Fact-checking misleading presidential ads before March 15 primary in Florida

Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich stand up for the national anthem during the Republican presidential primary debate at the University of Miami on March 10.
Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich stand up for the national anthem during the Republican presidential primary debate at the University of Miami on March 10. pportal@miamiherald.com

Those annoying political ads interrupting your TV time?

This week, they meet the Truth-O-Meter.

Our first TV Ad Fact-Check-A-Thon features as many fact-checks of TV commercials from candidates and super PACs as we can finish.

To do it, we’re teaming up with PolitiFact partners in states like Florida, Texas, Colorado, Ohio and Nevada as well as the Political TV Ad Archive, a new project of the Internet Archive that records political commercials and documents how often and where they air in eight states.

PAC ad tying Trump to KKK misses mark

An ad from Conservative Solutions PAC, which supports Sen. Marco Rubio, includes clips of CNN’s Jake Tapper and Donald Trump talking about the KKK and David Duke.

Tapper: “I asked Donald Trump three times if he would disavow the support of David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan.”

Trump: “Well, I have to look at the group.”

Narrator: “Trump refuses to denounce the KKK. Think about that — for president?”

We gave the billionaire businessman a Pants on Fire rating for claiming to not to know anything about Duke, a white supremacist and former Klan leader. But it’s a stretch to say Trump “refuses to denounce the KKK” given his record of denouncements.

In a 1991 interview with CNN’s Larry King, Trump said he “hated” what Duke’s success with white voters in a failed bid for the Louisiana governorship represented. Trump also called Duke “a bigot, a racist, a problem,” in a 2000 interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer.

Trump’s disavowal of Duke’s criticism has been less pointed in 2016. Still, after the interview with Tapper, Trump rejected Duke’s support in interviews on Good Morning America and Morning Joe, calling him a “bad person who I disavowed on numerous occasions over the years.”

We rate the claim Mostly False.

PAC tweaks ad on Trump banning disabled vets

A PAC supporting Rubio says Donald Trump mistreats those less fortunate than him — including disabled veterans.

Trump “bans disabled veterans from his high rise,” states the ad by Conservative Solutions PAC. The ad has aired in San Francisco, Calif., and in Florida, including Miami and Tampa.

Trump didn’t really kick out disabled veterans from Trump Tower, a 68-story condo and retail building on Fifth Avenue. Instead, he wanted to ban disabled veterans who were given special licenses to peddle from selling their wares in front of the tower. Nothing in the ad makes it clear that Trump’s beef with veterans was related to street vendors.

In 1991, the state Legislature considered a bill to prohibit peddling on the street with an exception for 176 disabled veterans. Trump did not like it.

“While disabled veterans should be given every opportunity to earn a living, is it fair to do so to the detriment of the city as a whole or its tax-paying citizens and businesses?” Trump wrote to John Dearie, then-chairman of the state Assembly’s Committee on Cities, according to the New York Daily News. “Do we allow Fifth Avenue, one of the world’s finest and most luxurious shopping districts, to be turned into an outdoor flea market, clogging and seriously downgrading the area?”

Trump continued to complain about the vendors through the years, writing former Mayor Michael Bloomberg when the issue reemerged in 2004, “Whether they are veterans or not, they (the vendors) should not be allowed to sell on this most important and prestigious shopping street.”

A few days after the ad started running on TV — and after FactCheck.org deemed its ad “misleading” and PolitiFact asked questions about it — Conservative Solutions PAC changed the wording of the line to say Trump “bans veterans from in front of his high rise.”

PAC spokesman Jeff Sadosky said the PAC changed the ad on March 1 “to be more specific.”

The ad’s original statement, however, rates Mostly False.

Pro-Cruz PAC hits Rubio for missed votes on defense

A PAC supporting Sen. Ted Cruz picked up on Rubio’s Senate record and zeroed in on missed votes for defense spending.

“Did you know Marco Rubio skipped 18 defense votes, including one to arm the Kurds to fight ISIS?” asks the narrator in an ad from Keep the Promise 1, a PAC largely funded by a New York hedge fund magnate Robert Mercer.

Yes, Rubio skipped the votes. But this ad this ad doesn’t tell viewers that all of Rubio’s skipped votes pertain to one bill. Also, Rubio voted for the overall bill, and Cruz voted against it.

