The Proud Legacy of ‘Operation Wetback’ and 5 Other Whoppers From the GOP Debate

Fox Business And The Wall Street Journal Host Republican Primary Debate
Caught in a lie? Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

While Tuesday’s GOP debate wasn’t necessarily as entertaining or action-packed as previous Republican debates, the candidates sure did a lot of interrupting and talking over each other. And during the impassioned banter, let’s just say, more than a few falsehoods were dispersed into the national coversation.

Here’s a roundup of statements by Republican candidates that weren’t quite true:

1. Marco Rubio says that philosophers earn less than welders.
“Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers,” Rubio proclaimed during the debate. Well, if you’re comparing salaries, philosophy professors earn an average annual wage of $71, 350, while welders make roughly $40,040 annually (based on data from a 2014 Bureau of Labor Statistics report). Job prospects for the two careers might be a different story, but salary-wise, Rubio was wrong.

Even philosophy majors generally are doing better than welders: Ten years into their career, the former are making on average about $85,000, while the latter are bringing in around $45,000, according to numbers from Payscale.

2. Trump implies that he hung out with Vladimir Putin while shooting 60 Minutes
“I got to know him very well because we were both on 60 Minutes, we were stable mates. We did well that night,” Trump said, referring to a recent episode of the CBS news magazine featuring interviews with both men. But Trump never actually met with Putin — the Russian leader’s interview took place at his home in Russia, CNN Politics reports. While he didn’t quite say that the two had met, it’s safe to assume that everyone — including his fellow candidates — took it that way.

3. Fiorina says she, too, met Putin, but it wasn’t in a green room
Countering Trump’s (false) suggestion that he and Putin were bro-ing out during the filming of 60 Minutes, Fiorina shot back that she had met the Russian leader personally in 2001, but under classier circumstances: “I have met him as well, not in a green room for a show, but in a private meeting,” she said.

But during a September interview with Jimmy Fallon, “green room” was precisely the term she used to describe the venue for that meeting: “I met him [Putin] in Beijing. We were in sort of a green room setting — each of us were giving a speech at a major economic conference,” she told the Tonight Show host. Fiorina and Putin were both backstage waiting to speak at a 2001 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference.

4. Ben Carson claims that raising the minimum wage always drives up unemployment.
“Every time we raise the minimum wage, the number of jobless people increases,” the candidate said.

But that’s not quite true. In some cases, joblessness did increase after the minimum wage was raised, but just as often as it has declined. PolitiFact pulled together a chart look at the last 11 times the federal minimum wage has gone up. In five cases there has been a decline in jobs following the move, and in six cases there has been growth in employment.

5. Ted Cruz says Congress is “exempt” from Obamacare.
In a memorable debate moment, the Texas senator mustered his considerable stores of rhetorical outrage and called out his colleagues on Capitol Hill for not subjecting themselves to the rules and regulations of the Affordable Care Act: “I’ll give you an example of that, which is the congressional exemption from Obamacare, which is fundamentally wrong, and I’ll tell you this, if I’m elected president, I will veto any statute that exempts members of Congress. The law should apply evenly to every American,” he fumed.

It would be a sound point if it were true — but it is not. “Because of a Republican amendment added to the law, members are required to get their insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s insurance marketplaces,” FactCheck.org points out. The claim seems to stem from an earlier draft of the law, under which many federal employees would have been exempt. But that’s not the version that passed.

6. Donald Trump trumpets humaneness and efficacy of “Operation Wetback”
“Let me just tell you that Dwight Eisenhower, good president, great president, people liked him,” Trump said, “Moved 1.5 million illegal immigrants out of this country, moved them just beyond the border. They came back. Moved them again beyond the border, they came back. Didn’t like it. Moved them way south. They never came back. Dwight Eisenhower. You don’t get nicer. You don’t get friendlier.”

Trump is referring to Operation Wetback, Eisenhower’s scheme to deport hundreds of thousands of undocumented Mexican immigrants in the summer of 1955. It was not the first time Trump has praised the program: In a September interview with CBS, Trump referenced Operation Wetback, saying, “We’re rounding them up in a very humane way, a very nice way.”

Either Trump hasn’t done his homework or he thinks transferring people deep into the desert with no resources to survive is “humane.” The Washington Post notes that 88 people actually died of heat stroke during one transfer that summer, and others who were taken by boat to the Mexican Gulf Coast said their quarters felt like an “eighteenth century slave ship.”

Besides being much crueler than he suggested, the operation was also much smaller — according to the Post, Operation Wetback probably deported about 250,000 people, or 17 percent as many as the real-estate developer claimed.

6 Whoppers From the GOP Debate