FactChecking the Fourth GOP Primary Debate

FactChecking the Fourth GOP Primary Debate


The following topics were discussed by the candidates in the final Republican presidential primary debate of 2023, including legal immigration, gender-affirming surgery, and more:

Former US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley made selective comments that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis used to argue she was not against “gender mutilation for minors.” According to Haley, minors shouldn’t be permitted to have a “gender-changing procedure” until they are at least eighteen years old.
Haley’s assertion that she “never said government should… require” social media users to disclose their names is “false,” according to entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. Before subsequently clarifying that only Americans should be permitted to post anonymously, Haley did initially propose that all social media users should be forced to use their names when using the platform.

Haley allegedly stated, “There should be no limits on legal immigration,” according to DeSantis. She didn’t. It ought to be determined by “merit,” not “a quota,” she said.
Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, denied having supported policies that supported transgender students against parental wishes. Although Christie signed a bill giving transgender students extensive protections, after he left office, particular regulations pertaining to parental consent were released.
It was incorrect of Ramaswamy to state that Haley was “bankrupt when you left the U.N.”
The false statement made by DeSantis was that “there was no data to support” the FDA’s approval of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine for infants younger than six months. In clinical trials, Pfizer and Moderna tested vaccines at lower doses on young children.

Ramaswamy accepted the ludicrous theory that the attack on the US Capitol building on January 6, 2021, was a “inside job.”
Ramaswamy restated remarks he had previously made concerning transgender individuals and climate change.
The NewsNation-hosted debate took place in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on December 6.


DeSantis Distorts Haley’s Position on Gender-Affirmation Surgery for Minors

DeSantis asserted that Haley disagreed with a law he signed that forbade minors from having gender-affirming surgery, or what he called “gender mutilation.” It misrepresents Haley’s perspective. According to Haley, a child shouldn’t be permitted to undergo a “permanent change” for transgender reasons until they have turned 18.

During the debate, DeSantis brought up the matter twice. Each time, it sparked a heated exchange between Haley and DeSantis, who claimed to have video evidence to support their positions, and DeSantis.

DeSantis: I worked on a bill in Florida to outlaw the mutilation of minors’ genders. It’s wrong because it’s child abuse. She’s against that bill. She believes that it’s okay and that the government shouldn’t get involved. You will not fight for the people back home if you are unwilling to speak out for the children and to declare that it is wrong to mutilate these children. I’ll put up a fight and prevail on your behalf. ..

She didn’t answer the critique. The parents’ rights education bill was not at issue. It had to do with outlawing sex changes on minors. Puberty blockers are permanent and are done by them. It’s what Nikki Haley objected to.

The law shouldn’t get involved in that, she said. And I just had this question for you: How will you be able to stand up for anything as the next president of the United States if you can’t even speak out against child abuse?

Haley: That’s not what I said.

DeSantis: The fact is what it is.

Haley: That’s not what I said.

DeSantis: It’s captured on camera.

Haley: I mentioned that if getting a tattoo requires you to be 18, then getting anything done that changes your gender should also require that age.

DeSantis: It is not your place as a parent to mistreat your children. These are permanent procedures that are mutilating these minors. It is wrong, so I signed legislation in Florida outlawing the mutilation of minors. This is not something that this nation can tolerate. Nikki thinks otherwise. She disagrees with the bill we drafted to outlaw it, arguing that the government shouldn’t get involved.

Haley: No, I didn’t.

A bill that forbade “sex-reassignment prescriptions and procedures for patients younger than 18 years of age” was signed into law by DeSantis in May. Cross-sex hormones, puberty blockers, and surgery are all prohibited.

DeSantis uses a clip from Haley’s June 5 interview with CBS News as support for his allegation regarding her, but he selectively presents her remarks. “What care should be on the table when a 12-year-old child in this country assigned female at birth says, ‘actually I feel more comfortable living as a boy,'” CBS News’ Tony Dokoupil questioned Haley during the interview. What kind of response ought to be permitted by law?

“I believe that parents should handle it and that the law should stay out of it.” It is the parents’ responsibility to handle this, Haley stated. “And when that child reaches the age of 18, they have the option to make more significant changes at that point. However, I believe that up until then, we have observed that our teenage children experience a lot during puberty. They experience a great deal of pressure, uncertainty, and confusion. We don’t need to go into the schools and impose anything, but we should support them all the way through. Schools don’t need to be hiding their gender pronoun usage from worried parents.

A super PAC backing DeSantis also cited to us comments Haley made in a June 4 CNN town hall when speaking on the transgender issue. “I want everybody to live the way they want to live,” Haley said. “Let’s get them the help, the therapy, whatever they need so that they can feel better and not be suicidal.”

In neither case did Haley advocate gender-affirming procedures for minors.

