Dean said: “Mike Pence voted against expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program which Hillary helped to start. Mike Pence voted against requiring insurance companies to cover mental health and addiction treatment. Mike Pence voted to end Medicare as we know it.”
An analysis of Pence’s voting record on each of these shows Pence did, in fact, vote against expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program in January 2009. Pence also voted against a bill that would’ve required insurance companies to treat mental health and addiction treatments the same as they do physical benefits. And Pence did vote against a bill that would have overturned President George W. Bush’s veto of legislation that would have expanded Medicare coverage.
Dean also criticized Pence’s position on tobacco and cigarettes, saying: “I hear Gov. Pence missed the memo, but they do, in fact, cause cancer and no amount of tobacco company contributions can change that, Governor.” Dean was referring to an opinion piece Pence wrote in 2001 when tobacco legislation was being debated in Congress.
Pence wrote: “Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill. In fact, two out of every three smokers does not die from a smoking-related illness and nine out of 10 smokers do not contract lung cancer.” As far back as 1964, the U.S. Surgeon General stated that “smoking was a cause of human cancer and other diseases.” Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says nine out of 10 lung cancers are caused by smoking cigarettes.
And Dean’s reference to Pence accepting contributions from tobacco companies? According to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, Pence received a total of $75,000 from tobacco companies between 2009 and 2016.
Based on the analysis on Pence’s voting record and data on contributions Pence received, we rate Dean’s claims true.
California Sen. Barbara Boxer
Reality Check: Boxer on America’s standing under Clinton
By Ryan Browne, CNN
Boxer praised Clinton’s 2009-2013 tenure as secretary of state during her speech at the DNC, crediting her with restoring America’s global popularity.
“We saw her strength, we saw, we saw her leadership when as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton restored America’s standing in the world. You remember that, after the Bush administration,” Boxer said.
But Pew polls, comparing the favorability rating of the United States in 2008 versus the year Clinton stepped down in 2013, paint a very mixed picture.
Of the 19 countries for which Pew has data, U.S. favorability improved in 13 countries. But the United States actually became less popular in six nations during that same period: China, Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan, Poland and Lebanon.
It would also be difficult to attribute the change in favorability, either positive or negative, to Clinton alone, as the 2008 election of Obama is widely seen as helping to boost U.S. standing globally. Additionally, U.S. favorability improved even more in 11 of these countries in the years after Clinton left office.
It is impossible to attribute the changes to Clinton entirely, because American favorability actually improved in a majority of polled countries after she left office and the United States became less popular in six countries during her tenure. We rate Boxer’s claim false.
New York Sen. Charles Schumer
Reality Check: Clinton fighting to prevent NY factory closure
By Lisa Rose, CNN
Schumer suggested Clinton single-handedly persuaded the executives at a nuclear engineering company to keep open their plant in Schenectady, New York, preventing local layoffs.
“Hillary listened to the factory worker at the Bechtel plant in Schenectady, worried sick that his company was leaving town,” Schumer said. “Hillary got tough. She read the corporate honchos the riot act until they agreed to keep their plant open, saving his job and many others.”
Clinton was very active in lobbying Bechtel but Schumer overstated Clinton’s role. The campaign to help the workers was actually a group effort. Schumer himself lobbied Bechtel Plant Machinery management. So did Rep. Michael McNulty, Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Schenectady Mayor Brian Stratton. Eventually, they persuaded executives to keep the facility open but the compromise involved staff reductions. Bechtel agreed to keep 130 workers employed in Schenectady but another 130 jobs were cut through retirements and transfers to the company’s campus in Pennsylvania.
Schumer’s claim that Clinton saved the plant is true, but misleading. She played a role in persuading the company to stay in Schenectady but she had help from other politicians, including Schumer himself.
There’s another asterisk: A year after the compromise was reached in 2007, a Bechtel spokesman said the company was still transferring jobs from Schenectady to Pennsylvania but the moves would occur “over time,” according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Ex-NYPD Det. Joe Sweeney
Reality Check: Clinton’s record on 9/11 first responders
By Sonam Vashi, CNN
Sweeney focused on Clinton’s record caring for the 9/11 first responders. “Within 48 hours of the towers falling, Hillary introduced a bill — signed into law — that helped first responders get the benefits they earned easier and faster,” Sweeney said. “Then, she pressured the (Environmental Protection Agency) to launch a new task force and led congressional hearings until the EPA admitted the air hadn’t been safe.”
Two days after the 9/11 attacks, then-New York Sen. Clinton introduced a bill that expedited payments of benefits to public safety officers killed or severely injured in the terrorist attacks. The bill was unanimously passed on the same day and became law on November 18, 2001.
Clinton also led criticism of the EPA for its reassurance about the air quality near the World Trade Center after the attacks, when it was later found that hazardous toxins were released by the towers’ destruction.
Five months after the attacks, Clinton and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman held hearings in New York to examine the possible health hazards from the dust at the disaster site. Clinton and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg organized efforts to address public complaints about environmental issues around ground zero, and Clinton pressured the EPA to join the task force.
Soon after, it became clear that the EPA had downplayed the risks of the air quality around the World Trade Center just after the 9/11 attacks.
Clinton clearly pursued care for her constituents affected by the 9/11 attacks, so Sweeney’s statement is true.
New York Rep. Joseph Crowley
Reality Check: Trump profiting off 9/11
By Kate Grise, CNN
Crowley accused Trump of profiting after 9/11 rather than stepping up to help those affected by the terror attacks.
“Where was Donald Trump in the days and months and years after 9/11?” he asked. “He didn’t stand at the pile. He didn’t lobby Congress for help. He didn’t fight for the first responders. Nope. He cashed in. Collecting $150,000 in federal funds intended to help small businesses recover — even though days after the attack Trump said his properties were not affected.”
