The Democratic Party gathered in Philadelphia on Monday for the first 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.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders
Reality Check: Sanders on party platform opposing Trans-Pacific Partnership
By Kate Grise, CNN
Sanders touted the compromises made between his camp and Clinton’s in the Democratic Party platform during his speech.
“It (the Democratic Party’s platform) also calls for strong opposition to job-killing free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” he said.
There is no specific opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the platform.
The platform lays out certain standards that Democrats “believe must be applied to all trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).” These include cracking down on unfair and illegal subsidies from other countries, promoting innovation, keeping the Internet open and free and protecting the environment, food safety and health of American citizens and those in other countries.
However, the platform stops short of denouncing the TPP altogether, as Sanders and his supporters were hoping for.
As CNN reported earlier this month, the party avoided a potentially embarrassing situation for President Barack Obama, whose administration has spent most of his two terms negotiating the massive 12-nation trade deal, by keeping explicit opposition to the TPP out of the platform.
Reality Check: Sanders on the disappearing middle class
By Ali Foreman, CNN
Sanders bowed out of his battle with the Democratic National Committee to focus on what he has called “the war on the middle class.” The former presidential hopeful boiled down the 2016 race, saying, “This election is about ending the 40-year decline of our middle class, the reality that 47 million men, women and children live in poverty.”
Sanders’ claim about the number of Americans living below the poverty line is true. His implication, however, that a shrinking middle class caused that number is misleading.
Income gains have caused rippling changes in every economic class. A new Urban Institute Report showed a nation climbing up the economic ladder — and a lower class that is shrinking.
From 1979 to 2014, the middle class has decreased from 38.8% of the population to 32%. The lower middle and middle classes saw similar declines. And while these groups now control significantly less of the country’s income, that doesn’t mean the poor are getting poorer. Instead, previous middle class Americans are moving up the economic chain — resulting in a thriving upper middle class.
It should be noted these results are not surprising, largely because the institute held fixed income ranges needed to be in a class, adjusting only for inflation. At the same time, however, report author Stephen Rose has commented that the standard of living has gone up for nearly all Americans. Multiple-car families are now considerably more common and American homes are growing in square footage.
Seeing as middle class Americans aren’t only moving down, but up, Sanders’ claim went sideways.
Verdict: True, but misleading.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren
Reality Check: Trump being ‘excited’ for 2008 recession
By Sonam Vashi, CNN
Warren castigated Trump, alleging that he “said he was excited for the 2008 housing crash that devastated millions of American families, because he thought it would help him scoop up more real estate on the cheap.”
In 2007, Trump told the Globe and Mail that he predicted that the housing bubble would burst soon, albeit in a mild version. “People have been talking about the end of the cycle for 12 years, and I’m excited if it is,” he said in that interview. “I’ve always made more money in bad markets than in good markets.”
And in a 2006 audiobook from Trump University called “How to Build a Fortune,” Trump was asked a question about “gloomy predictions that the real estate market is heading for a spectacular crash.”
Trump replied, “I sort of hope that happens because then people like me would go in and buy.”
“If there is a bubble burst, as they call it, you know you can make a lot of money,” he added. “If you’re in a good cash position — which I’m in a good cash position today — then people like me would go in and buy like crazy.”
When Clinton used those comments in an ad in May, Trump defended them, saying, “I’m a businessman, that’s what I’m supposed to do. I feel badly for everybody. What am I going to do? I’m in business.”
Trump wasn’t specifically referring to the 2008 financial crash in his remarks, which were made a year or two before the crisis hit. And neither Trump nor many economic experts predicted the severity of the crash or the following recession. For taking Trump’s remarks almost completely out of context, Warren’s claim is false.
Reality Check: The achievements of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
By Laura Koran, CNN
Warren, a hero to progressives, heralded the achievements of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the government agency tasked with protecting the interests of American consumers that was put into place in 2011 following the financial crisis.
“Five years later,” Warren gushed, “that consumer agency has returned $11 billion dollars to families who were cheated.”
Warren isn’t just a fan of the CFPB. As a Harvard professor, author and longtime consumer advocate, she worked with the Obama administration to create it.
But has Warren’s brainchild, led by Director Richard Cordray, yielded the returns she claims?
The $11 billion figure is seen in CFPB documents and independent reviews. It represents payouts and debt forgiveness the CFPB has secured through various enforcement actions against financial institutions and other organizations.
For example, in 2012, they secured an $85 million refund for American Express customers for deceptive practices, including illegal late fees.
A review by the University of Utah found 90% of that consumer relief “was awarded in CFPB cases in which the bank or other financial company illegally deceived consumers,” and 90% “was awarded in cases where the CFPB collaborated with other state or federal law enforcement partners.”
Verdict: True. In fact, the number is slightly higher. And it’s growing along with the agency’s caseload.
First Lady Michelle Obama
Reality Check: Obama on White House history
By Kate Grise, CNN
“I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves,” the first lady said.
Was the White House really built by slaves?
In short, yes. According to the White House Historical Association, “The decision to place the capital on land ceded by two slave states — Virginia and Maryland — ultimately influenced the acquisition of laborers to construct its public buildings.”
