Fact-Checking Night 1 of the 2020 Democratic Debates

Ten candidates vying for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination took the stage on Wednesday in Miami for the first of back-to-back debate nights. Another 10 candidates who qualified for the debates will appear on the same stage on Thursday.

Here is how the candidates’ remarks stacked up against the truth.

Senator Amy Klobuchar

“I am just simply concerned about kicking half of America off of their health insurance in four years, which is exactly what this bill says.”

Ms. Klobuchar was referring to Senator Bernie Sanders’s bill that would implement a Medicare-for-all national health insurance program over a four-year period. His bill would create a universal Medicare program that would cover all Americans — including the roughly half who are currently covered by employer plans — with generous benefits and minimal out-of-pocket costs; private insurers could offer coverage only for services not covered by the public program, such as cosmetic surgery.


“The reason that they are separating these little children from their families is that they are using section 1325 of that act which criminalizes coming across the border to incarcerate the parents and then separate them. Some of us on this stage have called to end that section, to terminate it, some like Congressman O’Rourke have not.”

Section 1325 is the part of the United States Code that criminalizes illegal entry into the United States as a misdemeanor, punishable imprisonment or fines. Mr. Castro is right that Mr. O’Rourke has opposed repealing the law.

“In the vast majority of cases, there is no need to incarcerate or to detain migrant families and especially children,” Mr. O’Rourke said on CNN in June. “But if somebody is attempting to smuggle human beings into the United States, if they are attempting to cross illegal drugs into this country, I want to make sure that we have the legal mechanism necessary to hold them accountable and to detain them to make sure they do not pose a threat to this country or to our communities.”

“I do not think that it should be repealed,” Mr. O’Rourke continued.

Senator Cory Booker

“I will single out companies like Haliburton or Amazon that pay nothing in taxes.”

Amazon paid no federal income taxes in 2018. It does, however, pay state taxes and it does not always come away with a tax bill of zero. The company said in April that it paid $2.6 billion in corporate taxes over the last three years. Halliburton’s tax bills also swing in both directions. For instance, in January of 2018, it was hit by an $882 million tax charge related to charges in the tax law.

Beto O’Rourke

“And yet despite what Purdue Pharma has done, their connection to the opioid crisis and the overdose deaths that we’re seeing throughout this country, they have been able to act with complete impunity and pay no consequences.”

It’s true that no one from the company has gone to jail, but Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, is facing lawsuits around the country and recently paid a $270 million settlement in Oklahoma. In 2007 companies executives pleaded guilty to criminal charges that they misled regulators about the drug’s addiction risks.

Fact-checks by Alan Rappeport, Stephanie Saul, Linda Qiu and Abby Goodnough.

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