In a year full of gaffes, embellishments and straight-up lies from U.S. elected officials, it is hard to determine -- or even keep track of -- which fibs have been criticized the most or have had the biggest impact on the national discourse. Fortunately for us, PolitiFact.com has compiled a collection of the 10 biggest lies made by politicians, all finalists for what the Web site will crown as the 2011 Lie of the Year.
Both Democrats and Republicans appear as finalists, all of whom were chosen by the editors and reporters on the PolitiFact national staff. The group reviewed a compilation of allegations the Web site rated either False or Pants on Fire to come up with the finalists. Readers are also being invited to vote for their favorite lie, the winner of which will receive the Web site's Readers Choice Award.
And the Finalists Are...
1. President Barack Obama went around the world and apologized for America. - Mitt Romney at the GOP debate in Orlando on Sept. 22.
On several occasions Romney has claimed President Obama has apologized for American actions or policy stances while visiting foreign nations, an act the Republican presidential hopeful wrote was [Obama's] way of signaling to foreign countries and foreign leaders that their dislike for America is something he understands and that is, at least in part, understandable in his book No Apology: The Case for American Greatness.
PolitiFact rated Romney's accusation as a Pants on Fire lie in September, writing that Obama never once used the word sorry in the seven speeches highlighted in Romney's book. Instead, Obama has often used what PolitiFact calls his on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand formulation in his speeches, where he will acknowledge a fault of the U.S.-- such as, while in a town meeting a France, admitting the U.S. has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive to Europe -- while following up with a criticism of the other side. For instance, during the town hall meeting referred to, he said Europe has been guilty of a casual and insidious anti-Americanism.
Obama has also been critical of the foreign policy stances of the Bush administration, something PolitiFact writes has been misinterpreted by Romney as a general assault on the U.S.
2. The Obama administration's review of obsolete regulations was unprecedented. - President Barack Obama, during a press conference on June 29, 2011.
Republicans have often fought to ease federal regulations on businesses as a way to allegedly boost job creation, something the president inferred was also a priority for his administration. Obama claimed his administration was conducting a government-wide review of regulations to locate and abolish the rules that are unnecessary.
What I have done -- and this is unprecedented, by the way; no administration has done this before -- is I've said to each agency, 'Don't just look at current regulations or don't just look at future regulations, regulations that we're proposing. Let's go backwards and look at regulations that are already on the books and if they don't make sense, let's get rid of them,' Obama said.
In what was also classified as a Pants on Fire lie, PolitiFact explains former President Bill Clinton created the National Partnership for Reinventing Government in 1993, which was tasked with easing unnecessary regulations. Clinton also issued an executive order calling for the review of regulatory policy that ultimately rid the government of 16,000 pages of federal regulations.
3. The vaccine to prevent HPV can cause mental retardation. -- U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., Fox News, Sept. 12, 2011.
In what may have become one of the first of many highly-publicized gaffes by GOP presidential candidates, Bachmann claimed she had met a woman who said her daughter suffered mental retardation after receiving Gardasil, the vaccine to guard against the Human papilloma virus (HPV), after the CNN/Tea Party Express debate on Sept. 12.
Following the debate -- where Bachmann attacked fellow candidate Gov. Rick Perry for issuing an executive order requiring the Texas Health and Human Services Department to mandate that all girls entering 6th grade receive a vaccination -- Bachmann also told The Today Show that a woman told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered mental retardation thereafter.
While Bachmann later said she is not a doctor and was allowing people to make their own conclusions about the vaccine, leading Politifact to rate the statement as False, the American Academy of Pediatrics soon released a statement refuting Bachmann's claim.
The American Academy of Pediatrics would like to correct false statements made in the Republican presidential campaign that HPV vaccine is dangerous and can cause mental retardation. There is absolutely no scientific validity to this statement, the statement said.
4. Republicans voted to end Medicare. - Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in a web advertisement on April 18, 2011.
The advertisement in question was released to critique a controversial budget proposal from Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., who is the chairman of the House Budget Committee. One of the proposal's major features was a restricting of Medicare, the government-run health insurance program for seniors aged 65 and older.
PolitiFact acknowledges that Ryan's plan, which would eventually require beneficiaries to purchase health plans for private insurance companies with financial assistance from the government, would be a major alteration to the Medicare program and would be more expensive for beneficiaries. However, the Web site notes the claim by Democrats that Republicans voted to end Medicare is an exaggeration, leading it to classify the statement as a Pants on Fire lie.
However, it is worth noting that some Democrats have argued the changes would be an end to everything that defines Medicare as we know it. Even though insurers would offer a basic package of benefits in 2022, the current Medicare system would stop enrolling new beneficiaries and would no longer guarantee seniors a defined package of benefits. By 2030, the Congressional Budget Office writes the premium support provided by the federal government under Ryan's bill would only cover 32 percent of a typical 65-year-old's total healthcare spending, a percentage that continue to decrease each year.
5. Abortion services are well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does. - Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., during a Senate floor speech on April 8, 2011.
As the federal government approached a shut-down earlier this year while congressional Democrats and Republicans duked it out earlier this year while attempting to cut billions in federal spending, members of the GOP fiercely attacked the $363 million set aside for Planned Parenthood funding per year, claiming the federal government was essentially funding abortion services.