In fact, in a May 3 interview with ABC News, Haley specifically said, “You shouldn’t allow a child to have a gender-changing procedure until the age of 18 when they are an adult.”

Haley on IDing Social Media Users

Haley was asked to “speak to the requirement that you said that every anonymous internet user needs to out themselves” by moderator Megyn Kelly.

In a Fox News “Voters’ Voices” segment on November 14, Haley stated that “social media companies need to show us their algorithms.” “I also mentioned that there are millions of bots on social media at the moment,” she continued. They are Chinese, Iranian, and foreigners. I will never give up on defending Americans’ right to free speech. Freedom of speech is not necessary for Hamas, Iranians, or Russians.

Haley responded to Ramaswamy’s accusation that she had misrepresented her initial comments by saying she thought social media companies should “fight back on all of these bots that are happening” and that social media “would be more civil” if users were required to sign their names in addition to their online comments.

Having said that, she added, “I never said the government should go and require anyone’s name.”

Ramaswamy referred to her response as “false,” and DeSantis interjected to clarify that Haley had stated that obtaining people’s names on social media would be among her first actions as president.

In response to a query from the audience during that Fox News interview, Haley did make the argument that identity verification should be mandatory for all users of social media. (Her response begins in the video at approximately 5:07.)

Haley, November 14: The first thing we have to do when I take office is require social media accounts and companies to display their algorithms to the United States. Let’s examine the motivation behind their actions.

Second, each and every user on social media ought to have their name verified. It poses a threat to national security, to start with. When you do that, people are forced to abide by their statements, which eliminates the Chinese, Russian, and Iranian bots. When people realize their names are attached to what they say and that their pastor and family will be listening to them, you’ll then see some civility.

In response to criticism of her remarks, which came from some of her Republican primary rivals, Haley added a disclaimer in a CNBC interview on November 15 about only permitting Americans to post anonymously online.

“I desire American freedom of speech,” she declared. “I oppose granting freedom of speech to Hamas and Russia. And it’s exactly what’s going on at the moment. In order to remove all of those bots, the solution is for our social media companies to validate each user.

In response to Joe Kernen of CNBC’s question about whether Haley was “really saying that people can’t tweet anonymously,” she stated she was fine with Americans using Twitter.

Haley Wrong on DeSantis Support for Blogger Registration

Haley asserted that DeSantis had stated, “If bloggers are going to write or talk about elected officials, they should have to register with the state.”

She asserted, “Check your newspaper, it was absolutely there,” implying that there was proof of DeSantis’ backing for the proposal.

However, there isn’t.

This is what took place:

Late in February, Florida Senate Republican Jason Brodeur introduced a bill that would have required “bloggers” to register with the government if they were being compensated to write about public officials.

The bill stated that “a blogger must register with the appropriate office if they post to a blog about an elected state officer and receive, or will receive, compensation for that post.”

The bill was stalled in committee in May after receiving little support.

However, there was a brief controversy in March regarding the bill, and some media outlets published stories with DeSantis images and headlines mentioning him. For instance, a story titled “Florida GOP Bill Would Require Bloggers Who Write About Ron DeSantis to Register With the State” appeared in The New Republic.

Although there were no news reports that we could locate indicating DeSantis had backed the bill, it could be inferred from articles that included a picture of the governor and mentioned him in the headline that he had.

The governor would, in fact, “consider the merits of a bill in final form if and when it passes the Legislature,” a DeSantis spokesman actually stated to the Tampa Bay Times on March 3.

Subsequently, on March 7, DeSantis took a more distancing stance, asking, “Every member of the legislature has the ability to file bills, correct? I see these folks submitting bills, and then I see articles that say things like this with my picture on them. Bloggers will need to register with the state, and it’s kind of linked to

me. And I’m like, “Well, that’s not something I support; I have never supported it.”

DeSantis stated, “I don’t control every single bill that has been filed.”

At the time, this issue was addressed by fact-checkers at Reuters and the Associated Press.

Thus, Haley was mistaken when she said that DeSantis supported the bill, and since March, news stories have been published regarding the matter.

DeSantis Distorts Haley Comment on Immigration

DeSantis asserted that Haley had stated, “There should be no limits on legal immigration and that corporate CEOs should set the policy,” in yet another dispute over her policy stances. Haley corrected, saying, “That’s not true.”

DeSantis is misrepresenting Haley’s remark; he has stated this before. She stated that legal immigration should be determined by “merit” rather than quota, not by “no limits.”

DeSantis asserted that Haley had stated, “There should be no limits on legal immigration and that corporate CEOs should set the policy,” in yet another dispute over her policy stances. Haley corrected, saying, “That’s not true.”

