Politifact roundup: Trump, Kemp, Cruz: false, half true, mostly false

PolitiFact last week looked at claims by the president on stagnant wages, by a Georgia gubernatorial candidate on campaigns to remove statues of some historical figures, and by a Texas senator on disaster relief previously allocated after Hurricane Sandy. Summaries of our findings are here. Full versions can be found at www.politifact.com.

Wages “haven’t gone up for a long time.”

— Donald Trump on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017 in a question-and-answer session with reporters

Is Trump correct that wages “haven’t gone up for a long time?” Short answer: No. They’re going up now, in fact.

While it’s true that wages were stagnant for several years, especially after the Great Recession, they have been on an upward swing since early 2014. For much of the time between 2012 and 2014, median weekly earnings were lower than they were in 1979. But that began changing in 2014. After hitting a low of $330 a week in early 2014, wages have risen to $354 a week by early 2017. That’s an increase of 7.3 percent over a roughly three-year period.

Our ruling

Trump’s statement that wages “haven’t gone up for a long time” was once accurate, but it’s significantly out of date. Wages have been increasing for the past three to five years, depending on the measurement you use. We rate the statement False.

“Our conservative Georgia values are under attack” … (People) are “calling for the removal of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson statues.”

— Brian Kemp on Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017 in a campaign email

A few people have made such a call, but whether there’s much of a drive is less certain.

Angela Rye, a CNN commentator and former Congressional Black Caucus director, said on CNN on Aug. 17, “We need to call slave owners out for what they are … To me, I don’t care if it’s a George Washington statue or a Thomas Jefferson statue or a Robert E. Lee statue, they all need to come down.”

The activist Al Sharpton entered the fray on PBS’ Charlie Rose show when Rose asked him if the Jefferson Memorial should be taken down.

Our ruling

We found two instances where two people unambiguously called for those statues to come down. There is scant evidence of a broader movement to take down statues of Washington and Jefferson.

We compared this to the interest in removing Confederate statues, using as an approximate measure the Nexis database of articles in major newspapers. Between Aug. 11 and Aug. 22 (the day before Kemp’s email), 2,113 articles mentioned removing Confederate statues, but made no mention of George Washington or Thomas Jefferson. In the same period, 183 articles mentioned removing Washington or Jefferson statues. This included Trump’s own reference to people seeking to take down those statues.

The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details. We rate this claim Half True.

“Two-thirds of the (Hurricane Sandy relief) bill had nothing to do with Sandy.”

— Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on Monday, Aug. 28, in an MSNBC interview

Cruz said he enthusiastically backed aid for Sandy’s victims, but the problem was the particular bill. “It became a $50 billion bill that was filled with unrelated pork,” Cruz said on Aug. 28.

Did two-thirds of the Sandy money have nothing to do with that storm?

No. There was some padding, but the data and the assessment of those who studied the bill say the extras amounted to far less than Cruz stated.

Cruz’s office sent us its breakout of the 2013 Disaster Relief Appropriations Act to support the assertion that “nearly 70 percent” was “used for non-emergency spending.”

Cruz said the bulk of the money had nothing to do with Sandy. That’s considerably stronger than saying the money went for “non-emergency spending.”

The list from Cruz highlighted $16 billion to the Housing and Urban Development Department’s Community Development Fund. Cruz’s office said that included “any major disaster declarations from 2011, 2012 and 2013.” The funds largely went to the states hit by Sandy. According to HUD, $12.8 billion has been granted to New Jersey, New York and New York City. Add in other east coast states where Sandy did damage — Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island — and the total reaches $13 billion.

So you could argue that the bucket leaked, but not nearly on the scale flagged by Cruz’s office.

Our ruling

The data and the assessment of experts show that the bulk of the funds went to the places hit hardest by Sandy. There was a leaky bucket, but not at the level Cruz declared.

We rate this claim Mostly False.

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