Hillary Clinton had no evidence to back up her claim in the latest Democratic presidential debate that the Islamic State group is using video of Donald Trump to recruit Muslims to its cause.
It’s an assertion reminiscent of Trump’s insistence that video showed thousands of Muslims in the U.S. cheering the 9/11 attacks, which has been debunked for weeks. During Saturday’s debate, Clinton stated that the Republican presidential contender is “becoming ISIS’s best recruiter,” with the group attracting people by showing videos of him. Clinton spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri acknowledged Sunday the campaign is aware of no such IS video and that jihadis are capitalizing on Trump’s comments about Muslims through social media.
Here’s a look at some of the claims in the debate Saturday night and how they compare with the facts:
CLINTON: “He is becoming ISIS’s best recruiter. They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists.”
THE FACTS: What’s true is that Trump’s provocative comments about Muslims, including his call to ban them from coming to the U.S., have been widely played across the Middle East — in the hothouse of social media and beyond. Plenty of people — his Republican rivals among them — see his positions as playing into the hands of terrorists and raising the risk of radicalizing Muslims in the West as well as in the Middle East. It’s also true that IS has a sophisticated propaganda operation and it can’t be ruled out that the group has spread such videos under the Western radar.
But if so, Clinton doesn’t know about them.
“If you go back and look at social media, if you look at what’s going on, they are definitely pointing at Mr. Trump,” her campaign chairman, John Podesta, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” But he cited no IS videos.
Palmieri said on ABC’s “This Week,” ”She didn’t have a particular video in mind, but he is being used in social media.”
When his claim about a video showing “thousands and thousands” of Muslims celebrating 9/11 was debunked weeks ago, Trump dug in his heels on the assertion about “plenty of people cheering.” He repeated that position Sunday. Asked about IS recruitment videos, he told ABC: “She just made it up.”
Clinton’s statement that Trump is becoming the “top recruiter” for IS also is hard to square with the complex realities motivating its adherents.
Attackers connected to or inspired by IS often say their actions are in response to the airstrike campaign against Islamic State militants, whose focus is on Syria and Iraq. Shiite Muslims have been their primary target since the beginning and in their online videos, they often call out to their followers to attack infidels — Shiite Muslims in particular.
The Islamic State group is known by various names, ISIS and ISIL among them.
BERNIE SANDERS: “The cost of college education is escalating a lot faster than the cost of inflation. There are a lot of factors involved in that. And that is that we have some colleges and universities that are spending a huge amount of money on fancy dormitories and on giant football stadiums.”
CLINTON: “States have been disinvesting in higher education … So states over a period of decades have put their money elsewhere; into prisons, into highways, into things other than higher education.”
THE FACTS: Clinton comes closest to diagnosing the problem accurately. College expenses are unsustainably high, but luxurious dorms aren’t the big driver that Sanders portrays. Public universities are charging more because they receive less in state government support.
Demos, a left-leaning think tank, said in a May study that the decline in state funding accounted for 79 percent of tuition hikes between 2001 and 2011. Just 6 percent was due to construction costs.
Sanders would make up that lost government money by providing free tuition, paid for with a tax on financial transactions. Clinton would offer federal dollars to encourage states to do more and keep students from having to borrow. It’s unclear how either plan would control colleges’ costs, though.
CLINTON on rising premiums and out-of-pocket costs for the privately insured after enactment of Obama’s health care law: “I would certainly build on the successes of the Affordable Care Act and work to fix some of the glitches.”
SANDERS on his proposed single-payer health care system: “The average middle-class family will be saving thousands of dollars a year.”
THE FACTS: Obama’s law was mainly about expanding coverage for the uninsured, and even former officials of his administration say major work still has to be done on cost control. In other words, rising costs are more than “glitches.”
One of the health care law’s main brakes on costs — a tax on high-value workplace coverage — has been put on hold by the new federal budget deal. Clinton had called for complete repeal of that levy, known as the Cadillac tax. Many economists believe the tax would help keep costs in check by forcing people into leaner insurance plans.
Sanders says his plan for a government-run health care system along the lines of Canada’s and Western Europe’s would save money for families and taxpayers. But such a major transition would involve winners and losers, as well as new taxes in place of premiums.
When the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office looked at the concept back in the early 1990s, it concluded that a single-payer system had the potential to save money but that wasn’t guaranteed. Moreover, individuals would have less freedom to choose their insurance packages, a trade-off that not everyone would accept.
SANDERS, apologizing for his campaign improperly gaining access to Clinton campaign data, raised the possibility that Clinton’s campaign may have done the same thing. “I am not convinced that information from our campaign may not have ended up in her campaign,” he said.
THE FACTS: Sanders is speculating, at best. There’s no evidence so far that Clinton’s campaign has accessed Sanders’ voter lists.
During a conference call with reporters on Friday, Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, said he could “unequivocally tell you that no member of our staff stole data from theirs.” And the contractor that manages the campaign data for the Democratic Party, NGP-VAN, issued a statement Friday saying “our team removed access to the affected data, and determined that only one campaign took actions that could possibly have led to it retaining data to which it should not have had access.”
CLINTON: “Assad has killed 250,000 Syrians.”
THE FACTS: Clinton appears to be blaming the entire estimated death toll of the Syrian civil war on just one side: the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Yet no matter how vicious his forces have been, deaths have come at the hands of all sides in the nearly 5-year-old multifront civil war.
The Syrian conflict began with anti-government protests before spiraling into a war with many groups emerging in opposition to the brutal regime crackdown. Rebels in some of these groups are fighting and killing each other, in some cases with no involvement by Assad-backed troops.
The United Nations has estimated a death toll of 220,000 since 2011; other estimates are higher, and Clinton’s figure is roughly in line with them. But the death toll is attributable to all parties, not just to Assad.
Associated Press writers Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Josh Boak contributed to this report.
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