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03.28.11

10 Most Ignorant Politicians

Gaffes, lies, and dumb mistakes—which politicians spread falsehoods? From Palin to Bachmann to Biden, The Daily Beast ranks the country’s 10 most ill-informed leaders.

How Dumb Are We? That was the question Newsweek posed last week when we asked 1,000 Americans to take the nation’s citizenship test—and 38 percent of test takers failed.

The Daily Beast decided to have some fun with this idea and take it a step further: If a populace has an ignorance problem, it stands to reason that some of their elected leaders are stoking it. While knowledge gaps among elected officials can sometimes be explained by the constant scrutiny of public office, some gaffes are simply too erroneous to excuse.

Gallery: 10 Most Ignorant Politicians

Exhibit 1: Michele Bachmann, U.S. representative from Minnesota, who infamously said during two recent events in New Hampshire, “You’re the state where the shot was heard ‘round the world at Lexington and Concord.” Negatory. That state was Massachusetts.

Exhibit 2: Harry Reid, senator from Nevada, during last year’s knock-down drag-out election battle against Sharron Angle, had several major foot-in-mouth moments. Among them, “I don’t know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican.” Sorry, Harry. A solid 31 percent of Hispanics voted for John McCain in the 2008 presidential election, according to the Pew Research Center.

We could go on, but that might take all week. Instead, The Daily Beast tried to measure the most fact-challenged politicians in America, who, based on their public statements, apparently need to brush up on their high-school reading. For our data, we relied on Politifact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning website founded by the St. Petersburg Times, which independently verifies or corrects statements made by public officials. We limited our pool to well-known politicians with at least six statements inspected by Politifact, and then assigned a point system based on Politifact’s Truth-O-Meter designations:

0 points for True or Mostly True statements
1 point for Half True or Barely True statements
3 points for False statements
5 points for Pants on Fire statements—the most absurd, ridiculous statements

For the final ranking, we took each politician’s point total and divided by the total number of statements analyzed by Politifact for each politician. Care to take an educated guess at America’s Most Ignorant Politician? Click here to find out.