Fact Check: Tweet accusing Richard Hudson of voting against insulin-cost bill was wrong
In this week's fact check of North Carolina politics, we’re looking at the race in the newly redrawn 9th Congressional district, which stretches roughly from Asheboro to Laurinburg, and includes Pinehurst, Pittsboro and Fort Bragg. Democratic state Sen. Ben Clark is running to unseat incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson. In a since-deleted tweet, Clark last week said, “Richard Hudson voted no to lowering the cost of insulin for every family in the 9th Congressional District who needs the assistance.” Clark’s campaign sent an email that same day to supporters making the same accusation.
To find out if it's true, WFAE's Marshall Terry turned to Paul Specht of WRAL.
Marshall Terry: OK, Paul. So first, let's get some context here. What vote is Clark talking about?
Paul Specht: Clark is referring to a bill called the Affordable Insulin Now Act. And in short, it would cap insulin copayments for insured Americans at about $35 a month. And you know, I'm sure a lot of people have seen headlines over the years that sometimes insulin prices can fluctuate depending on your insurance and just the prices of everything. And so, this bill would cap that, and it would help some Americans save hundreds of dollars a year, according to The Associated Press. It's a big deal, especially for Democrats, as they look for issues they can hang their hat on moving into the election season.
Terry: So, is it true, then, what Clark said? Did Hudson, in fact, vote no on this bill?
Specht: Well, it is a Democratic bill, and it passed with near-unanimous support from them. And only 12 Republicans voted for it, so I'm sure some might have been expecting Hudson — or, shoot, maybe a lot of the Republicans — to vote against it. But it turns out that Richard Hudson actually voted for it.
He was one of those 12 Republicans who actually voted in favor of it. I don't know how they missed that. There were lots of news stories about this bill. Not all of them mentioned the names of the Republicans who supported it, but some of them did, including Business Insider, the Daily Mail of U.K. and Yahoo News. You could find a handful of stories that did list the Republican supporters, but it seems like they just missed it, intentionally or unintentionally. And so no, Hudson supported it, and they just got this flat wrong in Clark's campaign.
Terry: What did Clark say when you reached out to him about this?
Specht: Now, we sent them multiple emails, but they only sent us one statement and it said, "We are aware that last night, Richard Hudson changed his vote on capping the cost of insulin to $35 a month after voting against this and other bills to reduce the cost of prescription drugs numerous times." And then they went on to say that he's been consistently rated as one of the most conservative Republicans in the House and that no one should be "fooled by this recent shift to the center." And that's an end quote there.
Terry: What's this part about Hudson changing his vote?
Specht: You know, that caught my attention, too. I wondered, What did they mean by that? Because, you know, in North Carolina — I don't know about D.C., but in North Carolina — lawmakers in Raleigh, they sit at their desk and they have two buttons — one for voting yes, one for voting no. And sometimes they hit the wrong button. In the House side, at least, you can ask the speaker and say, "Mr. Speaker, I hit the wrong button. I meant to vote this way. Can I change it?" And often he or she — the speaker, whoever has the gavel — allows that to happen.
But there has been a famous case where someone hit the wrong button and they weren't allowed to change it, which is what came to mind when I saw this. Back in 2012, Democrat Becky Carney meant to vote no on a bill that would allow more fracking — or establish rules for fracking, I should say. And she accidentally hit the yes button, and that gave the Republican side the exact number of votes they needed to override a veto. And this was all in the House, and she could be heard on the microphone saying, "Oh no, oh my gosh, I pushed green," meaning the green yes button, and she meant to hit the red button. And so she rushed down front and asked to change her vote, but it was not changed.
And so that's something that came to mind as I read this statement too, like, was there some sort of drama around Congressman Hudson's vote? Did he hit the wrong button? Did he ask to change it? Did he vote on the same bill in different ways? And from what I can tell, that's not the case. And we — again — asked Ben Clark's campaign to clarify, What did you mean by he's changed his vote? And they never got back to us.
Terry: So, how did you rate this claim by Ben Clark, then?
Specht: This is false. We saw no way to rate it anything other than that. We wondered when our editors got together and reviewed the facts here, we wondered, is it possible to rate this something like "pants on fire?" But our precedent says that we typically rate them false. And one thing we took into consideration is we don't know who — for lack of a better way of putting it — who hit the button on this newsletter and the tweets that they sent out. It's possible it wasn't Clark. It's likely it was his communications team. So, you know, that's something we keep in mind. And then we didn't see any malice here. They they took down the tweet ultimately, so that's something we took into consideration, too.
Terry: All right, Paul, thank you.
Specht: Thank you.
These fact checks are a collaboration between PolitiFact and WRAL. You can hear them Wednesdays on WFAE's Morning Edition.