Reality Check: Grading Sunday’s town hall with Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton

WASHINGTON (March 14, 2016) — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met at The Ohio State University on Sunday for a Democratic town hall hosted by CNN and TV One, and CNN’s Reality Check team spent the night putting their statements and assertions to the test.

The team of reporters, researchers and editors across CNN listened throughout the town hall, selected key statements and then rated them true; mostly true; true, but misleading; false; or it’s complicated.

Bernie Sanders

Reality Check: Sanders on factories closing

By Tami Luhby, CNNMoney

In talking about trade, Sanders decried the agreements that he said have hurt the nation’s manufacturing sector.

“We have lost, since 2001, almost 60,000 factories. Can you imagine that? Sixty-thousand factories, millions of good-paying jobs,” he said.

He’s right.

There were 352,600 manufacturing establishments employing just under 16 million people in 2001, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By 2013, that figure was down to 292,100 establishments, employing 11.3 million people.

Verdict: True.

Reality Check: Sanders on America’s prison population

By Kate Grise, CNN

Sanders told the audience that there are “more people in jail in America than any other country on Earth.”

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were more than 2.2 million adults held in local jails and prisons in the United States in 2014.

The Chinese have 1.66 million people locked up in their prison system, while the Russian prison population doesn’t hit a million, with about 644,000 people incarcerated, according to the Institute for Criminal Policy Research.

However, the institute notes that China’s incarcerated population is probably higher since that number does not include people held in detention centers. In 2009, an additional 650,000 people were held in detention centers, according to numbers reported by Chinese government officials.

Just based on those raw numbers, we rate Bernie Sanders’ claim as true.

However, many experts say it is best to compare the prison population rate of countries.

By this measure, the United States locks up 698 per 100,000 people, which puts it at second, according to the ICPR.

Only the island nation of Seychelles tops the United States, with 799 prisoners per 100,000 people. However, some incarceration experts say that it is unfair to compare Seychelles, which has a population of about 90,000, to the United States, a country with more than 300 million people. The Prison Policy Initiative did not include countries with less than half a million residents when it published its 2014 States of Incarceration report “to make the comparisons more meaningful.”

China’s rate is 119 prisoners per 100,000 people and Russia’s is 446 per 100,000.

Even when looking at the numbers from a different perspective, we still rate Sanders’ claim as true.

Reality Check: Sanders on wealth inequality in the U.S.

By Tami Luhby, CNNMoney

Sanders ticked off a list showing how unequal America is.

One of them centered on wealth: “Problem is that we have the worst distribution of wealth of any major country on Earth,” Sanders said.

Financial services Credit Suisse and Allianz look at wealth globally every year. They both found that the United States has the highest level of inequality among developed countries. Noting that the economic crisis of the last decade and the subsequent sluggish recovery has exacerbated the divide, Allianz dubbed us the “Unequal States of America.”

The richest 10% of Americans controlled 74.6% of the nation’s wealth in 2014, according to Credit Suisse. The only other developed nation that comes close is Switzerland, where the top 10% own 71.9% of the wealth.

Wealth inequality in the U.S. rivals that of several emerging countries, such as Russia, South Africa and India.

Verdict: True.

Hillary Clinton

Reality Check: Clinton on Iran’s nuclear program

By Ryan Browne, CNN

When Clinton was asked whether her record in office was overly interventionist, she referenced her role in helping lay the foundations for the international effort to curb Iran’s nuclear program. She described the Iranian nuclear program as being highly advanced when President Barack Obama took office.

Clinton said, “You know, when President Obama went into office and I became secretary of state, the Iranians had mastered the nuclear fuel cycle. They had built covert facilities, they had stocked them with centrifuges. All of that happened while George W. Bush was president, and we had done, you know, sanctions and everything that we could think of as the United States government and Congress, but it hadn’t stopped them. And there were a lot of other countries in the region who said they would take military action if necessary.”

Iran’s nuclear program dates all the way back to the 1980s. In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed off on sanctions against Iran to penalize it for pursuing a nuclear program. But the Iranian government did not announce it had mastered the nuclear fuel cycle until the end of 2010, nearly two years into Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.

Iran now produces everything it needs for the nuclear fuel cycle, making its nuclear program self-sufficient, the head of the country’s Atomic Energy Organization told state media Sunday.

While Iran’s nuclear program made great strides during the Bush presidency, the fuel cycle was mastered during the early years of the Obama administration, and Iran’s use of covert facilities dates all the way back to the 1990s.

Clinton’s statement that these developments occurred while Bush was in office is false.

Reality Check: Clinton on her role in the Iran nuclear deal

By Laura Koran, CNN

Clinton took credit for bringing Iran to the negotiating table for a deal that would restrict its nuclear program.

Clinton conceded that some sanctions on Iran were imposed under George W. Bush’s administration, but went on to suggest that these did nothing to slow Iran’s weapons-related nuclear activities.