Later on, Kyl released a statement saying his remark was not intended to be a factual statement.
Although Planned Parenthood provides a wide variety of clinical services - such as cancer screenings, breast exams, as contraception services - several Republicans like Kyl claimed the organization mainly operated as an abortion provider.
Planned Parenthood countered that statement, releasing a breakdown of their overall services that inferred just under 3 percent of the services the organization provided in 2009 were abortions. PolitiFact concluded Kyl's statement was false.
6. Because of more restrictive voting laws, Republicans want to literally drag us all the way back to Jim Crow laws. -- U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., in an interview with Roland Martin on June 5, 2011.
While discussing a slew of new voting laws advocated by Republicans this year with Roland Martin, an African American political commentator, Wasserman Schultz -- the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee -- compared the proposed restrictions to the Jim Crow laws that impeded African Americans' ability to vote in the early 20th century.
You have the Republicans, who want to literally drag us all the way back to Jim Crow laws and literally -- and very transparently -- block access to the polls to voters who are more likely to vote for Democratic candidates than Republican candidates. And it's nothing short of that blatant, Wasserman Schultz said, adding that the DNC considers the photo ID laws proposed by states to be very similar to a poll tax.
Several states -- such as Kansas, Rhode Island, Alabama, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee and Wisconsin -- will require voters to show a photo ID before they cast their ballots for the 2012 elections. Democrats have largely opposed these requirements, mainly because some minorities do not possess a single photo ID -- for instance, one 2006 report from the Brennan Center for Justice as New York University found that 25 percent of voting-age African Americans do not have a government-issued photo ID.
Republicans pounced on Wasserman Schultlz for her comparison to Jim Crow Laws and she later apologized for using that analogy. Although she retracted her statement, PolitiFact still rated it as false, concluding that while several media outlets used the same comparison, the Jim Crow laws originated from a sense of collective racism that is not similar to the voting ID law requirements.
7. Scientists are questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change... (It is) more and more being put into question. -- Gov. Rick Perry during a campaign stop in New Hampshire on August 17, 2011.
While several Republican candidates have made similar arguments to dismiss the scientists - and liberals - efforts to address climate change, PolitiFact has cited several reports indicating that while there are skeptics, a majority of scientists acknowledge the validity of climate change.
For instance, a 2010 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the official journal of the United States Academy of Sciences, found that out of 1,372 climate researchers under review, 97 to 98 percent of those actively publishing in the field say they believe human beings are contributing to climate change. Similarly, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a scientific body that is the leading international organization on climate science, also concluded that, it is extremely unlikely that global climate change of the past 50 years can be explained without external forcing, and very likely that it is not due to known natural causes alone.
8. Congressional Republicans have introduced dozens of bills on social issues and other topics but
zero on job creation. -- Facebook posts compiled on October 23, 2011.
PolitiFact, which rated the claim by Facebookers as another Pants on Fire lie, counters that while federal legislation sources such an opencongress.org and THOMAS do not have any bills listed in their job creation categories, there are several that relate to employment under categories such as economic development, employee hiring and wages and earnings.
PolitiFact emphasizes that not even President Obama's American Jobs Act is categorized as a job creation bill on these Web sites, meaning a search for that phrase alone will not garner accurate information about employment creation legislation in the U.S. Moreover, because conservatives in Congress tend to be against government-base economic stimulus that are typically correlated with job creation initiatives, Republicans are more likely to argue in favor of tax cuts as well as budget cuts rather than sponsor a job creation bill.
9. The economic stimulus created zero jobs - National Republican Senatorial Committee in a Web ad on October 13, 2011.
In what PolitiFact has yet again identified as a Pants on Fire lie, a 31-second ad released by the NRSC includes footage of former Democratic National Committee Chairman Gov. Tim Kaine endorsing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and saying it will create or save about 2.4 million jobs. The statement is followed by clips of three people in quick succession saying zero jobs, zero jobs, zero jobs were created.
Even though the legislation was not the success Democrats hoped it would be, on a section of its stimulus Web site, the White House reported 545,262 full-time equivalent jobs were funded by the Recovery Act for the quarter that ended June 30. A report by the president's Council of Economic Advisers also estimated between 2.5 million and 3.6 million jobs were created or saved through the stimulus through the fourth quarter of 2010.
10. I didn't raise taxes once. - President Barack Obama, in an interview with Bill O'Reilly on February 6, 2011.
President Obama made that assertion after O'Reilly asked the president to react to a Wall Street Journal editorial that accused him of being a determined man of the left whose goal is to redistribute much larger levels of income across society.
During the interview, Obama denied that he wants to redistribute wealth and said he has actually lowered taxers over the past two years.
PolitiFact points out that while Obama has not raised income taxes, he did sign legislation raising taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products in 2009, and also included a tax on indoor tanning in the Affordable Care Act. The healthcare law also includes a tax on individuals who do not have health insurance as an incentive for them to obtain coverage, in addition to a 0.9 percent tax on individuals making more than $200,000 a year that will start in 2013.
The Web site notes President Obama also fought for a 2 percent reduction in payroll taxes for all workers. Therefore, it concluded the president's statement was merely false and not a more extreme Pants on Fire lie.