VP Debate Fact-Check: How Mike Pence and Tim Kaine Stack Up

A fact check of claims made by Tim Kaine and Mike Pence at the VP debate.

ByABC News
October 5, 2016, 12:39 AM
Vice-presidential nominees Tim Kaine and Mike Pence appear at the vice-presidential debate at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., Oct. 4, 2016.
Vice-presidential nominees Tim Kaine and Mike Pence appear at the vice-presidential debate at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., Oct. 4, 2016.
David Goldman/AP Photo

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Republican Mike Pence and Democrat Tim Kaine tonight met for the first and only vice presidential debate of the 2016 campaign, where they worked to defend the records of their running mates -– Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

The debate, which was moderated by Elaine Quijano of CBS News and took place at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., showed the veteran politicians know how to mix it up as tackled issues facing the presidential hopefuls.

But were they always telling the truth? How often were they spinning the facts when defending why voters should support their ticket in November?

Sen. Tim Kaine and Gov. Mike Pence debated at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia.
Sen. Tim Kaine and Gov. Mike Pence debated at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia.

ABC News fact-checked some of the most noteworthy claims made in the debate:

Fact-check No. 1: Kaine said the "debt explosion" under the Trump plan is bigger than anything in Clinton has offered.

Kaine: "You're not going to cut taxes. You're going to raise taxes on the middle class."

Pence: "So we can meet the obligations of Social security and Medicare. If we stay on the path that your party has us on, we'll be in a mountain range of debt and we’re gonna face hard choices."

Kaine: "You did ask this question about debt and the debt explosion on the Trump plan is much, much bigger than anything on the Clinton side."

Grade: True

Explanation: The Committee for a Responsible Budget said "both Clinton and Trump would increase the debt relative to current law – though Trump would increase it by an order of magnitude more, and Clinton’s plan would slightly reduce deficits if we incorporated unspecified revenue from business tax reform. Specifically, we estimate Clinton’s plans would add $200 billion to the debt over the next decade, while Trump’s plans would add $5.3 trillion."

According to another analysis by Moody’s Analytics, if Trump’s economic proposals are adopted to some degree, the economy would suffer "a lengthy recession" and by the end of his presidency, there would be close to 3.5 million fewer jobs. The unemployment rate would also rise to as much as 7 percent, compared with the current rate, which is below 5 percent.

The analysis also stated "those who would benefit most from Mr. Trump’s economic proposals are high-income households. Everyone receives a tax cut under his proposals, but the bulk of the cuts would go to those at the very top of the income distribution, and the job losses resulting from his other policies would likely hit lower- and middle-income households the hardest."

When the original study was published, Trump’s tax and spending proposals would result in a $9.5 trillion deficit over 10 years, according Mark Zandi, the lead author in an attempt to clarify its findings on the deficit. Under his current tax and spending proposal that he unveiled a couple weeks ago the deficit over the next decade is closer to $5 trillion according to their latest estimate.

Fact-check No. 2: Kaine says Clinton helped eliminate the Iranian nuclear program.

Kaine: "She worked a tough negotiation with nations around the world to eliminate the Iranian nuclear weapons program without firing a shot."

Pence: "Eliminate the Iranian nuclear weapons program?"

Kaine: "Absolutely without firing a shot and instead of 175,000 American troops deployed overseas we now have 15,000. These are very very... "

Grade: False

Explanation: The nuclear agreement reached between six world powers and Iran last year does not completely eliminate the Iranian nuclear program. Its major achievement, as told by the Obama administration, was getting Iran to commit to reduce its stockpile of nuclear material and cease further enrichment, effectively extending the time it would take Iran to build a bomb.

Fact-check No. 3: Kaine said that Trump promised if he ran for the White House he'd "absolutely" release his taxes.

Kaine: "Donald Trump started this campaign in 2014 he said if I run for president I'll absolutely release my taxes."

Pence: "And he will."

Kaine: "He's broken his first promise. Second he stood on this stage last week and when Hillary said you haven't been paying taxes, he said, that makes me smart. So it's smart not to pay for our military. It's smart not to pay for veterans, it’s smart not to pay for teachers and I guess all of us who do pay for those things I guess we’re stupid."

Grade: True

Explanation: In 2014, Donald Trump told Irish TV that he would release his tax returns if he were to run for president. He has not yet released his tax returns, citing that he is under audit by the IRS. Most recently, Trump said he would release his tax returns if Clinton released her deleted emails.

Fact-check No. 4: Kaine says the Trump-Pence ticket opposes the federal minimum wage.

