True or False?
DNC 2016: Truth-O-Metering Day One
Did slaves really build the White House, as Michelle Obama claims? And are America’s family-leave policies stuck in the ‘Mad Men’ era? PolitiFact weighs in.
The Democratic National Convention kicked off Monday in Philadelphia, with boos and shouts from Bernie Sanders supporters disappointed in Hillary Clinton as the presumptive party nominee.
Saying “no one else is more disappointed than myself” in his second-place finish, Sanders used his prime-time DNC address to emphasize unity behind the Democratic ticket and Clinton.
“By these measures, any objective observer will conclude that based on her ideas and her leadership, Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States,” Sanders said.
The convention opened after a contentious weekend following the release of nearly 20,000 emails showing party officials appearing to favor Clinton over Sanders, leading chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz to announce she would resign after the convention.
Republican nominee Donald Trump got into the action from afar, tweeting that Sanders would have won the nomination had it not been for superdelegates (a False claim).
The night also heard speeches from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and first lady Michelle Obama.
We took a look at what was said and how it fared on the Truth-O-Meter.
Did slaves build the White House?
In one of the most striking lines of the night, Michelle Obama reflected on what it was like to live in the White House given its slavery-era roots.
“I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves, and I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn,” she said.
Nancy Pelosi made a similar and True statement about the Capitol. Obama’s statement about the White House is also accurate.
The White House Historical Association—a private preservation and educational group for the presidential residence complex—found that construction of the White House began in 1792 and initially planned to use workers from Europe, but that recruitment effort wasn’t enough.
“Response to recruitment was dismal and soon they turned to African American(s)—enslaved and free—to provide the bulk of labor that built the White House, the United States Capitol, and other early government buildings,” says the web page by the White House Historical Association.
Strictly speaking, the White House was built by a combination of slaves and freed people, but Obama is still right, so we rated this True.
Made in America?
A Funny or Die video at the convention, starring actor Ken Jeong and former White House economist Austan Goolsbee, ran through a list of Trump-brand items made overseas.
We went through them one by one to see if the video made any missteps. Searching the web, we were able to find several examples of items made overseas—including Trump shirts made in Bangladesh, ties and cufflinks from China, and vodka from the Netherlands.
To put that in context, however, 97 percent of all clothes sold in the United States are made overseas, according to the American Apparel and Footwear Association.
However, not all Trump merchandise is foreign-sourced. We found Trump suits made in the United States and were unable to find suits from Mexico, as the video claimed—although other Trump clothing items have been made there.
Other merchandise, like bedding, cologne, and wine, were made domestically as well.
We rated the Funny or Die video’s claims Mostly True.
Paid family leave
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said America’s family leave policies are stuck in the past.
“Our policies are stuck in the Mad Men era,” she said. “We are the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee workers paid family leave. Many women can’t even get a paid day off to give birth.”
This idea has been a common talking point for Democratic President Barack Obama and Sanders, and it is largely accurate. In the United States, under the Family and Medical Leave Act, employers with more than 50 employees must allow parents 12-week leave, which is typically unpaid.
In contrast, mothers from 34 Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development countries and seven European Union countries average 17 weeks of paid maternity leave.
On paid family leave, the United States is an outlier among industrialized nations.
One report from the International Labor Organization found that out of 170 nations, only the U.S. and New Guinea don’t provide cash benefits of any kind to women during maternity leave. Some states—such as California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island—offer paid family leave through employee-paid payroll taxes.
However, some countries limit who is eligible, for example excluding migrant or home workers. With that caveat, we rate Gillibrand’s statement Mostly True.
For more fact-checks from Day One, visit PolitiFact.com.