Friday, December 19th, 2014

PolitiFact Rhode Island's Top 10 for 2012

The top 10 Truth-O-Meter items you liked in 2013.
The top 10 Truth-O-Meter items you liked in 2013.

Over the last 12 months, PolitiFact Rhode Island issued 117 Truth-O-Meter rulings, on claims ranging from Obamacare to school prayer to foreign aid.

All had some Rhode Island connection, but many of the most read items -- based on traffic on our PolitiFact Rhode Island website -- focused on issues far beyond the state’s borders.

Thanks to the reach of the Internet, many have remained popular long after publication, in part because PolitiFact, with affiliates in 11 states, has become a go-to reference for people seeking to separate fact from fiction.

So as a farewell to the year, we thought we’d share with you the Politifact Rhode Island Top Ten Most Widely Read rulings for 2012:

10: Conservative pundit Ann Coulter, talking in September about voter-identification laws on ABC’s "The View,"  noted that Rhode Island’s voter ID law was pushed by "a black Democrat in the House, a black Democrat in the Senate. That’s a fact."

In fact, she was right. Black legislators in both chambers supported the bill. Our ruling: True.

9: Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee recorded a robocall message, heard by Rhode Island voters in April, claiming that gas prices were rising because of President Obama’s refusal to grant permits for offshore drilling.

But we found that the Obama administration had issued hundreds of drilling permits after a moratorium imposed in the wake of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill was lifted. Our ruling: Pants on Fire.

8: The national Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, in an April news release targeting Democrat David Cicilline, said gas prices had risen 99 percent since Barack Obama became president, "the highest gas price increase since Carter."

But the RCCC overlooked two key facts: The national average gas price rose by a higher percentage under Republican President George W. Bush, before falling. And more important, presidents have little control over gas prices, which are set by the global economy. Our ruling: Mostly False.

7. Businessman Anthony Gemma engaged in several debates with U.S. Rep. David Cicilline in his unsuccessful Democratic primary campaign. During one encounter in August, Gemma delved into foreign trade, questioning why uniforms for U.S. soldiers "are manufactured in China."

We found that, for 70 years, federal law has prohibited the military from buying foreign-made uniforms without special authorization. We couldn’t find any evidence that any U.S. uniforms are made outside the United States. Our ruling: Pants on Fire.

6. Talk-show host John DePetro spent a lot of time early this year talking about a federal court order that led to the removal of a prayer banner from the Cranston High School West auditorium wall.

During one such conversation in January on freedom of religious expression, DePetro claimed that "atheists in Denver" had demanded that the National Football League order then-Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow to stop praying on the sidelines during games.

We checked with a spokesman for the Broncos, the ACLU of Colorado and the New Jersey-based American Atheists, which supposedly had made the demand. None knew anything about it. Our ruling: Pants on Fire.

5. "THIS WILL BLOW YOU AWAY!!!!!," said a chain e-mail we received in February, claiming that people who sell their homes after 2012 "will pay a 3.8 percent sales tax" to help finance President Obama’s health-care overhaul.

The only thing blown away was the truth. The health-care law does include a 3.8 percent tax on a portion of the PROFITS on home sales if those profits are more than $500,000 for a married couple and if the couple has an income of more than $250,000. It’s not a sales tax, and applicable to a very small group of taxpayers. Our ruling: Pants on Fire.

4. David Silverman, president of American Atheists, was interviewed in March about a "Reason Rally," the group held on the Washington Mall. "There are more atheists in the country right now than Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists combined and doubled," he said.

Silverman based his claim on a 2008 Trinity College poll. But he lumped those who said they had no religious preference into the atheist group, which substantially, and wrongly, inflated that number. Our ruling: False.

3. In January, Harvard Law School Prof. Einer Elhauge wrote a commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine, defending the health-care overhaul’s mandate that people buy health insurance. He noted that Congress, in its early days, required ship owners -- and later seamen -- to buy "hospital" insurance and also required gun ownership for most men.

Our research substantially confirmed both claims. Our ruling: Mostly True.

2. Yet another chain e-mail, sent out under the Blue Cross-Blue Shield logo, claimed that the health-care overhaul would hike Medicare insurance premiums to $120.20 per month in 2013 and $247 per month in 2014.

But Blue Cross officials said the e-mail didn’t come from them and was incorrect.  And Medicare said the numbers were dead wrong, noting that the estimated 2014 premium will be about $112 a month, up from the current $99.90. Our ruling: Pants on Fire.

1. Our best-read item of 2012 by far -- and one that seems to have gotten a lot of readership in the Arab world -- was based on an April claim from Barry Hinckley, a Republican who unsuccessfully challenged Democratic U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. In a TV interview, Hinckley said President Obama "gave the Muslim Brotherhood" in Egypt $1.5 billion.

In fact, the aid package was for the nation of Egypt, not the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, which, at the time of Hinckley’s claim, did not control the parliament or the presidency.  And more than 80 percent of the money was military aid. Our ruling: False.

If you see or hear a claim you’d like us to check, e-mail us at politifact@providencejournal.com.