DeSantis is misrepresenting Haley’s remark; he has stated this before. She did not state that there ought to be “no limits”;

The Migration Policy Institute describes the legal immigration categories in the United States as a “alphabet soup of visa categories.” The main avenues via which immigrants apply for temporary or permanent residency in the United States are through family ties, employer ties, or the need for humanitarian protection. Additionally, to a lesser extent, individuals may be admitted if they win the green card lottery or have highly sought-after skills. According to MPI, there are differences in the requirements, numerical caps, and rights and responsibilities associated with each category of visa.

Christie Spins His Support of Transgender Students

Moderator Kelly questioned Christie about his support as governor of New Jersey for transgender students in defiance of parental wishes. In 2017, Christie did sign a bill giving transgender students protections. However, the precise guidelines weren’t released until after he was fired.

“You signed a law requiring new policies for schools dealing with transgender students in 2017 while serving as governor. According to Kelly, these regulations mandated that schools honor a student’s preferred gender identity regardless of the minor’s parents’ disapproval. Additionally, it stated that schools are not required to inform parents if their child changes their gender identity, meaning that the serious matter can stay a secret between the school and the student. How does any of that come along?

in favor of parental rights?

Christie shot back, “That’s just not true at all. After I left office in 2018, that law was regulated and went into effect. You are flatly incorrect to claim that we issued those guidelines. “I stood up for parents to be able to make the decisions for their minor children every single time,” he continued.

In July 2017, Christie, the governor of New Jersey from 2010 to 2018, signed a bill requiring the state’s education commissioner to create policies that would safeguard transgender students. However, after Christie departed office in late September 2018, the guidelines were released.

According to the law, NJ S3067, the guidelines will help schools create policies and procedures that guarantee a welcoming and inclusive environment for transgender students, as well as give guidance on common issues pertaining to their needs.

The guidelines were supposed to address “confidentiality and privacy concerns, including advising schools to work with students to create an appropriate confidentiality plan regarding the student’s transgender or transitioning status, and ensuring that school personnel do not disclose information that may reveal a student’s transgender status except as allowed by law,” according to the law.

The LGBTQ+ advocacy group Garden State Equality’s executive director, Christian Fuscarino, stated at the time that the group was “pleasantly surprised” by Christie’s signing of the transgender student bill. Politico noted that Christie had previously stated that school districts should set their own policies regarding transgender students and that he opposed state “edicts” on the subject.

“A school district shall accept a student’s asserted gender identity; parental consent is not required,” stated the September 2018 guidelines.

Ramaswamy’s ‘Reasonable Peace Deal’ for Ukraine

Ramaswamy’s proposal to end Russia’s war in Ukraine was mocked by Christie, who claimed that it would give Russia “all the land they’ve already stolen” and prevent Ukraine from joining NATO (though Christie later said that the plan would keep Ukraine out of Russia). Ramaswamy would trust Russian President Vladimir Putin “not to have a relationship with China,” according to Christie, in return.

In response, Ramaswamy yelled, “That’s not my deal.”

However, it appears to be a fairly accurate summary of the “reasonable peace deal” that Ramaswamy had put forth in June.

On the June 1 episode of Kim Iversen’s podcast, which has a reputation for spreading conspiracy theories, Ramaswamy made an appearance. He teased his proposed peace accord there, which he later unveiled in a speech in New Hampshire.

“This is the arrangement we can reach with Putin,” Ramaswamy declared during his speech. “We will cease giving Ukraine aid; we will freeze the current lines of control, which implies he gains control of the Donbas and Crimea; and we will permanently promise to inform Ukraine that it will never be allowed to join NATO. Those are significant give-aways to Russia. However, we have a big request in return: you must end your treaty with

He’s talking about the 2001-signed Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation Between the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China, which was extended in 2021.

The agreement “set forth a bilateral relationship based on’mutual respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity,’ noninterference in internal affairs, equality, and mutual benefit,” according to a paper from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. It followed a border dispute.

Thus, it is accurate to say that Ramaswamy put forth a plan to end the conflict in Ukraine by preventing Ukraine from joining NATO and allowing Russia to keep all of the territory it has conquered. When describing what Russia would have to give up in return, Christie was less explicit but generally correct; however, it was evident that Christie did not trust Putin to sever Russia’s ties with China.t.”

Haley Wasn’t ‘Bankrupt’ When Leaving the U.N.

Ramaswamy incorrectly stated that Haley was “bankrupt when you left the U.N.” while accusing her of being “corrupt.”

Ramaswamy: Nikki, you had no money when you left the United Nations. You started working as a military contractor after you got out of the UN. You began your career as an employee of Boeing, whose back you scraped for a very long time, and went on to give international speeches similar to those made by Hillary Clinton before becoming a multimillionaire. There is an error in that math. All of it points to your corruption.

After leaving office, Haley, like many politicians, gave speeches around the country and joined the board of a large company—in her case, the Boeing Company. She did not, however, claim that she and her spouse went bankrupt.

