Elections

Fact-checking Tim Kaine and Mike Pence in the vice presidential debate

Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Mike Pence, right, and Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine shake hands during the vice-presidential debate at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016.
Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Mike Pence, right, and Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine shake hands during the vice-presidential debate at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. AP

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine faced off in the only vice presidential debate of the 2016 election, defending their running mates and attacking each other’s.

Kaine repeatedly pointed out that Pence didn’t go out of the way to defend "the insult-driven, selfish ‘me first’ style of Donald Trump." Pence turned the tables on Hillary Clinton, going after her foreign policy record and Clinton Foundation controversies.

Here are 21 claims (so far) the vice presidential candidates made, fact-checked:

Kaine: Trump "has pursued the discredited and really outrageous lie that President Obama wasn't born in the United States."

Trump repeatedly questioned Obama’s birthplace from 2011 to 2014.

Pence: "We've seen an economy stifled by more taxes, more regulation, a war on coal, and a failing health care reform come to be known as Obamacare, and the American people know that we need to make a change."

Pence’s point about more taxes under President Barack Obama rates Half True.Obama certainly raised some levies, including income taxes on people earning more than $400,000 a year.

Although most folks don’t fall into that category, Obama’s health care reforms come with a series of new taxes that do affect lower earners. But Pence’s statement leaves a lot out of the story. Obama also has extended permanently tax cuts that were set to expire. He also enacted a series of temporary tax cuts aimed at jumpstarting the economy.

Kaine: "These guys have praised Vladimir Putin as a great leader."

This is accurate. As we’ve previously written, Trump has said Putin is "getting an A" for leadership while Pence said it’s "inarguable that Vladimir Putin has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country."

Pence: "Hillary Clinton failed to renegotiate a status of forces agreement."

We rated this claim Mostly False. In 2011, the Obama administration was negotiating with the Iraqi government to give American troops immunity prosecution by Iraqis — a touchy political issue.

There’s debate on whether the Americans could have worked out a deal, but Pence is wrong to suggest Clinton is to blame. The key decisions and discussions took place between the White House itself and Iraqi leaders.

Pence: "She had a Clinton Foundation accepting contributions from foreign governments."

The Clinton Foundation has taken millions of dollars from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jamaica, Bahrain, Brunei and Germany to name a few. We rated this claim True.

Pence: "We’ve almost doubled the national debt."

This is Mostly True. The national debt was $10.63 trillion when Obama took office. It is now over $19.5 trillion. But it is important to note that the debt cannot all be blamed on Obama. Congress has a role in approving spending. And, experts told us that money needed to be spent in a free-falling economy.

Kaine: "Fifteen million new jobs" have been created during the Obama years.

Kaine is cherry-picking this figure. The actual number of jobs starting with their inauguration is only about two-thirds as big -- 10.6 million jobs. The 15 million number uses a different, more limited timeframe to count job creation. We rated this claim Half True.

Kaine: "Richard Nixon released tax returns when he was under audit."

This is a more accurate version of a previous Kaine claim. Nixon didn’t release his tax returns while running for president, but did when he was already president and under an IRS audit.

Kaine: "Donald Trump wrote a book and he said Social Security is a Ponzi scheme and privatization would be good for all of us."

In his 2000 book, The America We Deserve, Trump proposed allowing "every American to dedicate some portion of their payroll taxes to a personal Social Security account that they could own and invest in stocks and bonds. Federal guidelines could make sure that your money is diversified, that it is invested in sound mutual funds or bond funds, and not in emu ranches."

It’s worth noting, however, that Trump has not indicated he favors privatization now.

Kaine: "And if you look at sentencing in this country, African-Americans and Latinos get sentenced for the same crimes at very different rates."

Yes, African Americans are more likely to be arrested and get longer sentences than whites for the same crimes.

Pence: "Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine want to continue the policies of open borders, amnesty, catch and release, sanctuary cities."

