AP FACT CHECK: Claims from Republican presidential debate

WASHINGTON (AP) — Did Ted Cruz mean to suggest he would have gone to war with Iran over its brief detention of U.S. sailors? Did Donald Trump forget that he proposed a massive tax on Chinese goods? And does Ben Carson really think Islamic State militants relax with a cigar?

In their rush to slam the Obama administration, play up their records and play down inconvenient realities, Republican presidential candidates served up some misshapen rhetoric in their latest presidential debate Thursday night.

A look at some claims and how they compare with the facts:

CRUZ: Any country that makes U.S. service members get on their knees like the 10 sailors whose boats were boarded and seized by the Iranian military this week "will feel the full force and fury of the United States of America."

CHRIS CHRISTIE: "Tin pot dictators ... are taking our Navy ships."

THE FACTS: Neither candidate addressed the fact that the short-lived crisis was created by the U.S. sailors who steered their boats into sovereign Iranian waters, where they were boarded and seized by Iranian naval forces. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Thursday that the U.S. sailors had made a navigation error.

Under such circumstances, it would not be unusual to disarm members of a foreign military force, even a small one like the two Navy boats, and hold them temporarily for questioning. What was exceptional about this episode, and perhaps a provocation, is that the Iranians videotaped the Americans during the encounter and posted the images on the Internet.

The suggestion by Cruz that he would have launched a military attack on Iran in response to such an incident is hard to square with accepted international tests for the use of force.

Iran returned the sailors unharmed and their boats undamaged.


CARSON on pursuing Islamic State militants wherever they can be found: "Why should we be letting people smoke their cigars in their comfortable chairs in Raqqa?"

THE FACTS: The group has imposed a strict smoking ban throughout its territory in Syria and Iraq, including Raqqa, their de facto capital in Syria. The militant group implements stiff fines for anyone caught smoking and even more brutal punishments for those caught selling cigarettes, water pipes or anything that can be smoked.

Also in the debate, Carson suggested Syrian refugees be allowed to settle in "al-Saqqa province, where they'll be in their own country." But there is no such place.


TRUMP, denying he told The New York Times he favored a 45 percent tax on Chinese goods: "That's wrong. They were wrong."

THE FACTS: Trump began wriggling out of his idea for a massive tax on Chinese goods soon after he told the paper last week that he would impose one and that "the tax should be 45 percent."

Several days later, he said the tariff could well be much less than that and might not be needed at all because China probably would start trading more fairly in order to avoid it. Now he denies ever proposing 45 percent, despite his remarks on the record.

More broadly, China no longer appears to be the economic powerhouse portrayed by Trump. Its major stock market has had a rocky start in 2016, and its manufacturing sector began contracting last March as growth slowed, according to a purchasing manager index.


JEB BUSH: "Every weapons system has been gutted."

TRUMP: "Our military is a disaster."

CARSON: "We have the world's best military, even though he (President Barack Obama) has done everything he can to diminish it."

MARCO RUBIO: "This president is undermining our military."

THE FACTS: These broadsides were stated in sweeping terms that reflect defense budget cuts approved by a Republican-controlled Congress and signed into law by Obama.

It's true that the defense budget has shrunk and that this has forced the military services to reduce their ranks and attempt to trim benefits paid to troops. But far from being "gutted," some key elements of the military have expanded, including the special operations forces.

Under the Obama administration the military services are undertaking a wide range of modernization efforts, including nuclear forces, combat fighter jets and missile defense systems.


Associated Press writers Josh Cornfield in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, Jill Colvin in Des Moines, Iowa, and Vivian Salama, Chad Day and Josh Boak in Washington contributed to this report.

EDITOR'S NOTE _ A look at political claims that take shortcuts with the facts or don't tell the full story