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PolitiFact Florida Takes the GOP Debate to Task

Donald Trump and Jeb Bush take part in the presidential debates at the Reagan Library on Sept. 16 in Simi Valley, Calif.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Donald Trump and Jeb Bush take part in the presidential debates at the Reagan Library on Sept. 16 in Simi Valley, Calif.

The recent Republican presidential debate was all over the field - not only in regards to the issues brought up, but time - at three hours. To talk about some of the claims brought up by the candidates, WUSF's Steve Newborn checks in with Josh Gillin of PolitiFact Florida.

Our first "Florida-centric" claim comes from former Gov. Jeb Bush, who accused part-time Palm Beach resident Donald Trump that he tried to bring a few Trump casinos into Florida.https://youtu.be/DtoAjFwKBmU 

Bush: "He wanted casino gambling in Florida -- "

Trump: "I didn’t -- "

Bush: "Yes, you did."

Trump: "Totally false."

Bush: "You wanted it, and you didn’t get it, because I was opposed to -- "

Trump: "I would have gotten it."

Bush: " -- casino gambling before -- "

Trump: "I promise, I would have gotten it."

Bush: " -- during and after. I’m not going to be bought by anybody."

Trump: "I promise, if I wanted it, I would have gotten it."

Later, Bush added, "When he asked Florida to have casino gambling, we said no."

Trump: "Wrong. I know my people."

The Donald may know "his people," but does he know the truth on this one? Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling:

Trump’s history on casino gambling in Florida

Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks declined to provide any evidence to refute Bush’s claim. A spokeswoman for Bush referred us to a Sept. 1 CNN article headlined "Jeb Bush: the man who killed Trump’s casino dreams."

News reports from the 1990s show that Trump helped finance Bush’s campaign and the state Republican Party during Bush’s 1998 bid for governor -- while Trump was seeking to open casinos in Florida.

Trump held a 1997 fundraiser, which reportedly raised $500,000 for Bush when he ran for governor, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. As the race continued the next year, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts donated $50,000 to the Republican Party of Florida, when Trump was pushing the state to allow him to open casinos on Seminole tribal land. The tribe was seeking to open Vegas-style slot machines and poker in casinos, to be managed by Trump.

Trump backed a 1998 Seminole proposal to state officials to share gambling revenue with Florida. He also hosted a Seminole leader on his vacation estate that year, reported the Tampa Bay Times.

Our ruling

Bush said of Trump, "When he asked Florida to have casino gambling, we said no."

We didn’t find that Trump directly petitioned the state for gambling, but there’s a pile of evidence that Trump was pursuing a deal to operate casinos on Seminole land in Florida. And at the same time, Trump gave money to Bush and the state party during Bush’s 1998 race for governor.

Trump said it was "totally false" that he sought casino gambling and failed, but we find that Bush has the better part of this fight. We rate Bush’s statement Mostly True.

During the debate, Trump was asked if he thought several of the candidates who had opposed intervening in the civil war in Syria were responsible for the refugee crisis from there.  Florida Senator Marco Rubio defended his stance, attacking President Obama for saying he was going to conduct "pinprick" attacks.https://youtu.be/Cz9fVzQOOy4

Even though the U.S. intervention in Syria has been pretty low-key, did the president really say that? Here's the ruling:

Our ruling

Rubio claimed Obama said an attack on Syria "was going to be a pinprick."

In reality, Obama said the exact opposite of that, stating several times that a U.S. military response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons on its citizens would involve a significant show of force. While the president’s full strategy was somewhat unclear, at the debate Rubio echoed Obama’s own past statements that the U.S. military was not built for small-scale engagements that could be characterized as "pinpricks."

We can pop Rubio’s talking point here. We rate his statement False.

Getting back to Marco Rubio, after the debate he told ABC News that there was very little substance talked about in those three long hours, particularly on the economy.https://youtu.be/H-etRN7Dfqw 

This is kind of subjective, but what's PolitiFact's ruling that the candidates didn't talk about anything substantial? Here's PolitiFact's ruling:

Our ruling

Rubio said, "We had a three-hour debate, no discussion about the national debt, very little about the economy."

He’s right there was very little mention of the economy, but the national debt was brought up by some of the 11 candidates, usually while addressing an opponent. We should note that even then, no one gave any specifics about what to do beyond some broad talking points.

We rate Rubio’s statement Mostly True.

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Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.