December 16th, 2011
03:51 AM ET

Truth Squad: Part of the CNN Republican debate fact-checking series

Truth Squad: Gingrich's claim on surplus off base

The statement: "I balanced the budget for four straight years, paid off $405 billion in debt, pretty conservative." Newt Gingrich, during Thursday night's Republican candidates' debate in Sioux City, Iowa.

The facts: Newt Gingrich served as speaker of the House from January 4, 1995 to January 3, 1999. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the nation ran a deficit in 1995 (-$164 billion), 1996 (-$107.4 billion) and 1997 (-$21.9 billion). It ran a surplus in 1998 ($69.3 billion) and 1999 ($125.6 billion).

If you don't count the deficit during his first year as speaker, when the budget was already set, and do count the surplus during the year after he stepped down, he can claim credit for a surplus in only two of four years. Those surpluses total $194.9 billion, which is less than half the $405 billion he says he paid off.

If you confine the view to the time he spent in office, Gingrich's assertion looks worse. The national debt on the day Gingrich was sworn in as speaker was $4.8 trillion. Four years later, it was $5.6 trillion, an increased debt of $800 billion, according to the U.S. Treasury website.

Also, Gingrich fails to acknowledge that the Democratic administration of Bill Clinton would take some credit for putting in place policies that resulted in the four consecutive years of surplus that occurred from 1998-2001.

Verdict: False.

Truth Squad: Is Iran "a few months" away from a nuclear weapon?

When Rep. Michele Bachmann said that a report by the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency had described Iran as poised to join the world's elite club of nuclear powers, during Thursday's Republican candidates' debate in Sioux City, Iowa, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas responded immediately that she was mistaken.

The statements:

"We have an IAEA report that just recently came out that said, literally, Iran is within just months of being able to obtain that weapon." - Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota

"There is no U.N. report that said that. It's totally wrong what you just said. That is not true. They produced the information that led you to believe that, but they have no evidence." - Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas

The facts: The IAEA Board of Governors released a 14-page report on November 8 that concluded that it had "serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program. After assessing carefully and critically the extensive information available to it, the agency finds the information to be, overall, credible. The information indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device. The information also indicates that prior to the end of 2003, these activities took place under a structured program, and that some activities may still be ongoing."

The verdict: False. The IAEA report does not say that Iran is within months of being able to obtain a nuclear weapon. So Bachmann is wrong. But the report does cite "credible" information that Iran may be developing nuclear weapons, so Paul's blanket denial that "they have no evidence" may also be wrong, depending on whether he is referring to evidence that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon or evidence that such a weapon could be ready within months.

Truth Squad: Did Bachmann prove Gingrich lobbied for Freddie Mac?

During Thursday night's Republican candidates' debate in Sioux City, Iowa, a moderator asked U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann to produce hard evidence that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich had peddled his influence with congressional Republicans on behalf of mortgage giant Freddie Mac.

Bachmann, who is among conservatives who say Freddie Mac and fellow federally backed mortgage group Fannie Mae had a role in the collapse of the U.S. housing market, has criticized Gingrich for his post-Congress work as a consultant for Freddie Mac and accused him of lobbying senior Republicans on Freddie Mac's behalf.

Bachmann was asked: "Given (Gingrich's) denial over time ... that he's ever lobbied, what is your evidence - hard evidence - that he engaged in influence peddling?"

The statement: "It's the fact that we know that he cashed paychecks from Freddie Mac. That is the best evidence that you can have: over $1.6 million. ... The evidence is that Speaker Gingrich took $1.6 million. You don't need to be within the technical definition of being a lobbyist to still be influence peddling with senior Republicans in Washington, D.C., to get them to do your bidding."

The facts:

CNN reported in November that the consulting company that Gingrich started after he left Congress, the Gingrich Group, was paid between $1.6 million and $1.8 million for work done with Freddie Mac.

Gingrich has repeatedly said he and his firm consulted Freddie Mac and other groups, but did not lobby for anyone.

"Gingrich made a decision after resigning (from the House) that he would never be lobbyist so that nobody would ever question the genuine nature of his advice and perspectives," the Gingrich campaign website says, adding that Freddie Mac was one of many Gingrich Group clients, and that its fees were comparable to that of many consulting firms.

