The Nine Biggest Bogus Claims of the 2012 Presidential Campaign

When you’re vying for the role of president of the United States, skewing the numbers and facts is the name of the game. From Obama’s “apology tour” to Romney’s “tax evasion,” the most bogus claims of the 2012 campaign.

11.06.12 11:04 PM ET

1. Romney: Our Navy is smaller now than it was in 1917.”

In one of the more meme-worthy incidents of the campaign, during the third debate Obama rebuked Romney's oft-repeated claim that“our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917.”

“Well governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets," Obama shot back. "We have these things called aircraft carriers and planes land on them. We have ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.” Romney was technically correct that the number of ships we have now is lower than 1917 (down to 282 from 342)—but the firepower those ships have is immensely greater—and their cost is significantly higher. What's more—the Navy actually reached its low-ship mark in 2007, under Republican President George W. Bush.

2.  Biden: “We weren’t told they wanted more security [in Benghazi]. We did not know.”

This one really hurt Obama’s camp. Paul Ryan immediately refuted Biden’s claim during the VP debate and, according to a statement released by the Obama administration a day before the debate, Romney’s right-hand man was correct. During a congressional hearing, the U.S. Security Department acknowledged that it had rejected security requests in Libya in the weeks leading up to the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi. A top security official in Libya said he was reprimanded for requesting more security and admitted that by the time of the attack it was “abundantly clear” help was not on its way.

3. Romney: Obama to small businesses: “You didn’t build that.”

At a July conference in Virginia, while discussing the role of government in a free-market society, Obama used an odd choice of words that would come back to bite him. “If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen,” he said. The Romney campaign immediately ran with the clip—replaying the incendiary quote in a campaign ad and using it as a quote in an email. Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts posted a two-and-a-half-minute Web video perpetuating the confusion. Taken out of context, the statement offended small-business owners everywhere—many calling it “insulting” and “rude.” Obama’s attempt to rally people together did exactly the opposite. Unfortunately, the Romney campaign wasn’t telling the whole story. What the president was actually saying is that both individualism and collectivism are required for success, and that private businesses need public infrastructure, like roads. “The point is … that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together,” he said.

4.  Romney: “They just send you the check.”

Romney’s claim in August that Obama had “gutted” the work requirements in the welfare system left Demorats reeling. As many fact checkers quickly elucidated, the assertion was wildly off-base. The July 12th announcement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—the source of Romney’s contention—simply allows states to try different ways of meeting the work requirements of the federal law, not avoid work all together. Romney’s claim that you “wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job,” is such an egregious interpretation of Obama’s plan that even Republicans called Romney’s bluff.

5. Obama: Romney “backed a bill that outlaws all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest.”

It was the topic of the campaign. Openly pro-life, the Republican presidential nominee has been known to flip-flop on his public views on abortion. But when the Obama campaign attempted to convince voters that Romney would outlaw all abortions—using a cropped clip of him saying “I’d be delighted to sign that [abortion] bill”—they deceived voters. Following that sentence, Romney says that America is not in the place to “overturn Roe v. Wade,”—proving that he was simply speaking about the ideology of pro-choice vs. pro-life. In fact, Romney has stated multiple times that his official view on the case is that abortion should be legal in instances of rape, incest, and when it’s necessary to protect a woman’s life.  

6. Romney: Obama “took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy” and is outsourcing Jeep production to China.

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The Nation called Romney’s late-in-the-campaign claim that Obama “took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy,” causing Chrysler to outsource Jeep production to China—“over-the-top and recklessly untrue.” The CEO of Chrysler, Sergio Marchionne, quickly dismissed the claim as well, sending an email to shareholders on October 30th which called Romney’s assertion “inaccurate”: "Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China." Marchionne said. He said thaty while Chrysler is planning to "return Jeep production to China, the world's largest auto market, in order to satisfy local market demand,” that Jeeps sold in America would continue to be manufactured here.

7. Romney: “Obama started his presidency with an apology tour.”

This has been a consistent, albeit bogus claim of Romney’s throughout his entire campaign—and even before. The roots of the statement—uttered by Romney during his Republican National Convention acceptance speech, echoed by Paul Ryan in the vice-presidential debate, and reiterated by Mitt in the second presidential debate—go back to the former Massachusetts governor’s 2010 book, No Apology, in which he writes that, “in his first nine months in office, President Obama has issued apologies and criticisms of America in speeches in France, England, Turkey, and Cairo; at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and the United Nations in New York City.”

Fact checkers at Politifact, The Washington Post and FactCheck.org have gone over those speeches Romney refers to and have concluded, time and again, that President Obama made no apologies for the United States. The president has indeed acknowledged some American shortcomings and attempted to distance himself from the policies of his predecessor (in Strasbourg, France, in 2009, he acknowledged an American “failure to appreciate Europe’s leading role in the world” and “times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive”). But not once has he apologized for the country.

8.  Harry Reid: Romney didn’t pay taxes for 10 years.

This was just embarrassing. In July, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) claimed in an interview with the Huffington Post that an anonymous investor at Romney’s Bain Capital told him the GOP presidential candidate hadn’t paid his taxes for 10 years. A month later, he doubled down on the claim on the Senate floor, pointing to Romney’s refusal to release his tax returns as evidence. “Let him prove he has paid taxes, because he has not,” Reid said. Choosing his words carefully, Romney responded to Reid’s persistent claims after a speech in Las Vegas: “Harry Reid really has to put up or shut up.” In this case, Romney was dead on. Despite his persistent referral to an anonymous source, Reid never produced concrete proof that Romney was skipping out on paying his taxes.

9. Obama: Romney “called the Arizona [immigration] law a model for the nation.”

Sorry, Mr. President, you were wrong on this one. While Romney recommended “self-deportation” as a way of reducing illegal immigration during the Republican primaries, he’s never gone as far as Obama suggested in the second presidential debate. According to Politifact, Romney was only referring to one section of the 2007 law that requires employers to check potential hires’ citizenship status.