FACT CHECK: Truth Behind Final Presidential Debate Claims

ABC News independently checked some of the claims made by John McCain and Barack Obama during the third and final presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

The candidates made many charges against each other, but are they true?

With reporting by the ABC News Fact Check team John Berman, Lisa Chinn, Dennis Dunlavey, Andrea Owen, Tom Giusto, Brian Hartman, Charles Herman, Dan Arnell, Z. Byron Wolf, Tahman Bradley, Teddy Davis, Karen Travers, Kirit Radia, Jeunee Simon, Luis Martinez, Ariane deVogue, Reynolds Holding, Jerika Richardson, Tim Jaconette and Steven Portnoy.

Mortgage Plan

Early in the debate, John McCain said that Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., proposed the same kind of mortgage buy-up plan that he did. "During the depression era, we had a thing called the Homeownership Loan Corporation, and they went out and bought up these mortgages and people were able to stay in their homes and, eventually, the values of those homes went up and they actually made money. And, by the way, this was a proposal made by Sen. Clinton not too long ago," McCain said.

John BermanPlay

FALSE. While Clinton has proposed directly helping homeowners by having the government buy and resell mortgages that are in danger of foreclosure, her proposal would force financial institutions to take a loss.

The McCain proposal, by contrast, is more generous to financial institutions and more costly for taxpayers. The Arizona senator would have the government pay face value for home mortgages, ensuring that financial institutions avoid a loss. More background here.


Tonight, Obama defended himself against McCain's charges that his campaign has been linked to the voter registration group ACORN, which is under investigation for voter fraud in several states.

Obama said, "The only involvement I've had with ACORN was I represented them alongside the U.S. Justice Department in making Illinois implement a motor voter law."

FALSE: That's a bit of an understatement. This election, Obama's campaign has contracted with an organization aligned with ACORN for "get-out-the-vote" efforts, paying them $800,000.


John McCain charged that Obama "launched his political campaign in Bill Ayers' living room." Obama flatly rejected this association between his campaign and the University of Illinois professor who was among the founders of the radical anti-war group the Weather Underground. Obama said, "that's absolutely not true."

FALSE: Recollections differ about the beginnings of Obama's political career and 1996 run for State Senate in Illinois. A Chicago rabbi says he hosted the first coffee for Obama, not Ayers. And the Obama campaign says the "official kickoff" of that campaign happened at a Ramada Inn, not Ayers' living room.

Federal Bailout

Tonight both candidates got the amount of the federal Wall Street bailout wrong. But what's $50 billion between friends?

McCain said, "We have allocated $750 billion. Let's take 300 of that billion and go in and buy those home loan mortgages."

And Obama said, "The $750 billion rescue package, if it's structured properly, and as president I will make sure it is structured properly, means that, ultimately, taxpayers get their money back."

Well, they were both WRONG. The bill signed by the president only allocates $700 billion. Here is the language from the bill: "...The President transmits to the Congress a written report detailing the plan of the Secretary to exercise the authority under this paragraph, unless there is enacted, within 15 calendar days of such transmission, a joint resolution described in subsection (c), effective upon the expiration of such 15-day period, such authority shall be limited to $700,000,000,000 outstanding at any one time."

Negative Ads

Obama claimed that 100 percent of John McCain's campaign ads have been negative.

Obama: "A hundred percent, John, of your ads, a hundred percent of them, have been negative."

McCain: "It's not true."

Obama: "It absolutely is true."

FALSE: Or rather, not exactly. While an independent study by Campaign Media Analysis Group and the Wisconsin Advertising Project found that, during the week of Sept. 28-Oct. 4, nearly 100 percent of McCain's ads were negative, the Wisconsin Advertising project also found that only 74 percent of the ads McCain has run since June have been negative.

Joe the Plumber's Health Insurance

McCain said that small businessman "Joe the Plumber" would end up paying a fine if he refused to provide his workers with health insurance under Barack Obama's health care plan.

FALSE: Under the Obama proposed health plan, small businesses are exempt from a requirement imposed on large companies that they contribute to a national health fund if they fail to make "a meaningful contribution" to their employees' health care costs.