“So I led the effort to impose sanctions on Iran, to really bring them to the negotiating table,” said Clinton, adding, “the negotiations started under my watch.”

Talks did in fact begin during Clinton’s tenure leading the State Department, and she did play an important role galvanizing international support for tougher sanctions, but Clinton’s statements Sunday minimize significant contributions by both Congress and the Bush administration.

In her 2014 memoir “Hard Choices,” Clinton wrote about how negotiations emerged from back-channel discussions through the sultan of Oman, who ultimately suggested the talks. Clinton later sent a top aide to Oman to meet with the Iranians, paving the way for a critical phone call between President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and the commencement of more formal negotiations.

Clinton also argued successfully for harsher U.S. and United Nations Security Council sanctions that increased the pressure on Iran’s economy in the months leading up to negotiations.

In particular, Clinton lobbied foreign powers to sign onto nuclear-related sanctions in early 2010, helping build unity between the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China behind the measures.

Congress also imposed new unilateral sanctions against Iran around that time, but in some cases, those measures actually went further than the Obama administration wanted to go, and were in fact publicly opposed by State Department officials.

Clinton’s statements Sunday also undervalue the usefulness of measures taken by the Bush administration, led by then-Undersecretary of Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey.

In fact, in the last three years of the Bush administration, the United Nations Security Council imposed several rounds of tough international sanctions against Iran in connection with the country’s nuclear activity. It’s possible these sanctions, in addition to the ones Clinton promoted, affected Iran’s calculus in deciding to pursue diplomatic talks.

Verdict: Mostly true. Clinton played a major role in bringing about the Iran talks, but those initiatives were bolstered by congressional action — some of which her department opposed — and by Bush-era measures.

Reality Check: Clinton on poverty

By Tami Luhby, CNNMoney

In talking about fighting poverty, Clinton pointed out that poverty fell drastically during the administration of her husband, Bill Clinton.

“In the ’90s, more people were lifted out of poverty at any time in recent history because of the terrible economic policies of the Bush administration. President Obama was left with the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and people fell back into poverty because they lost jobs, they lost homes, they lost opportunities and hope,” she said.

Poverty did rise under the first Bush administration. In 1989, George H.W. Bush’s first year in office, there were 31.5 million people in poverty, or 12.8% of Americans.

It rose to 39.3 million, or 15.1%, by 1993, when Bill Clinton entered the White House. In 2000, his last full year in office, it had dropped to 31.6 million people, or 11.3% of Americans, the lowest rate since 1974.

Poverty jumped again to 39.8 million people, or 13.2%, by 2008, when George W. Bush was leaving office.

The Great Recession sent millions more Americans into poverty. The rate hit 15.1% in 2010, when 46.3 million Americans were below the poverty line.

There are now 46.7 million people in poverty, of 14.8% of the nation. (The share has eased somewhat because the population has grown.)

Verdict: True.

Bernie Sanders & Hillary Clinton

Reality Check: Clinton, Sanders on Trump paying legal fees of man charged with assault

By Sonam Vashi, CNN

Both Clinton and Sanders addressed a recent incident at one of Donald Trump’s rallies.

Hours after a Wednesday rally in North Carolina, videos surfaced of a man punching a black protester in the face at the rally and saying, “The next time we see him, we might have to kill him.” Police arrested the alleged attacker, John McGraw, the following day and charged him with assault, disorderly conduct and communicating threats.

The protester was being escorted out of the rally by police officers, and the Columbus County Sheriff’s Office is internally investigating whether the officers should have detained or arrested McGraw on the site, according to a spokesman.

At Sunday night’s town hall, Sanders said, “Some of you may have read just a few hours ago that Mr. Trump said that he is prepared to pay for the legal costs of an individual who sucker punched somebody at a recent event. … What that means is that Donald Trump is literally inciting violence with his supporters. He is saying that ‘If you go out to beat somebody up, that is OK, I’ll pay the legal fees.'”

Clinton later said, “Donald Trump is responsible for what happens at his events. He is the person who has for months now been not just inciting violence, but applauding violence. The images of the, you know, young African-American protester being attacked totally without any provocation whatsoever, and having Donald Trump say that he would pay the legal bills of the attacker.”

In February, Trump spurred his fans to “knock the crap out of” people “getting ready to throw a tomato” at his rallies. “I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise, I promise,” he said.

And Sunday morning on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” host Chuck Todd pressed Trump on whether he would help pay McGraw’s legal fees. Trump said, “I’ve actually instructed my people to look into it, yes.” Trump said he wants to see the full video of the incident and does not accept responsibility for it or “condone violence in any shape.” He also said the protester was “sticking a certain finger up in the air, and that is a terrible thing to do in front of somebody that frankly wants to see America made great again.”

Both statements from Sanders and Clinton are true.