Thursday, October 30th, 2014

The Most Popular Fact-Checks of 2012

Our check of the tax burden for Olympic medalists was one of the most popular of 2012.
Our check of the tax burden for Olympic medalists was one of the most popular of 2012.

With 2012 coming to a close, PolitiFact decided to look back at a few of your favorite fact-checks, as judged by online viewership, from a busy political year.

In no particular order, here are a selection of the most read PolitiFact fact-checks of 2012.

Fact-checking Mitt Romney

At a Republican primary debate in January in South Carolina, Mitt Romney said the U.S. military was at risk of losing its military superiority, citing as evidence, "Our Navy is smaller than it's been since 1917. Our Air Force is smaller and older than any time since 1947."

Romney may have been close on the simple numbers planes and ships, but his broader point was so off base we rated his claim Pants on Fire.  A wide range of experts told us the United States is the world’s unquestioned military leader today, not because ships and aircraft, but because of top-of-the-line technology and highly trained personnel. Romney repeated the claim in the final presidential debate.

Starting in 2010, Romney accused Barack Obama of beginning his presidency with "an apology tour." We looked carefully at this claim when it was first made. Our examination of Obama’s speeches and interviews with apology experts showed that Obama had not apologized, but instead used standard diplomatic language. Romney never backed off his claim, repeating it during the final presidential debate of 2012. We rated his statement Pants on Fire.

In June, Romney said at a press conference that the federal health care law "adds trillions to our deficits and to our national debt." Actually, an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that the law did not add to the deficit over 10 years and reduced the deficit slightly over the long-term. We rated this statement False.

In August, the Romney campaign released a TV ad claiming that Obama was rolling back the work requirement for welfare recipients. "Under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job," the ad said. "They just send you your welfare check, and ‘welfare to work’ goes back to being plain old welfare."

The Romney campaign said it based its claim on the Obama administration allowing states to submit pilot programs to move welfare recipients to work, through waivers from the welfare law’s officials rules. Critics said the waivers would soften requirements, but that’s far different from the ad’s claim. Indeed, the new rules explicitly said the goal was to get more people working. We rated the ad’s claim that work requirements were going away as Pants on Fire.

Fact-checking Barack Obama

The Obama campaign wooed female voters throughout the campaign. A TV ad touting Obama’s accomplishments said Obama "knows that women being paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men isn't just unfair, it hurts families. So the first law he signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to help ensure that women are paid the same as men for doing the exact same work."

The ad’s 77-cent statistic wasn’t used properly, though. That represents the overall pay gap for women versus men. When labor statistics are narrowed to compare women and men who do the same work, the pay gap tends to shrink, though it depends on occupation. We rated Obama’s statement Mostly False.  

Romney’s biography

Romney said in a Republican primary debate, "I didn't inherit money from my parents." We found that Romney was already wealthy from his work at the private equity group Bain Capital when his parents died, and the evidence indicates he donated his inheritance to a school. But Romney was also a governor’s son, and he received financial help from his parents as he completed his studies at Brigham Young University and Harvard Law School. We rated his statement Half True.

A chain email pointed out one of Romney’s good deeds, helping a business partner locate his missing teenage daughter in 1996. We researched the email’s claims and found it was accurate: Romney did organize a search for the girl after she left home without permission to go to a rave party. His efforts were critical to finding her, and we rated the claim True.  

Olympic medals and the tax man

The anti-tax group American for Tax Reform claimed during the summer that Olympians would face high taxes if they had the good fortune to bring medals home. "U.S. Olympic medal winners will owe up to $9,000 to the IRS," the group said in a blog post.
When we looked into it, we found that the value of a medal is included as taxable earnings. But Olympians also are allowed to deduct their training costs as business expenses, which would reduce their tax burden. Finally, the $9,000 number represents Olympians who would be high earners and taxed at the highest rates. We rated the claim Mostly False.

Rush Limbaugh and the health care law

Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh said on his show that the health care law was "the largest tax increase in the history of the world." We ran the numbers and found the health care law -- which includes taxes on the wealthy and the health care industry -- isn’t the largest tax increase in the history of the United States, so it can’t be the largest tax increase in the history of the world. We rated his statement Pants on Fire!

Bill Clinton at the Democratic National Convention

Former president Bill Clinton took to the stage at the Democratic Convention to make the case why Obama deserved four more years. Among his many data points was this: "Since 1961, for 52 years now, the Republicans have held the White House 28 years, the Democrats 24. In those 52 years, our private economy has produced 66 million private-sector jobs. So what's the jobs score? Republicans 24 million, Democrats 42 (million)."

The line got huge applause, but was it accurate? We checked the data and found that Clinton’s numbers were accurate, though positive job growth can’t be attributed to individual presidents’ policies. History, timing and other external factors also make a difference. We rated his statement Mostly True.