Fact check: Bush, Kerry bend truth in Tempe debate

By Joe Ferguson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, October 14, 2004

In the third presidential debate, both President Bush and Sen. John Kerry made misleading statements on topics ranging from the hunt for Osama bin Laden to health insurance.

Fact Check #1

In the first 15 minutes of the debate, Bush had to deflect an attack by Kerry, denying Kerry's claim that he said he wasn't concerned about Osama bin Laden.

"Gosh, I just don't think I ever said I'm not worried about Osama bin Laden," Bush said.

But during a March 2002 press conference, Bush said, "I truly am not that concerned about him. I know he is on the run." During the same speech Bush said of bin Laden, "I just don't spend that much time on him."

Fact Check #2

Kerry boasted to the packed Gammage Auditorium at ASU about his health plan.

"I have a plan to cover all Americans," Kerry said.

Kerry's assertion his health insurance plan would cover all Americans comes up short. The nonpartisan Lewin Group, a national healthcare and human services consulting firm, said 28.6 million Americans will receive health insurance under Kerry's plan. Currently, 44 million Americans do not have health insurance.

Fact Check #3

During the debate, Kerry also accused Bush of forgetting about his pledge to raise the amount of Pell Grants.

"They are not getting the $5,100 the president promised them," Kerry said. "They're getting less money."

Bush denied he had cut Pell Grants, saying he had increased the amount of Pell Grant awards by a million students. Bush did not respond to Kerry's charge of failing to increase the award amount of Pell Grants.

During the 2000 campaign, Bush had promised to raise the maximum Pell Grant award to $5,100 per year. Currently the maximum Pell Grant award is $4,050 per year.

Kerry added the amount of Pell Grant awards increased because less students could afford to go to college under the Bush administration.

"You know why the Pell Grants have gone up in their numbers? Because more people qualify for them because they don't have money," Kerry said.

Fact Check #4

In an effort to paint Kerry as a liberal, Bush said Kerry voted to increase taxes 98 times as a senator.

According to Factcheck.org, the Bush tally of Kerry's votes include 43 votes that did not change the tax code as well as counting multiple votes on the same bills, including 16 votes on a 1993 Clinton tax package.

Fact Check #5

During the debate, Kerry reiterated his attack on Bush the amount of Americans with health insurance had decreased during the Bush administration.

"Five million Americans have lost their health insurance in this country," Kerry said.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau in 2000 and 2003, the number of Americans without health insurance rose by 5.2 million. This statement is misleading, as census numbers state the U.S. population grew by 9 million during those three years.

Fact Check #6

Kerry also made misleading statements about whether Bush was willing to meet with civil rights leaders.

"This is a president who hasn't met with the Black Congressional Caucus," Kerry said.

Bush met with the Black Congressional Caucus on Jan. 31, 2001, during the first weeks of his presidency.