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Fact Checkers Dispute Some Obama State of the Union Claims

  • Ken Bredemeier

President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 12, 2016.

President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 12, 2016.

U.S. political fact checkers say President Barack Obama exaggerated some his claims of success over the past seven years as he delivered his final State of the Union address to Congress and the American public.

At one point in his speech Tuesday, Obama again called for shutting down the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the American military detains suspected terrorists. Obama said the continued operation of the Guantanamo facility "only serves as a recruitment brochure" for terrorists.

But Politifact noted that Guantanamo has never been "a key component" of Islamic State and al-Qaida propaganda, with both of them instead focusing on the continuing U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria and its military involvement there and in Afghanistan.

Obama cited his commitment to fighting terrorism, "to see that justice is done," by noting the 2011 U.S. raid in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, and the "perpetrator of the Benghazi attacks" that killed four Americans in Libya in 2012 "sits in a prison cell."

Politico said that disputing Obama's Benghazi claim "may seem like a technicality to some," but noted the suspect, Ahmed Abu Khatallah, is not yet convicted, although he is jailed in the United States while he awaits trial. The Internet political news site noted that "similarly unguarded statements" by Obama have caused problems for government prosecutors in handling other sensitive cases.

Politico also noted Obama's claim that cheap gasoline prices for U.S. motorists "ain't bad, either," which it said was the result of plunging prices for crude oil on the world market, not anything Obama has done. Moreover, Politico noted the falling prices have proved harmful for U.S. oil producers, who have been shutting down drilling rigs and laying off workers, and in some instances going bankrupt.

The Washington Post said that Obama's claim that nearly 900,000 new manufacturing jobs have been created in the past six years is accurate, but omits the fact that there are still 230,000 fewer such jobs in the U.S. than when he took office in early 2009 at the depths of the U.S. recession, the worst since the Great Depression in the 1930s.

The newspaper also questioned Obama's claim that at least in two states, Iowa and Texas, "wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power," noting consumers are indeed paying less, but it is a federal wind power tax credit that has driven down the cost.

The Post debunked a claim by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who delivered the Republican response to Obama's address, that the size of the national government "has grown day after day, year after year." The newspaper said that the number of federal workers has fallen during Obama's White House tenure, and that as a percentage of overall U.S. employment, it was the smallest share since World War II.

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