Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Along With Sparks, Errors Fly In Second Debate

The "facts" came fast in Tuesday's presidential debate, and the checkers found many that didn't quite check out.

Here are some of the early words from the news outlets and independent organizations that were watching closely what President Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said.

From's tweets:

-- "Romney said 'oil production is down 14 percent this year on federal land.' Half True:" (National Journal was also quick to check that claim, noting that "oil production on public lands is up 12 percent from 2008 to 2011, according to a March report by the Energy Information Administration. ... [But] natural gas production on public lands is down 16.5 percent."

-- "450,000 more unemployed women under Obama? Half True."

-- "Romney's companies were 'pioneers' in outsourcing U.S. jobs to low-wage countries? Half True"

-- "Obama promised to introduce immigration bill but didn't? True."

-- "Did Romney say Arizona immigration law should be 'model for the nation'? No, he did not. False."

The truth sleuths at weighed in on some things as well:

-- "Obama says Romney's corp tax plan would create 800,000 jobs overseas. But that study says foreign jobs could grow without costing U.S. jobs."

-- "Romney said Obama's policy began with an 'apology tour.' But that claim doesn't hold up."

Perhaps nothing signified the importance of the fact checkers' work more than the Obama campaign's decision to buy prominent ad space on The Washington Post website to run a stream of its own "Debate Fact-Check" Tweets.

The ad was appearing even as the Post again ran a collection of checks on claims made throughout the debate.

Among the remarks the Post checked was Obama's claim that Romney's tax plan would give U.S. businesses a tax break for having overseas operations, when actually Romney's proposal would let companies bring money from foreign-earned units back into the U.S. without paying taxes.

And perhaps most interesting: The Post confirmed that Obama had it right when he said that during his administration enough oil and gas pipelines have been built to circle the globe. (The circumference of the Earth at the equator is 24,091.55 miles and the length of pipelines built is nearly 28,000 miles.)

The evening also featured what may go down as the swiftest fact check ever, thanks to moderator Candy Crowley.

While discussing the aftermath of the attack on the consulate in Libya, Romney challenged Obama's claim from moments earlier that he had called the attack an "act of terror" (rather than the result of a spontaneous protest over an anti-Muslim film) in a Rose Garden speech the day after the attack.

The distinction is important because the Romney campaign has hammered the White House for spending the first days after the deadly attack focused on the protest story, suggesting it was a story put forward to cover for the administration's failure to prevent what turned out to be a planned attack on the anniversary of Sept. 11.

Romney turned to Crowley as Obama returned to his seat to insist that Obama had taken weeks to call the Libyan attack a terrorist act. He was clearly thrown off when Crowley urged Romney to move on to the next topic by saying Obama was correct.

The text of the Rose Garden speech, which we pointed to during our live blogging, shows that indeed the words are there, but in a pretty generic way: "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for," the president said, during remarks in which he also said something that could be heard as an allusion to the infamous anti-Muslim video:

"We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence. None. The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
Scott Montgomery