The Ocean State's Top Ten
Since we launched PolitiFact Rhode Island June 25, we've powered up the Truth-O-Meter 74 times, fact-checking statements from politicians, party bosses, bloggers, talk radio hosts, interest groups and anonymous chain e-mailers.
As we close 2010 with the growing national PolitiFact team, we thought we'd look back on the items that were most popular with our readers, based on our daily Web traffic reports.
So here is the PolitiFact Rhode Island 2010 Top Ten. (That has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?) Let us know what your favorite is on our PolitiFact Rhode Island Facebook page, or by sending us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1.) YouTube video purporting to show Obama admitting he is not a U.S. citizen far from the truth. Chain e-mail, Aug. 3, 2010
This was our best-read item. Despite ample evidence to the contrary, plenty of people still insist that Barack Obama was not born in the United States or that he is not a U.S. citizen. In May, a video began circulating online that purported to offer the best proof possible -- straight from the mouth of the president himself. We quickly determined that the badly edited video began as a spoof. But disclaimers were stripped away as it recirculated. As of this week, that video has been viewed more than 2.5 million times on YouTube. It's still Pants on Fire to us.
2.) Blue Cross" new $90-million Providence headquarters "was outfitted with $25 million in decor." -- - Bill Lynch, May 19, 2010
The shiny new Blue Cross building in downtown Providence was a popular target of political candidates, including Democrat Bill Lynch, who ran in the primary for Congress in the 1st District. Lynch said Blue Cross refused to say how much it spent furnishing the building, so his campaign made an estimate, based on figures quoted in a newspaper story about engineering and other "soft costs" for the building. We found that Lynch's number was really a guess and ruled the statement Pants on Fire.
3.) "When George Bush took office, President Clinton, a Democrat, and the Democratic Congress at the time had left an annual budget that was in surplus." -- Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, June 24, 2010
This item, produced by PolitiFact National, examined a statement the Rhode Island Democrat made on the Senate floor, criticizing the Bush administration for squandering a federal surplus. PolitiFact found that Whitehouse was correct on the numbers -- in Clinton's final year in office, there was a surplus of $236 billion; the following year, Bush's first as president, the surplus was $128 billion. But the Congress under Clinton was controlled by Republicans, not Democrats, a fact Whitehouse got wrong twice, earning this statement a False ruling.
4.) "I remember one of [Curt Schilling's] teammates said he painted his sock, the bloody sock." -- Lincoln Chafee, July 27, 2010.
Independent Lincoln Chafee riled up Red Sox Nation when he questioned whether pitcher Curt Schilling was actually bleeding from a surgical wound on his ankle when he defeated the Yankees in a crucial playoff series in 2004, helping the Sox win the pennant, and, ultimately, the World Series. Chafee's claim, made during his successful campaign for governor, was based on an accusation made by a Red Sox player. What he didn't say was that the accusation was later revealed to be a joke; we ruled his statement False.
5.) Unemployment and the housing and auto industry crises can be fixed by giving a million dollars to every worker over age 50 to retire. Chain e-mail, Dec. 20, 2010
You've got to love chain e-mails. They make such outrageous claims, but with such certainty. This one pushes the "Patriotic Retirement Plan," an idea proposed by a St. Petersburg Times reader responding to a request for ways to fix the economy. Like most such schemes, this one was too good to be true. In fact, it was Pants on Fire.
6.) "Social Security is a Ponzi scheme." -- John Loughlin, Feb. 24, 2010
Republican John Loughlin, who lost his bid for the 1st District congressional seat to Democrat David Cicilline, was one of several GOP candidates around the country who compared Social Security to the type of criminal fraud created by Boston swindler Charles Ponzi in 1920. We ruled the claim False because, unlike Ponzi's scheme, Social Security has a defined, transparent funding plan, with no element of deceit or criminality.
7.) "Pres. Obama's finance team is recommending a ... 1% tax on all transactions at any financial institution." Chain e-mail, Oct. 31, 2010
Like many chain e-mails, this one offers "proof" to back up its claim. It cites a specific bill number and urges readers to check out the claim on Snopes.com, another fact-check site. When we checked it out, we discovered that the bill was dead, that it had not been backed by President Obama's team, and that it had been debunked, not verified, by Snopes. Case closed. Pants on Fire.
8.) Phoenix is the kidnapping capital "of the Western Hemisphere." Helen Glover, July 9, 2010
Radio talk-show host Helen Glover was having a conversation with John Loughlin, the Republican congressional candidate, who had just returned from a fact-finding trip to the Arizona border. Loughlin talked about a couple living near Phoenix who feared being kidnapped because of the drug-related violence near the border. "Phoenix is now the kidnapping capital of America," he said. Glover took it one step further, saying the city leads the Western Hemisphere in kidnapping. The claim, first made on ABC News, was debunked by PolitiFact Texas, whose research we used to also declare it False.
9.) Rhode Island gives undocumented pregnant women health insurance, plus a cash card "with $400 a month on it" and "$250 a month or $275 a month to spend on food." Peter Palumbo, Sept. 9, 2010
State Rep. Peter Palumbo, an outspoken supporter of strict enforcement of immigration laws, often cites figures on the cost of illegal immigration. When we examined this claim, we determined he was right on the health insurance part of the claim but wrong on the other two. And he cited as his source a state official who said he didn't provide the information, because it was not true. Because Palumbo got one of three elements right, we rated his statement Barely True.
10.) "One of the things we found very clearly and consistently is that [video gaming] is a growth industry." Keith Stokes, Aug. 7, 2010
One of the biggest business stories of the year in Rhode Island was the decision by the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation to back $75 million in loans to a video game company created by former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling. Stokes, the EDC director, defended the deal, in part by citing what he called continued growth in the video gaming industry. We found that game sales have grown dramatically in the last decade, but have fallen in at least two of the last five years. We ruled this statement False.