PolitiFact Florida's Top 10 items of 2010
By Aaron Sharockman
Published on Monday, December 27th, 2010 at 4:16 p.m.
PolitiFact Florida couldn't have asked for a better first year than 2010 -- an amazing election cycle with plenty of interesting facts to check.
We have our favorite fact checks. But which items did you like most in 2010?
Based on the items you viewed most often, we unveil the readers' Top 10 Truth-O-Meter items of the year.
10. State Sen. J.D. Alexander: "It takes as much energy to make a solar panel as it likely generates in its entire life."
Republican state Sen. J.D. Alexander made the claim to help justify rejecting $13.9 million in federal funds for Floridians. But the evidence he provided PolitiFact Florida to support his claim in fact debunked it, and a mainstream consumer publication called Alexander's suggestion "simply a myth." Science just wasn't on Alexander's side on this one, and we had no choice but to focus a little sunlight his way and declare his statement Pants on Fire.
9. Gov.-elect Rick Scott: "We have 50 state lobbyists that just lobby the Legislature for money every year."
Back during the campaign, Rick Scott took to the airwaves of MSNBC to defend his plan to sharply reduce the size of state government by arguing that Tallahassee had set up a system where the state employs lobbyists to lobby the state. It turns out there are more than 200 state employees registered as lobbyists in Tallahassee to advocate either for policy or money. And there are at least 50 of them whose primary job is to work with the Legislature, as Scott suggested. But those employees do more than just lobby for money, we noted. So Scott received a Mostly True.
8. U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson: Says Daniel Webster wants to make divorce illegal, even for abused wives.
Outgoing Orlando-area U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson makes the Top 10 twice, for the same controversial ad attacking his Republican opponent Dan Webster. In this fact-check, we analyzed Grayson's claim that Webster -- a former state House speaker -- wanted to make divorce illegal, even for abused wives. What we found is that when Webster was a member of the Florida House, he introduced a bill that would have created a special voluntary form of marriage, that if couples agreed to it, they would not be able to divorce under state law except in the case of adultery. The bill did not list physical or sexual abuse as grounds for divorce. But Webster's bill wouldn't make all divorce illegal. It wouldn't even make divorce for all people who chose covenant marriage entirely illegal. So we ruled this claim Half True.
7. U.S. Rep.-elect Allen West: "If you look at the application for a security clearance, I have a clearance that even the president of the United States cannot obtain because of my background."
Outspoken South Florida Republican Allen West, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, made this whopper of a claim during his Congressional campaign. Experts found it ridiculous. "The president is the one who established the security clearance system by executive order," said Steven Aftergood, a national security and intelligence specialist with the Federation of American Scientists. "Therefore it is nonsensical to speak of clearances higher than what the president has. As head of the executive branch and commander in chief of the armed forces, there is no information in government that could be denied to the president for security reasons if he determined he needed access to that information." We rated West's claim Pants on Fire.
6. U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek: "There's a mosque inside of the Pentagon."
In the middle of Kendrick Meek's failed campaign for the U.S. Senate, Meek waded into the Ground Zero mosque controversy by pointing out that there is a mosque inside the Pentagon -- site of one of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Only there isn't. There is a place of worship and daily prayer for Muslims inside the Pentagon, but Meek is off when calling it an actual mosque. We rated his claim False.
5. MSNBC commentator Rachel Maddow: Marco Rubio's "economic proposals will add $3.5 trillion to the federal deficit."
During the U.S. Senate campaign, liberal MSNBC television host Rachel Maddow and conservative Republican Marco Rubio engaged in a multimedia tit-for-tat over tax cuts and the federal deficit, with Maddow saying that Rubio talks tough about cutting the deficit, but is actually proposing to increase it. Maddow's numbers are sound, though she doesn't take into account cuts Rubio also has planned. So we found this claim Mostly True.
4. U.S. Rep.-elect Frederica Wilson: The U.S. House rule barring members from wearing hats while in session dates back to the 1800s and can be waived by the speaker.
Longtime state legislator Frederica Wilson was hoping to bring her trademark hats to Washington, but first she claimed she needed a little help from incoming House Speaker John Boehner. Wilson was right that the ban on House members wearing hats started in the 1800s -- Sept. 14, 1837, to be precise. But there's no evidence Boehner or any individual can simply waive the rule. It would take a full House vote. We found Wilson's claim Half True.
