U.S. political fact checkers are debunking several claims six Republican presidential candidates made at their last debate ahead of next Saturday's key nominating election in the Atlantic coastal state of South Carolina.
War in Iraq
Both The Washington Post and Politifact said there is slim evidence for the claim at Saturday's debate made by front-runner and billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump that he stated his opposition "loud and clear" before the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. The U.S. attack, popular in the U.S. at the time and much less so in the years that followed, was based on intelligence that turned out to be wrong that dictator Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass destruction.
But the fact checkers found that ahead of the March 20, 2003 invasion the flamboyant Trump at most said Iraq was "a problem," and did not sharply criticize the U.S. involvement until 2004. At that point, he asked, "What was the purpose of this whole thing? Hundreds and hundreds of young people killed. And what about the people coming back with no arms and legs?"
Replacement of Supreme Court justice
Saturday's death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia led to calls from the Republicans for Democratic President Barack Obama to not nominate a replacement and let the next president elected in November to pick a new justice upon taking office next January.
But the fact checkers quarreled with Florida Senator Marco Rubio's contention that it has "been over 80 years since a lame-duck president has appointed a Supreme Court justice." They noted that a Republican favorite, President Ronald Reagan, named Justice Anthony Kennedy to the country's highest court in late 1987 and his appointment was confirmed in early 1988, Reagan's last full year in office.
Politifact said that while Reagan's remaining time in office was a bit longer than Obama's at the time of a court appointment, "it's hard for us to see how Obama can be considered a lame duck but not Reagan. Both were second-term presidents who knew they would not serve again but did not yet know who their successor would be."
The Post said the claim by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the son and brother of two U.S. presidents, that Florida led the nation in job growth during his gubernatorial tenure from 1999 to 2006 is "just not supported" by national labor data, although the state was among the highest at the time in adding jobs.
Bush chided one-time casino magnate Trump for going "bankrupt four times," which the New York real estate developer quickly disputed, saying "That's another lie. I never went bankrupt."
The Post said that while Trump never personally went "bankrupt," his companies did, with him having to give up personal assets and reduce his equity stake in the casinos.