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VERIFY: Fact checking the fifth Democratic debate

Our VERIFY team fact-checked what the candidates said during the Democratic debate in Atlanta. Author: TEGNA Ten Democrats hoping to become the party’s no...

Our VERIFY team fact-checked what the candidates said during the Democratic debate in Atlanta.

VERIFY: Fact checking the fifth Democratic debate
Author: TEGNA

Ten Democrats hoping to become the party’s nominee met on the debate stage Wednesday night in Atlanta.

It was the fifth round of debates for Democrats as each of them tries to make the case for why they should be the one to face off against President Donald Trump next year.

Our VERIFY researchers fact-checked what all the candidates had to say during Wednesday’s debate.

CLAIM: Senator Bernie Sanders said that 500,000 Americans are “sleeping on the streets.” 

When referring to the total homeless population of the United States, this claim is VERIFIED. The numbers are smaller for homeless people without shelter.

There were over 553,000 homeless Americans on a single night in January of 2018, which was when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development made their most recent estimates. The HUD estimates homeless populations based on an average of single night snapshots in January of each year. Among those 552,000 individuals, 358,000 of them spent the night in sheltered locations and 194,000 were unsheltered.

SourceU.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 

– TJ Spry

CLAIM: Andrew Yang claimed that the U.S. showed they didn’t prioritize technology when the country got rid of the Office of Technology Assessment in 1995.

Yang’s claim that the OTA was dissolved in 1995 is true, though claiming that it’s proof the U.S. doesn’t focus on technology is Yang’s opinion.

From its founding in 1972 through its removal in 1995, the OTA was tasked with providing unbiased analysis of emerging technologies and scientific developments. An archive of the OTA’s publications can still be found on Princeton’s website.

Source: Archived publications from the Office of Technology Assessment 

– Jason Puckett

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CLAIM: Mayor Pete Buttigieg has the lowest net worth of the Democratic candidates at the debate 

While talking about campaign funding, Mayor Pete Buttigieg claimed that he had the lowest net worth of all the candidates on stage in Atlanta.

That claim is TRUE.

An August 2019 analysis by Forbes found that Buttigieg did indeed have the lowest net worth of all Democratic candidates.

Their analysis showed Tom Steyer at the top with $1.6 billion. On the other end was Buttigieg with an estimated net worth of $100,000. Buttigieg has also spoke openly on the campaign trail about how he and his husband, Chasten, still owe around $130,000 in student debt.

Source: Forbes analysis of every 2020 presidential candidate’s net worthForbes story on Buttigieg student loans 

– Jason Puckett

VERIFY: Fact checking the fifth Democratic debate

CLAIM: Andrew Yang said that the United States and Papua New Guinea are the only two countries in the world not to have paid family leave.


A March 2019 news release from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development stated, “All but two countries – Papua New Guinea and the United States – now guarantee paid maternity leave.” The OECD has previously noted that the U.S. was “the only OECD country to offer no statutory entitlement to paid leave on a national basis.”

Additionally, the OECD noted that it does not have data on whether Papua New Guinea guarantees paid paternal leave.

Source: Organisation for Economic report on maternal leave and paternal leavedata from OECD on parental leave systems

– TJ Spry

VERIFY: Fact checking the fifth Democratic debate

CLAIM: Senator Bernie Sanders claims the UN has forecast there will be “hundreds of millions of climate refugees” because of climate change. 

The claim that there is a forecast that hundreds of millions will be displaced by climate change is VERIFIED. However, the forecast was made by a UN partner organization.

The World Bank predicts there will be 143 million “internal climate migrants” in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America by 2050 if no action is taken. While the World Bank is an organization independent from the UN, it has a formal relationship agreement with the UN and is part of the United Nations system. The United Nations has specifically stated it does not endorse the term “climate refugees.”

Sources: World BankUN Refugee Agency

– TJ Spry