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The Biden-Ryan debate fact-check: Who told the biggest whoppers?
Both candidates stretched the truth during their televised showdown. A breakdown of how fact-checkers scored it
When it comes to stretching the truth, it seems both vice presidential candidates were culpable during their Oct. 11 debate.
When it comes to stretching the truth, it seems both vice presidential candidates were culpable during their Oct. 11 debate.
Alex Wong, Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
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hat happens when a 36-year Senate veteran like Joe Biden squares off against a young rival with a "wonky affinity for budget details" like Rep. Paul Ryan? The facts and figures fly. In Thursday night's vice-presidential debate, refereed by the no-nonsense Martha Raddatz of ABC News, Biden and Ryan tossed out numbers during their clashes on just about everything: the budget, Libya, taxes, Afghanistan, unemployment, and abortion. "Spouting so many facts and figures," say Josh Gerstein and Darren Samuelsohn at Politico, "inevitably leads to claims that one candidate or the other shaded the truth, bent it, or maybe even fibbed a bit." Romney got dinged a bit more than President Obama in this regard after the first presidential debate. Here, a look at the VP debate through the fact-checkers' eyes:

Biden: We didn't know they need more security in Benghazi
The verdict: "Mostly false"
In the wake of the deadly attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya, "we can't say whether requests for more security — which were denied — reached the top," says FactCheck.org. But we know they made it to the State Department. In a congressional oversight committee hearing this week, Eric Nordstrom, a former top security official in Libya, testified that he had asked for more security in Benghazi, but was rebuffed so flatly that it was "abundantly clear we were not going to get resources until the aftermath of an incident." Charlene R. Lamb, a deputy assistant secretary of State for diplomatic security, testified that she refused the request because the department's strategy was to train Libyans to protect the compound.

Ryan: It took weeks for Obama to call the attack terrorism
The verdict: "Mostly false"
Obama called the assault, which killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, "an act of terror" on Sept. 12, the day after it happened. Still, White House spokesman Jay Carney, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, and other administration officials continued for days to describe the incident as part of a wave of protests provoked by an anti-Islam video.

Biden: Romney wanted to let Detroit go bankrupt
The verdict: "Half-true"
Biden's wording came from an opinion article Romney wrote in The New York Times that ran under the headline "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt," but "his point was never that he wanted the auto industry to go down the tubes," says The Associated Press. He advocated General Motors and Chrysler going through a "managed bankruptcy," in which they could discharge their debts and emerge "leaner" companies. GM and Chrysler did go through bankruptcy, and received $80 billion in federal assistance from the Bush and Obama administrations. Romney wanted them to use private money instead of government funds, even though independent analysts say that in 2008's "frozen" credit markets, private funding "was not a viable option."

Ryan: Obama and Biden wasted $90 billion on "green pork"
The verdict: "Mostly false"
Ryan makes it sound like all energy grants in the stimulus package "went down the drain," says The Associated Press. Yes, there was that $528 million failed investment in the "politically connected and now-bankrupt" solar-panel maker Solyndra. But Ryan conveniently ignores that much of the stimulus money earmarked for energy was used to help people make their homes more energy efficient, or gave tax credits to manufacturers to install clean-energy equipment. Specifically, Ryan chided Biden for spending tax dollars on "electric cars in Finland," says FactCheck.org. The company he's referring to, Fisker Automative, has drawn $193 million in stimulus-backed loans, but the money has gone to design, engineering, and marketing work done in the U.S. While it's true that the cars built so far have been assembled in Finland, Fisker plans to build its next model at a shuttered former GM plant in Delaware. "Ryans suggestion that any of that stimulus money went to Finland is simply inaccurate."

Ryan: Obama robbed Medicare to pay for ObamaCare
The verdict: "Half-true"
Ryan, echoing earlier claims by Romney, said that "under the president's plan, he cuts Medicare by $716 billion, takes that money out of the Medicare trust fund and uses it to pay for ObamaCare." The figure "comes from the difference over 10 years (2013-2022) between anticipated Medicare spending" without Obama's Affordable Care Act and changes the law makes to reduce spending. "The savings mostly are wrung from health-care providers, not Medicare beneficiaries — who, as a result of the health-care law, ended up with new benefits for preventive care and prescription drugs," says Glenn Kessler at The Washington Post. So, yes, the anticipated Medicare savings were used to offset "anticipated costs of expanding health care for all Americans," but the Medicare trust fund is unscathed. "Ryan, as House Budget Committee chairman, probably knows he's playing a rhetorical game here."

Biden: The GOP wants to voucherize Medicare
The verdict: "Mostly true"
President Obama and Biden both say Romney wants to turn Medicare "into a voucher program" instead of a guaranteed health plan for seniors. The Romney-Ryan plan would give retirement-age Americans a premium support payment that they would use to help pay for private insurance. If they want to stay in the current system of government payments to doctors and hospitals, they would be able to buy into that. "We think 'voucher program' is a fair way of describing to voters the vision for Medicare under a Romney-Ryan administration," says Politifact.

Final score: Call it a draw, say Mark Memmott and Scott Montgomery at NPR. Biden and Ryan both stretched the truth at times, "but in much the same way that neither candidate decisively won the debate, neither committed significantly bigger mistakes than the other." Perhaps, says Politifact. But Ryan gets a demerit for repeating the charge that ObamaCare amounts to "a government takeover of health care." That's "simply not true" — the law "relies largely on the free market," not a European-style government owned-and-operated system. "We voted 'a government takeover of health care' our Lie of the Year for 2010" — now it's back in 2012.

Sources: The Associated Press, FactCheck.org, National Journal, NPR, Politico, Politifact, The Washington Post

Check out the fact-check from the first presidential debate here.

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