PolitiFact ‘Hall of Shame’: Heavy on Health Care

Aug 22, 2011 3:50pm
ABC News’ Rick Klein (@rickklein) reports: Today marks the fourth anniversary of PolitiFact.com, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Website that fact-checks statements by politicians and other public figures on a “Truth-o-Meter” scale from “true” to “pants on fire.”

Today on ABC’s “Top Line,” we asked editor Bill Adair to make inductions into a “Hall of Shame” to mark his site’s birthday. (And yes, he assured us that his operation is not term-limited, so “four more years” are just the start of what they have in store next.)

The most egregious misstatements PolitiFact has judged, Adair told us, have centered on health care. The site 2009 “lie of the year” was the contention that President Obama’s health care bill called for “death panels”; in 2010, the “lie of the year” was Republicans calling the law a “government takeover” of health care.

This year, it’s Democrats who are running strong for Hall of Shame status, by saying that Republicans “voted to end Medicare,” Adair told us.

“We’ve had some very persistent falsehoods from the Democrats about Medicare,” Adair said. “They’ve mischaracterized the nature of that vote.”

While PolitiFact started as a way to fact-check the 2008 presidential candidates, it’s since expanded to check statements made by commentators and pundits. Posts on Jon Stewart, Bill O’Reilly, Keith Olbermann, Michael Moore, Glenn Beck, and Rachel Maddow have been among the most-trafficked items on the Website, Adair said.

“In American politics today, some of the most important voices – some of the voices that have the biggest bang – are people who are not elected, are not politicians, but are pundits,” Adair said. “That’s really how the talking points gain momentum.”

As for the 2012 presidential candidates, Adair said statements by Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, have generally proven to be the most truthful.

“At the other end of the spectrum is Michele Bachmann,” said Adair, adding that roughly two-thirds of Bachmann statements PolitiFact has checked have been judged either false or “pants on fire.” “Her issue with accuracy has become I think an important aspect of her campaign.”

Watch the full interview with Bill Adair.



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