PolitiFact roundup


PolitiFact recently checked out a Republican senator’s charge that Donald Trump’s drumbeat about ‘fake news’ gave dictators a new tool; a Georgia governor candidate’s assertion about her impact on changes to the HOPE scholarship program; and a Florida congressman’s comment about U.N. resolutions “against Israel.” Here are summaries of our findings. Full versions can be found at www.politifact.com.

Says Donald Trump’s use of the term “fake news” to undermine journalism “seems (to have) inspired dictators and authoritarians.”

— Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018 in the U.S. Senate

In a Senate speech, Flake ticked off several examples where foreign leaders deployed the phrase “fake news” to foster distrust of the media. Based on our review of the evidence, it’s reasonable to conclude that Trump’s disparagement of the media has been replicated abroad.

An aide to Flake said he had referred to a Politico article that identified more than 15 instances where foreign leaders invoked the phrase “fake news.” We found no mentions of “fake news” from foreign leaders before 2016.

Our ruling

Trump popularized the phrase “fake news” over the past two years. There are more than a dozen recent instances where foreign leaders, including dictators and authoritarians, have invoked “fake news” to dismiss allegations against them. We found no mentions of “fake news” from foreign leaders before 2016.

Flake has solid examples from around the world to back up his statement, and there’s strong correlation here given the timeline. We rate this claim True.

Says under her leadership, “Democrats fought to … make sure the (2011 HOPE) bill … prevented the use of ACT/SAT testing standards.”

— Stacey Abrams on Wednesday, January 17th, 2018 in a statement to The Root

Until 2011, HOPE grants defrayed costs for attending technical colleges, and HOPE scholarships covered the full tuition plus books and other fees for people working on associate’s and bachelor’s degrees.

In 2011, costs were outstripping revenue from the Georgia state lottery that funded the program. Gov. Nathan Deal unveiled a plan that, among other things, created two tiers in HOPE scholarship awards – one for the best students and one for good but not exceptional ones.

The original full-tuition scholarship was renamed the Zell Miller scholarship and significantly ratcheted up the eligibility requirements. The original HOPE scholarship then became less generous, providing close to 90 percent of tuition but no longer covering books and other costs.

Unlike the Zell Miller award, available only to students with 3.7 grade point averages, the HOPE scholarship remained free of a standardized test score requirement. Students were still eligible if they had at least a 3.0 grade point average.

Our ruling

Abrams supported a 2011 plan to make minimum test scores part of the eligibility requirement for the full-tuition HOPE scholarship. The bill that emerged added a test score requirement for a renamed scholarship available only to students the highest grades. It did not add similar requirements to the original scholarship program, but made it less generous.

Abrams’ statement is accurate but leaves out important details. We rate this claim Half True.

In one year, the United Nations “did 24 resolutions and 20 of them were against Israel.”

— Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018 in a event at the Heritage Foundation

DeSantis spokeswoman Elizabeth Fusick said he was referring to resolutions passed during the 71st session of the U.N. General Assembly from September 2016 to September 2017. But the Assembly adopted about 330 resolutions during that time.

Fusick pointed to an analysis by UN Watch, a pro-Israel watchdog group that monitors criticism by the United Nations.

UN Watch’s analysis, however, only looks at resolutions in the last two months of 2016. In that timeframe, its analysis showed the General Assembly adopted 20 resolutions that “singled out” Israel. There are conflicting opinions on whether some of those resolutions are “anti-Israel.”

Our ruling

DeSantis’ numbers are wrong. The United Nations’ General Assembly passed hundreds of resolutions in the year-long 2016-17 session — not two dozen. He was apparently repeating a watchdog group’s findings that most General Assembly resolutions against other countries, over a few months in 2016, were against Israel. But his sweeping public comment contained no trace of those clarifications.

We rate this claim False.


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