Freddie Mac has backed Gingrich's assertion, telling CNN last month that he was a consultant, and not a lobbyist.

A former official who worked for Freddie Mac during Gingrich's two stints with the group - 1999-2002 and 2006-2008 - told CNN that Gingrich's work included consulting about Freddie's efforts to become more transparent about "risk and capital management" procedures, risk information disclosure, and how those efforts would be received in Congress, specifically by Republicans.

In Gingrich's first turn, Freddie Mac worked with him on the group's desire to "bond" with Bush administration officials on the idea of creating a "home ownership society" - getting more Latinos and other minorities into home ownership, the source said. It's not clear how Gingrich worked with Freddie Mac on this.

In the second stint, Freddie Mac officials tried to get Gingrich, known for intricate policy ideas, to write "white papers" on how good the "model" was for government-sponsored enterprises like Fannie Mae and Freddie because free-market Republicans didn't like that model, the official said. Freddie Mac officials were frustrated with Gingrich, the source said, because they had a hard time getting him to write anything.

The verdict: Misleading. While Freddie Mac was a Gingrich Group client, Bachmann did not offer hard evidence that Gingrich lobbied for Freddie Mac.

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Filed under: Politics • Republican Party • U.S.
soundoff (236 Responses)
  1. Mark L.

    Vote for Newt "Benito Mussolini" Gingrich as you next FASCIST commander in chief, America. Let's have four more years of Bush / Cheney politics, any maybe, just maybe our nation can prosper once again as it did NOT during the Great Recession of 2008.

    fas·cist   /ˈfæʃɪst/ Show Spelled[fash-ist] Show IPA
    1. A person who is dictatorial or has extreme right-wing views.

    December 16, 2011 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Bertina

      I'm surprised CNN allowed you to even use the term.

      December 16, 2011 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
    • 2cents4free

      @ Bertina, I'm surprised your surprised. Right wing-nuts use that term here all the time.

      December 16, 2011 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
  2. rikers

    Romney came out of this debate unscathed. That will be good for him later in the campaign.

    December 16, 2011 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
    • tannim

      You're assuming he lasts that long. After his colossal diner gaffe in NH this week, don't bet much on that.

      December 16, 2011 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
  3. ahah

    All I heard was a bunch of preachers preaching to there favorite congragation. all but one will go to war in a heart beat with Iran and that was Ron Paul. Coodo's to Ron Paul for this stance, We don't need to be killin off all our youth for some peepee waggaling contest. If you think Iran will just roll over like Iraq did, you all are very wrong.

    December 16, 2011 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
    • tannim

      typos aside, agreed.

      One simple question for those candidates: What's wrong with waging PEACE for a change?

      December 16, 2011 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Bertina

      I'm a democrat but I know the only way Paul will win is if he runs as independent. I would vote for him over Trump who supposedly is running as an independent.

      December 16, 2011 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
  4. tannim

    So when it comes to Iran, Dr. Paul was RIGHT–AGAIN. Once again Bachmann shows how clueless she is–AGAIN.

    Of course, Dr. paul has read the report. Me too. Bachmann, not likely.

    What's appalling is that Dr. Paul, for being right, got booed. People need to do their homework.

    And the anti-Paul trolls, before they come out of the woodwork, can STFU unless they have something of substance to say. Ageism and namecalling is not of substance.

    December 16, 2011 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
    • 2cents4free

      LOL they boo EVERYTHING at the GOP.

      December 16, 2011 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Kev

      The booing confused me. He's merely stating facts like "muslims hate us because we bomb them". It doesn't take an NSA job or a rocket scientist to understand this! I guess this is another case of the truth hurts. And how shameful that the party of conservative Christians are a bunch of blood-thirsty warmongers. Well, I guess given the history of Christianity, it's not too surprising.

      December 16, 2011 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  5. mad phill

    Interesting Gingrich constantly using balancing the budget (to his credit) as one of his major conservative credentials when in fact, it is bollocks. Read more at

    December 16, 2011 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
  6. ofcourse

    surprise, surprise, surprise, more Republican lies. uniformed, lie spewing Republican candidates for president. They will say anything to get elected and people still fall for it.

    December 16, 2011 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
  7. John

    So we all learn that Republican either LIE or twist word around to make someone look bad. This Is Nothing new. They are all a bunch of Hypocrite ,and Michele Bachmann Is the worse of the Bunch.

