Thursday, November 1, 2012

Politifact: Biggest falsehoods of the presidential campaign

By Bill Adair
Published on Thursday, November 1st, 2012 at 4:00 a.m.
The 2012 presidential campaign has given the Truth-O-Meter quite a workout.

We’ve published more than 800 fact-checks on the presidential race about everything from Chinese windmills to Big Bird. We checked claims from more than 20 debates, the two party conventions and dozens of TV ads.

With the campaign winding down, we’ve selected the biggest falsehoods from the candidates, the parties and the super PACs. We chose three from each side.

(This list is just for the presidential race. In December, we’ll consider all claims we've checked from all of our websites to select our 2012 Lie of the Year.)


Obama ended work requirements for welfare -- In August, Mitt Romney’s campaign released ads that claimed that under President Barack Obama’s welfare plan, "you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check."

But we found that isn't the Obama administration's plan. The administration memo the Romney campaign cited as evidence said that states would have flexibility to comply with federal work requirements. The underlying principle is still to get welfare recipients to work, not to abolish the work requirement.  Pants on Fire!

Obama went on an "apology tour" -- This one has been around since early 2010, when Romney released his book No Apology. In the book -- and in many speeches and debates since then -- Romney has said that Obama has showed weakness because he began his presidency with a series of speeches around the world that "apologized for America."

We examined the speeches in detail and found Obama never said he was sorry or used other words that indicate remorse. We sent the speeches to experts on foreign policy and apologies and most concurred that the speeches were not apologies. So we rated Romney's claim Pants on Fire!

Romney continues to make the claim. He repeated it in the final presidential debate and then, the next day, released a Web ad titled "Apology Tour."

Obama to business owners: "You didn’t build that!" -- One of the most popular Republican attacks of the 2012 campaign has been to repeat a line from Obama: "You didn’t build that." Throughout the summer and at the GOP convention in Tampa, Romney and other Republicans cited the line as evidence that Obama believes that people don’t create their own businesses. Romney said Obama was saying that success "is the result of government," not "hard-working people."

We examined the full context of Obama’s remarks and concluded that Romney was distorting the meaning. He plucked two sentences out of context and ignored Obama’s broader point about the common need for infrastructure and education. Romney also ignored Obama’s summary, in which he said: "The point is...that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together." We rated Romney’s claim False.


A man’s wife died of cancer because Romney's company laid him off -- Romney often cites his work at Bain Capital as valuable private-sector experience, but Democrats and the Obama campaign have highlighted companies that failed after being bought by Bain.

A tear-jerker ad from Priorities USA Action, a pro-Obama super PAC, made the most over-the-top claim about Bain by suggesting that because it bought a steel company, the wife of an employee died of cancer.

The ad’s logic was that Bain made millions from buying GST Steel but eventually had to shut down the company’s plant, leaving 750 workers without jobs -- and without health insurance. One of those workers was Joe Soptic, who is shown in the ad saying, "A short time after that, my wife became ill." She later died.

But the ad collapses the time frame in a misleading way. The illness was in 2006, five years after Soptic lost his job, and her lack of coverage was not due solely to her husband losing her health insurance. We also found there were other factors in the plant’s closing other than the acquisition by Bain. We rated the claim False.

Romney doesn’t pay taxes -- Democrats have pounded the drumbeat for Romney to release more tax returns, but with little success. Last summer, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid filled the void with a tantalizing tidbit: He said a Bain investor told him that Romney hadn’t paid any taxes for 10 years.

The problem was, Reid did not identify the source and there was no proof to back up such a bold claim. We examined tax data and talked with experts and found that given the nature of Romney’s income and investments, it was highly unlikely he paid no taxes. With no solid evidence to back up such an outrageous claim, we rated it Pants on Fire! Romney’s tax advisers later released a summary detailing the taxes he’s paid during the past 20 years.

Romney "likes to fire people" -- In their effort to portray Romney as a heartless capitalist, Democrats have used the attack line that he has said he "likes to fire people." Delaware Gov. Jack Markell used it at the Democratic National Convention, saying that is Romney’s approach for jobless workers.

But we found that was a serious distortion of Romney’s remarks, which were made during a speech to the Nashua, N.H., Chamber of Commerce. He was referring to what people should do if they don’t like their health insurance company. "I like being able to fire people who provide services to me," he said. "You know, if someone doesn’t give me a good service that I need, I want to say I’m going to go get someone else to provide that service to me."

We found it was inaccurate to say Romney was referring to jobless workers. We rated the claim

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