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The final debate: Fact checks and takeaways

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton kept moderator Chris

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton kept moderator Chris Wallace busy at the final presidential debate at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. Photo Credit: EPA / Gary He

What happened in Vegas

For a while, the surprise in the third and final debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was this: more substance and seriousness, under the deft moderation of Fox News’ Chris Wallace, and less sewer gas.

But eventually, the character of the 2016 campaign showed through.

“Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger,” said Clinton of Trump.

“Such a nasty woman,” said Trump of Clinton.

Trump again darkly warned of a “rigged election” and left it out there that he might not accept the results as legitimate — an assertion that his allies, his running mate and even his campaign manager have tried to soften.

“I will tell you at the time,” he said. “I will keep you in suspense, OK?”

“He is talking down our democracy,” said Clinton.

See Yancey Roy’s story for Newsday on the debate in Las Vegas. For excerpts, click here.

The take-away: Greatest hits

The final faceoff was a condensed version of all three presidential debates, with dozens of familiar themes and attacks repeated over 90 minutes, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison. There was no handshake at the end, and the die for Nov. 8 is, for the most part, cast.


A slew of polls on the day of the debate reinforced assessments that Clinton is leading big nationally and holds the advantage in most of the critical swing states. Chances are the debate won’t have a major immediate impact.

CNN’s instant poll found that by 52% to 39%, viewers judged Clinton the winner.

She and Trump were nearly tied when those surveyed were asked who they agreed with on important issues and sounding sincere and authentic. But by 59% to 35%, they thought Clinton appeared better prepared to be president.

Facts: Tote ’em ...

Did Clinton and Donald Trump stick to or stray from the truth in their final debate? Here’s what fact checkers found:

Voter fraud

Trump cited as evidence of massive fraud a 2012 Pew Center study that estimated about 24 million, equal to 1 in every 8, voter registrations in the United States are no longer valid or are inaccurate.

The study found no evidence of fraud. It was about inadequate record-keeping. The 1 in 8 voters had moved, died or were inactive. (PolitiFact)

Gun violence

Clinton said we lose 33,000 people a year to guns.

The number is correct, but it’s not all crime or accidents. More than 60 percent were from suicides. (Washington Post)

‘Open borders’

Trump said Clinton wants “open borders.” The charge arises from a WikiLeaks-published account of a Clinton speech. The fuller context shows Clinton was talking about free trade, not immigration, and Clinton supports controls on both. (

Hiring undocumented

Clinton accused Trump of hiring immigrants without documentation for real estate projects.

It was not Trump, but a contractor who hired laborers from Poland during the Trump Tower project. Trump has repeatedly claimed he was unaware the workers were in the country illegally. (PolitiFact)

Late-term abortion

Trump suggested that Clinton favors late-term abortions that take place just two or three days before birth.

Clinton has said many times — including just before Trump’s statement — that she supports restrictions on abortions in the third trimester as long as there are exceptions for the life and health of the mother. It’s also a rare occurrence, and most states prohibit late-term abortions. (CBS News)

Nuclear proliferation

Calling Trump “very cavalier, even casual about the use of nuclear weapons,” she said he “has advocated more countries getting them. Japan. Korea. Even Saudi Arabia.”

Trump has on several occasions indicated an openness to other nations — specifically the ones Clinton mentioned — obtaining nuclear weapons. He says that would reduce the burden on the U.S. to protect such countries against regional threats. (Politico)

Trump’s sex accusers

Trump denied that he said accusers weren’t attractive enough to interest him.

He sure implied it, saying of one, “Believe me, she would not be my first choice. That I can tell you. You don’t know. That would not be my first choice.” About another, derisively: “Look at her.” (Politico)

Russian meddling

Clinton said 17 intelligence agencies “confirmed” Russia is trying to influence our election.

The head of the U.S. intelligence community has said publicly that the community is “confident that the Russian Government directed” the recent hacks, such as those at the Democratic National Committee and the emails of Clinton’s campaign chairman, in an attempt “to interfere with the US election process.” (ABC News)

Trade deal

Trump said that Clinton, who now opposes the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal, once called it the “gold standard.”

That’s true. She says she changed her mind after she saw how a later version turned out. But she was enthusiastic about it before she was a candidate facing anti-TPP Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries. (Politico)

National debt

Clinton said her overall plan “doesn’t add a penny to the debt.”

That’s not clear. Clinton’s planned tax increases would boost revenue by about $1.4 trillion over a decade, according to the Tax Policy Center. But she has also proposed increasing spending on a handful of policy priorities, and it’s not clear how she would pay for all of her plans. (Politico)

Missing money

Trump said the State Department lost $6 billion under Clinton.

This is a distortion of an inspector general’s report that cited missing paperwork, not missing funds. (Washington Post)

Trump tax plan

Clinton says Trump’s tax plan overwhelmingly helps the wealthy.

After-tax incomes for the top 1 percent of taxpayers would rise 10.2 to 19.9 percent under the Trump tax plan, if not more. (PolitiFact)

What else is happening

  • Utah polls are showing Trump could lose the usually Republican state — not to Clinton, but to Evan McMullin, a former CIA officer and independent candidate gaining popularity among fellow Mormons there.
  • Trump’s allies brought forward new accusers against Bill Clinton Wednesday — a former Arkansas TV reporter, who alleges he groped and rubbed against her three times in the 1980s, and a 30-year-old man who says he believes he’s the former president’s love child.
  • Would the anti-globalist Trump of 2016 recognize the Trump of 2013 who authored an op-ed that said this?: “We will have to leave borders behind and go for global unity when it comes to financial stability,” and the future of the U.S. and Europe “depends on a cohesive global economy.”
  • Newt Gingrich, who supports Trump, said the GOP nominee “reacts very intensely, almost uncontrollably,” to certain kinds of attacks. “I hope he grows out of it,” Gingrich added.
  • Las Vegas casino magnate and GOP medadonor Sheldon Adelson is telling associates he likes Trump “less and less,” Fox Business News reported.
  • Nearly 20,000 anti-Semitic tweets have been directed at more than 800 journalists since the presidential campaign began, often because those journalists were perceived as critical of Trump, the Anti-Defamation League said.


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