Fact-Checking The Third Republican Presidential Primary Debate

Check Your Fact Staff | Contributor

The third primary Republican debatesponsored by NBC News, the Salem Radio Network and the Republican Jewish Coalition–saw five Republican presidential candidates meet at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida on Nov. 8 where they debated over foreign policy, economic policy and other topics.

“We had Al-Qaeda in Iraq. You had Shia militias that were funded by Iran that were killing hundreds and hundreds of U.S. troops,” – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. 

The Pentagon said in 2019 that 603 troops were killed by Iranian-backed militias during Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to the Military Times. The Pentagon previously estimated in 2015 that 500 U.S. troop deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan were linked to Iran, the outlet reported.

“These casualties were the result of explosively formed penetrators (EFP), other improvised explosive devices (IED), improvised rocket-assisted munitions (IRAM), rockets, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades (RPG), small-arms, sniper, and other attacks in Iraq,” Navy Commander Sean Robertson told the Military Times in 2019.

A March 2020 Department of Justice memorandum about the January 2020 strike against Iranian Guards Revolutionary Corps (IGRC) commander Qassem Soleimani stated that groups backed by Iran and armed with “Iranian-provided weapons…are estimated to have killed more than 600 Americans serving in Iraq between 2003 and 2011.”

“Look at what these kids are dealing with on college campuses. What makes me so angry is not only do you have the kids barricaded in the library, they said they were going to shoot up the kosher dining hall,” – Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley

Patrick Dai, a 21-year-old student at Cornell University, was arrested for allegedly posting anti-Semitic threats on an online message board Oct. 31, according to Fox News. In addition to allegedly threatening to rape Jewish women and behead Jewish children, Dai also supposedly threatened to “shoot up 104 west,” a campus dining hall that serves kosher meals, the outlet reported.

Dai reportedly struggled with his mental health, his mother Bing Liu said, the New York Post reported. According to Liu, her son took the antidepressant Lexapro, which she labeled as partly responsible for his anti-Semitic threats. Dai also admitted he was a “depressed suicidal person” in a subsequent online post he made apologizing for his behavior, the outlet indicated.

Dai has been charged with “posting threats to kill or injure another using interstate communications,” which carries up to five years in prison, BBC reported.

Besides the incident involving Dai at Cornell University, other instances of anti-Semitism have been reported at Cooper Union, Tulane University, and the University of Pennsylvania, according to the Washington Post and CBS News respectively.

“Let’s remember, the last time that we turned our back on a shooting war in Europe. It bought us just a couple of years. And then 500,000 Americans were killed in Europe to defeat Hitler. This is not a choice.” -former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. 

405,000 U.S. troops died in World War II, according to the Defense Casualty Analysis System.  The National World War II Museum states 407,316 U.S. troops died in the conflict.

Estimates vary on how many troops died in the European Theater. A 1946 U.S. Army study found that 135,576 U.S. Army/Army Air Force service members died in the European Theater. The Department of Defense noted that 104,000 troops were killed between June 1944 and May 1945.

Estimates vary about the cost suffered by the U.S. in the Pacific Theater. Britannica estimates more than 100,000 U.S. troops were killed in the Pacific Theater, while the a  resolution introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2005 celebrating Victory in Japan day states,”the casualty toll of Americans in the Pacific Theater during World War II was approximately 92,904 killed, 208,333 wounded, and tens of thousands missing in action and prisoners of war.”

291,000 troops were killed in combat, while another 113,000 troops died by other means, according to a 2020 Congressional Research Service report.

“I believe that we have sleeper terrorist cells in America. Thousands of people have come from Yemen, Iran, Syria and Iraq.” – South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott.

Reports have indicated that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have apprehended nearly 72,823 individuals from countries in the Middle East, according to Fox News, citing internal CBP figures. The report suggested, between 2021 and 2023, 6,386 nationals from Afghanistan as well as 3,153 from Egypt. Pertaining to the countries that Scott mentioned specifically there were 659 from Iran and 538 from Syria 139 from Yemen and 123 from Iraq. The report also included 30,830 form Turkey and 1,613 from Pakistan.

The Migration Policy Institute suggested that, as of 2019, 1.2 million immigrants came from the Middle East and Northern Africa regions into the U.S., with 250,000 of them coming from Iraq and 93,000 coming from Syria, citing the U.S. Census Bureau. The Pew Research Center in 2020 showed around 1,000 refugees from Iraq and Syria were accepted into the U.S. in 2019.