This is a mixed bag of accuracy. Clinton does not want open borders and she has not advocated for amnesty. But she does believe sanctuary cities can help further public safety.

Kaine: "When Donald Trump spoke in Phoenix, he looked the audience in the eye and he said, no, we're building a wall, and we're deporting everybody. He said, quote, ‘they will all be gone. They will all be gone.’ This is one of the ones where you can go to the tape on it and see what Donald Trump has said."

We rated this claim Half True. Trump’s comments were more tamped-down than Kaine presented.

Trump has been not entirely consistent about his deportation plans, but he did not literally say the entire undocumented population "will all be gone" in Phoenix. He was referring to immigrants who had committed crimes. He did say, however, undocumented immigrants "have one route and one route only, to return home and apply for re-entry like everybody else."

Kaine: Trump "trash talks the military. The military is a disaster, John McCain's no hero, the generals need all to be fired, and I know more than them."

Trump did call the military a "disaster" during a debate in January. More recently, he has called it "depleted" and focused more on what he suggests is a lack of resources. He also called McCain "not a war hero" in 2015. Recently, Trump said"they’d probably be different generals" under a Trump presidency.

Kaine: Donald Trump believes "Japan should get" nuclear weapons.

Trump didn’t literally say he wants Japan to go nuclear, but he did say that Japan and the United States might be better off if Japan had them.

Pence: "You didn't stop the nuclear weapons program."

Kaine: "Yes, we did."

The two candidates were arguing over the efficacy of the Iran nuclear deal, which Clinton helped negotiate. When we looked into this in the past, most independent experts agreed with Kaine’s stance that the Iran nuclear deal did put a lid on Iran’s nuclear ambitions. They say the deal is both effective on paper and close to the best outcome the United States could have achieved through diplomatic means.

Pence: "Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine want to increase the Syrian refugee program by 500" percent.

This is True. Clinton supported allowing in 65,000 refugees when Obama supported a 10,000 figure. (The refugees would be screened.) That’s a 550 percent increase.

Pence: "Elaine, the director of the FBI, our homeland security, said we can't know for certain who these people are coming from Syria."

This is a much more tempered and more accurate version of Trump’s False claim that there’s "no system to vet" refugees.

It takes up to two years on average to screen refugees, who undergo multiple rounds of security checks and interviews. Pence has a point, however, that FBI Director James Comey has said there are gaps in the data and information on refugees from conflict zones.

Pence: "We have the smallest Navy since 1916."

The "smallest navy" line has become a popular talking point, but it is misleading. While the number of active ships is the lowest since 1916, the ships of the World War I era are definitely not the ships of today.

Kaine: "The Trump campaign management team had to be fired a month or so ago because of those shadowy connections with pro-Putin forces."

Kaine is likely referring to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. In May, we detailed Manafort’s long and deep ties to pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. Manafort quit the Trump campaign in mid August.

Kaine: Vladimir Putin "persecutes" journalists.

When we examined this question before, we found that there is no evidence that ties Putin directly to assassinations of journalists, but experts told us Putin is certainly responsible for a political climate that fosters a high volume of journalist murders.

Kaine: "The New York Times suggested that he probably didn't pay taxes for about 18 years starting in 1995."

In 1995, Trump reported a $916 million loss, according to the three pages of returnsobtained and verified by the New York Times in September. These losses stemmed from significant financial problems across many of Trump’s businesses in the 1990s, including at least four major bankruptcies.

As we explain in a PolitiFact Sheet on Trump’s taxes, the 1995 returns show it’s possible Trump was able to avoid paying federal income taxes for as much as 18 years legally. (A tax provision allows people to report losses from their businesses as a deduction.)

PolitiFact staff writers Lauren Carroll, C. Eugene Emery Jr., Warren Fiske, Sean Gorman, Joshua Gillin, Jon Greenberg, Louis Jacobson and Miriam Valverde contributed to this article.

Politifact Florida is a partnership between The Tampa Bay Times and the Miami Herald to check out truth in politics.

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