Did Trump really take money earmarked for small businesses?
According to a 2006 investigation by the New York Daily News, 40 Wall Street LLC, a Trump-owned business, collected a $150,000 grant to cover losses.
After 9/11, the Empire State Development Corporation, awarded more than $550 million to businesses with fewer than 500 employees through the Business Recovery Grant program. The ESDC did not use annual revenue to determine small-business status as the federal government generally does.
The New York Daily News’ review of ESDC records showed that 40 Wall Street LLC, through which Trump owns the building at that address in New York, reported having 28 employees and $26.8 million in annual revenue on the grant application.
In an April statement to Time magazine addressing the small-business grant he received, Trump said, “It was probably a reimbursement for the fact that I allowed people, for many months, to stay in the building, use the building and store things in the building. I was happy to do it and to this day I am still being thanked for the many people I helped. The value of what I did was far greater than the money talked about, much of which was sent automatically to building owners in the area.”
In an interview with a German TV reporter at ground zero a couple of days after the attacks, Trump said he had a couple of hundred men heading to help with cleanup efforts and that he had been down to the site himself, despite Crowley claiming that Trump never went to “stand at the pile.”
Trump said during a primary debate this election season that he did indeed visit the site.
“Thousands of people killed and the cleanup started the next day, and it was the most horrific cleanup probably in the history of doing this. I’m in construction. I was down there, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” Trump said.
Trump has referenced going to ground zero after the attacks in other interviews as well.
Trump’s role in lobbying Congress or fighting for first responders after 9/11 is unclear, but during the Republican National Convention last week, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said Trump often helped “when police officers were hot, when firefighters were hurt, when people were in trouble, he came forward and he helped, and he asked not to be mentioned.”
Philip Kirschner, a 9/11 first responder, told Breitbart News in May that he believes Trump was behind the flight that transported him from Florida to the Cleveland Clinic when his health was declining in 2011.
We rate Crowley’s claim that Trump received a $150,000 grant earmarked for small businesses recovering from 9/11 as true. We rate his claim that Trump was nowhere to be found post-9/11 as false, because Trump said at the time he visited ground zero and Giuliani has said Trump helped “every time New York City suffered a tragedy.”
New York Rep. Nydia Velazquez
Reality Check: Velazquez on female-owned businesses
By Tami Luhby, CNNMoney
On the historic day when Clinton became the first female presidential nominee of a major party, Velazquez hailed America’s female entrepreneurs.
“Women-owned and women-operated small businesses are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in America today,” Velazquez said.
Women are creating new firms at a rapid clip. Between 2002 and 2012, the number of female-owned businesses grew at a rate 2.5 times the national average, while employment in female-owned companies increased at a rate 4.5 times that of all firms, according to the most recent statistics available from the National Women’s Business Council, a federal advisory council.
The rate of growth for female-owned businesses is almost four times the rate of male-owned companies.
The number of businesses owned by women of color has been soaring. In 2002, there were fewer than 1 million minority female-owned firms, or 14% of female-owned firms. A decade later, there were nearly 3.8 million firms or 38% of female-owned businesses.
Over that decade, non-minority female-owned firms grew by 9% in number, while minority female-owned business increased by 315%.
An annual report conducted by American Express backs up these statistics. Between 2007 and 2016, the number of female-owned firms has grown at a rate five times faster than the national average, according to the 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report.
So we rate Velazquez’ statement as true.
Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark
Reality Check: Clark on gun violence
By Chip Grabow, CNN
In remarks supporting Clinton, Clark spoke to Clinton’s ability to take on special interests, including what she called “the big-money gun lobby.”
Clark cited a statistic that “91 Americans are killed by gun violence every day.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2010 and 2014 (the latest year for which the CDC has data), an average of 32,964 people were killed by firearms each of those years. That equates to about 90 people killed by a firearm each day.
However, that average includes suicides, unintentional deaths and incidents with undetermined intent as well as violence-related firearm deaths (homicide and legal intervention). In 2014, 11,409 people were killed in gun violence-related deaths by homicide or legal intervention. The CDC reports 586 unintentional deaths by firearms that year, and they also report 270 deaths where the intent was undetermined.
Suicides in 2014 accounted for almost two-thirds of the deaths by firearms.
So, more than 90 people did die each day on average in 2014 from a firearm injury, not all of those deaths were what the CDC classified as “violence-related.”
Verdict: True, but misleading.
Former Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin
Reality Check: Harkin on disability employment
By Ali Foreman, CNN
When the Americans with Disabilities Act passed the Senate, Harkin spoke loudly — without saying a word. The Iowa senator famously delivered his 1990 floor speech on inclusivity and discrimination in American Sign Language. During the second night of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, an audience of delegates and spectators signed along with him. Harkin taught the crowd how to sign “America” while drawing attention to a continued lack of employment for disabled Americans.
Harkin praised the 1990 act’s successes, but noted its failings, saying, “When, 26 years later, 70% of adults with disabilities in America aren’t in the workforce, it’s time to take action.”
The Department of Labor confirms that Harkin’s claim about employment disparity for the disabled is true. However, his 70% statistic is low. In the month of June, nearly 80% of all disabled Americans did not participate in the workforce. This percentage is noticeably high, particularly when compared to the 31% of non-disabled Americans who last month weren’t part of the workforce.
Since 1991, disabled Americans have seen a sharp decline in labor force participation and employment. Analysts attribute this slip, in part, to an aging population. However, discrimination still plays a role in employment for the disabled. Data from the 2010 Census show an increasing wage gap for disabled workers, who on average get paid $9,000 less annually than their non-disabled coworkers.
We rate Harkin’s claim as true but note that the 70% of disabled Americans out of the workforce that he cited should be upped to 80%.