Kaine: "The Trump plan is a different plan. It's a you're fired plan. And there's two key elements to it. First, Donald Trump said wages are too high. And both Donald Trump and Mike pence think we ought to eliminate the federal minimum wage. Mike Pence, when he was in Congress, voted against raising the minimum wage above $5.15. And he has been a one-man bulwark against minimum wage increases in Indiana."

Grade: Yes and No.

Explanation: Trump’s positions on the minimum wage have been less than clear. He has signaled both support and opposition to the federal minimum wage. Pence also does not have a clear position on the federal minimum wage. On NBC’s “Meet The Press” in early May, Trump answered “no” to whether the federal government should set a federal minimum wage. "I'd rather have the states go out and do what they have to do,” he said. But then in July, during a press conference, Trump said that the federal minimum wage “has to go up.” When asked for clarification if he meant federal or “state minimum wage, he said “federal.” Pence opposed an increase to the federal minimum wage when he served on Congress in 2007.

Fact-check No. 5: Pence said that Clinton’s failure to renegotiate the Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq led to the withdrawal of American troops, which in turn created the vacuum that led to the rise of ISIS.

Pence: "Iraq has been overrun by ISIS because Hillary Clinton failed to renegotiate, Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton failed to renegotiate a status of forces agreement...And so we removed, we removed all of our troops from Iraq and ISIS was able to be conjured up in that vacuum and over run vast areas of Iraq."

Grade: Yes and No.

Explanation: The 2008 Status of Forces Agreement the Bush administration negotiated with Iraq set a timetable for all American troops to leave Iraq by the end of 2011. President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton favored keeping American troops in Iraq beyond that date, but after Iraq was not willing to provide immunity guarantees for U.S. troops, Obama ordered that the withdrawal continue as scheduled. Pence argues that the lack of American troops created a vacuum that led to the rise of ISIS in Iraq. However, it is unclear if that scenario was the sole reason for the rise of ISIS since the sectarian policies of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki alienated many Iraqi Sunnis who created a favorable environment for ISIS in Iraq.

Fact-check No. 6: Pence says Clinton and Kaine want to continue immigration policies that drive down wages.

Pence: "Donald Trump’s has laid out a plan to end illegal immigration once and for all in this country. We've been talking it to death for 20 years. Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine want to continue the policies of open borders, amnesty catch and release, sanctuary cities, all the things that are driving wages down in this country and also too often with criminal aliens in the country it's bringing heartbreak."

Grade: Mostly False

Explanation: Pence is claiming that illegal immigration drives down wages for Americans and current policies have little immigration enforcement. Immigrants have "little to no negative effects" on the wages or employment of native-born workers in the United States, according to a new report from the National Academies of Sciences. And it is hard to say there is a current policy of open borders because the border is more secure than it has been in U.S. history. The researchers found little evidence to support the notion that immigrants take jobs away from native workers. When looking at those with a high school degree or less, the report found: "the difference in employment ratios between immigrant and native-born men is due mainly to differences in labor force participation and not to unemployment."

Fact-check No. 7: The Clinton Foundation was accepting foreign donations when Clinton was Secretary of State.

Pence: "But there's a reason why people question the trustworthiness of Hillary Clinton and that's because they're paying attention. The reality is when she was secretary of state, senator, come on, she had a Clinton foundation accepting contributions from foreign governments."

Grade: Mostly True

Explanation: While the Clinton Foundation did accept foreign donations while Clinton was Secretary of State, this was allowed by the Obama administration. The Clinton Foundation received donations from numerous foreign governments including the United Arab Emirates, Jamaica, Brunei Darussalam, Qatar, Kuwait, Norway among others. The Trump campaign has often said that the Clinton Foundation has received donations from Saudi Arabia while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, but the last donation to the Clinton Foundation from Saudi Arabia was in 2008, before Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.

Fact-check No. 8: Pence says it is hard to know who refugees are.

Pence: "The director of the FBI...said we can't know for certain who these people are coming from Syria."

Grade: True

Explanation: Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee last week, FBI Director James Comey said he can “assuage” concerns over the ability of the U.S. government to vet Syrian refugees but also has a “concern” himself. He continued: “Our process inside the United States government has gotten much better at making sure we touch all possible source of information about a refugee. The interview process has gotten more robust, so we've gotten our act together in that respect. The challenge remains, especially with respect to folks coming from Syria, we're unlikely to have anything in our holdings. That is, with people coming from Iraq, the United States government was there for a very long period of time. We had biometrics, we had source information. We're unlikely to have that kind of picture about someone coming from Syria, and that's the piece I just want folks to be aware of...I'm in the business where I can't ever say there's no risk associated with someone.”

Fact-check No. 9: Kaine says Pence said Putin is a stronger leader than Obama.

