January 27th, 2012
04:32 AM ET

Truth Squad: Fact checking Thursday's debate

CNN examines statements by Republican presidential candidates during Thursday night's CNN/Republican Party of Florida debate in Jacksonville, Florida.

Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich both accused each other of having financial interests in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

The statements: "We discovered, to our shock, Gov. Romney owns shares of both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Governor Romney made $1 million off of selling some of that. Governor Romney has an investment in Goldman Sachs, which is, today, foreclosing on Floridians." - Gingrich

"First of all, my investments are not made by me. My investments, for the last 10 years, have been in a blind trust, managed by a trustee. Secondly, the investments that they have made, we learned about this as we made our financial disclosure, have been in mutual funds and bonds. I don't own stock in either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. There are bonds that the investor has held through mutual funds. And, Mr. Speaker, I know that sounds like an enormous revelation, but have you checked your own investments? You also have investments through mutual funds that also invest in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac." - Romney

The facts: Romney's blind trust holds Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-backed housing lenders, according to his public financial disclosure report filed last August with the Federal Election Commission. The financial holdings that are held in a blind trust are overseen by a trustee and are not known to Romney. The same report cites holdings that are not in his blind trust - including a mutual fund that contains Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The report does not say how much money he has in them. It says only that the mutual fund holding represented between $250,001 and $500,000, which makes up a small portion of Romney's holdings. It was not clear where Gingrich got his claim that Romney had made $1 million by "selling some of that."

According to Gingrich's disclosure report, he had holdings in four mutual funds that included Fannie Mae and other financial institutions that were part of the 2008 financial meltdown.

Specifically, he had $500,001 to $1,000,000 in Alliance Bernstein 2010 Retirement Strategy Fund, which includes Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Citigroup, and Goldman Sachs; $15,001 – $50,000 holdings in Franklin-Templeton's Franklin Income Fund, which includes Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac; $15,001 – $50,000 holdings in Pimco's Total Returns Fund, which includes Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase; 50,001 – $100,000 in Alliance Bernstein 2030 Retirement Strategy Fund, which includes Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Goldman Sachs.

The verdict, part one (did Romney and Gingrich invest in Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae?): True. Both men have holdings in the companies, though the reports do not specify the degree of their involvement. Also, Freddie Mac told CNN on Wednesday that Gingrich was a consultant for the government-sponsored enterprise.

The verdict, part two (were all of Romney's Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae investments in a blind trust?): False. Some of Romney's investments in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were outside of his trust, which means he could have known about them.

Gingrich accused Romney of taking out of context comments he made about bilingual education

The speaker's comments are referenced in a Spanish-language political ad. Moderator Wolf Blitzer asked Romney about it, "You've had an ad running saying that Speaker Gingrich called Spanish - quote - 'The language of the ghetto.' What do you mean by that?"

The statements: "I haven't seen the ad, so I'm sorry, I don't get to see all the TV ads. Did he say that? Did you say that?" - Romney, first to Blitzer, then to Gingrich.

"No, what I said was, we want everybody to learn English - I didn't use the word 'Spanish.' We do not want anyone trapped in a situation where they cannot get a commercial job, they cannot rise." - Gingrich

"I doubt that's my ad, but we'll take a look and find out." - Romney

The facts: The advertisement in question is a Spanish-language radio ad airing in Florida. The ad says, "Reagan never would have offended the Hispanics as Gingrich did when he said that Spanish is the language of the ghetto." At the end of the ad is the phrase, "Paid for by Romney for President, Incorporated," followed by a voice that sounds like Romney's that says, in halting Spanish, "I'm Mitt Romney. I'm running for president and I approve this message."

The advertisement was an apparent reference to a speech that Gingrich delivered on March 31, 2007, to the National Federation of Republican Women in Washington in which he said, "We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and so they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto."

After his "ghetto" comment stirred criticism, Gingrich made a video in which he said his words "were not the best."

The verdict: Misleading. While Romney says he doubted the ad was his, a news release sent by his press office one day before the debate, includes a link to the Spanish-language radio ad and offers highlights of the ad's major themes, including the, "Spanish is the language of the ghetto" accusation. The ad, entitled, "Hechos," or "Facts," includes examples that attempt to show that Gingrich is not a "Reagan conservative." It is clear from both the news release and the ad itself that it was "Paid For by Romney for President, Incorporated."

