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Fact-checking the Republican presidential debate

Ben Carson and Donald Trump were seen during the CNN Republican presidential debate.Mark J. Terrill/Associated press

At their debate in Simi Valley, California, on Wednesday night, the Republican presidential candidates did not always let the facts get in the way of their arguments. Here are some of the more noteworthy assertions that the candidates made, and a reality check:


On Leadership

Carly Fiorina was challenged on her record as chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, and she responded by promoting her leadership of the company.

"We doubled the size of the company, we quadrupled its top-line growth rate, we quadrupled its cash flow, we tripled its rate of innovation," Fiorina said, before acknowledging that job cuts were enacted. "Some tough calls are going to be required," she said.


Donald Trump retorted, "When Carly says the revenues went up, that's because she bought Compaq, it was a terrible deal, and it really led to the destruction of the company."

"Destruction" is probably too strong a term, but it is true that Fiorina emphasized metrics of success that captured less of her success at leading Hewlett-Packard and more of the fact that she acquired a much larger competitor.

Almost by definition, if a company acquires a very large competitor, it will increase its size, revenue and cash flow, which indeed happened when HP bought Compaq under her leadership in 2002.

She did not specify how she was measuring the rate of innovation, but the rate of new patents, one such measure, would typically rise, too, after absorbing another large company's research department.

But as Trump implied, those facts alone don't explain whether an acquisition was a strategically smart one, and as he suggests. And in fact, many analysts view the merger, her defining action as chief executive, as ill-advised.



Casino Questions

Trump did his part to support Jeb Bush's dream of becoming Florida governor, at least financially — and some thought his generosity had something to do with his wanting a casino in the state, according to a recent report by CNN.


But did Bush squash Trump's dream of putting a casino in Florida, as Bush asserted in the debate?

For sure, the casino did not happen while Bush was governor. But an aide to Bush also told CNN that Trump did not personally lobby Bush to change the state's gambling laws, which could have potentially cleared the way for a Trump casino.

Trump, for his part, denied during the debate that his political help for Bush was linked to his desire for a casino, insisting that if he had wanted it, he would have gotten it.



At the Border

During discussion about immigration, Ben Carson was right in describing the "incredible success" in Yuma County, Arizona, in reducing illegal border crossings. But it was not because of the wall at the border there, as Carson asserted.

It was because border authorities sent almost every immigrant who was caught crossing the border to jail and then prosecuted them in federal court. It was the detention of the migrants that made many of them go to other areas of Arizona to cross. And President Barack Obama's Justice Department was involved in that effort.



Financial Pain

The assertion is starting to sound a little familiar: a claim of Trump's involvement in a bankruptcy filing, which is then met with a denial from Trump himself.


It is true that Trump has not personally filed for bankruptcy. But Trump is no stranger to bankruptcy as a businessman. On four occasions, Trump corporate entities have filed for bankruptcy, three of those being casino businesses in Atlantic City.