Fact check: Breaking down what’s true and false in Gavin Newsom and Ron DeSantis debate

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Govs. Gavin Newsom and Ron DeSantis expended much energy accusing one another of lying at their debate Thursday night.

“A blizzard of lies,” said DeSantis, the Florida Republican and 2024 presidential candidate.

“I can’t wait to get all the PolitiFacts tonight,” said California Democrat Newsom, referring to the popular fact-checking nonprofit.

Well, we have a few of them.

The 90-minute exchange, moderated by Fox News commentator Sean Hannity, covered topics ranging from the economy to abortion to homelessness to the Israel-Hamas War.

Many claims were made. Here are ratings for some of them.

Quotes have been lightly edited to make up for the governors interrupting each other.

U-Hauls and migration

Claim: California at one point ran out of U-Hauls due to residents fleeing the state.

“They actually at one point ran out of U-Hauls in the state of California because so many people were leaving,” said DeSantis

Rating: True

Explanation: U-Haul did run out of trucks in California in 2021. Because demand for outbound moves from California was so high in 2020, it left U-Haul teams in the state with limited one-way inventories at the start of 2021. By 2022, a U-Haul spokesman said, the company was able to meet customer demand.

“We sustained a shortage of available one-way trucks and trailers for outbound moves at times during 2020 and 2021 in California and other West Coast locations due to a substantially greater outflow vs. inflow of equipment,” the spokesman told The Bee in 2022.

New data from the census bureau shows that more people left California for Florida in 2022 than in any year going back to at least 2005. But claims of a massive California-to-Florida migration are largely inflated. Of all the U.S. residents who moved to Florida last year, less than 7% came from California.

An estimated 50,701 people left California for Florida between 2021 and 2022, according to recent census figures, making Florida the third-most popular domestic destination for Golden State expats. About 28,000 moved from Florida to California. So, a state with a population of 39.2 million lost a net 22,000 residents to Florida.

Gas prices

Claim: “You have $6 or $7 gallon gas. How can people afford that?” asked DeSantis.

Rating: Not today, sir.

Explanation: Average gas prices in California are under $5 right now, according to Triple AAA. Mid-grade is right above $5, premium is $5.22 and diesel is $5.81.

In Florida, average prices range from $3.17 for regular to $4.02 for diesel. The national average was $3.27 for regular.

Electric cars

Claim: “Pretty soon in California, you’re not going to be able to buy a normal car, only electric vehicles,” DeSantis said.

Rating: Misleading

Explanation: To help ramp up electric vehicles, state climate officials last year did ban the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035. But Californians are expected to continue purchasing gas-powered vehicles for many years to come — just not new ones.

Clean energy and the power grid

Claim: California’s clean energy policies are causing brownouts and grid issues.

DeSantis said a couple of days after the state ordered the ban on new gas car sales, ”there was a notice from the state government telling EV owners not to plug them in because they don’t have grid capacity.”

Rating: Marginally true.

Explanation: During a triple-digit heat wave a week after Newsom issued the ban, California did ask EV owners to limit charging during peak evening hours. Experts acknowledge that more car and building electrification, coupled with expanding reliance on renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, pose a challenge to grid reliability.


Claim: California has the nation’s highest tax rate.

Newsom said Florida “taxes low income workers more than we tax millionaires and billionaires in the state of California...It’s a factual lie that the state of California has the highest tax rate.”

Rating: Depends who you ask.

Explanation: California’s top rate of 13.3% is the nation’s highest, but it applies only to those with incomes of more than $1 million. Florida has no individual income tax.

WalletHub examines individual taxes by looking at overall burdens. Its 2023 rating measures the proportion of total personal income someone pays in state and local taxes, including income, property and sales and excise taxes. Florida ranks 46th, where the higher the number, the lower the taxes. California is 12th, largely because of its income tax.

Murder rates

Claim: Florida has a higher murder rate than California.

“Seven of the top 10 murder rates in the United States of America are red states. (DeSantis) has a 66% higher gun death rate than the state of California. He has a higher murder rate,” said Newsom

Rating: True.

Explanation: Per capita, Florida has a higher murder rate than California, according to 2021 data — the most recent available — from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Florida had 7.4 homicides per 100,000 total population in 2021. California had 6.4 homicides per 100,000. Both were below the U.S. rate of 7.8 per 100,000.

When it comes to firearm mortality, which includes deaths by suicide, Florida had 14.1 fatalities per 100,000 people in 2021. California, which has some of the nation’s strictest gun laws, had 9 per 100,000.

It’s 2020 data that has been widely cited for murder rates in red and blue states, including by Newsom here. In 2020, there were six murders per 100,000 residents in blue states. The red state rate was 14 per 100,000, CDC data shows.

Newsom is right that seven of the top 10 states with the highest homicide rates are red. But that trend doesn’t hold for all of them: Idaho and Utah, which both voted for Donald Trump in 2020, maintained two of the six lowest rates. Eight of the ten states with the nation’s lowest murder rates were blue.


Claim: Florida students had more learning loss from COVID.

“Ron DeSantis had more learning loss during COVID — fourth grade reading, fourth grade math, eighth grade reading, eighth grade math,” Newsom said. “We outperformed you in every — it’s a fact, during COVID — in every one of those categories.”

Rating: Not now.

Explanation: The federal COVID-19 public health emergency ended in May 2023. In 2022, Florida students on average were outperforming California counterparts on test scores.

The U.S. Department of Education Nation’s Report Card found that in 2022, California public school 4th graders’ reading performance was roughly at the national average. Florida’s score was above average. Eighth-grade reading in both states was both around the average.

Math scores for Florida’s public school fourth-graders were significantly higher than the average and far below in California in 2022. For eighth-graders, Florida was at about the national average while California students tested far lower.

Transgender rights

Claim(s): Minors can come to California without their parents’ consent to receive gender affirming surgery.

“We’re honoring parents rights when you’re bringing people from out of state to go around their parents backs and getting life-altering surgeries,” DeSantis said, calling it an “assault on their parents’ rights.”

Rating: False.

Explanation: Minors in California cannot undergo gender-affirming surgeries without a parent’s consent.

California is, as of last year, a sanctuary state for transgender youth and their families who come for medical care from states where gender-affirming services are criminalized. Meanwhile a Florida law signed by DeSantis this year heavily restricts gender-affirming care, banning it for minors.

The Bee’s Andrew Sheeler contributed to this story.