NBC News reported that there is “scant proof of any such sleeper cells.” Noah Rothman, a senior editor at the conservative National Review, wrote that the “arrest and prosecution of terrorist “sleeper” agents actively planning attacks inside the U.S. is not an unheard-of phenomenon.”

“The regions in Ukraine that are occupied by Russia right now –in the Donbas, Luhansk, Donetsk–these are Russian speaking regions that have not been part of Ukraine since 2014.” – businessman Vivek Ramaswamy.

The Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic, separatist breakaway groups supported by Russia, fought against Ukrainian forces from 2014 to 2022, according to Crisis Group.

Ukraine still controls a substantial amount of the Donetsk oblast, according to the Institute of the Study of War. Russia captured Bakhmut in May 2023 and launched an offensive on the Ukrainian held stronghold of Avdiivka, according to the Moscow Times.

Ukraine also controlled parts of the Luhansk oblast before losing control over it in the February 2022 Russian invasion, with the last Ukrainian city, Lysychansk, falling in July 2022, according to NPR. Ukraine later retook a small part of the Luhansk oblast in its September 2022 counteroffensive and fighting continues in the forests near Kreminna, a town in Luhansk, according to Reuters.

“In 1992, this country made a promise to Ukraine, if you return the nuclear weapons to Russia…we will protect you.” – Christie

Then-president George H.W. Bush and then-Ukrainian president Leonid Kravchuk did sign an agreement in May 1992 that would eliminate nuclear weapons in the country, according to The Washington Post. However, quoting Administration officials, there were reportedly no guarantees of security provided to Ukraine, except for integration into the global economy and western institutions, the outlet reported.

The U.S., along with other nations including Russia, did not guarantee security assurances until January 1994, when the Trilateral Statement was signed, according to the Brookings Institute. The assurances were finalized in December 1994 with the ratification of the Budapest Memorandum of Security Assurances, the institute wrote.

“The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine,” the agreement reads.

“(Ukraine) is a country that has banned 11 opposition parties.” – Ramaswamy

Eleven Ukrainian political parties were suspended in March 2022 due to alleged ties to Russia, according to The Guardian. Most of the parties affected were small, except for the Opposition Platform for Life, which held 44 seats in Ukraine’s 450-seat parliament, the outlet reported. This party’s leader, Viktor Medvedchuk, reportedly had ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is also the godfather of Medvedchuk’s daughter, according to Al Jazeera.

Other banned parties include the Shariy Party, Left Opposition, Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine, Socialist Party of Ukraine and Volodymyr Saldo Bloc among others, according to Axios. The Shariy Party was led by popular YouTube blogger and journalist Anatoly Shariy, who was believed by some to be a hired Russian propagandist, according to Kyiv Post.

“Given the full-scale war waged by the Russian Federation and the ties of some political structures with this state, any activity of a number of political parties during the martial law is suspended,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an address at the time, according to The Hill. He added that the country’s Justice Ministry was instructed to immediately take measures to ban the parties, the outlet reported.

“Given the attacks by Iranian-backed proxy groups on U.S. military bases in Syria and Iraq, attacks that have wounded approximately two dozen U.S. servicemen, do you support the use of military force by the United States against Iran?” – Matthew Brooks, CEO of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Iranian-backed groups have launched 38 attacks on U.S. military bases in Syria and Iraq, according to CNN. The U.S. has retaliated with airstrikes on a weapons facility believed to be used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and Iranian-affiliated groups, the outlet reported.

Air Force Brigadier Gen. Pat Ryder said Nov. 6 that 46 U.S. troops suffered injuries from two attacks –launched Oct. 17 and Oct. 18– which is up from the 21 injuries reported Oct. 25, according to the Military Times. Most of the troops returned to duty afterwards, several reported traumatic brain injuries, Ryder said during a Nov. 6 press briefing.

” Yeah, so the total number would be 45 total injuries reported since those 17 and 18 October attacks. So that’s 32 at Al-Tanf — again, the mix of TBI and — and other minor injuries — total of 13 at Al-Asad, with four TBI and nine other injuries, and then the one at Erbil.,” Ryder said. Ryder also clarified it was 46 injuries, not 45.

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

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