Mary Bono Mack and Raul Ruiz: A fact check on the congressional debate

Rep. Mary Bono Mack faced off against challenger Dr. Raul Ruiz in their only debate Friday — and the claims went flying.

Here’s a quick rundown of the claims that most got Twitter users talking.

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CLAIM:  Raul Ruiz was arrested as a Harvard student during a 1997 protest against Thanksgiving and has changed his explanation over the years

FACT: Ruiz was one of 25 people arrested at the 1997 National Day of Mourning, an event at Plymouth Rock where people use the federal holiday as a way to protest the treatment of American Indians since the pilgrims arrived.

The charges were later dropped as part of a deal that also dismissed claims of police brutality, according to press reports of the events.

A Feb. 19, 1998, article in The Crimson quotes Ruiz as saying: “As people were being beaten and as children were being pepper-sprayed, I felt an obligation to help, not only as a [demonstration] leader but also as a future health professional.”

He told The Desert Sun on Monday that he was shielding elder Sam Sapiet “to prevent him from being hit.”

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CLAIM: Rep. Mary Bono Mack said she has saved jobs: “Do me a favor. Go to Coyne Motor Sports in Indio and ask them yourself.” 

FACT: Coyne Motor Sports had a clearance on its inventory in Indio and moved to Banning.

Bono Mack did not specify what actions she took that would have affected the business. 


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CLAIM: Actor Sean Penn and billionaire George Soros have contributed to Raul Ruiz’s campaign.

FACT: Penn donated $2,500 to Ruiz in November 2011 and an additional $2,500 in March.

We have not found evidence that Soros contributed any money. Common sources, like OpenSecrets.org and CampaignMoney.com, don’t show any donations to Ruiz.

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CLAIM: Rep. Mary Bono Mack says she is a staunch supporter of the military but has voted against military pay raises.

FACT: Raul Ruiz may have been referring to Bono Mack’s vote against House Amendment 1103, which called for a 1.7 percent raise in the monthly basic pay.

See Bono Mack’s voting record on all key military issues here.


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CLAIM: Raul Ruiz is the first Latino in history to graduate from Harvard University with three graduate degrees.

 FACT: In a June 2007 profile of Ruiz, the Harvard Gazette wrote:

Today he holds an M.D. from Harvard Medical School, an M.P.P. from the Kennedy School of Government, and an M.P.H from the Harvard School of Public Health. He is believed to be the first Latino to earn three graduate degrees from the University.

We have an inquiry in with Harvard University to confirm this frequently cited claim.

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CLAIM: “I clearly won the debate.”

FACT: That won’t be the headline — but you tell us who won.

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Did we miss anything? Other claims from the Friday debate you would like us to Fact Check? Let us know in the comments or by tweeting @TDSKateM.