FACT CHECK: The Truth Hurt During Debate

Sarah Palin, Joe Biden debate claims not entirely accurate.

ByABC News
October 2, 2008, 8:49 PM

Oct. 3, 2008 — -- Stakes were high in the first and only vice presidential debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden as they sparred at the University of Washington in St. Louis, Mo., Thursday night.

During the 90-minute debate covering everything from the economy, the Iraq War, foreign policy and health care, both candidates made claims that were, well, not entirely accurate.

ABC News independently fact checked some of these claims and found both vice presidential wannabes were guilty of stretching the truth during the debate.

Bankruptcy Law

BIDEN: "We should be allowing bankruptcy courts to be able to readjust, not just the interest rate you are paying on your mortgage to be able to stay in your home, but in -- be able to adjust the principal that you owe, the principal that that you owe. That would keep people in their homes; actually help banks by keeping them from going under. But John McCain, as I understand it -- I'm not sure of this, but I believe John McCain and the governor don't support that….

GWEN IFILL: Gov. Palin, is that so?

PALIN: That is not so.

FACT: The Senate has voted only once this year on legislation that would change bankruptcy laws to help distressed homeowners. John McCain was absent for that vote. Contrary to what Palin says, the McCain campaign acknowledges that he does not support those changes to bankruptcy laws.

Palin on Troop Levels in Iraq

During an exchange on Iraq, Palin erroneously claimed the United States is down to presurge levels in Iraq. Palin said, "We have got to win Iraq. And with the surge that has worked we're now down to presurge numbers in Iraq. That's where we could be." Palin is incorrect.

FACT: The Alaska governor is wrong because the number of troops on the ground is still higher and the number of combat brigades is the same as at the start of the surge in January 2007, according to Pentagon figures. Iraq troop levels before the surge were at 133,500. While U.S. troop levels in Iraq have been in the 142,000 range recently, today they are at around 150,000 because of an ongoing troop rotation.

Army General in Afghanistan

Palin misidentified Army Gen. David D. McKiernan, commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, as "McClellan" several times during the debate.

At one point Palin said, "First, McClellan did not say definitively that the surge principles would not work in Afghanistan. Certain accounting for different conditions in that country and conditions are certainly different."

FACT: The general commanding troops in Afghanistan is McKiernan.

Obama's Statements About Meeting President of Iran

When Palin criticized Barack Obama for saying he would be willing to meet with the president of Iran, a nation with whom the United States does not currently have formal diplomatic relations, Biden reacted and said, "Can, can I clarify this? That's just simply not true about Barack Obama. He did not say he'd sit down with [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad."

FACT: While the Illinois senator has clarified this statement several times with further explanation about the conditions that would have to be met before a presidential-level meeting, Biden is incorrect that Obama "did not say" it.

In September 2007, Obama responded to this question from a reporter: "You've said before that you'd meet with President Ahmadinejad. …. Would you still meet with him today?" Obama said:"Yeah, nothing's changed with respect to my belief that strong countries and strong presidents talk to their enemies and talk to their adversaries."

Obama's Voting Record on Taxes

Palin argued that Obama has voted to increase taxes 94 times. Palin said, "Barack had 94 opportunities to side on the people's side and reduce taxes and 94 times he voted to increase taxes or not support a tax reduction. Ninety-four times."

FACT: That's a wildly inflated number Palin threw out; the actual number is closer to half that.

But how about when Biden defended Obama against a different Palin tax allegation.

PALIN: "Barack Obama supported increasing taxes, as late as last year for families making only $42,000 a year."

BIDEN: That charge is absolutely not true. Barack Obama did not vote to raise taxes. The vote she's referring to -- John McCain voted the same way.

FACT: On the tax increase that Palin referred to, McCain did not cast a vote. He was campaigning in Pennsylvania, but it was a fairly party line vote and McCain's vote would not have made a difference.

With reporting by the ABC News Fact Check team Jake Tapper, Lisa Chinn, Dennis Dunlavey, Brian Hartman, Tom Giusto, Kimberley Randolph, Z. Byron Wolf, Justin Rood, Teddy Davis, Karen Travers, Kirit Radia, Luis Martinez, Ariane deVogue, Arlette Saenz, Steven Portnoy, Reynolds Holding and Jerika Richardson.

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