Haley stated, “To start with, when I left the U.N., we were not bankrupt.” Our purpose is to serve others. In addition to serving our nation as a governor and U.N. ambassador, my spouse is in the armed forces. We weren’t bankrupt, even though it might have been to him.

There were rumors that Haley was leaving the United Nations for financial reasons when she left after just two years. According to Money Magazine, her May 2018 financial disclosure form for 2018 covered the previous

calendar year, revealing that her total debt was between $525,000 and $1.1 million due to a mortgage, credit card debt, and a line of credit. She also had a husband.

“Their current debt level is well below $500,000, and it had no bearing whatsoever on Ambassador Haley’s decision to leave her position,” a statement from Haley’s spokesperson was released at the time.

Haley had some debt when she left the office, but there was no proof that she or her spouse had filed for bankruptcy.

DeSantis on COVID-19 Vaccines for Young Kids

DeSantis, who has opposed COVID-19 vaccination in Florida, especially for children, made up the story that the FDA had no justification for approving the shots for infants.

He misspoke when he said, “You also have the FDA approving a mNRA shot for 6-month-old babies,” referring to the messenger RNA (mRNA) used in the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. “There was no evidence to back that up. The reason they are doing this is so that Big Pharma can profit.

Based on the findings of clinical trials conducted on young children, the FDA first authorized COVID-19 vaccines on an emergency basis for children as young as six months old on June 17, 2022. The testing on young children came after the testing on adults and older children, as is customary with vaccines.

About 4,800 children were vaccinated in the Moderna vaccine clinical trials for safety, compared to about 3,000 in the Pfizer trial. One of the age groups used by both companies to test their vaccines was that of children between the ages of six months and two years.

Early children were tested for their antibody responses to the vaccines as part of the so-called immunobridging approach, which was the main method used to assess the vaccines’ effectiveness. It is assumed that the vaccine is effective in younger children if their antibody levels resembled those of young adults who received the adult dose and if a comparable percentage of children developed an antibody response. Using this approach, both vaccines satisfied the requirements for effectiveness.

From their randomized controlled trials, the companies also provided traditional efficacy metrics for preventing symptomatic disease.

After analyzing all the data, the FDA came to the conclusion that the vaccinations were more beneficial for young children than harmful. The FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received advice from independent expert panels. The safety of the vaccinations has been confirmed by further safety monitoring.

Ramaswamy Wrong on Jan. 6

In an assault on federal employees, whom he referred to as the “deep state,” Ramaswamy accepted the hoax that the attack on the US Capitol building on January 6, 2021, was a “inside job.”

“Vote for someone who will speak the truth to you if you want someone who will speak truth to power,” he declared. “Why, at least, am I the only one on stage who can say that it appears like an inside job was carried out on January 6?”

Conservatives have attempted to place the blame for the alleged pro-Donald Trump demonstration that day’s attack on the Capitol on the undercover FBI agents. However, there is no proof of this kind of government conspiracy, and FBI Director Christopher Wray—a Trump appointee—has categorically denied the allegation, as we have reported.

At a congressional hearing in November 2022, Wray stated, “To the extent that there’s a suggestion, for example, that the FBI’s confidential human sources or FBI employees in some way instigated or orchestrated Jan. 6—that’s categorically false.”

The plain truth is that a horde of Trump fans arrived at the US Capitol, persuaded by the president that the election had been rigged. Months before and long after the election on November 3, 2020, Trump made false statements about widespread voter fraud, including during his dishonest speech at a rally on the day of the riot. (See our article “Road to a Second Impeachment” for a timeline.)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Trump of inciting what he described as an act of “terrorism” in order to keep Congress from appointing Joe Biden as the 2020 election winner on January 6, 2021.

In a floor speech on February 13, 2021, McConnell stated, “They did this because they’d been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth because he was angry he lost an election.” “The acts [of former President Trump] prior to the riot were a shameful, shameful neglect of duty.”


Like he did in the second debate, Ramaswamy said falsely that “transgenderism is a mental health disorder” while employing a term that some advocacy groups advise against. Gender dysphoria is a diagnosis listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, although being transgender itself is not a mental illness. When someone’s sex and gender identity don’t match, it can cause them great distress. A diagnosis of “clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning” is necessary, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

Ramaswamy reiterated two of his favorite cherry-picked climate statistics, claiming that there has been a “98% reduction in the climate disaster-related deaths in the last century” and that there are currently eight times as many people who die from cold weather as from warm weather, while denouncing “the climate change agenda… a hoax.” Both claims are accurate, at least based on certain data, but that doesn’t mean it makes sense to keep burning fossil fuels and releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in order to warm the planet further. It is anticipated that climate change will have many detrimental effects, including on human health.

FactChecking the Fourth GOP Primary Debate

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