According to the association, the D.C. commissioners planned to import workers from Europe, but recruitment numbers were low and in the end, most of the laborers that built the White House were African Americans — both enslaved and free.
There are payrolls from the time that show the government itself did not own slaves but paid their masters for the slaves’ labor, according to the association. Slaves quarried and cut stone for the walls, among other jobs. The work force included white laborers from the area and immigrants from Ireland, Scotland and other European nations.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka
Reality Check: Trump says wages are too high
By Sonam Vashi, CNN
Trumka ran through a litany of complaints against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. “He actually said our wages were too high, not just once but repeatedly,” Trumka said. “Donald Trump isn’t the solution to America’s problems; he is the problem.”
At a November debate, in a response to a question about raising the minimum wage, Trump said, “Taxes are too high, wages are too high, we’re not going to be able to compete against the world. I hate to say it, but we have to leave it the way it is.”
The next day, the GOP candidate repeated that statement on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” When pressed on whether the federal minimum wage is livable, he said, “Our taxes are too high. Our wages are too high. We have to compete with other countries.”
But the next day, on Fox News, Trump walked it back a bit. “Whether it’s taxes or wages, if they’re too high, we’re not going to be able to compete with other countries,” he said. Since last fall, he has reiterated the idea that Americans should “get more” in wages. Maybe Trump was referring to a point where wages are just right.
Trump did repeat the statement that he thought wages were too high, even though he later shifted his position. For that, Trumka’s claim is mostly true.
Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey
CNN Reality Check: Trump on offshoring jobs
By Ali Foreman, CNN
Casey relied on some old moves to land some fresh blows, attacking Trump’s foreign manufacturing.
“Donald Trump says he stands for workers and that he’ll put America first, but that’s not how he conducted himself in business,” Casey said. “Where are his ‘tremendous’ Trump products made? Dress shirts — Bangladesh. Furniture — Turkey. Picture frames — India. Wine glasses — Slovenia. Neck ties — China.”
Armed with an international laundry list of outsourcing, former Democratic and Republican candidates alike have accused Trump of seeking cheaper labor abroad. A CNN investigation from the primary season reported that Trump and his businesses offshored jobs to multiple countries, including China and Bangladesh.
The Trump campaign responded to inquiries in a statement, falsely claiming that currency manipulation in China made it “nearly impossible to compete and manufacture these products in America.”
We rate Casey’s first claim as true.
But Casey damaged his own credibility when he claimed, “The man who wants to make America great doesn’t make anything in America.”
Trump built six hotels, 11 golf courses and 24 other properties in the US that indicate otherwise. Casey nearly got a Trump property in his own state when the Pennsylvania Trump Tower was in the works. Guess he’ll just have to settle for the Trump National Golf Club Philadelphia — which is in New Jersey.
The verdict on Casey’s second claim: false.
Reality Check: The changing Mexican border
By Kate Grise, CNN
“If you know your history, Texas used to be part of Mexico,” Longoria said. “Now, I’m ninth generation American. My family never crossed a border, the border crossed us.”
In the early 1820s, Mexico won its independence from Spain and the newly independent country included the modern-day Texas, according to the Bullock Texas State History Museum. Mexico encouraged foreign settlers to come to the unified Mexican state “Coahulia y Tejas,” and Stephen F. Austin founded a new colony with 300 families.
These new settlers, however, did not see themselves as Mexican nationals, but rather as “Texians.” Texans wanted statehood and self-rule, but Mexico was not ready to give up their hold on the territory. In 1835, the Texas Revolution began, and by 1836, Texas declared, and later won, independence. The Republic of Texas was formed and elected Sam Houston president.
Texas was admitted to the United States in December 1845, and a border dispute over the southern border of Texas (and the United States) broke out with the Mexicans resulting in the US-Mexican war. In February 1848, the two countries signed the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hildago, establishing the border between the United States and Mexico that looked like the one know today.
Longoria is correct in saying that the border between the two countries has changed. Texas was once a part of Mexico and it is true that many settlers who lived in the state found themselves annexed by the United States, but only after Texans declared their own independence from Mexico.
We give Longoria’s true history lesson an A+.
Nevada state Sen. Pat Spearman
Reality Check: Trump’s LGBT positions
By Lisa Rose, CNN
Spearman said Trump opposes same-sex marriage despite his promise that he would be a protector of the LGBT community during his speech at the Republican National Convention.
“He is against marriage equality and he has said he is all for overturning it,” said Spearman.
Actually, Trump hasn’t said that he opposes same-sex marriage. During a “Fox News Sunday” interview in January, Trump said he was surprised by the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. He then said that it’s a states rights issue. He finally concluded that he would maybe consider picking judges who would reverse the decision.
“This is a very surprising ruling,” Trump said. “I can see changes coming down the line, frankly. But I would have much preferred that they ruled at a state level and allowed the states to make those rulings themselves.”
Trump was pressed to be more specific, asked repeatedly whether he would appoint justices to overturn the ruling.
“I would strongly consider that, yes,” said Trump.
Over the past six months, Trump hasn’t clarified his position, although his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, famously signed a religious liberty bill in Indiana last year.
Because Spearman said Trump is “all for” overturning same-sex marriage, when his opinion is not all that clear, our verdict is false.