Keeping tabs on the 2010 "Texan of the Year"
With strong wins in two elections this year, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has had a heckuva 2010. He added another honor Dec. 25 when the Dallas Morning News named him Texan of the Year.
In an editorial announcing its decision, the newspaper noted Perry's penchant for "bold declarations."
After keeping an eye (and ear) on the governor as he bested U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the GOP primary and former Houston Mayor Bill White in the general election, we second that observation. Since our January debut, we have fact-checked 50 Perry statements.
Here are the ones that drew the most looks from our readers, in descending order:
The top spot goes to a Perry statement from a July 13 interview with the Fox News Channel that Perry had never received a call from President Barack Obama's administration. We rated that statement Pants on Fire after finding evidence to the contrary, including an April 29, 2010 White House press release announcing that the president called the governors of states adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico, including Perry, "to discuss the BP oil spill situation and assure the governors that the administration will continue to use every single available resource at our disposal in the response efforts."
Earlier in the year, as the nation debated the health care overhaul passed by a Democrat-controlled Congress, Perry caught our attention when he said in an op-ed piece in the Austin American-Statesman that "the number of uninsured people in Massachusetts is about the same as it was" in 2006, when that state passed a mandate that all adults have health coverage. (A similar requirement is part of the new federal law.) After examining information from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Massachusetts Division of Health Care Finance and Policy, we found that the number of people in the Bay State without health insurance had dropped by at least 300,000 since 2006, earning Perry a Pants on Fire and second place on this personalized breakdown.
Coming in at No. 3 is a Perry statement that touched upon a major point of contention in his general election race with White: debates. In an Aug. 18 campaign press release, Perry accused his Democratic opponent of "refusing to debate." We dubbed that statement Pants on Fire after explaining that it was Perry who had set a precondition for taking the stage — that White release all of his tax returns from his years in public service. Meantime, White had accepted multiple invitations to appear with Perry. The standoff persisted through the campaign season, and the candidates never debated.
Another theme of Perry's campaign was to critique the federal government's efforts to protect the border that Texas shares with Mexico. In an April 15 interview with the Texas Tribune and Newsweek, Perry said: "We've got a 1,000 National Guard troop request that's been in front of this president for over a year and no response." That statement, which ranks fourth in our Perry list, received a Half True rating because although the Obama administration had not approved Perry's request, it had repeatedly acknowledged it through letters from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to the governor.
Rounding out the top five Perry statements was our fact-check of a claim on the governor's campaign website that White had "profiteered in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita," which slammed into the Gulf Coast in September 2005. Perry's statement generated a False rating after we found no evidence that White had enriched himself by connecting a Houston-area water authority that needed emergency power generators with a supplier in which White later made a lucrative personal investment.
Also proving popular were a couple of post-election statements, including:
* Our review of Perry's claim in a Nov. 8 interview that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. We rated that False after noting a raft of differences between the retirement assistance program approved by Congress decades ago and a fraudulent criminal enterprise that can't keep delivering promised sky-high profits by illicitly funneling latecomer investors' money to previous investors.
* Our fact-check of the governor's claim in a Nov. 4 interview that "since the first of the year, 153 businesses at last count had moved out of California to Texas." Perry earned a Half True for that statement — based on research by Dun & Bradstreet, a New Jersey-based business-intelligence company with a global database of some 171 million companies in more than 190 countries — because of some key details that we learned from Dun & Bradstreet. For one, Texas had a net gain of only 61 business sites because during the same period, 92 moved from the Lone Star State to California. Secondly, not all of the 153 sites that came to Texas from the Golden State necessarily reflect whole companies moving east. Instead, the 153 moves could have involved individual offices or branches of firms that continue to do business in California.