2 ‘Pants on Fire’ ratings made list
His campaign had cited polls of GOP primary voters in three states, not of voters nationwide. When we told Jesse Benton, Paul’s spokesman, that these polls were not national, Benton said, “Relax, dude, it was a rally speech to supporters, not a major policy speech or a debate.”
We found that the single national poll that addressed the gold question found 44 percent in favor of a gold standard, not a majority. We rated Paul’s poll shout as False.
Speaking another day at Texas A&M University, Paul said: “I think we have way too many laws on the books. ... Just on Jan. 1 of this year, there were 40,000 new laws put on the books in one day.”
We suspect Paul’s figure originated in a group’s news release stating that state legislatures in 2011 passed more than 40,000 bills and resolutions into law. But Paul’s references to the Federal Register and his hope to be the first president to “get rid of 40,000 laws” prompted us to conclude that he mistakenly was suggesting that 40,000 new federal laws had been passed, and we rated this claim False. It ranked No. 10 among our reader faves.
Coming in at No. 9 was our review of a chain email suggesting the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had “executed an order for enough rounds of .40-caliber ammunition to kill every man, woman and child in the United States.”
We found that Homeland Security had indeed contracted to buy up to 450 million .40-caliber bullets — a total exceeding the population. Significantly, though, the contract covered five years and was for ammunition routinely used by officers from a variety of agencies during target practice. This email, which had an element of truth, rated Mostly False.
Our No. 8 favorite story was published in 2011 after Michael Williams, later appointed Texas education commissioner, urged Twitter followers to join him in seeking policy encouraging all forms of energy production. He wrote: “Gas prices have gone up $2 since (Barack) Obama took office.” That reflected gas prices on Obama’s watch, but his statement rated Half True because it implied the president was at fault while the key factors behind gas prices are beyond any president’s control.
Our No. 5 fact-check was sparked by country singer Hank Williams Jr., who told a Fort Worth audience that “we’ve got a Muslim for a president.” Not so. Obama’s Christian faith has been public for years. Williams’ remark earned a Pants on Fire!
In a July debate before Democrats nominated him to run for the U.S. Senate, former state Rep. Paul Sadler bemoaned the federal debt, igniting our No. 4 favorite factcheck by saying the U.S. has “never seen national debt like this. It doubled during the Bush administration.” In raw terms, both the public debt and gross federal debt more than doubled during George W. Bush’s presidency. Adjusting for inflation, gross debt increased 70 percent, while public debt increased 88 percent — not quite doubling. Sadler’s claim came out Mostly True.
Our check of a claim by MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell yielded the year’s No. 3 favorite. O’Donnell spoke proudly of his father attending college on the post-World War II benefits package that transformed the nation before saying of the original GI Bill: “It’s the most successful educational program that we’ve ever had in this country — and the critics called it welfare.”
O’Donnell’s look back had an element of truth in that some critics of the proposed law fretted that its unemployment compensation element would encourage laziness. But historians said “welfare” was not invoked. We rated the claim Mostly False.
Making a case for Obama at the Democratic National Convention, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro said: “Mitt Romney, quite simply, doesn’t get it. Recently, he visited a university in Ohio and gave the students there a little entrepreneurial advice. ‘Start a business,’ he said. “But how? ‘Borrow money if you have to from your parents.’ ” Romney did say that, we found in readers’ No. 2 favorite, which rated Castro’s recap as True.
Our No. 1 reader favorite developed after an American-Statesman reporter heard a rousing East Texas stump speech by Craig James, who sought the Republican U.S. Senate nomination. James said: “Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are negotiating with the United Nations about doing a treaty that will ban the use of firearms.” We found no evidence of Obama or Clinton indicating they wanted the July U.N. conference on an arms trade treaty to ban the use of firearms; an administration underling said in a speech the government would not back a treaty infringing on the Second Amendment.
James’ claim was Pants on Fire ridiculous.
Spot a factual statement we should check in 2013? Write us at email@example.com or call 512-445-3644.