A campaign full of red-hot statements
By Jim Tharpe
In politics, there are truths. There are falsehoods. And there’s Pants on Fire.
PolitiFact and the AJC Truth-O-Meter complete hundreds of fact checks every year. And a few fall into that fiery netherworld of the ridiculously misleading. The 2012 campaign between President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has produced some memorable misstatements.
Below are abbreviated versions of some of the top Pants on Fire rulings of the campaign. Look for the complete fact checks at the PolitiFact online sites.
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Obama: Says Romney "backed a bill that outlaws all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest."
To appeal to women voters, Obama's campaign has been attacking Romney about his position on abortion.
One ad, "Jenny’s Story," opens with a woman speaking to the camera.
"I’ve never felt this way before, but it’s a scary time to be a woman," she says. "Mitt Romney is just so out of touch."
The announcer says, "Mitt Romney opposes requiring insurance coverage for contraception. And Romney supports overturning Roe v. Wade. Romney backed a bill that outlaws all abortion, even in case of rape and incest."
The Obama campaign, however, provides virtually nothing to back that up. It has no evidence that Romney explicitly opposed the exception for rape and incest. While he supported the "human life amendment," there are many versions and the most recent ones allow abortion after rape or incest. And it's worth noting that in 2011 Romney declared that he supports those exceptions.
In its effort to appeal to women, the Obama campaign has twisted Romney's position to a ridiculous degree.
PolitiFact rated the claim Pants on Fire!
Romney: "Under President Obama: $4,000 tax hike on middle-class families."
In a television ad called "Putting jobs first", a video clip shows Romney speaking during the Denver debate. Romney says, "I’m not going to raise taxes on anyone." As he says that, these words appear on the screen: "Under President Obama: $4,000 tax hike on middle class families."
The ad doesn’t say when this tax hike will take place or point to any plan from Obama to raise taxes on the middle class.
The campaign makes a giant leap when it assumes the debt will be serviced with increased taxes on all income levels and in the time frame it suggests. We actually don’t know how the tax code will spread around the pain of paying for the debt; right now, Obama is proposing tax increases only on higher income households.
Finally, we should point out that debt payments would rise even if Romney wins the presidency. If you accept the ad's logic, then you'd have to accept that Romney too plans tax increases for the middle class.
The campaign distorts the meaning of the study to score political points.
PolitiFact rated this statement Pants on Fire!
Obama: Says Romney plans to "fire" Big Bird.
Scare tactics have a long history in American politics. Now, the Obama campaign is trying to scare preschoolers -- and their parents -- with a claim that Romney wants to fire Big Bird, the iconic Sesame Street character.
In its latest attempt to portray Romney as heartless, the Obama campaign is making a serious allegation that he wants to put one of America's most beloved children's characters on the unemployment line.
Romney has been clear that his plan for PBS is not specific to Big Bird. He simply wants to end federal subsidies.
It's a ridiculous stretch to equate that with firing the 8-foot-2 yellow bird. Just as Democrats have scared senior citizens about losing Medicare, they are now scaring preschoolers about losing Big Bird.
PolitiFact rated this claim Pants on Fire!
Romney: "Under Obama’s plan (for welfare), you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check."
A Romney ad opens with a picture of President Bill Clinton signing the 1996 landmark welfare reform act, which shifted the program from indefinite government assistance to one based on steering people toward employment and self-reliance.
The words "unprecedented success" flash on the screen. Clinton and a bipartisan Congress, a narrator says, "helped end welfare as we know it by requiring work for welfare."
A leather-gloved laborer wipes sweat from his forehead.
"But on July 12," the ad continues, "President Obama quietly announced a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements. Under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check, and ‘welfare to work’ goes back to being plain old welfare."
The ad tries to connect the dots to reach this zinger: "They just send you your welfare check." In fact, it says the new policy is "designed to improve employment outcomes for needy families."
The ad’s claim is not accurate, and it inflames old resentments about able-bodied adults sitting around collecting public assistance.
PolitiFact rated this claim Pants on Fire.
Obama: "Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Newt Gingrich all say they would cut foreign aid to Israel — and every other country — to zero."
The president’s attacks against Romney began in the Republican primary.
"Stand against ‘zeroing out’ aid to Israel," an Obama web page said. "Republican candidates for president Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Newt Gingrich all say they would cut foreign aid to Israel — and every other country — to zero. Stand up to this extreme isolationism and join the call to reject the Romney-Perry-Gingrich plan."
A reader asked us to check out the claim, so we did. We began by asking for backup materials from the Obama campaign.
The campaign sent us a series of links to debate transcripts and news articles. All flow from a series of statements made at a Nov. 12 debate on foreign policy among the Republican presidential candidates.
The plan discussed during the debate means only that future aid levels for Israel would be subject to negotiations.
The Obama campaign misleadingly used the term "zeroing out" instead of accurately describing it as "zero-based" budgeting, making the three-sentence statement wrong in three different ways.
PolitiFact rated this claim Pants on Fire!
Romney: "Redistribution" has "never been a characteristic of America."
Romney’s presidential campaign has accused Obama of supporting redistribution of wealth.
First, a 1998 tape of Obama surfaced in which he said, in part, "I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody's got a shot."
Then Romney brought up the topic during a Sept. 19 appearance in Atlanta.
Romney said Obama "really believes in what I’ll call a government-centered society," according to an account in Politico. "I know there are some who believe that if you simply take from some and give to others, then we’ll all be better off. It’s known as redistribution. It’s never been a characteristic of America."
Romney said that "redistribution" has "never been a characteristic of America."
Reasonable people can disagree about the wisdom of it, but redistribution has been a basic principle of the U.S. tax system and many federal programs, including some such as veterans benefits that have long attracted support from Republicans.
PolitiFact rated this claim Pants on Fire!
Workers’ Voice ad: Says Romney’s investments created zero jobs.
For some voters, the mail recently brought a flier that said Romney’s investments created zero jobs. The ad was from a super PAC associated with the AFL-CIO.
Zero job creation makes for a catchy attack. But in this case, it’s way off base.
Workers’ Voice says the "number of jobs that Romney’s investments created" is zero. That ignores Bain Capital’s role as a venture capital firm that helped build companies. Those companies hired tens of thousands of workers.
The PAC, unable to provide data to back up its claim, said the goal of Romney’s investments wasn’t jobs, but profits. That doesn’t prove Bain’s job creation was zero. Nor do examples of Romney’s investments that lost jobs. This catchy claim comes up empty.
We rate this claim Pants on Fire.
Government is Not God PAC: "Barack Hussein Obama will ... force courts to accept Islamic Sharia law in domestic disputes."
Obama is a Christian. But a political action committee called Government is not God says his religious sympathies lie elsewhere.
The group paid for ads in newspapers across Florida and Ohio that warned, among other things, that if Obama is re-elected, he "will move America to force courts to accept Islamic sharia law in domestic disputes."
The PAC offered no evidence -- and we couldn’t find any either.
The idea itself runs counter to the constitutional separation of powers and individual protections defined in the Bill of Rights.
PolitiFact rated the statement Pants on Fire.