The President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney touched on many topics during their second debate. Here are the five most factually challenged statements that emerged:
• Obama falsely claimed he called Benghazi attacks “acts of terror” in Rose Garden speech. The president’s claim that he did, contrary to Romney’s critique, call the Benghazi attacks “acts of terror” in a Sept. 12 Rose Garden speech got perhaps the most play of any questionable statement in the debate. In fact, that claim is false.
In the speech in question, the president vaguely alluded to “acts of terror,” but he did not classify the Benghazi attacks as such. Given that the attacks took place on the anniversary of the most notorious terrorist attack in history, there was by no means a clear implication that the phrase referred to the then-ongoing assaults on American diplomatic facilities across North Africa.
Even moderator Candy Crowley, who insisted during the debate that Obama “did in fact” label the Benghazi attacks terrorism in the Rose Garden, walked back that claim in a postdebate interview. She said Romney’s critique was “right, in the main,” but that he had “picked the wrong word.”
CNN itself noted that the White House acknowledged Benghazi was a terrorist attack for the first time a full nine days after the attacks.
Other reporters likewise declared Romney correct on that score after the debate, including Politico’s Mike Allen and the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler.
• Obama again misled on job-creation numbers. The president often insists that 5 million jobs have been created on his watch, and the Heritage Foundation has addressed that claim before. To arrive at this number, the president examines a time frame that is as friendly to his own record as possible. In short, he measures job growth not from the beginning of his term, but from the employment low point about a year later.
If measured from January 2009, when Obama took office, the country has actually added only about 316,000 jobs. Even that overstates the president’s record, since obviously the federal government is not responsible for every job created in the private sector (and the 5 million number actually refers only to private-sector jobs – government jobs are down even within the time frame Obama touts).
• Despite Obama’s claims, oil and gas production on federal land is way down. In an exchange about domestic energy production, Obama claimed that American oil and gas companies are “actually drilling more on public lands than in the previous administration.”
In fact, as Heritage has pointed out, fossil-fuel production of federal land hit a nine-year low in 2011. ABC’s Jonathan Karl also noticed this disconnect. “Oil-drilling permits on public land dropped by 37 percent in the first two years of the Obama administration, (and) 42 percent in terms of leases for natural gas,” Karl noted.
• Romney inflated the alleged effect of Chinese currency manipulation on U.S. job growth. Romney, who has frequently criticized China for “cheating” through alleged currency manipulation, falsely suggested that currency manipulation has a significant effect on U.S. employment. As Heritage’s Derek Scissors noted in a recent report:
“The exchange rate between the yuan and the dollar has no direct effect on American prosperity or American jobs. It never has. Seventeen years ago, China sharply devalued the yuan against the dollar. Yet American unemployment fell for years afterward. Since 2005, the PRC has been slowly raising the value of its currency, which is what protectionists say they want. And American unemployment has soared.”
• Obama claimed he saved the auto industry. In fact, he just saved the United Auto Workers. The president is fond of inflating the impact of his auto industry bailout, and claimed again that his administration “saved an auto industry that was on the brink of collapse.”
But government involvement in the General Motors and Chrysler bankruptcies amounted to a bailout not of the companies themselves but of their largest union, the United Auto Workers, as Heritage’s James Sherk has noted:
“None of that (bailout) money kept factories running. Instead, it sustained the above-average compensation of members of an influential union, sparing them from most of the sacrifices typically made in bankruptcy – a bankruptcy they contributed to.”