FACT CHECK: 9 Claims From The 1st Republican Primary Debate

Check Your Fact Staff | Contributor

The first Republican primary debate, moderated by Fox News, saw eight Republican presidential candidates meet in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Aug. 23 where they debated over a variety of topics such as foreign policy, former President Donald Trump and others.

Here are checks on nine of their claims.

Well actually, crime is at a 50year low in Florida,” said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Uniform Crime Report found that crime fell to a 50-year low in 2021, according to The Tampa Bay Times. The figure, however, lacks data from around half of the Florida’s law enforcement agencies and over 40% of the population, the Marshall Project reported.

“In order to talk accurately about a problem, we need to be able to define the problem correctly. And we simply cannot do that with the existing data in Florida,” Brendan Lantz, a criminology professor at Florida State University, told the Marshall Project.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that the data is incomplete and provisional because many law enforcement agencies are switching on how they report crime statistics based on a new methodology put out by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“I’m the outsider on this stage. I’m not a politician. My parents came to this country 40 years ago with no money, and I’ve gone on to found multibillion dollar companies,” said businessman Vivek Ramaswamy.

Ramaswamy founded biotechnology company Roivant Sciences in 2014, according to the New York Post. In July 2023, the outlet reported the company was in talks to sell an experimental drug worth more than $7 billion.

Ramaswamy also co-founded the website StudentBusinesses.com while studying at Harvard, Forbes reported. The website was purchased by a private charity for an undisclosed amount of money in 2009. Upon graduating from Harvard, Ramaswamy joined the hedge fund QVT where he earned $7 million in the first seven years of his career and made partner at age 28. Ramaswamy also purchased the Alzheimer’s Disease drug Interpiridine from Roivant Sciences’ spinoff Axovant for $5 million, the outlet indicated.

Besides his work with biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, Ramaswamy founded the investment firm Strive Asset Management in 2022, which was backed by billionaires Peter Thiel and Bill Ackman, according to Politico. The pair said they were managing more than $230 million in assets after two weeks of trading in August 2022.

Ramaswamy reportedly spent $10.5 million of his own money on his presidential campaign in the first quarter of the year, according to Federal Election Commission filings, Politico reported. That number has increased to $15.2 million following another self-funded loan of $5 million on June 28, FEC records show.

“I have given pardons when I was governor of the state of Indiana,” said former Vice President Mike Pence.

bar chart from The Indiana Lawyer totaling the amount of pardons given by each governor in the last 20 years indicates Pence issued only three pardons during his tenure. Pence’s successor, Republican Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb issued six pardons in November 2017, or twice the amount of pardons Pence granted while governor, according to a December 2017 article from The Indiana Lawyer.

Keith Cooper, one of the six men who received a pardon under Holcomb, had been denied a pardon from Pence, according to The Associated Press. Cooper had wrongly been convicted of a 1996 armed robbery in Elkhart, Indiana, in which a teenager was shot in the stomach, the outlet indicated. Both DNA testing and a nationwide offender database cleared Cooper as the perpetrator.

In addition to the DNA testing and database information eliminating Cooper as the suspect, two witnesses who had testified against him recanted their statements, prompting the Indiana parole board to recommend that Pence issue a pardon by 2014, the Daily Beast reported. Despite this evidence and a petition with over 100,000 signatures, Pence refused to issue Cooper a pardon.

Pence claimed he’d issued pardons as governor after being asked if he’d pardon his 2016 and 2020 running mate, former President Donald Trump during the debate, according to Politico. The former vice president refused to make the vow, but did not shut the door on the idea completely.

“America has cut our carbon footprint in half over the last 25 years,” said South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott.

Although America has reduced its carbon footprint over the last 25 years, it wasn’t by half, as Scott claims. Greenhouse gas emissions have seen a 7 percent decrease since 1990 and a 20 percent decrease since 2005, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

More EPA data shows greenhouse gas emissions totaled 6,670 million metric tons (MMT) in 1996. EPA’s 2021 report found that greenhouse gas emissions totaled 6,340 MMTs in 2021. The report shows two graphics showing the total changes in emissions categorized by economic sector and gas.

Furthermore, a January 2023 report from the Congressional Research Service noted that, while there was a 21 percent decline in emissions between 2005 and 2020, most of that was due to the lockdowns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. The trend quickly reversed after the lockdowns were lifted and states were reopen. No projections run by any simulations estimates that the U.S. would cut its emissions by 50 percent in 2030 when compared to 2005 levels.

