Here Are the 7 Biggest Lies, Fabrications and Distortions From Tuesday's Republican Debate


Republican presidential candidates met for the fifth presidential primary debate on Tuesday, focusing on foreign affairs and threats to national security. And candidates took no time in turning talk to the GOP's favorite villains: President Barack Obama, the Islamic State group, undocumented immigrants and "radical Islamic terrorism."

Facts? Well, they took a back seat.

Herewith are the seven most egregious lies, fallacies and deliberately misleading statements, as stated by the candidates themselves.

Donald Trump says "people are pouring across the Southern border" of the U.S., and thousands have "cellphones with ISIS flags on them."

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"Our country is out of control. People are pouring through the Southern border," the real estate magnate declared at the debate, falling back on his long-held promise to construct a wall along the U.S.–Mexico border. "I will build a wall. It will be a great wall." Later in the night, he asserted, "I know how to build, believe me, I know how to build."

"People will not come in unless they come in legally. Drugs will not come through that wall," he continued. "Tens of thousands of people have cellphones with ISIS flags on them. ... They're not coming to this country and if I'm president and if Obama has brought some to this country, they are leaving. They're going. They're gone."

While there's plenty of evidence of the candidate's ability to build, according to Talking Points Memo there's zero evidence for the "ISIS flags" assertion, which might be related to a Daily Mail article saying some refugees arriving in Norway had video and photo evidence of atrocities committed in their home country on their cellular devices (though not necessarily committed by the refugees themselves).

But on a more general note, undocumented immigration into the U.S. is actually at its lowest point in decades, and Pew Research Center recently found the undocumented population currently here has leveled off at around 11.3 million, nearly 1 million fewer than in the late 2000s.

Chris Christie tells audience he will enlist help of King Hussein of Jordan.

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie cited a Jordanian leader as one member of an Arab coalition he would raise to fight ISIS, telling the debate audience, "When I stand across from King Hussein of Jordan and I say to him, 'You have a friend again, sir, who will stand with you to fight this fight,' he'll change his mind."

Befriending the king might be a tall order, though: King Hussein has been dead since 1999.

Christie presumably was referring to the current leader of Jordan, King Abdullah II. But either way, his implication that violence in the region is due to American fecklessness is way off — U.S. meddling in the region contributed greatly to the rise of ISIS in the first place. Meanwhile, the vast majority of bombs being loosed on ISIS are U.S.-deployed bombs.

Carly Fiorina says Obama eviscerated the United States' "warrior class."

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"One of the things I would immediately do, in addition to defeating them here at home, brings back the warrior class — Petraeus, McChrystal, Mattis, Keane, Flynn," former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina told the audience in response to a question on terrorist groups. "Every single one of these generals I know. Everyone was retired early because they told President Obama things that he didn't want to hear."

PolitiFact rates this claim as "mostly false."

Keane left the military in 2003, when George W. Bush was president. He clarified this fact in an interview on Wednesday.

Petraeus, while a hero to conservatives, actually left the CIA in 2011 after it was revealed he was having an extramarital affair with his biographer, with whom he was also sharing classified information. McChrystal was booted after he and his staff were depicted in a Rolling Stone profile mocking Obama and senior administration staff. 

While Mattis and Flynn "likely departed over policy differences," said PolitiFact, Fiorina also "indicated an Obama involvement that is not proven."

Fiorina's argument — that Obama has eviscerated the nation's "warrior class" — stands in stark contrast to the fact that the Obama administration has only made minor overall cuts to the military budget, which already dwarfs that of all other countries.

It's also not clear that two or three fewer generals would even be a bad thing, given U.S. military's overabundance of brass.

Ted Cruz justifies plan to "carpet-bomb" ISIS by pointing to the Persian Gulf War.

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Asked by moderator Wolf Blitzer to define exactly what he meant with his calls to "carpet-bomb" ISIS and make Syria's "sand glow in the dark," Texas Sen. Ted Cruz responded, "What it means is using overwhelming airpower to utterly and completely destroy ISIS."

"To put things in perspective, in the first Persian Gulf War, we launched roughly 1,100 air attacks a day," Cruz continued. "We carpet-bombed them for 37 days — saturation bombing — after which our troops went in and mopped up what was left of the Iraqi army. Right now, Obama is launching between 15 and 30 air attacks a day. We need to use overwhelming air power and we need to be arming the Kurds and we need to be fighting and killing ISIS where they are."

Cruz added the point of his planned carpet-bombing campaign wouldn't be to "level a city, the object is to kill ISIS terrorists."

As PolitiFact notes, Cruz appears to have an incorrect understanding of the term "carpet-bombing," which is the indiscriminate use of airpower to destroy large stretches of populated enemy territory with no concern for massive civilian casualties that result.

Cruz is also wrong that the U.S. "carpet-bombed" Iraq during the Persian Gulf War. Yes, those strikes caused massive damage, but they were targeting the Iraqi military as it fled Kuwait. The accuracy of those strikes are contested, and the bombing campaign did cause much suffering, but the U.S. did not "carpet-bomb" Iraq as claimed by Cruz.

Cruz says George W. Bush deported 10 million "criminal illegal aliens," while Bill Clinton deported 12 million.

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To deal with undocumented immigration, "what you do is you enforce the law." Cruz told the debate audience, "That means you stop the Obama administration's policy of releasing criminal illegal aliens. Do you know how many aliens Bill Clinton deported? Twelve million. Do you know how many illegal aliens George W. Bush deported? Ten million."

As the Washington Post notes, Cruz was actually using the number of undocumented immigrants who left the U.S. voluntarily. In reality, Bush deported 2 million people, while Clinton deported just 870,000. In fact, according to the Washington Post, Obama is deporting more people on the basis of criminal convictions than either of the above-cited presidents.

Cruz has an incentive to misrepresent the last three presidents' records: His immigration plan is to kick out anyone discovered living in the country without permission. With roughly 11 million undocumented people currently living in the U.S., that's a lot of people Cruz wants to deport.

Trump claims the San Bernardino shooters' family knew about it all along.

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Discussing a Dec. 2 mass shooting in California with ties to Islamic extremism, Trump lied about the status of the investigation, accusing one of mothers of the perpetrators of being in on the plot.

"We have to be much stronger than we've been," Trump told the audience. "We have people that know what is going on. You take a look at just the attack in California the other day. There were numerous people, including the mother, that knew what was going on."

"They saw a pipe bomb sitting all over the floor," he continued. "They saw ammunition all over the place. They knew exactly what was going on."

Says who? According to, "so far officials have not brought any charges or made any accusation against the mother, whose lawyer says that his client didn't know what her son was planning."

Barring the possibility of Trump being privy to secret information about the shooting, and there's no reason to think he would be, the candidate does not know the extent of the woman's knowledge. That makes his claim baseless — and scary, since it could inspire violence against Farook's family members. It's something that his supporters have been more than happy to resort to in the past.

Rand Paul says all U.S. terrorist attacks since Sept. 11, 2001, have been the result of "legal immigration."

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Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul made the stunning assertion, "Every terrorist attack we've had since 9/11 has been legal immigration."

Senator, your pants are afire. 

First of all, San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook was a natural-born citizen, as is Nidal Hasan, the former Army major who killed 13 in a 2009 attack at Fort Hood in Texas.

Even more egregiously, Paul is ignoring at least 18 domestic terrorist attacks that killed a cumulative 48 people since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, probably because those 18 attacks were committed by right-wing extremists who were almost exclusively white and male.

According to Paul, right-wing terrorism isn't just not a threat. Apparently, it doesn't exist. The Department of Homeland Security, however, begs to differ.

The more you know.