While Spanish is the largest single language other than English used in bilingual education in the United States, Gingrich is correct that he did not specifically refer to Spanish as the language of the ghetto. However, he did release the video later saying his word choice in the March 31 speech was not the best.

soundoff (166 Responses)
  1. John Green

    What bothers me is that they talk about 1 millioin in a blind trust here, 500 thousand in a mutual fund there... losing 250K somewhere else. How does this relate to a person that had to dissolve their 50K-401K to pay for a house that they eventually lost and now have no retirement left or are starting ove saving at 50 years old. Or a person that retired 10 year ago with 200k in a mutual fund that now has 20k left and is only 70 years old? There is such a disconnect here between these politicians and reality....

    January 27, 2012 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
  2. TXJack

    My own personal opinion it really does not matter who get nominated.
    The Obama Presidency has been bought and paid for by George Saros and the oil companies.
    He bankrolled him the 1st time, as did all the CEO’s and Exes of all major Oil companies.
    When you look at the list of contributors to his 1st campaign they contributed the max multiple times.
    This added to millions. The most in any presidential campaign ever.
    George Saros through multiple front companies owns 60% of the US press,
    Why do you think that there are so many Obama ads on CNN every time you click on CNN. (owned by Saros).
    I really would like anyone else to win except Obama

    January 27, 2012 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Saboth

      Newsflash: 99% of the government is bought and paid for by corporations. Super Pacs and lobbying has spiraled out of control. It really doesn't matter who you elect. Pick the one that is going to do the least damage to America, which is Obama in this case.

      January 27, 2012 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
    • TXJack

      @ Hitobito and @ steve harnack and @Saboth

      And you prefer you a president that is doing someone else’s bidding such as Bil Oil that is raping
      the US people for their own person financial gain.
      Obama is meeting and taking advice from Bill Clinton an admitted Adulterer.
      I have no interest in the Koch Brothers or the Tea party.
      Bill Clinton started taking loans from China and Obama has brought it to a new level.
      We need to get rid of all Super Pacs and lobbying as well as the Electoral College.
      Who do you think put Obama in the White House in the 1st place ??
      I say make it a popular vote again.
      I just want to save the US make it for the people again.

      January 27, 2012 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • TXJack

      The claim is generally made that Clinton had a surplus of $69 billion in FY1998, $123 billion in FY1999 and $230 billion in FY2000 . In that same link, Clinton claimed that the national debt had been reduced by $360 billion in the last three years, presumably FY1998, FY1999, and FY2000–though, interestingly, $360 billion is not the sum of the alleged surpluses of the three years in question ($69B + $123B + $230B = $422B, not $360B).

      While not defending the increase of the federal debt under President Bush, it's curious to see Clinton's record promoted as having generated a surplus. It never happened. There was never a surplus and the facts support that position. In fact, far from a $360 billion reduction in the national debt in FY1998-FY2000, there was an increase of $281 billion.

      Verifying this is as simple as accessing the U.S. Treasury (see note about this link below) website where the national debt is updated daily and a history of the debt since January 1993 can be obtained. Considering the government's fiscal year ends on the last day of September each year, and considering Clinton's budget proposal in 1993 took effect in October 1993 and concluded September 1994 (FY1994), here's the national debt at the end of each year of Clinton Budgets:

      Year Year
      Ending National Debt Deficit
      FY1993 09/30/1993 $4.411488 trillion
      FY1994 09/30/1994 $4.692749 trillion $281.26 billion
      FY1995 09/29/1995 $4.973982 trillion $281.23 billion
      FY1996 09/30/1996 $5.224810 trillion $250.83 billion
      FY1997 09/30/1997 $5.413146 trillion $188.34 billion
      FY1998 09/30/1998 $5.526193 trillion $113.05 billion
      FY1999 09/30/1999 $5.656270 trillion $130.08 billion
      FY2000 09/29/2000 $5.674178 trillion $17.91 billion
      FY2001 09/28/2001 $5.807463 trillion $133.29 billion

      As can clearly be seen, in no year did the national debt go down, nor did Clinton leave President Bush with a surplus that Bush subsequently turned into a deficit. Yes, the deficit was almost eliminated in FY2000 (ending in September 2000 with a deficit of "only" $17.9 billion), but it never reached zero–let alone a positive surplus number. And Clinton's last budget proposal for FY2001, which ended in September 2001, generated a $133.29 billion deficit. The growing deficits started in the year of the last Clinton budget, not in the first year of the Bush administration.

      Keep in mind that President Bush took office in January 2001 and his first budget took effect October 1, 2001 for the year ending September 30, 2002 (FY2002). So the $133.29 billion deficit in the year ending September 2001 was Clinton's. Granted, Bush supported a tax refund where taxpayers received checks in 2001. However, the total amount refunded to taxpayers was only $38 billion . So even if we assume that $38 billion of the FY2001 deficit was due to Bush's tax refunds which were not part of Clinton's last budget, that still means that Clinton's last budget produced a deficit of 133.29 – 38 = $95.29 billion.

