Breaking News
More () »

VERIFY: Fact-checking the Las Vegas Democratic debate

Our VERIFY team fact-checked what the candidates said during the Democratic debate in Las Vegas.
Credit: AP
Democratic presidential candidates, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, left, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., talk before a Democratic presidential primary debate Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas, hosted by NBC News and MSNBC. (AP Photo/John Locher)

With one caucus and one primary down, six Democrats running for president faced off on the debate stage Wednesday night in Las Vegas. 

It was the ninth debate for Democrats and came just three days before Nevada residents caucus and get their say for who should take on President Donald Trump this fall. 

The debate also offered former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg his debut appearance on stage and his fellow candidates got some shots in. 

Our VERIFY researchers fact-checked what all the candidates were saying during Wednesday's debate. 

CLAIM: Former Vice President Joe Biden claimed that while Michael Bloomberg was the mayor of New York City, the "Stop and Frisk" policy threw close to five million young black men up against the wall.

This claim is false. During Mayor Bloomberg’s time in office, there were roughly five million NYPD stop and frisk stops. But only about 2.6 million were of African Americans and it isn’t broken down by gender.

Data from the NYPD and the New York Civil Liberties Union show that during Bloomberg’s time as mayor, there were about five million stops under the policy.

That data can be broken down by demographics and it shows that about 2.6 million stops were done against African Americans. Biden used the total number of stops rather than the actual number of stops against African Americans. That number is lower.

Source: NYPD data, NYCLU Data (Uses NYPD numbers)

- Jason Puckett 

CLAIM: Senator Bernie Sanders said we are the only major country on Earth that can't guarantee healthcare for all.

This claim is verified, but only in certain parameters.

Senator Sanders has repeated this claim frequently, including at the most recent debate in New Hampshire, and has previously given sources for the claim. The United Nations' “Human Development Index,” lists the major 33 countries in the world based on GDP, GNP, per capita income and standard of living.

The chart shows that the U.S. is the only nation in the “very high human development” category to lack universal healthcare. There are some noted issues with countries like Qatar and Russia who don’t fully cover their entire populations, but are moving towards it.

Source: United Nations Human Development Index

- Jason Puckett

CLAIM: Mike Bloomberg claimed that during his time as mayor, stop and frisk stops decreased by 95%.

That claim is misleading. Numbers did decrease under Bloomberg, but only after a rise of stops during his term.

NYPD arrest data show that during Bloomberg’s first 10 years as mayor, stop and frisk numbers increased by about 600% to a peak of 686,000 in 2011. 

By the time Bloomberg left office in 2013, that number dropped dramatically to 192,000. The 95% number can only be made by comparing the quarterly high point in early 2012 (203,500) with the last quarter of 2013 (12,485). The bottom line here is that there were more stop and frisk incidents every year under Bloomberg than there were in the year before he took office as mayor.

Source: NYPD Stop and Frisk Data

- Jason Puckett 

CLAIM: Former Vice President Joe Biden claimed that former mayor Mike Bloomberg opposed Obamacare and called it “a disgrace.”

The claim that Bloomberg called the Affordable Care Act a "disgrace" is true. Added context does show that Bloomberg didn’t directly say he opposed the ACA - but rather the version of the bill that Congress had passed. 

In a 2010 lecture at Dartmouth University, Mike Bloomberg said the following: “We passed a health-care bill that does absolutely nothing to fix the big health-care problems in this country. It is just a disgrace,” he said. “The president, in all fairness, started out by pointing out what the big problems were, but then turned it over to Congress, which didn’t pay any attention to any of those big problems and just created another program that’s going to cost a lot of money.” 

Source: Dartmouth video with transcript

- Jason Puckett and TJ Spry 

CLAIM: Former mayor Pete Buttigieg said he's the only person on stage who is not a millionaire or billionaire.

That claim is true.

Former mayor Pete Buttigieg has repeatedly reminded viewers during the campaign that he has a smaller net worth than all of the other candidates. 

An August 2019 analysis by Forbes found that Buttigieg did indeed have the lowest net worth of all Democratic candidates.

Their analysis showed Michael Bloomberg way at the top with $61.8 billion, followed by Tom Steyer with $1.6 billion. On the other end was Buttigieg with an estimated net worth of $100,000. Buttigieg has also spoke openly on the campaign trail about how he and his husband, Chasten, still owe around $130,000 in student debt. 

Source: Forbes analysis of every 2020 presidential candidate's net worth, Forbes story on Buttigieg student loans 

- Jason Puckett

CLAIM: Former Mayor Mike Bloomberg claimed that he has always been against redlining, including during the financial crisis.

In a 2008 forum, during the last financial crisis, Bloomberg made comments blaming the financial crisis on the elimination of redlining.

His exact words were, “It all started back when there was a lot of pressure on banks to make loans to everyone. Redlining, if you remember, was the term where banks took whole neighborhoods and said, ‘People in these neighborhoods are poor, they’re not going to be able to pay off their mortgages, tell your salesmen don’t go into those areas.’ And then Congress got involved -- local elected officials, as well -- and said, ‘Oh that’s not fair, these people should be able to get credit.’ And once you started pushing in that direction, banks started making more and more loans where the credit of the person buying the house wasn’t as good as you would like.”

Source: Origins of the Economic Crisis video 

RELATED: VERIFY: Fact-checking the New Hampshire Democratic debate

RELATED: VERIFY: Fact-checking Trump's 2020 State of the Union address and the Democratic response

Credit: AP
Democratic presidential candidates, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, left, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., talk before a Democratic presidential primary debate Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas, hosted by NBC News and MSNBC. (AP Photo/John Locher)

CLAIM: Senator Elizabeth Warren claims that of all the people on stage, she has been a politician for a shorter time than anyone on stage.

Warren is right. Her career began just after Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s campaign began.

According to her biography on Ballotpedia, Warren has been a U.S. Senator since 2012, meaning she’s entering her eighth year as a politician. Buttigieg became mayor of South Bend in 2011. The other three candidates on the stage have held political office for much longer.

Sources: Elizabeth Warren Ballotpedia page, Pete Buttigieg Ballotpedia page

- TJ Spry

CLAIM: Mayor Pete Buttigieg claimed that Senator Klobuchar once voted to make English the official national language of the United States.

That claim is true. In 2007, Senator Klobuchar voted for an English language amendment, but has said she's since changed her stance.

Klobuchar was one of 17 Senate Democrats to vote for an amendment to the Immigration Reform Act. The “National English Amendment” passed the senate by a 64-33 vote in 2007. Its main goal was to “To amend title 4, United States Code, to declare English as -- the national language of the Government of the United States, and for other purposes.”

The bill passed the Senate but did not ultimately become law.  

Source: S. Amdt. 1151 

- Jason Puckett 

Before You Leave, Check This Out