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These fact checks of North Carolina politics are a collaboration between PolitiFact and WRAL. You can hear them Wednesdays on WFAE's Morning Edition.

Fact Check: Mark Walker Misleading In Tweet Criticizing Ted Budd In GOP Senate Race

 Was a tweet by Mark Walker (left) in reference to Ted Budd (right) correct?
Was a tweet by Mark Walker (left) in reference to Ted Budd (right) correct?

In this week's fact check of North Carolina politics, we turn our attention to the Republican primary in next year's U.S. Senate race. In a recent tweet, candidate and former 6th District Congressman Mark Walker slammed one of his opponents, current 13th District Congressman Ted Budd. Walker wrote that Budd voted against a 2018 bill that "helped farmers, invest in rural broadband and added work requirements for able-bodied adults." To assess that claim WFAE's "Morning Edition" host Marshall Terry talks to Paul Specht of WRAL.

Marshall Terry: First, Paul, what prompted Walker to make this claim against Budd?

Paul Specht: You know, I was just scrolling through Twitter looking to see what our congressional delegation had tweeted recently and I came across this tweet by Mark Walker against Ted Budd. It jumped out to me because it's not every day that you see members of one party sort of dunking on each other, as the kids say. And by that I mean criticizing each other. But that's what happened here.

Ted Budd tweeted that he is proud to support agriculture in North Carolina. And Walker took Budd's tweet and posted it and said, this is false. And as a fact checker that jumps out to me; that's my lingo — if something's true or false or somewhere in between.

And what's really interesting about this is that Walker tweeted it in part, I have no doubt, because Budd was endorsed by President Trump. And so here we see Mark Walker trying to pry Budd apart from Trump and that association by saying, hey, this guy may be endorsed by Trump, he says he supports agriculture, but let me tell you about his record on this bill and how he voted on a bill that Trump signed himself.

Terry: So what does the record show? Did Budd, in fact, vote against this 2018 bill?

Specht: He did. And there's a long back story. And I'll give you the brief version. The Farm Bill in 2018, it took a while to pass. It's a massive bill, typically, that's renewed every five years and it deals with agricultural policy and it deals with food stamps, which are also known as SNAP benefits, among other things.

There were multiple votes, but in the end, the vote that sent this bill to Donald Trump's desk happened in December. And it's true, Ted Budd voted against it. And Mark Walker, who was in Congress at the time, voted for it. And that's the bill that became law with Donald Trump's signature on Dec. 20.

Terry: Now, was Walker correct in what he said about the bill, he mentioned those three things. Was he correct in the way he described it?

Specht: Well, that's where there's context missing here. And even just a little misleading information. The bill did include more money to invest in rural broadband. It did renew some subsidies for farmers. But one thing that Walker said that's off is that it added work requirements for able-bodied adults. And here's the problem with that statement: Work requirements were a big negotiating point with this bill. And when we talk about work requirements, we're referring to what do low-income people and job-seeking people need to do to access welfare benefits through the SNAP program? And that's food stamps.

A big contingent in the right wing of the Republican Party wanted tougher work requirements and more of them. Well, the Senate didn't want that. And keep in mind, both chambers were controlled by Republicans back in 2018. Ultimately, the new proposed work requirements were left out of the bill. The Senate did not have an appetite for including them. And so in December, when this bill was ultimately passed, it did not include those work requirements. And that part of Walker's tweet was misleading.

Terry: Did you reach out to Walker about what he meant by what he said, referring to that?

Specht: We did. And one thing that Walker's campaign pointed out was that on the day that Donald Trump signed this bill, he also announced his own administration's efforts to include more work requirements. Trump had to do this without Congress because Congress did not include those work requirements in their Farm Bill. So Trump signed a Farm Bill that did not include these work requirements and then on the same day announced that his administration would pursue them and enact them without Congress.

It's fair to say that this is all part of one broad effort, but it's misleading to say those new work requirements were included in the bill itself. That's not true.

Terry: Well, let's go back to Budd for a moment. Why did he vote against this 2018 bill that we're talking about?

Specht: That's really important, too, because Budd mentioned that is a major reason he voted against it. He wanted those work requirements included in the bill. He cited that as a big reason why he voted against it. And it's important to note it's an agriculture bill with these food stamps. And those welfare benefits were one of the biggest ticket items in that legislation.

Terry: So how did you rate this claim by Mark Walker then?

Specht: We rated this "half true." He's right about his own vote and he's right about Ted Budd's vote. But he's really off-base with that last part when he said it added work requirement for able-bodied adults. It really did not do that. And if we went back to 2018, that misleading statement would be even more glaring because those work requirements were such a big part of these negotiations. And that's why we rated this "half true."

Terry: All right, Paul, thank you.

Specht: Thank you.

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Marshall came to WFAE after graduating from Appalachian State University, where he worked at the campus radio station and earned a degree in communication. Outside of radio, he loves listening to music and going to see bands - preferably in small, dingy clubs.