      Clinton clearly did not achieve a surplus and he didn't leave President Bush with a surplus.

      January 27, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeremiah

      If we had gotten rid of the Electoral College back before 2000, we wouldn't be in this position now because Shrub wouldn't have ruined this country with his stupidity. But I am sure that you think he won the 2000 election as well, right?

      January 27, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  3. KP

    Typical CNN bashing of Romney! Did you see in the verdict they fail to mention that Gingrich was wrong in his $ 1 million claim and HE is the \one with> $1 million invested in Fannie May and Freddie Mac. A convenient oversight I guess for CNN. No wonder CNN is losing to FOX

    January 27, 2012 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Risky

      They didnt overlook it. They simply said that they dont know where Newt got that number; meaning they cannot prove it right or wrong.

      January 27, 2012 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
    • michiganmoon

      CommonSense, Mitt said he owned mutual funds which have Fannie and Freddie holdings. The odds are that you also have Fannie and Freddie holdings in your pension or your mutual funds. It WAS (until the collapse) a commonly held stock in many mutual funds/pensions.

      January 27, 2012 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Jeremiah

      CNN is "losing" to FOX because, like you, the average American has the analytical skills of slime mold or, worse, a republican economic theorist. If you think that the fact that FOX News has so many viewers is anything other than a cry for help for this country, then maybe I have even overestimated your intelligence.

      January 27, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Tyceson Joules

    The lack of coverage about Ron Paul is disgusting, and undermines the network's credibility. Nobody cares about fact-checking the minute details about the two "front runners'" personal attacks on each other. Especially when both had dealings with and support Fannie & Freddie, while, as Ron Paul noted – Fannie and Freddie should have been auctioned off years ago, not bailed out.

    Because we have slime like Newt and Romney, they were able to barely stay on life support for several more years at the expense of ALL AMERICANS!! Is that republican ideals?? Nope, but apparently they are the ones that the media supports.

    Get some semblance of fair and balanced reporting, stop ignoring Ron Paul – better yet, start accurately reporting on his message instead of twisting it when you actually mention him in your articles. Like I said, you are only undermining your own credibility when you ignore him, CNN.

    January 27, 2012 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • comeon

      Too little too late. The small chance he had disappeared long ago. They are not going to say anything about him b/c all his points were straight forward and simple. I would like to see them talk about how he called out Newt for the 4 year balanced budget comments he continues to use – when they weren't balanced nor was he there for all 4 years (only 2 actually, then he got the boot).

      January 27, 2012 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  5. Debbie

    Gingrich and Romney are focusing on each other and not the issues. Santoram seems to know a lot about the government but does he have what it takes? Ron Paul has been in politics a long time, can't be bought, speaks it as it is, doesn't talk to lobbyists, has great ideas. I suppose we should focus on him. No dirt on him. Ron Paul 2012!

    January 27, 2012 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Risky

      If you were haras.sed at work, you should simply just quit. Thats what ron paul would want you to do.

      January 27, 2012 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
  6. Terrence

    What's interesting to me is it can appear that Romney did not have a handle on information being put out by his campaign in not knowing that was his ad. I concede his point that he can't know them all, but the bigger picture is that a tone should be set within your campaign to where your staff know what ads are acceptable to put out. And then to question if Gingrich said it or not to divert the attention from his misleading ad...just fess up. Information that is said or put out should be accurate but we are dealing with politicians of course....

    January 27, 2012 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  7. Jj

    awe. Did your life not turn out as expected? You and you alone can change it. This is a capitalistic society where you have a choice to be all or nothing. Quit making excuses for your failures. Quit waiting for the govt to help you because you think that is the norm nowadays. 2%? Really what flipping rock you been living under. 63% of the groceries that go outta the store I work at are paid for by the govt in the form of food stamps! Oh but that NEVER happens right?

    January 27, 2012 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
    • momof2

      then you must work in a really cr@ppy neighborhood. According to a cnn money article from August, about 15% of Americans use food stamps.

      if the sight of food stamps bothers you so much, then work in a neighborhood where the median price of a home is higher than 5 figures, or work at Whole Foods instead of Aldi or Walmart.

      January 27, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  8. AmesIA

    One point on Romney's blind trust is that it isn't particularly blind. If I have my personal attorney and close family confidant manage my affairs it is hardly blind. Would a truly blind trust invest in my son's company? Hardly. As a private citizen Romney is completely at liberty to do whatever he chooses with his wealth within the law. As a public figure and as a possible leader of the free world there is a higher standard. As awkward and frustrating as that is – he has to deal with it.

