The Most Ignorant Republican Candidates, from Mitt Romney to Herman Cain

The Daily Beast tallies the biggest lies from the GOP presidential hopefuls.

The 2011 GOP debate season has been full of half-truths, innuendo, falsehoods, and outright lies, not to mention embarrassing blunders like Perry’s momentary lapse during this week’s debate.

The Daily Beast tallies the number of lies and misleading statements from Factcheck and Politifact—the most reliable and informative sources of political fact-checking—from the nine major GOP debates since June.

Mark Wilson

#8 (tie), Gary Johnson

Total falsehoods: 2

Biggest whopper: The former New Mexico governor will likely go down as an also-ran in the 2012 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Few debate sponsors have invited Johnson, and with so little airtime, it’s tough to find a gaffe. At the Fox News/Google debate in Orlando on September 22, however, Johnson said that the U.S. government borrows 43 cents of every dollar it spends. In fact that figure is closer to 37 cents.

Chip Somodevilla

#8 (tie), Tim Pawlenty

Total falsehoods: 2

Biggest whopper: The former governor of Minnesota’s 2012 presidential bid lasted just four months, with Pawlenty bowing out in August. Still, he lasted long enough to score a couple of untruths. During the first debate in New Hampshire, he claimed when President Bush asked for National Guardsmen at the U.S.-Mexico border, he was “one of the few governors” to follow through. But Factcheck says that all 50 governors took the president up on his request. Tim Pawlenty: not so unique after all.

Steve Pope

#8 (tie), Ron Paul

Total falsehoods: 2

Biggest whopper: Just like in 2008, everyone’s favorite libertarian septuagenarian is performing well enough in the polls to get invited to all of the GOP’s major debates. He served up a meaty whopper in Ames, Iowa when he claimed the country was bankrupt. Nope—Politifact found that the country can meet its financial obligations. There will not be any forthcoming Chapter 11 filings for Uncle Sam.

Win McNamee

#7, Jon Huntsman

Total falsehoods: 3

Biggest whopper:
In a strategy that recalls Rudy Giuliani’s failed focus on the Florida primary in 2008, the former ambassador to China and governor of Utah is putting all his eggs in the New Hampshire basket. His peak in the Live Free or Die state was a 10 percent poll showing in September, and New Hampshire was also the site of Huntsman’s most egregious claim. At the Bloomberg/Washington Post debate in Hanover, he said the IRS would need to hire 19,500 new employees to deal with part of the Obama health-care bill. Not true. The Obama health- care bill will require many new IRS agents, but not as many as Huntsman claimed.

Alex Wong

#6, Rick Santorum

Total falsehoods: 5

Biggest whopper: Santorum lost his Senate reelection bid in 2006 amid that year’s Democratic backlash, but six years later he’s gunning for the White House. At the CNN debate in Manchester, New Hampshire, Santorum revived a tired GOP talking point when he said that health care for the elderly would be rationed under the federal health-care bill. As Factcheck points out, the law specifically says the health-care program “shall not include any recommendation to ration health care.”

Ethan Miller

#5, Newt Gingrich

Total falsehoods: 6

Biggest whopper: If anybody comes in and takes over Herman Cain’s spot as the GOP’s favorite non-Romney candidate, it’ll be Newt Gingrich. After the Cain-Gingrich Lovefest 2011 this past weekend, Gingrich is now leading Mitt Romney but still behind Cain for the top spot in Iowa polling. Until Gingrich’s recent resurgence, he focused partly on perceived injustices committed during the debates themselves, telling the moderator in the Ames, Iowa debate that he was “handpicking” Gingrich quotes about Libya. The moderator wasn’t, and had correctly characterized Gingrich’s statement.

Chip Somodevilla

#4, Herman Cain

Total falsehoods: 10

Biggest whopper: Somewhere in the middle of Herman Cain’s book tour disguised as a presidential campaign, the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO with no elected political experience found himself among the frontrunners for the GOP nomination. Repeated allegations of sexual harassment threaten to push Cain to the back of the pack, but he’s still polling strongly. During the October 18 debate in Las Vegas, Cain claimed that his flat-tax plan would not raise taxes for 84 percent of Americans. As Factcheck points out, a Tax Policy Center report says the opposite—that, in fact, a large majority of Americans, 83.8 percent to be exact, would face higher taxes under Cain’s plan.


#3, Mitt Romney

Total falsehoods: 15

Biggest whopper: With great airtime comes great opportunity to mislead, and the presumptive GOP nominee has taken advantage. Romney took aim at Obama during the September debate in Orlando, saying the president "went around the world and apologized for America." Romney was referring to the president’s tour of European and Middle Eastern nations shortly after he took office. But according to Politifact, the president’s mission centered around consensus-building, not apologies.

Richard Ellis

#2, Michele Bachmann

Total falsehoods: 18

Biggest whopper: The U.S. representative from Minnesota has slowly but surely come back down to earth since her Iowa Straw Poll victory in August, but she continues to stretch the truth. During the Hanover debate in October, Bachmann said that the Democrats’ ostensible victory following the debt-ceiling debacle of the summer past gave the president “a $2.4 trillion blank check.” That money, however, was used to make sure the country could meet its obligations. (For the semantics sticklers out there, Factcheck makes a valid point that “a check for a set amount is not a ‘blank check.’”)

Steve Pope

#1, Rick Perry

Total falsehoods: 19

Biggest whopper: The candidate with most falsehoods hails from the state where more is always better. Rick Perry’s biggest whopper has been repeated at several debates, including in Tampa in September and in Hanover in October: namely, that Texas created 1 million jobs while the country was losing 2.5 million jobs. The good governor goes back to January 2009 to get the national number, and during that span Texas created only about 100,000 jobs. Must be that Lone Star optimism.