True or False?
Fact-Checking the Sunday Shows: July 19
Was Donald Trump’s comment that John McCain isn’t a war hero really taken out of context? And did Obama break promises when he made the Iran deal?
By Linda Qiu and Louis Jacobson
Donald Trump didn’t back down Sunday from comments he made a day earlier that Vietnam War POW Sen. John McCain is “not a war hero.”
In an interview on ABC’s This Week, Trump claimed his remarks at an Iowa forum were taken out of context by Republican candidates jealous of Trump’s poll numbers.
“Four times, I said he is a hero,” Trump said told ABC’s Martha Raddatz. “But you know, people choose little selective—like you try to do—people choose little selective pieces. If you read what I say or if you watch what I say, which is even better, you’ll say that there was nothing wrong.”
We took Trump up on his suggestion to watch what he said.
The truth is Trump is taking his own comments out of context. We rate his claim Mostly False.
Here’s the transcript of Trump talking with Republican pollster Frank Luntz, which starts with Trump responding to McCain calling some Trump Arizona supporters “crazies.”
Trump: “[McCain] insulted me and he insulted everybody in that room. And I said somebody should run against John McCain, who has been, in my opinion, not so hot. And I supported him for president. I raised $1 million for him. That’s a lot of money. I supported him, he lost, he let us down. But he lost and I never liked him much after that ’cause I don’t like losers. But, but—Frank, Frank, let me get to it.”
Luntz: “He’s a war hero. He’s a war hero …”
Trump: “He’s not a war hero…”
Luntz: “He’s war hero.”
Trump: “He is a war hero…”
Luntz: “Five and half years in a Vietnamese prison camp…”
Trump: “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured. So he’s a war hero …”
Luntz: “Do you agree with that?”
Trump: “He’s a war hero, because he was captured, OK? I believe, perhaps, he’s a war hero. But right now he said some very bad things about a lot of people. So what I said is John McCain, I disagree with him that these people aren’t crazy.”
Trump said McCain “is a war hero” five times, but always with strings attached. Twice, he was interrupted by Luntz before he could finish his sentence. Once, the statement was preceded by “I believe, perhaps.” And the last two times, Trump added “because he was captured.” He also, of course, started all this by saying McCain is “not a war hero.”
Experts told us these caveats change the meaning of the sentence entirely.
“‘He’s a war hero because he was captured’ implies that anybody who is captured is called a war hero, but there’s really nothing special about them,” said Kathleen Kendall, who studies political campaign communication at the University of Maryland.
McCain was taken prisoner by the Viet Cong when his plane was shot down in 1967. For five and a half years, he was tortured and held in solitary confinement amid attempts by the North Vietnamese to obtain information and false confessions, according to the Navy.
We’re not exploring whether captivity is a marker of heroism, but Trump likely wasn’t, either, says rhetoric scholar Paul Achter of the University of Richmond.
“[Trump] appears to have thought it would be a funny aside to the question he was answering,” Achter said.
In short, Trump’s self-defense is flimsy at best. As for his accusation of critics cherry-picking his comments, experts say the pot is calling the kettle black.
“He’s taking his own words out of context. That’s the offense he’s charging the media with,” Kendall said.
While Trump and his antics continued to take up much of the political airspace Sunday, plenty was also made of the historic agreement reached between the Obama administration and Iran.
Critics had much to say about the proposed nuclear deal.
“This deal violates promises the president made to the American people on multiple fronts,” 2016 presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said on CNN. “It is not an anytime, anywhere inspection system. It is an inspection process that will require arbitration over a 24-day period or longer that Iran can fight against and delay things.”
Rubio’s claim that the Iran deal “violates promises the president made to the American people” because “it is not an anytime, anywhere inspection process” rates Half True.
What’s correct in Rubio’s statement is that the proposed deal with Iran does not include anytime, anywhere inspections.
At an Iranian facility like Natanz, where more than 5,000 centrifuges will be operating, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will have cameras that provide 24-hour monitoring, said Matthew Bunn, a nuclear specialist at the Harvard Kennedy School. In addition, the agreement says, “Iran will permit the IAEA regular access, including daily access as requested by the IAEA, to relevant buildings at [the Iranian nuclear facility at] Natanz...for 15 years.”
However, this sort of 24/7 surveillance will not be the rule everywhere in the Iranian nuclear archipelago.
“At most locations, inspections will be every once in a while, on a schedule the inspectors judge to be sufficient based on the sensitivity of the activities at that location, how long it would take for Iran to do something there that would make a difference, and so on,” Bunn said.
And as Rubio said, even if Iran ultimately agrees to a contentious inspection, the wait could be as long as 24 days.
What’s less clear is Rubio’s claim that anytime, anywhere inspections were an Obama promise.
A top Obama adviser, Ben Rhodes, twice described the deal as granting “anywhere, anytime” access.
But all the other descriptions provided by Rhodes, White House press secretary Josh Earnest, and President Obama were more nuanced. Those descriptions talked about a robust and intrusive inspection program but not anytime, anywhere.
Here’s how Obama put it in April: “Iran will face strict limitations on its program, and Iran has also agreed to the most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated for any nuclear program in history…International inspectors will have unprecedented access not only to Iranian nuclear facilities but to the entire supply chain that supports Iran’s nuclear program.”
That phrasing was much more common in Obama administration descriptions of the deal and paints Obama’s promise in a different light.
Aaron Sharockman contributed to this report. Read the full fact-checks at PunditFact.com.