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Fact check: Michael Bennet and Darryl Glenn debate comments need context

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Denver Post file photo

Denver Post file photo

Denver Post file photo

Stephanie Cook, CU News Corps

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Editor’s note: This story first ran in The Denver Post on Oct. 14, 2016.

During their only televised debate, Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennetand his challenger, Republican Darryl Glenn, discussed issues spanning immigration reform, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Iran deal, the Second Amendment and bi-partisanship.

The 9News moderators asked questions and then conducted a “lightning round” that allowed the candidates to pose questions to one another. Here are some of the key questions raised:

Glenn said, “Open borders would be clear access to this country without going through a legal immigration process, and that’s exactly what Mrs. Clinton is wanting us to do.”

Clinton’s position is more mutable than Glenn implies. Glenn is referring to a paid speech that Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, made to investors at a Brazilian bank in 2013. WikiLeaks released a transcript of the speech, in which Clinton said, “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, sometime in the future with energy that’s as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere.”

While she has yet to comment on the 2013 statement, previously, Clinton said she supports additional border patrolling. She also favors legislation that creates a pathway to legalization for immigrants. Her campaign manager, Robby Mook, told CBS’s “Face the Nation”: “She was talking about integrating green energy between North and South America… But if the question is: ‘Does Hillary Clinton support throwing open our borders?’ Absolutely not.”

Glenn said, “I do not support blanket bans” of specific groups, while describing his stance on immigration.

Glenn seems to have shifted his position. In a 2015 interview with The Craig Silverman Show, he said Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s call for, “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” was a sound proposal. In the same interview, Glenn said the plan might “involve some level of profiling,” and that “Islam and the Constitution are in clear conflict.”

Earlier this month, Glenn’s spokeswoman Katie Price said the candidate’s views remained unchanged.

Bennet said he has a strong history of bipartisanship as a U.S. Senator

This claim is fair, though Bennet has voted with President Obama in the vast majority of cases. According to data from the Washington Post’s blog, “The Fix,” as of 2015, Bennet ranked fifth among Democratic senators who voted against their own party. In addition, Bennet voted in favor of the Keystone Pipeline – both before and after Obama vetoed it – and broke from his party to vote against the “fiscal cliff” deal in 2013.

According to CQ Roll Call, a nonpartisan news service, over the past seven years Bennet’s votes aligned with Obama’s positions 97.5 percent of the time. During the primary campaign, Politifact calculated that number at closer to 96.5 percent. This data does not give a complete picture in terms of Bennet’s record, because it only takes into account circumstances in which Obama had a clear position on an issue.

Glenn insinuated that immigrants were a threat to jobs in “underserved” communities. He said that the labor employment participation rate is a “D.”

Glenn’s statement lacks context. The labor employment participation refers to anyone who is working or seeking employment. The current rate in Colorado is 63 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since 1948, the highest national rate, in 2000, was about 67.3 percent. Using a schoolteacher’s metric, the U.S. for nearly 70 years has had a “D” for labor participation. But economists and the BLS don’t grade in the same way as teachers.

Additionally, the national rate has fallen by 2.8 percent since the recession in 2008. In Colorado, the rate has fallen about four percentage points since December 2007. Glenn used labor employment participation data while discussing how immigration affects jobs, but falling rates seem to correlate with the recession.

Glenn said Clinton would appoint justices to the U.S. Supreme Court who would infringe on Americans’ Second Amendment rights.

There is not clear evidence to support Glenn’s statement. Clinton supports the appointment of Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee. While the National Rifle Association opposes Garland’s nomination, there is not much in Garland’s history to show that the candidate leans strongly one way or the other on gun control.

The Congressional Research Service — a non-partisan agency within the Library of Congress — analyzed Garland’s record on the right to bear arms and found it inconclusive. Their report states, “…these few cases would seem a tenuous basis for any firm conclusions as to Judge Garland’s approach to the Second Amendment and firearms restrictions if he were to be confirmed to the Supreme Court.”

The U.S. Congress has refused to allow hearings and a vote on Garland’s nomination, which President Obama put forth in March 2016, one month after Antonin Scalia’s death. It is still unclear whether Congress will act during its lame-duck session after the elections and before the inauguration of Obama’s successor.

Bennet said that out of 300,000 people who applied for guns in Colorado in 2015, 2.2 percent were denied.

Bennet is mostly correct. There were actually 342,839 requests for firearm purchases in 2015 – slightly higher than Bennet cited – but he was right that 2.2 percent of people were denied, according to data from the Colorado Bureau of Investigations.

Stephanie Cook is a first-year master’s student in the journalism department of the College of Media, Communication and Information at the University of Colorado Boulder. She formerly worked as a reporter for The Durango Herald.

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Explanatory multimedia reporting from CU Boulder journalism students
Fact check: Michael Bennet and Darryl Glenn debate comments need context