The majority of the skipped votes were amendments, many procedural except for one two days before the final vote dealing with weapons and training for the Kurdistan Regional Government. On June 16, the Senate voted 54-45 for the amendment, but that wasn’t high enough to meet the 60 votes threshold for passage. Rubio skipped the vote but was a co-sponsor of the amendment.

The Obama administration urged the Senate to reject the amendment, and Defense Secretary Ash Carter wrote a letter saying it could push the government of Iraq closer to Iran, Politico wrote.

On June 18, Rubio voted in favor of the overall bill, which passed the Senate by 71-25 about a month after the bill passed the House. Cruz voted against it because, “I would not vote for an NDAA that continued to allow the president to violate the constitutional rights of American citizens by indefinitely detaining them without due process.”

We rate the ad’s statement Half True.

Rubio home sale

Trump has released a new campaign ad that attacked Marco Rubio's history as a Florida lawmaker.

“As a legislator he flipped on a key vote after making a quick $200,000 from selling the house to the mother of the bill's lobbyist,” the ad said.

This claim starts back in 2007, when Rubio was Speaker of the House in Florida's Legislature. A West Miami chiropractor was pressuring (if not outright lobbying, by the state's definition) Rubio to pass an extension of a type of auto insurance called personal injury protection, or PIP. Rubio was holding out for better fraud protections in the legislation.

But Rubio also was selling his house in West Miami, which the chiropractor's mother bought during the legislative session at more than $200,000 over what Rubio had paid. That was considered a fair price at the time, and it seems the mother simply wanted to live near her chiropractor son.

The session ended after the sale, with no resolution to the insurance flap. But when Gov. Charlie Crist called a fall special session, Rubio asked to fix the issue. The Legislature came to an overwhelmingly approved compromise and PIP was restored.

Trump’s claim has a basis in real events, but there are several problems with the ethical implication he’s making about Rubio’s time in the Legislature. We rated the statement Mostly False.

Clinton claims car parts company asked for bailout and got it

Hillary Clinton stood outside of Johnson Controls Inc. when she cut a TV spot that attacks the suburban Milwaukee-based global firm.

“This is Johnson Controls,” Clinton says in the ad. “When the auto industry was going under, car parts companies like them begged taxpayers for a bailout and they got one.”

Did the company beg for a bailout — and get one? Yes. And no.

In 2008, the entire auto industry was in very bad shape as the recession took hold. Layoffs at auto plants and among auto parts suppliers were on track to reach 250,000 workers. General Motors was virtually out of cash to pay its bills and Chrysler was not far behind.

That December, President George W. Bush used $17.6 billion in TARP money to keep GM and Chrysler afloat. And in 2009, President Barack Obama continued the rescue of the two automakers that was financed with about $80 billion in taxpayer money, about $70 billion of whichwas repaid.

But Johnson Controls was in much better condition. It certainly would've taken a major financial hit had the automakers gone under. But it did not directly receive any bailout funds.

The claim rates Half True.

PAC’s claim about Trump selectively edited

Another ad from Keep the Promise I that played prominently in South Carolina makes the case that Trump supports a government-run health care program in which Washington pays for everybody. The last half is an edited version of an interview Trump did on CBS News’ 60 Minutes with Scott Pelley in September last year.

Voiceover: “We can't afford TrumpCare.”

Trump: “Everybody's got to be covered. This is an un-Republican thing for me to say.”

Pelley: “Universal health care?”

Trump: “I am going to take care of everybody.”

Pelley: “Who pays for it?”

Trump: “The government's gonna pay for it.”

Case closed? Harly. The ad left out crucial parts of Trump's interview, including Trump saying that he was talking about people of limited means, the lower 25 percent, who can't afford private insurance. Also missing: Trump saying that for the most part, he sees people picking the deal they like from competing private plans.

By omitting those key phrases, the ad delivers the message that Trump backs government-sponsored health care for everyone. And that message rates False.

For a more complete version of this article go to www.politifact.com Reporters Riley Snyder, C. Eugene Emery Jr., Jon Greenberg, Lauren Carroll, Louis Jacobson, Jason Noble, Tom Kertscher, Alan Gathright and Joshua Gillin contributed.

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