    January 27, 2012 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
  9. Delber

    This fact check itself is misleading. It never states the fact in plain English that Gingrich did NOT have a blind trust, or highlighted the hypocrisy of Gingrich's claim, when he himself not only fully knew about his investments in Fanny and Freddy but that he also knowledgeably had significantly more invested in Fanny and Freddy than Romney. Gingrich's involvement with Fanny politically, financially and in business with should be leaning this fact check towards Gingrich's hypocrisy, misleading statements, and sheer gall.

    January 27, 2012 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
    • michiganmoon

      Good Point. Additionally, the fact check should point out that MOST Americans with a pension, 401K or similar retirement account have had money in Fannie and Freddie. It was a commonly held stock and the odds are that most of the people complaining about Fannie and Freddie have held pensions or mutual funds invested in it whether they realize it or not.

      January 27, 2012 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
  10. Dee

    ""We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and so they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto"

    he just lost the entire Latino Vote.. OBAMA 2012!! LETS GO!!

    January 27, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Brenda

      Bilingual education is a thing of the past! Currently a program for non-English speakers is more correctly termed ELL English Language Learners – this does just as the writer asks – let's all get behind the ELL program and provide what is needed to equip our children.

      January 27, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • TXJack

      I agree when we legally immigrated to the US in 1060 we learned to speak English.
      WE did not ask for any favoritism, welfare or food stamps.
      My dad came to the US with $10.00 in his pocket worked hard and made a life for us.
      We are proud to be Legal Americans.

      January 27, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Jeremiah

      He had $10 in his pocket in 1060? He was definitely a man ahead of his time.

      But about 700 years, apparently. Who's your Dad still having a live son after moving to America 950 years ago? Moses?

      January 27, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jeff

    I am not a Newt fan but what he was infering was true. if you want to successd you need to speak well. He might have said it porly but it is true. You will have all kinds of barriers to overcome if you can not speak the common language well. I had to try to communicate with non english speaking laborers working on my house. It will not happen again. If they can't speak english they will not get my business.

    January 27, 2012 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • TXJack

      Yup look at Obama. He is so slick he could be a used care salesmen.
      Tells you what you want to hear not the truth.

      January 27, 2012 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Martin

      Jeff, please... if they can do the job for cents on the dollar compared to Enlgish speaking people, YOU will give the business to the "One You cant understand", speak the Truth Sir.

      January 27, 2012 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  12. cgoldfinger

    Amazing that these guys look to Reagan as a hero. Reagan gutted the mental hospitals of California, putting the mentally ill on the street. Reagan started homelessness in America. This is what republicans stand for.

    January 27, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Sandra

      I am so glad to see someone pointing that out. I was living in California when that happened. It was supposed to "free" the patients, but of course had the opposite effec. Most mental patients lack the resources to take care of themselves and either cannot get to their medications or forget or refuse to take them, and therefore are imprisoned by their "freedom" to be homeless.

      January 27, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anthony Adams

      Reagan started homelessness? Did your mom drop you on your head? Maybe if CA had charities and churches to take care of people they could, but gov't has taken their place. Keep putting your hope in government it's working out for you really well over there.

      January 27, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Tim

    Don't you think you should have checked Gov. Romney's claim that President Obama cut $500 Billion from Medicare? It's very misleading and is in fact a slowing of growth on Medicare. Wolf Blitzer and certainly the other candidates didn't challenge it.

    January 27, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Christian

    I think Ron Paul won the debate because he focused on the issues and avoided the pettiness. People if you want our crummy 2 party system of politics to be eliminated than vote for Ron Paul.

    January 27, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |

    When European immigrants came to America in large numbers during the 19th and 20th centuries, the American government didn't require that they drop their native language in order to gain entry to our shores. We are a diverse nation because that is what America is all about. We all contributed to building this great nation street by street and block by block together. The words on the scrolls of the Statute of Liberty says something like give me your tired, your huddled masses yearning to be free. But it didn't say except those of you who don't speak fluent english.

    January 27, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Now now, don't bring silly things like facts and history into this. This is politics: where the only facts are the ones that reflect the reality you want to be true.

      January 27, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jerry

      It is extremely difficult for a country to function without a common language. The immigrants you speak about did not stubbornly cling to their native tongues, but for the most part attempted to assimilate by learning English. You don't have to speak fluent English when you arrive, but you should expect your children to be educated in the common language – English.

      January 27, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
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