2010: The Year in Misrepresentations
By Willoughby Mariano
Published on Monday, December 20th, 2010 at 6:00 a.m.
The new year approaches, and your AJC PolitiFact Georgia team is growing misty-eyed.
Although we launched only six months ago, we already have cherished memories of pants we've burned, or slightly singed.
As the AJC Truth-O-Meter winds down for the year, we thought we would share a few of those moments when we smelled flames.
Here, in chronological order, are the summaries of some of our favorite untruths and misrepresentations of 2010:
GOP candidate for governor Karen Handel: Says she was never a member of the Georgia Log Cabin Republicans
During Handel's unsuccessful campaign to become the state's first female governor, Nathan Deal publicly attacked her for having a cozy relationship with the gay community earlier in her political career in Fulton County.
Deal, now the governor-elect, said she was a member of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay rights GOP organization that wields influence in Fulton. Handel repeatedly denied it during the primary season.
Who told the truth?
The evidence is strong that Handel did indeed belong to the Georgia Log Cabin Republicans. Newspapers reported it. A membership list backs it up. And the man running the organization at the time swears by it.
This might have rated a False, but Handel's complex dance around this issue moved it up to Pants On Fire.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed: When Atlanta Police Chief George Turner was interim head of the department, overall crime fell 14 percent and violent crime dropped 22.7 percent.
George Turner won his post as Atlanta police chief after a whirlwind of accomplishment.
By the time Reed announced Turner's nomination July 9, the veteran city cop had spent seven months as the department's interim leader. Crime was down.
But we found big problems with the crime numbers.
A news release announcing the drop understated the reduction in overall crime and property crime, according to federal data. Plus, the city overstated the drop in violent crime, which was actually 16 percent.
Why? The mayor's office used "rolling monthly averages," a statistic that organizes data to smooth out unusual crime spikes or drops that can obscure an overall trend.
The mayor's office also acknowledged that it made a data-entry error with the violent crime figure.
Although crime is down, that doesn't erase the fact that the city got its numbers wrong.
We gave Reed a Barely True.
Melanie Crozier, the director of Georgia Right to Life's political action committee: Handel "would have felt like it was OK to go in and abort" Sarah Palin's son Trig, who has Down syndrome.
Handel placed first in the GOP primary despite Georgia Right to Life's criticisms that she's not a strong enough opponent of abortion. A late endorsement by conservative darling Sarah Palin helped her rocket ahead of other candidates.
That's what concerned Crozier.
"[Palin] has a son with Down syndrome, and under Karen Handel"s laws, Handel would have felt like it was OK to go in and abort that child," Crozier said in a July 21 article for Politico, an online news site.
GRTL failed to provide any evidence whatsoever for the statement. And the organization failed to explain how it came to its conclusion.
The group should have known that it was misrepresenting Handel's beliefs. It has been squabbling with her for years.
Pants On Fire.
Former Gov. Roy Barnes' campaign spokesman Chris Carpenter: "Nobody's invited us" to the Obama events in Atlanta.
President Barack Obama came to Atlanta on Aug. 2 for a pair of events -- a Democratic fundraiser and a speech to the Disabled American Veterans convention.
Yet even though Barnes, the state's most high-profile Democrat, was running to reclaim his old job, he did not attend.
When a talk radio host asked Carpenter about Barnes' absence, the spokesman said Barnes didn't make Obama's list.
The people doing the inviting said Barnes was indeed invited to the Obama fundraiser. It would be bizarre if Barnes were not. He is an important contributor to both Obama and the Democratic National Committee.
Barnes and Deal: Vowed to keep Georgia's race for governor "civil" and focused on the "positive."
The race between Barnes, a Democrat, and Deal was to be a civil affair. Or so said both campaigns.
Oh really now?
One Republican called Barnes, an attorney, "just the same old ambulance chaser he's always been."
A Barnes commercial called Deal "slippery as a bag of snakes."
It went downhill from there.
One Georgia political expert called the race "the harshest campaign we've seen for governor."
Pants On Fire.
Republican state senators: Said they reached a "power-sharing agreement" with Republican Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle
There was a time when the future looked bright for Cagle. The governor's office seemed well within his reach.
But these days, a palace coup makes the doe-eyed Cagle looks more like a deer in the headlights.
The election returns had barely been counted when the Republican caucus voted Nov. 5 to take away Cagle's power to appoint Senate committee chairmen -- the key to real influence in the upper chamber. It also stripped him of the ability to decide the makeup of Senate committees.
"This is simply a new power-sharing agreement that we"ve come to," Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, told reporters. Other GOP leaders echoed him.
We found it was a "power-sharing agreement" all right. The GOP Senate leadership now has all the power. And it agreed not to share it with Cagle.
An eight-member committee now wields the real clout. Cagle was expressly prohibited from joining it.
Pants On Fire.
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