By Reuters Fact Check
(Reuters) – Five Republican hopefuls took to the stage in Miami on Wednesday for the party’s third 2024 presidential debate, each seeking a breakout moment with voters. Frontrunner Donald Trump skipped the event.
Candidates Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, Tim Scott and Chris Christie took questions from NBC News moderators. The election is on Nov. 5, 2024. Incumbent President Joe Biden has said he will seek the Democratic nomination.
Reuters Fact Check examined five statements made during the debate:
“I sent planes over to Israel and I brought back over 700 people to safety.” – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (timestamp: 08:13pm ET)
WHAT WE KNOW
This is largely true as the number of evacuees is at least close to 700. On Oct. 12, five days after gunmen of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas launched an attack on Israel, DeSantis signed an executive order enabling his state to provide transportation to evacuate Floridians in Israel.
According to an Oct. 24 statement by the governor’s office, nearly 700 people were brought back to Florida on four flights between Oct. 15 and Oct. 23. The statement details the arrivals of 678 people in Tampa and mentions “a flight of seven passengers to Orlando on October 15 and other individual commercial flights.”
When talking about antisemitism on college campuses, DeSantis said, “and what is Biden doing? Not only is he not helping the Jewish students who are being persecuted, he is launching an initiative to combat so called Islamophobia.” (Timestamp: 08:28pm ET)
WHAT WE KNOW
This statement is missing context.
It is true that the Biden administration is developing a national strategy to counter Islamophobia after facing criticism from Muslim Americans for his support of Israel’s military offensive on Gaza.
The administration, however, also said it has taken action toward protecting Jewish students.
During an Oct. 30 press briefing, following reports of antisemitic threats at Cornell University, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice “have taken steps to ensure campus law enforcement is included in engagements with state and local law enforcement and have taken numerous steps to provide outreach and support directly to campuses.”
During the same conference, Jean-Pierre said the Department of Education was also working to accelerate the processing of complaints filed under the 1964 Civil Rights Act for those who face discrimination including both antisemitism and Islamophobia.
The Biden administration had a National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism in place before the Israel-Hamas war broke out in October.
“We’re the most ethnically diverse state in this country.” – Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie when speaking about the state following 9/11 (timestamp: 8:29pm ET)
WHAT WE KNOW
False. New Jersey is not the most ethnically diverse state. The U.S. Census Bureau’s examination of the U.S. population’s racial and ethnic diversity published in May 2023 is based on data from the 2020 census and was used to calculate a Diversity Index. The index indicates how likely two randomly chosen individuals are to be from different race or ethnicity groups and it calculates those odds for the U.S. overall at 61.1%.
The analysis showed that New Jersey had an index of 55.0 to 64.9 for the adult population (see Diversity Index by State by Voting Age, Figure 1). For the population under the age of 18, New Jersey had a higher index, at 71.2, which was still below Hawaii’s 78.3 Diversity Index, Maryland’s 72.9 and Alaska’s 72.1 for the same age group (see Figure 2).
Christie’s statement was made during a comment about the period after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Based on analyses that include that period, New Jersey also was not the most diverse U.S. state at that time.
“Do you want to use U.S. taxpayer money to fund the banning of Christians? That is actually what’s happening. They’re using the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. They have banned them. The Ukrainian parliament just did this last week, supported by our dollars.” – Vivek Ramaswamy (timestamp: 8:37pm ET)
WHAT WE KNOW
This is missing context. The Ukrainian parliament has yet to impose a ban on the activities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), although a legal effort is under way. Most Christians in Ukraine are part of a different orthodox church called the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU).
A draft law registered in the Ukrainian parliament on Oct. 9 would allow a ban on the activities of the minority UOC, which Kyiv has accused of collaborating with Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The church later said it severed ties with the Russian Orthodox Church and is the victim of a political witch hunt, Reuters reported.
The Ukrainian parliament on Oct. 19 voted to support the bill in its first reading. It needs to be backed in a second reading and approved by the president to go into force.
“I would not allow states like California, Illinois or New York to have abortion up until the day of birth. I certainly would not allow for governors, a former governor – Democratic governor of Virginia, who talked about infanticide.” – U.S. Senator Tim Scott (timestamp: 9:42pm ET)
WHAT WE KNOW
This is missing context. The states of California, New York and Illinois allow abortions until fetal viability (generally reached at 24-28 weeks). Those states have legislation allowing abortion after fetal viability if the pregnant person’s life or health is threatened.
Reuters addressed a similar claim made by Scott at the first GOP primary debate about the same three states.
About 1% of abortions nationwide are later in pregnancy (after 21 weeks) according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (see “Weeks of Gestation and Method Type”).
The mention of infanticide and Virginia is likely a reference to comments made by then-Governor Ralph Northam about a bill to ease certain restrictions on abortions in 2019 and were misrepresented as an endorsement of infanticide. The bill did not pass.
A spokesperson for Northam later told Vox that he was not referring to infanticide, but the “tragic and extremely rare case in which a woman with a nonviable pregnancy or severe fetal abnormalities went into labor.”
Reuters also addressed a similar claim about Northam’s comments made by former U.S. President Donald Trump during a televised CNN town hall in May.