There’s still seven months until voting begins, but Campaign 2012 has already been shaped by stretches of the truth. So much, in fact, that the professional fact-checkers are finding it hard to keep up.
“We’re as busy as we’ve ever been,” says Brooks Jackson, who heads the non-partisan FactCheck.org. The Daily Beast asked Jackson, as well as the fact aces at PolitiFact.com, for the 10 biggest fibs so far.
The verdict: both parties have been guilty of everything from outright false statements to fudges and half-truths. But Republicans, perhaps due to their bigger field of candidates, appear to be more liberal with the facts.
Here are the Beast’s Top 10 Campaign Whoppers so far:
Birther Madness: For his brief stint at the head of the polls, Donald Trump kept the cameras focused on him with the claim that President Obama wasn’t born in America. The Donald said he was just asking questions no one else had. But on one occasion, Trump said he had private investigators in Hawaii “and they cannot believe what they’re finding” (nothing surfaced). Later, he proclaimed that Obama’s grandmother said the president was born in Kenya, when in fact, the recording in question shows her saying repeatedly through a translator: “He was born in America.”
Palin’s Historical Ride. Sarah Palin’s retelling of the story of Paul Revere wasn’t dead wrong, but it was quite mangled. Palin said that Revere rode through the streets warning the British “that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms.” In fact, he was warning the colonialists that the British were coming to wage war.
Newt in Reverse: While on NBC’s Meet the Press in mid-May, Newt Gingrich got in trouble by referring to Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan as “right-wing social engineering.” But when the blowback from his own party hit fever pitch, Newt backtracked to Rush Limbaugh. “By the way, it was not a reference to Paul Ryan. There was no reference to Paul Ryan in that answer.” Perhaps semantic, but Newt quickly apologized to Ryan anyway.
Medicare Doomsday. A robo-call from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to supporters claimed, among other things, that “Medicare ends” under the GOP Medicare proposal. Quite a stretch. The Republican plan would maintain Medicare for those 55 and older, and help those yet to retire to buy private insurance in their golden years.
Pick a Health Care Number, Any Number. While trumpeting his budget ideas, President Obama claimed that under the Republican plan—Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity”—“up to 50 million Americans have to lose their health insurance in order for us to reduce the deficit.” But that number came from vague speculation, much of it partisan.
Barbecue Inflation: Hosting a BBQ over the July 4 weekend would be 29 percent more expensive than last year. So said Michelle Bachmann on a New Hampshire radio station. But the number came from a survey of only New York-area prices. A national look by the Consumer Price Index found numbers nationally to be much lower: ground beef has jumped 13.6 percent since last year, hot dogs have gone up 8 percent; lettuce by 7.8 percent and ice cream by 5.6 percent.
Lowest Taxes Ever: To combat Republican attacks that taxes are too high, President Obama, on at least two different occasions including his press conference this week, has pointed out that the tax burden on the wealthy is at the lowest point it’s been in 50 years, “since before I was born.” Except that it was lower in 1986, when Obama was 25.
Pulling The Plug on Jobs: House Republicans know they hate the federal health care law, but do they know exactly how many jobs it will impact? Early this year, Republican leaders in Congress said it would kill 650,000 jobs, citing a CBO report. Then during the GOP New Hampshire debate last month, Michele Bachmann stretched the number to 800,000. But the CBO report actually said the law would have a “small” impact, mainly by reducing the amount of hours people work, not the number of jobs.
Gas Price Blame Game: Is Obama’s moratorium on deepwater drilling responsible for rising gas prices? Sarah Palin thought so, and wrote it publicly on her Facebook page. But the numbers didn’t back her up. U.S. oil production at the height of the moratorium in 2010 was 1.64 million barrels per day, a record even in spite of the regulation and the summer-long oil spill.
Selective Memory: In his campaign launch video, Newt Gingrich remembers the glory days when he was speaker between 1995 to 1999. “For four years, we balanced the budget and paid off $405 billion in debt,” Gingrich says. But in fiscal years 1996 and 1997, the federal government ran deficits of $107 billion and $22 billion, respectively. The next two years came with surpluses, but when the third and fourth surpluses came in 2000 and 2001, Gingrich had already left office.
Slowest Recovery (Almost) Ever: Stopping to get coffee in Tampa, Florida, Mitt Romney put the economy in historical context. “It’s taken longer to get Americans back to work than it took during the Great Depression,” he said. “This is the slowest job recovery since Hoover.” But depending on how you define a job recovery—unemployment going down or jobs added to the labor force—the Bureau of Labor Statistics says there were at least two slower recoveries since Hoover.