“We expanded addiction counseling in Arkansas,” said former Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

This claim is true. Hutchinson announced a state-funded helpline to help with mental health and addiction counseling in Aug. 2019, according to Arkansas Online. After calling a number, a representative would provide callers with about six recommendations for service providers in their area, the outlet reports.

From 2017 to 2018, the number of drug addiction counselors in the state went from 31 to 207 – a 567% increase, and the number of behavioral health agencies increased from 253 to 311, according to Arkansas news outlet KAIT8. New rules at the time from the Arkansas Department of Human Services encouraged new providers to accept and bill for people on Medicaid who require mental health services, the outlet reports.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, while drug overdose deaths in the state did increase along with the national average, the state’s pace remained well below the number. The state also had a higher number of mental health professionals to meet demand, 34 percent compared to the national average of 27 percent, as of September 2022.

North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum claimed that “China importing 10 million barrels of oil a day.”

China is currently on track to import 10.8 million barrels of crude oil a day in 2023, according to Reuters. The upward trend indicates a 6.2% rise from last year and is on pace to eclipse the previous record set in 2020, the outlet stated.

Saudi Arabia is China’s number one exporting with $38 billion in unprocessed petroleum as of 2021, accounting for 18.4% of China’s cumulative oil import, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity. Russia has become China’s second highest oil seller with $35.4 billion and 17% of their total, allowing the country to be the largest importer of crude petroleum in the world, the Observatory reported.

However, in recent months, Russia eclipsed Saudi Arabia to become China’s biggest oil supplier at around 1.9 million barrels a day, according to Reuters. In the month of July alone, China imported around 8.06 million metric tons from Russia and 5.65 million metric tons from Saudia Arabia, the outlet indicated.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine their oil exports to China have reached record highs. The Moscow Times reported that China is Russia’s largest economic partner with a total trade value reaching $190 billion last year. President Xi Jingping and President Vladimir Putin recently agreed to further increases in trade for 2023, the outlet indicated.

Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley claimed that “half the batteries for electric vehicles are made in China.”

According to some reports, Haley’s claim may underestimate the actual amount of lithium-ion batteries China creates. Statistia’s research indicates that, “China produced some 79 percent of all lithium-ion batteries that entered the global market.”

The New York Times reports that by 2030 China will be making twice as many batteries as the rest of the world combined. They continue to expand their efforts in this market by training more engineers, building more factories and controlling 41 percent of the world’s cobalt and 28 percent of the world’s lithium supply, with most of the former imported from the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the outlet.

Most of the United States lithium-ion battery imports were from China last year, estimated at $9.3 billion, according to the World Economic Forum. The number made up for over 66 percent of the U.S. imports of such batteries, the organization indicated.

“In Florida, we had schools open during COVID…” said DeSantis.

The Florida Department of Education initially ordered schools to close in March 2020 for two weeks to help limit the spread of COVID-19, according to Fox 13. DeSantis extended that until April 15, 2020, the outlet reported. Finally, DeSantis said April 18, 2020 that schools would remain closed until the end of the school year, the Florida Times-Union reported.

Florida was one of the first states to resume in person instruction, with Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran issuing an order that all school districts must allow families the option to have in person instruction five days a week by August 31, 2020, according to The Wall Street Journal. This drew an unsuccessful lawsuit from the state teacher’s union, USA Today reported.

80% of Florida’s students were in person full time or part time by March 2021, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“[W]hen Hunter Biden fills out a fake application, a false application, for a gun permit, and then is facing a 10-year mandatory minimum — which was mandated by legislation sponsored by his father — and then you have a Justice Department that walks away from those charges, we’re telling people that the law doesn’t apply to everybody,” said former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Hunter Biden, the son of President Joe Biden, was charged with possessing a firearm despite knowing he was a user of illegal substances, according to a United States Attorney for the District of Delaware. He was offered a pretrial diversion deal before it fell apart earlier this month, CNBC reported.

Biden allegedly lied on his Form 4473, when he said that he was not a user of illegal substances, according to The Washington Post. The part of the law –the Brady Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 –that Biden allegedly broke has a maximum sentence of 10 years, not a mandatory minimum of 10 years, according to the outlet reported. Then Senator Joe Biden helped champion and pass the bill.

Elias Atienza, Christine Sellers, Joseph Caiseri and Anna Mock contributed to this report. 

Check Your Fact Staff