US & Canada

Fact-checking the second presidential debate

Mitt Romney (left) and Barack Obama on stage at the second presidential debate, Hempstead, New York 16 October 2012

Fact-checkers have been testing the claims made on Tuesday after a fiery second debate between President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney.

The candidates clashed on tax, petrol prices and Libya, prompting the moderator to intervene to keep order.

When CNN's Candy Crowley confirmed that Mr Obama had called an attack on a US consulate in Libya an "act of terror" the next day, the president said: "Say that a little louder, Candy."

So, how truthful were the candidates?

Oil production

Both candidates have said their energy policies would create new jobs and reduce US dependence on foreign oil.

But while Mr Obama claims domestic oil production is up under his administration, Mr Romney said it had fallen, and has repeatedly attacked the president on the issue.

"I don't think anyone really believes that you're a person who's going to be pushing for oil and gas and coal," Mr Romney said on Tuesday.

It turns out both candidates are right, but are referring to two different time frames, the Wall Street Journal reports.

In the last year, oil production on public land was down 14% and natural gas was down by 9%, as Mr Romney suggested.

And, during Mr Obama's first three years in office oil production was up 13% compared with the three years before that.

Illegal immigration

Fact-checkers have criticised Mr Obama over his characterisation of comments Mr Romney made about a 2010 law in Arizona designed to crack down on illegal immigration.

Mr Obama told the audience his opponent supported a part of the bill that said "law enforcement officers could stop folks because they suspected maybe they looked like they might be undocumented workers and check their papers".

But according to, Mr Romney had endorsed a different law, passed in Arizona in 2007, which required employers to electronically check the immigration status of their employees.

The president also misrepresented his rival's view when he said Mr Romney saw the 2010 measure as a "model for the nation", Politifact added.

Middle-class taxes

Experts have disparaged Mr Romney's claim that the middle class would see their tax burden rise by $4,000 (£2,475) as a result of Mr Obama's fiscal policies.

According to, Mr Romney was citing a study by the conservative American Enterprise Institute that was looking at the potential increase in taxes for different income groups if the US chose to service the national debt through tax hikes.

But Mr Obama has not said he plans to implement such a policy.

Factcheck adds that, by using the same logic, a budget plan put forward by Mr Romney's running mate Paul Ryan would "increase taxes" on the middle class by $2,372 over the same period of time.

Attack on Benghazi consulate

The biggest stand-off of the debate came over the White House response to an attack on the US consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi.

Mr Romney criticised the president for taking many days to call the incident an act of terror.

Mr Obama hit back: "The day after the attack, governor, I stood in the Rose Garden [at the White House] and I told the American people in the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened.

"That this was an act of terror and I also said that we're going to hunt down those who committed this crime."

But his opponent countered: "I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror."

According to transcripts of Mr Obama's speech, he did say, "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation", in a statement the day after the attack.

But correspondents say Mr Romney's broader point is accurate - for many days after the assault White House officials linked events to outrage over a video mocking Islam.

By the Washington Post's count, it took the administration eight days to describe the incident as a "terrorist attack".