    December 16, 2011 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
  8. Saber

    Out of all of these folks ther are only two real and genuine people. Huntsman, (yeah he's low in the polling- disappointing really), and Ron Paul. The rest are obvoiously there for their own purposes, not to represent the people voting for them, and one clueless lady, who needs to go back to Candy Land! So far out of the entire congress there is only one woman who I would like to see as president. Olympia Snowe! She's got her ducks in a row. Look at her voting record for yourself. And... the one man who will not run for President Fmr. General Colin Powell! Arrrgh! Just food for thought!

    December 16, 2011 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  9. ditty1991

    ron paul is going to win iowa. since 400k households got a brochure briefly explaining his stances. We need to work on sending them to households in NH next. RP did great in this "debate" so much truth and honesty with him he needs to be potus.

    December 16, 2011 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  10. BroncoBoru

    A skinny government, a serious reduction in the industrialized war machine, no more prosecuting foreign wars, "jaw, jaw: not war, war." Is it democracy that your son or daughter gets killed in the name of democracy. What is America afraid of? The drug taking, pill popping generation must end...."physician, heal thyself." Learn to listen to the VOICE within. A 20% sales income tax....corporation tax 12.5%, government incentives for new technology start-ups. A greater tariff on Chinese imports, let's have manufacturing back in the US. Immigration cards (like credit cards)...let the folk line up....don't have a card....go back to the home country. Those already here after 20 years and paying taxes, let them stay. Foreign, explore, discuss....the Russians, Chinese, North Koreans and Iranians don't have two heads.....with instant communication today it is beginning to unite all peoples, and the quiet and now not so quiet revolution of freedom is gaining momentum.
    Listened to all the debates, like what I hear from Dr.Ron Paul.

    December 16, 2011 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
  11. DaveinSC

    Most of the distortions and lies should be enough to discredit most of the candidates. The most honest person up there is Ron Paul. Having said that, it's a shame, but I can't reconcile my beliefs about government with his. I don't trust government, but I trust multi national corporations less. To give them unbridled power, is one cat that you will never be able to get back in the bag again.

    December 16, 2011 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  12. jrl

    Why is this the first I've ever heard of truth squad? If they fact checked Obamas every statement, that alone would create job creation because you'd need hundreds of employees to uncover his flat out lies

    December 16, 2011 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve Nelson

      Sorry but you have just lied to us all. Other than a couple of misstatements like "57 states" you will be hard pressed to find an Obama lie.

      December 16, 2011 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Independent citizen

      That is because CNN wanted Obama to win. Anderson spent a whole segment dedicated to Obama instead of vetting him. CNN protected Obama and so did its Anchors. If the Anchors had spent as much time in vetting the real obama as they did in discussing Sara Palin's pregnant daugther, Obama might not be in the White House. Roland Martin and Donna Brazille are an embarrasement. Their views are so twisted. Obama can do no wrong in their eyes...just because he is black. Shameful. Watch them do the same for the upcoming election. I am sure Anderson has already reserved his seat...and it won't be in the Republican's Candidate's plane. By the way, I happen to be a minority female.

      December 16, 2011 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  13. SuperDave

    Gingrich is just "politics of old". We want change, but then fall right back to the past. Paul is a waste of time. He will ruin the whole process by taking votes away from people who are qualified. Will we never learn??? For me, only Romney seems to be a candidate who can worfk within the political cesspool of today while being somewhat progressive with changing culture and policy in Washington. But for some reason religious zealots (yes, i said it. We accuse the world of having this issue, but lets face it, the US is filled with religious zealots) seem to be put off with Romney due to his personal religious beliefs? Oh man. Perry is a religious zealot. And we consider him a legitimate candidate? Well, it looks like another year I just can't vote for persident.

    December 16, 2011 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  14. anonoped

    Ron Paul is the only candidate running on a Peace platform.

    A vote for any other including Obama is a vote for war, assassinations, debt and deficit spending.

    December 16, 2011 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  15. nur amabo nur

    Notice RON PAUL doesn't lie, knows the facts, doesn't flip flop, doesn't cheat on his wife, doesn't hide/destroy his records. He also didn't sign the treason against Americans bill this week. Ron Paul maybe the first honest canidate in decades !

    December 16, 2011 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
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