Let's check on some of the claims in the second Republican presidential debate and how they compare with the facts.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The latest Republican presidential debate laid bare unsupported claims about vaccines and abortion practices as well as inconsistencies and misrepresentations about foreign policy:
—Donald Trump alleged a link between vaccines and autism that scientists have debunked, while several other candidates hedged. That prompted the American Academy of Pediatrics to release a statement Thursday emphasizing the safety and value of vaccines and asserting it is “dangerous to public health” to make such “false statements.”
—Carly Fiorina gave viewers the impression that a video shows a live fetus in the process of being used for the collection of fetal tissue for research. The scene she described was based on a verbal account and not captured on video.
—Trump pledged that as president, he would get along better with Chinese leaders and others, a promise at odds with his earlier call for economic disengagement with China.
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—Jeb Bush suggested that U.S. relations with other countries are worse everywhere under President Barack Obama. Relations have improved with Western Europe, a key allied bloc, since his brother George W. Bush was president, and Obama has forged closer ties with some countries in southeast Asia as well as with Cuba.
—Scott Walker complained that U.S. troops opposing Islamic State militants are constrained by “political restrictions” in Washington that he would lift. But decisions on the deployment of U.S. troops, including their numbers and what they do, are ultimately the responsibility of the president, who takes into account a range of factors not limited to the advice he receives from his military commanders. It is a bedrock principle of the U.S. system of government that the armed forces are under civilian control.
With 11 candidates crowding the stage and competing for talk time in Wednesday’s debate, rhetorical shortcuts and oversimplifications were inevitable. Even so, their turns on the stage were sufficient to show that their positions on some issues are far from fully formed.
Some of the claims and how they compare with the facts:
FIORINA: “As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.”
THE FACTS: According to both Planned Parenthood and anti-abortion activists, there is no scene matching Fiorina’s description in any of the undercover videos at the heart of the debate over the disposition of fetal tissue from abortions. The videos released by the Center for Medical Progress have roused pressure from conservatives to cut federal money for Planned Parenthood and are at the core of a budget struggle in Congress that could shut the government.
An installment of the videos released in August does contain footage showing an intact male fetus with legs moving. That footage was not taken by the undercover video team and does not depict a fetus being used to supply fetal tissue.
The footage was used to illustrate the verbal account of a California woman who said she formerly worked with StemExpress, a biotech firm that partnered with Planned Parenthood. The woman, Holly O’Donnell, described observing efforts to procure a brain from a fetus whose heart was beating after an attempted abortion. But her statements are not supported by video proof or otherwise corroborated.
To be sure, the videos present disturbing images of fetal body parts, without conclusive evidence that laws governing fetal tissue collection or research were violated.
In the videos, Planned Parenthood officials who didn’t know they were being taped discuss how they obtain tissue from aborted fetuses for research, how they decide how much to charge and how it’s possible to alter the procedure to enhance the chances of recovering the organs being sought. But the officials also repeatedly say they are only allowed by law to recover costs, not to make a profit. The videos don’t unambiguously show otherwise.
TRUMP: “I’m in favor of vaccines, do them over a longer period of time, same amount, but just in little sections and I think you’re going to see a big impact on autism.” He contended a child of one of his employees “went to have the vaccine and came back and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.”
RAND PAUL: “I’m all for vaccines. But I’m also for freedom. I’m also a little concerned about how they’re bunched up. My kids had all of their vaccines, and even if the science doesn’t say bunching them up is a problem, I ought to have the right to spread out my vaccines out a little bit at the very least.”
MIKE HUCKABEE: “I think we need to remember that there are maybe some controversies about autism.”
THE FACTS: Medical researchers have debunked claims that vaccines given to children can lead to autism and developmental disorders. The Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, says vaccines are not free from adverse effects, “but most are very rare or very mild.” A study that drew a connection between autism and vaccines was found faulty and retracted in 2010.
Concerned that unsubstantiated claims about vaccines have resurfaced in the campaign, Dr. Karen Remley, executive director of the American Academy of Pediatrics, sought to put doubts to rest.
“Claims that vaccines are linked to autism, or are unsafe when administered according to the recommended schedule, have been disproven by a robust body of medical literature,” she said in a statement. “It is dangerous to public health to suggest otherwise.”
As to the idea of spacing out vaccines or lessening doses, she said: “There is no ‘alternative’ immunization schedule. Delaying vaccines only leaves a child at risk of disease for a longer period of time.”
Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was just as categorical Thursday at an annual news conference on flu vaccination.
“Study after study have concluded there is no risk” of autism from vaccines, he said. He added that the discredited claims have sometimes interfered with research aiming to understand and prevent autism.
TRUMP: “I would get along with a lot of the world leaders that this country is not getting along with. We don’t get along with China. … I will get along with others, and we will have a much more stable, stable world.”
THE FACTS: Following a sharp decline in the U.S. stock market last month on the heels of instability in China’s stock market, GOP candidates were quick to call for less economic linkage between the two countries. None went further than Trump.
On Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor,” he said U.S. ties to China are “trouble for our country,” adding: “Not only now have they taken our jobs, they’ve taken our base, they’ve taken our manufacturing, but now they are pulling us down with them, and I said, “We can’t do this, we can’t allow this to happen.’ We have to do a big uncoupling pretty soon before it’s too late.”
Any “uncoupling” would threaten a nearly $600 billion annual trade in goods and services, the largest trade relationship in the world. China is the third-largest export market for U.S. goods. General Motors has sold more cars in China than in the U.S. every year since 2010, and China is Apple’s second-largest market for its iPhones, iPads and computers.
BUSH: “I believe that we need to restore America’s presence and leadership in the world. Name a country where our relationship is better today than it was the — the day that Barack Obama got elected president.”
THE FACTS: U.S. relations with Western European countries are better under Obama than George W. Bush, whose record on key European priorities like climate change, disarmament and multilateral diplomacy was often criticized by the continent’s leaders.
Whereas Bush’s attempt to build an Iraq war coalition divided Europe, Obama was able to count on near universal support among European partners for the military intervention in Libya, the anti-ISIL effort and the recent nuclear agreement with Iran.
Obama also has significantly eased tensions with Cuba and Myanmar, and deepened ties with other southeast Asian countries fearful of China’s increasingly dominant position in Asia. Some relationships have soured under Obama, such as those with Israel, Arab states in the Middle East and some Eastern European governments.
WALKER: “What I said the other day was that we need to lift the political restrictions that are already in play. Barack Obama’s administration has put political restrictions on the military personnel already in Iraq. … What I’m saying is lift the political restrictions. When you do that, you empower our military personnel already there to work with the Kurd and the Sunni allies, to reclaim the territory taken by ISIS.”
THE FACTS: Obama has limited U.S. troops in Iraq to training, advising and assisting Iraqi forces, including helping them plan military operations and coordinate U.S. and coalition airstrikes in support of Iraqi ground operations against IS. So the Americans are already working with the Iraqi Kurds as well as the Shiite-dominated security forces and Sunni tribal fighters. But they are not engaged directly in combat or embedded with Iraqi forces to advise them in combat, as many critics have urged.
The top U.S. military officer, Gen. Martin Dempsey, has supported Obama’s limited approach, although he has not ruled out recommending at some point that U.S. troops become more active.
Crary reported from New York. Associated Press writers Robert Burns, Bradley Klapper and Lauran Neergaard contributed to this report.