ABCNEWS' Truth Squad: Second Presidential Debate

Oct. 11, 2000 -- Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore disagree on a wide range of issues. But how accurate are the claims each candidate is making during tonight’s presidential debate?

Read on to see how the “Truth Squad” of ABCNEWS’ political unit evaluates some of the key remarks made by the two candidates during their second face-off.

Issue: Intervention in Rwanda

What Gore Said: Gore said that his wife, Tipper, flew to Rwanda with U.S. Gen. John Shalikashvili.

Fact: On Aug. 7, 1994, Tipper Gore did travel to Rwanda with Gen. Shalikashvili. Mrs. Gore was honored that year by International Rescue Committee for her work with Rwandan refugees.

Issue: Intervention in Yugoslavia

What Bush Said: Bush said he supported U.S. intervention in Yugoslavia: “I thought the president made the right decision in joining NATO in bombing Serbia. I supported them when they did so. I called upon the Congress not to hamstring the administration … ” Fact: On March 25, 1999, Bush announced conditional support for U.S.-backed action in Yugoslavia — after issuing a non-commital statement the day before. Bush said, “The ultimate question is, will this military action lead to the goal of ending the conflict and bringing peace and stability to the region?” and added he did not want a military action that would leave the armed forces “mired into a region without an exit strategy.”

Issue: Death Penalty

What Bush Said: Of the three Texas men convicted in the 1998 Texas killing of James Byrd, Bush said: “The three men who murdered James Byrd, guess what’s going to happen to them? They’re going to be put to death. A jury found them guilty and I — it’’s going to be hard to punish them any worse after they get put to death.” Fact: Of the three men convicted for the murder, one of them, Shawn Allen Berry, was sentenced to life imprisonment. The other two were given the death penalty.

Issue: Gun Control

What Bush Said: “In Texas, I tried to do something innovatively, which is that, you know, there’s a lot of talk about, you know, trigger locks being on guns sold in the future. I support that.”

Fact: In May, Bush pledged to spend $1 million a year for five years for a program to give gun owners free trigger locks. But today, the program was put on hold when manufacturing problems were found with the locks in Tennessee. The states of Texas and Tennessee share the same trigger lock manufacturer.

Issue: Gun Control

What Gore Said: On the 1999 killings by Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., Gore commented that “the woman who bought the guns for the two boys who did that killing at Columbine said that if she had had to give her name and fill out a form there, she would not have bought those guns. That conceivably could have prevented that tragedy.”

Fact: In the aftermath of the killings, Robyn Anderson, an 18-year-old friend of Klebold and Harris, said, “It was too easy. I wish it would have been more difficult. I wouldn’t have helped them buy the guns if I had faced a criminal background check.”

Issue: Health Care

What Gore Said: “Texas ranks 49th out of the 50 states in health care — in children with health care … ”

Fact: In Texas, 24 percent of all children are uninsured — the second highest rate of uninsured children in the country after Arizona (25 percent). Nationwide, 15 percent of all children are uninsured, and approximately 11 million children are without insurance, and 1.4 million of them live in Texas. After California (1.7 million), Texas has the largest number of uninsured children of any state in the country. However, these figures do not include approximately 111,000 kids enrolled in the Children’s Health Insurance Program of Texas, first available in May 2000.

Issue: Hate Crimes

What the Candidates Said:

Gore: “Well, I had thought that there was a controversy at the end of the legislative session where the hate crimes law in Texas was — failed and that the Byrd family, among others, asked you to support it, Governor, and it died in committee for lack of support. Am I wrong about that?”

Bush: “Well, you don’t realize we have a hate crime statute …”

Gore: “I’m talking about the one that was proposed to deal … ”

Bush: “Well, what the vice president must not understand is we got a hate crimes bill in Texas.”

Fact: In 1993, before Bush took office, Texas passed a hate crimes statute that enhanced punishment in cases in which the offender intentionally selected the victim primarily because of the offending party’s bias or prejudice against a group. And in 1997, Bush and the Texas Legislature passed a measure, HB1333, strengthening the hate crimes law by increasing minimum jail sentences for misdemeanor hate crimes.

But in 1999, the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act, which called for stronger penalties for crimes motivated by hatred of race or sexual orientation, was defeated in a state Senate committee after being passed by the 76th state Legislature.

Issue: Environment

What Bush Said: “I just found out the other day, an interesting fact, that there’s a national petroleum reserve right next to Prudhoe [Alaska] — in Prudhoe Bay that your administration opened up for exploration in that pristine area, and it was a smart move because there’s gas reserves up there.”

Fact: In 1999 the Clinton administration did indeed sell oil drilling leases in the northeast corner of the National Petroleum Reserve, in Alaska, roughly 75 miles west of the environmentally “pristine” Prudhoe Bay. This followed a 1998 administration decision to open 4 million acres in Northern Alaska for oil and gas exploration. Gore has made an issue of protecting Alaskan wilderness during the campaign, saying he would not open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil exploration.

Issue: Bush’s Tax Cut

What the Candidates Said:

Gore: Now, but here’s why it’s directly relevant, Jim, because by his own budget numbers, his proposals for spending on tax cuts for the wealthiest of the wealthy are more than the new spending proposals that he has made for health care and education and national defense all combined, according to his own numbers…

Bush: “First of all, that’s simply not true, what he just said, of course. And secondly, I repeat…”

Lehrer: What’s not true, Governor?

Bush: That we spent — the top 1 percent receive $223 [billion] as opposed to $445 billion in new spending.

Fact: According to the Bush campaign, income tax cuts allocated to the top 1 percent of wage-earners would comprise $223 billion. However, using the Bush campaign’s own figures, a proposed repeal of the estate tax would amount to a break of $236 billion more over the same period for the wealthiest 1 percent. That is a total of $459 billion, although other estimates, including Gore’s, are higher.

Bush proposes $475 billion in additional spending over the next decade. According to his figures, $382 billion would go to health care, including prescription drugs, education, and defense spending.

Issue: Education

What Gore Said: “I think that we should require states to test all students, test schools and school districts.”

Fact: Gore’s own proposal does not include mandatory testing, although it does set a national standard for fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math skills. Although testing would not be required, non-participating schools could lose financial aid. Additionally, Gore proposes to measure student performance through the National Assessment of Education Progress, a test administered every four years to a sample of students in each state.

Issue: Education

What Gore Said: “I want to give new choices to parents to send their kids to college with a $10,000 tax deduction for college tuition per child, per year.”

Fact: Gore’s proposed college-tuition tax deduction counts for $10,000, per family, not per child.