The candidates on the debate stage made false or misleading claims about a variety of subjects — including the border wall, Florida’s education curriculum, the economy and the war in Ukraine.
Here are a few of CNN’s fact checks:
DeSantis on Florida’s Black history curriculum
Moderator Ilia Calderón asked Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to address the descendants of enslaved people regarding his state’s new standards on how to teach Black history in schools.
Calderón said: “Florida’s new Black history curriculum says, ‘slaves developed skills, which in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.’ You have said slaves developed skills in spite of slavery, not because of it. But many are still hurt. For descendants of slaves, this is personal. What is your message to them?”
DeSantis’ response: “First of all, that’s a hoax that was perpetuated by Kamala Harris. We are not going to be doing that. Second of all, that was written by descendants of slaves, these are great Black history scholars, so we need to stop playing these games.”
Facts First: DeSantis’ claim is false. Florida’s new standards for teaching Black history do include the clause that Calderón read out.
In July, the Florida Board of Education approved a new set of standards for how Black history should be taught in the state’s public schools. The standards for middle schoolers include a benchmark that says, “Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”
When asked about the benchmark in July, DeSantis told CNN he “wasn’t involved.” Instead, just as he did in his response tonight, he deferred to those who wrote the education standards.
“You should talk to them about it. I didn’t do it. I wasn’t involved in it,” DeSantis said at the time.
Pressed further at the time, he said: “I think that they’re probably going to show some of the folks that eventually parlayed, you know, being a blacksmith into, into doing things later in life. But the reality is, all of that is rooted in whatever is factual. They listed everything out. And if you have any questions about it, just ask the Department of Education.”
DeSantis has argued that it is unfair to depict the standards as broadly pro-slavery, saying that they are clear and detailed about the evils of slavery.
The new standards have been criticized by civil rights advocates and Black lawmakers. Vice President Kamala Harris also criticized the new standards, saying in a speech in July “they decided middle school students will be taught that enslaved people benefited from slavery.”
Pence on immigration
Former Vice President Mike Pence, speaking of the Trump-Pence administration, claimed that “we reduced illegal immigration and asylum abuse by 90%.”
Facts First: This is misleading. The total number of Border Patrol apprehensions, which is widely used as a proxy for illegal immigration, was actually higher during Trump and Pence’s four years in office than it was in the final four years of the Obama administration, largely because of a major spike in early 2019. So where did Pence get the supposed 90% reduction? He didn’t explain – and didn’t explain what he meant by “asylum abuse” – but other fact-checkers, such as those at PolitiFact and The Washington Post, have found that you can find a roughly 90% drop in apprehensions if you compare the month with the highest Trump-era number of apprehensions, May 2019, to the month with the lowest Trump-era number, April 2020 – in other words, by cherry-picking the most advantageous start and end dates.
The Trump-Pence reelection campaign did similar cherry-picking in a television ad in 2019, claiming Trump had cut illegal immigration in half. Small print in the ad made clear that the campaign, too, had started the clock in May 2019 rather than from the beginning of the administration.
CNN asked Pence’s campaign two days before the September debate to explain the math behind this claim. The campaign did not respond.