Wayne Rogers of M*A*S*H fame -- he played "Trapper John" -- now investor and Fox News pundit, took a shot recently at President Barack Obama’s character.
"He's not just willing to lie. He does it deliberately," Rogers said May 3, 2014, on the Fox News business program Cashin’ In. "There are over 200 documented cases where he has lied, you know, you can keep your plan if you like it. You can keep your doctor if you like it. Those are the obvious lies."
That’s a lot of lying, and we wanted to learn more. We asked Rogers for his sources and did not hear from him. So we don’t know where he got the number but it seems likely he has read this: "252 Documented Examples of Barack Obama’s Lying, Lawbreaking, Corruption, Cronyism, etc.", a list on a website called Infowars.com.
The title alone suggests Rogers may have gone overboard. At face value, the list gets to 252 by lumping "lies" in with a variety of other things (alleged lawbreaking, corruption, cronyism and the catch-all etc.). In fact, we looked at each item and about 225 came down to a difference of opinion over policy.
Some examples on the policy front: Sent U.S. troops to Africa; made recess appointments when Congress was not in recess; had Freedom of Information Act record worse than Bush’s.
The list includes 13 instances of what the author considered actual lying. PolitiFact declared the claim "If you like your plan, you can keep it," as the 2013 Lie of the Year (So we’ll give Rogers credit for that one.) For the rest, we take no position on whether the president verifiably misled the public but here are some items in that group (followed by our work):
Lied about the cost of Obamacare;
Falsely said that "we got back every dime" from the bailout; (PolitiFact New Hampshire rated Obama saying "We got back every dime used to rescue the banks" as Mostly True)
Falsely said that Fast and Furious was started when George W. Bush was president. (PolitiFact rated Obama saying that Fast and Furious started when Bush was president as False)
There are an additional 13 items on the list that seem more like broken promises than anything else. That portion of the list includes things like broke his promise to close Guantanamo Bay (PolitiFact has rated that promise Stalled), claimed he would wait five days before signing bills (PolitiFact has rated that Promise Broken), and broke his promise to pass immigration bill, and then lied about why he broke it (PolitiFact has rated several promises related to immigration).
Brendan Nyhan, a professor of government at Dartmouth College and co-author of All the President’s Spin, does not put lying and broken promises in the same basket.
"People may not be able to fulfill promises for reasons beyond their control and in any case it’s less ethically troubling to change your mind later than to say something that is misleading at the time that you say it," Nyhan said. "I’m opposed to the term ‘lie’ and have avoided using it in my work. It implies intention to mislead, which we can never know definitively."
This Infowars.com article was expansive in its index of Obama’s transgressions and many items went beyond traditional policy disputes. In this category we found claims such as: had armed SWAT agents raid a law-abiding guitar factory because it was owned by a Republican; shut down an Amish farm; falsely claimed to know more about Judaism than any other president; and lied about being his ‘brother’s keeper.’
Provable, documented lies? No.
PolitiFact, by the way, has fact-checked Obama more than 500 times and found 77 of his claims to be rated either False or Pants on Fire. Neither rating indicates Obama lied, but you can see the rulings for yourself here. PolitiFact also is tracking more than 500 of Obama's campaign promises, 115 of which have been rated Promise Broken. A Promise Broken rating doesn't mean Obama lied, but you can review the promises for yourself here.
Rogers said "there are over 200 documented cases where (Obama) has lied." Rogers did not provide any proof, but it appears he got his information from an online list of 252 perceived transgressions by Obama that includes accusations of lying, broken promises, ethical lapses and objectionable policies. By our count, the article offered 13 instances of what the author saw and another 13 instancs of Obama breaking promises.
In this fact-check, we're not verifying whether those 25-or-so cases constitute lies. But we can say with certainty that the "documented" total does not reach "over 200." Rogers' claim is ridiculously false. We rate it Pants on Fire.