Kaine: "This is one where you can just kind of go to the tape on it. But Governor Pence said inarguably Vladimir Putin is a better leader than President Obama."

Pence: "That is absolutely inaccurate."

Kaine: "And I just think a guy — Pence: He’s been stronger on the world stage. Kaine: No you said leader. Pence: I didn’t."

Grade: Mostly True

Explanation: Donald Trump’s running mate Mike Pence said last month that Putin has been a stronger leader than President Barack Obama.

“I think it’s inarguable that Vladimir Putin has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country,” Pence said during an interview with CNN. “And that’s going to change the day that Donald Trump becomes president of the United States of America.”

Fact-check No. 10: Kaine says Trump wants Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia to have nuclear weapons.

Kaine: "Donald Trump's idea that more nations should get nuclear weapons. Saudi Arabia, Japan, South Korea."

Grade: Yes and No

Explanation: Trump has said that America’s allies should pay more of their defense costs and take more responsibility for their own defense. Earlier this year Trump seemed to say that Japan and South Korea might be better off if they had nuclear weapons to defend themselves from North Korea. At a town hall in March he also seemed to support Saudi Arabia having nuclear weapons, but quickly corrected himself. In June, Trump denied that he wanted Japan to get nuclear weapons.

Fact-check No. 11: Pence claims that less than 10 cents on the dollar in the Clinton Foundation has gone to charitable causes.

Pence: "The Trump Foundation is a private family foundation, they give virtually every cent in the Trump Foundation to charitable causes."

Kaine: "Political contributions?"

Pence: "Less than 10 cents on the dollar in the Clinton foundation has gone to charitable causes."

Grade: False

Explanation: Pence’s statement is misleading, as the Clinton Foundation is primarily an operating foundation, rather than a grant-making foundation. As such, the money it raises can go to its various programs, rather than simply as grants to other nonprofits. It is not primarily a grant-making entity like many other foundations, although it does give grant money to other projects. A majority of funds contributed to the Clinton Foundation go to programs.

Fact-check No. 12: Kaine says Pence would privatize Social Security.

Kaine: "When Congressman Pence was in Congress, he was the chief cheerleader for the privatization of Social Security. Even after President Bush stopped pushing for it, Congressman Pence kept pushing for it."

Grade: Mostly True

Explanation: As a member of Congress, Pence did support allowing individuals to invest some of their entitlement savings in private accounts, and pushed for a proposal that went further than President George W. Bush did in 2005.

Fact-check No. 13: Pence saying “nonsense” to wanting a deportation force.

Grade: Mostly False

Explanation: Trump has said he wants a deportation force. "You’re going to have a deportation force, and you’re going to do it humanely," he said also alluding to a program considered the last time mass deportation was used in the U.S., by President Dwight D. Eisenhower the government rounded up more than a million people, dropping people off at the border and inside Mexico.

Fact-check No. 14: Pence claimed that he and Trump would not support legislation punishing women for abortions.

Pence: "Donald Trump and I would never support the legislation that punished women that made the heartbreaking choice to end a pregnancy."

Grade: Yes and No

Explanation: Trump did once say he would support punishing women who performed abortions, but he quickly clarified his statements, saying hours later that doctors should be punished, not women if Congress passes a law making abortion illegal. Pence supported anti-abortion legislation in Congress and as governor that would not have legally penalized women, but that some pro-choice advocates said would still effectively punish them.

Fact-check No. 15: Kaine claimed that Richard Nixon released his tax returns despite being audited.

Kaine: "Richard Nixon released tax returns when he was under audit."

Our grade: True

Explanation: Richard Nixon did release his tax returns while undergoing an IRS audit – although it happened when he was president, not a presidential candidate.

Under intense scrutiny over a leaked $500,000 charitable deduction, then-president Nixon released his personal tax returns in 1973.

Because of his failure to report certain capital gains and that dubious $500,000 deduction – for his donation of personal papers to the National Archives – Nixon had paid only $792.81 in federal taxes in 1970 and $878.03 in 1971, despite a joint income of more than $200,000 a year.

An investigation eventually concluded that he owed $476,431 in taxes, plus interest.

It was in answer to a question about his tax scandal that Nixon uttered some of the most famous words of his presidency: "I am not a crook."

ABC News' Margaret Chadbourn, Ely Brown, Ryan Struyk, Justin Fishel, Ali Rogin, Alana Abramson, Serena Marshall, Matt Claiborne, Mike Levine, Chris Good, Katherine Faulders, Luis Martinez, Imtiyaz Delawala, Arlette Saenz, Zunaira Zaki and Erin Dooley contributed to this report.

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