3. U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson: Says Daniel Webster thinks wives should submit to their husbands.
Grayson returns to the list at No. 3, with an ad comparing his Republican opponent Webster to the Taliban. A narrator speaks over images of terrorists holding guns and people burning the American flag, and then Webster appears in black and white video saying, "Wives submit yourself to your own husband." The ad then intersperses Webster saying, "You should submit to me. That's in the Bible." Webster said those things. But Grayson drastically edited the video to take Webster's comments out of context.
Here's what he actually said: "Have (Bible) verses for (your) wife. I have verses for my wife. Don't pick the ones that say, 'she should submit to me.' That's in the Bible, but pick the ones you're supposed to do (laughs). So instead (laughs) that you'd love your wife -- even as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it ... and, as opposed to wives submit yourself to your own husband. She can pray that if she wants to, but don't you pray it."
The ad produced a barrage of negative publicity for Grayson, and gave Webster a national television platform to defend his beliefs (This claim also was a finalist for PolitiFact's Lie of the Year). In the end, of course, Webster defeated Grayson by a comfortable margin. We rated the Grayson claim False.
2. Gov.-elect Rick Scott: "The stimulus has not created one private sector job."
Scott's second appearance in the Top 10 comes from a meeting with reporters before Labor Day in which he railed about the federal health care bill and the federal stimulus program, and tried to contrast himself with Democratic opponent Alex Sink.
"I think it's very simple. Higher taxes kill jobs. Regulations kill jobs. Obamacare is an unbelievable job killer. It's going to be devastating for our state. That by itself is going to make it very difficult for people to do business in our state. And the taxes, the increase in taxes for that is going to be devastating to our state," Scott said.
"On top of that, my background is I put my money up. I took the risk. I stood up for what I believed in starting businesses. And that"s a whole different background than other people. But she (Sink) clearly believes in higher taxes. She clearly believes in Obamacare. She clearly believes in the stimulus, and we know the stimulus has not created one private sector job."
We researched the claim about the stimulus, and in the process met Billy Weston, a 48-year-old car salesman who had been out of a job until he was hired by Riviera Beach pharmaceutical manufacturer Sancilio & Co. with stimulus funds.
"I disagree. I have to. Even though, you know, I'm a devout Republican, that's absolutely wrong," Weston told us. "I'm living proof that this helped out, tremendously. I couldn't agree with that statement whatsoever. I know, due to this program, I have a job at Sancilio & Co. That's the reality of it."
It's just one of many examples we found of someone having a job thanks to the stimulus. (Scott's claim also was a Lie of the Year finalist). So we rated Scott's claim Pants on Fire.
And our most popular fact check of the year is ...
1. U.S. Sen. George LeMieux: The White House has "refused" international help in dealing with the oil spill.
Joining Republicans critical of President Barack Obama's response to the April Deepwater Horizon spill, appointed U.S. Sen. George LeMieux said Obama had refused help being offered by foreign nations.
LeMieux let out his frustration in a posting on Twitter, and repeated the claim during an interview on CNN. "State Department reports today 17 countries have offered 21 times to send aid, including skimmers. Why has the White House refused help?"
At the time, the State Department had received official assistance offers from 18 countries and another four groups. Some offers were vague, others were specific. Most all of them were offers to sell equipment. But contrary to what LeMieux said, the State Department accepted the offers of four countries -- Mexico, Norway, the Netherlands and Canada -- and was considering other offers.
But LeMieux was right in suggesting that United States either struggled to act on offers of foreign aid, or that processing the requests was delayed. So we rated LeMieux's statement Barely True.
Out of the 10 items, we should note that five came from Republicans and five came from either Democrats or a liberal pundit. We can't wait to see what 2011 has in store.
See individual PolitiFact Florida items.
Researchers: Aaron Sharockman
We want to hear your suggestions and comments. Email the Florida Truth-O-Meter with feedback and with claims you'd like to see checked. If you send us a comment, we'll assume you don't mind us publishing it unless you tell us otherwise.