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. Handofdoom

    When it comes Newt Gingrich , " trusting him is like trusting Obama ! Face it they both have a real problem with ethics !

    December 16, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • effelbee

      Get a grip. There is no comparison between slimy Newt's ethical character and that of the President of the United States.

      December 16, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • NoRadicalsPlease

      did someone say "trust" a politician, laughable

      December 16, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • TNindie

      what examples can you give that Obama has "problems with ethics"?

      December 16, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • frsi

      Another baseless statement about the President. What on earth is wrong with people like you? You make claims that are completely stupid, you have no facts to support it, you provide no basis or evidence for your remark, and its just plain laced with bias. Gaaawd, will you people like you just stop filling your heads with the nonsense from cable tv, get rid of the Limbaugh virus that has infected you, and just start thinking for yourselves?

      December 16, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. John in WNY

    Funny, this story rips Gingrich for not giving Clinton any credit for the budget surplus and yet this very news site has never given the GOP controlled Congress any credit for it in the stories on "clinton surpluses" to this very day.

    December 16, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greenspam

      Neither deserved credit. It was the internet bubble.

      December 16, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • NoRadicalsPlease

      Greenspam hit it on the head, the market cycle along with internet bubble and prestamped mortgages

      December 16, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • JohnW

      We can't call it a Clinton surplus? Okay, then we can't call it a Bush tax cut or Obamacare either, right? After all, they were merely sitting presidents when congress did the work.

      December 16, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. ART

    Please explain to me Obamas ethical problems Handodoom, because I have no clue what youre talking about. You cannot just say aomething as fact without any proof, and as far as I know comparing him to Gingrinch who is a known liar and a cheat is just flat out bull crap.

    December 16, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • TNindie

      exactly...I have yet to see Obama acting unethical...where's the proof?

      December 16, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. mark ducharme

    firstly: Your fact finding has something to be desired. Much speculation. Second: On whether newt was a lobbyist. If it walks like a duck. Keep questioning what is is. Thanks for nothing on the facts. Seargeant Joe Friday.

    December 16, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jaun in El Paso

    A) Where are these people when it comes time to fact-check Obama, Reid and Pelosi?
    B) Will they fact-check Obama during the Presidential debates?
    C) All of thier facts above are misleading. Woud have's and mights don't belong in a fact-check.

    December 16, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      During the 2008 debates, both sides were given fact checks.

      December 16, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • NoRadicalsPlease

      misleading? did you read the article, they used more evidence than a court room

      December 16, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Festus

      Read much? You can go to Politifact or other web sites and look at a vast record of fact-checking for these folks. Unfortunately they may be hard to find as you have to sift through the large number of lies by republicans that were fact checked to find them.

      December 16, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. UHhello

    Does anyone ever notice how the liberals use NON PARTISAN groups for fact checks but conservatives and Tea party folks use total hacks to back themselves up IF they even take the time to check things out?

    December 16, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      modern day liberals are the most corrupt ideology we have in our times. They lie, cheat and steal, while hiding under the cover of being helpful to minorities, woman, and anyone else who can't see them for what they really are. Liberals are still controlled by white, racist, rich people. This is exactly in line with the parties past of creating the KKK, having a former clansman as a recent senator, Jim Crow laws, and the segregation of minorities and poor people into projects in inner cities. Democrats give minorities bare minimums to survive in life to ensure their votes. What have the democrats ever done to actually bring minorities out of poverty? NOTHING! They don't want to, they like them right where they are. Wake up minorities, you are being had big time by the democrats.

      December 16, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  7. GregHaus

    CNN: just to make it fair, anytime you do a fact check on the GOP candidates, why don't you also fact check everything the President has said in the last week or two? After all, he's campaigning to be our next leader, too.

    December 16, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Emmaleah

      There are numerous sites out there—many of them "liberal"—that fact-check Obama extensively and mercilessly. Liberals aren't cutting Obama any slack. We may not want the same things Republicans want or share their values but we don't lower our standards for our own people. Don't mix those concepts up.

      December 16, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • shut_up

      cnn is actually barry in disguise! he has these puppets on a string. barry said jump, odumbo said froggy. LOL

      December 16, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
  8. anon

    False False and Misleading. Pretty High standard for the GOP these days.

    December 16, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  9. NoRadicalsPlease

    i love it when the crazy liberals and conservatives come out and play, it is if reality is just so far away for them

    December 16, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Festus

    Iis it so hard to understand that both Congress and the President deserve equal blame or credit for budget surplus and deficit? Both branches have to sign off on the budget. The only exception is when the President veto's the budget and Congress overrides it with a 2/3 majority. As far as I can recall, Bush nor Obama have vetoed a budget. Clinton did but none were overridden.

    December 16, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  11. jamesdean

    So everytime there is a debate they are caught lying. This is presidential material? And for all those commentors saying Obama is a liar, where is the proof? I think that the people who are lying in the debates and about Obama should be held liable. You repubs have absolutely ZERO for class....

    December 16, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • shut_up

      you demons would stink up a sewer! wait your sewer material lol

      December 16, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Little Tin God

    No matter how many times you hit the rabid right between the eyes with the truth, they will continue to ignore it.

    December 16, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  13. humtake

    "Truth checking" and "Politicians" are the dumbest things to ever put together. First off, asking a liberal minded media outlet to fact check a conservative debate is ignorant enough. Of course it will all be false and misleading. That's a NO DUH moment there. Secondly, why do people continually feel that they need to fact check politicians? We know they lie. We know they do things for their own best interests. That's already been proven. You can find out all you need to know about the candidates online from reputable sources. If you really believe you are going to get a good feel of what kind of person someone will be by them standing behind a podium and talking about how great they are, you are not someone who should be voting in the first place.

    December 16, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • shut_up

      your right on! odummy asks the questions and fact checks whatever he wants. obozo is the proof reader and moderator! LOL

      December 16, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  14. shut_up

    a bunch of CNN chronies! TRUTH SQUAD? LOL LOL where is the truth squad for odumbo? always a free pass? cnn cant even get barry elected again. you are 50 times worse than fox news. i bought barrys story once, but never again. find some more suckers as you have these patsys mezermeized with princess barry

    December 16, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • jamesdean

      Shutup! Did you go to school?

      December 16, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Enzo

    "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,... "

    Err, THERE'S no proof that Iran has a nuclear weapons program PERIOD, it's ALL CONJECTURE: "maybe, may, could in the future". I read most of the report and it is full of conjectures, NOTHING CONCRETE.

    CNN had to admit that Bachmann was wrong but would have have never admitted that Paul was right (which he is, there's no proof of an Iranian nuclear weapons program). Seems like the new burden of proof is on the accused instead of the accuser: guilty until proven innocent! <<<< That is what happens in dictatorships and police states...

    December 16, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
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