Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

Phoenix as kidnapping capital tops reader favorites

Clockwise from top left are Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Arizona Sen. John McCain, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Texas U.S. Rep. John Carter, Minnesota U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, and TV hosts Gretchen Carlson and Stephen Colbert.
Clockwise from top left are Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Arizona Sen. John McCain, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Texas U.S. Rep. John Carter, Minnesota U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, and TV hosts Gretchen Carlson and Stephen Colbert.

Before we reach our first anniversary next month, let's recap the 10 PolitiFact Texas articles that drew the most reader interest in 2010.

Now's the time to unleash a drum roll, trumpet flourish, maybe even chorus of cactus wrens, the state bird of Arizona...

Nos. 1 & 2: PolitiFact Texas reporter Ciara O'Rourke had her tape recorder rolling as Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst roused delegates to the Republican Party of Texas's state convention June 11. So she could revisit his remarks after Dewhurst declared: "Phoenix, Arizona, I'm told, is now the No. 2 kidnapping capital in the world, right behind Mexico City.”

Not really, we determined.

We tracked down the ABC News report where the claim was originally made. Phoenix has indeed experienced hundreds of kidnappings over the past few years. However, we found no evidence to that only Mexico City experiences more. Experts said such rankings can't be made based on available information. If they could, they speculate, other cities would prove to have more kidnappings than Arizona's capital. We rated Dewhurst's statement False.

U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., shortly hammered the same claim, wondering on a June 27 TV program why "is it that Phoenix, Arizona, is the number two kidnapping capital of the world?” We rated his statement False as well.

Through mid-December, our article on McCain's statement drew the most reader visits, followed by our article on Dewhurst's version.

No. 3: GOP Gov. Rick Perry told an interviewer in July he's never had a phone call from Democratic President Barack Obama's White House. We rated that statement Pants on Fire--as in red-flamed ridiculous--after the White House and Perry's state schedule indicated otherwise.

No. 4: U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, defended Republican votes against extending unemployment benefits in part by saying the Senate majority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had offered a proposal to spend stimulus aid on extending benefits. We rated that True,

No. 5: We rated Pants on Fire a statement by Fox News Channel co-anchor Gretchen Carlson that the State Board of Education in Texas was considering eliminating references to Christmas and the Constitution in school textbooks. The board was not considering removing Christmas from a list of religious holidays nor has it considered removing the Constitution from history textbooks or the state's curriculum.

No. 6: A Perry statement critical of a 2006 Massachusetts state law requiring adults to have insurance coverage drew our eye. We rated Pants on Fire Perry"s statement that the number of uninsured people in Massachusetts is about the same as it was when the state changed its law. However you do the the math, the number of people without health insurance in the Bay State has dropped by at least 300,000. Perry"s office, acknowledging error, told us he'd meant to make a point about Hawaii.

No. 7: Our check of a statement about Social Security by U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., led us to add a post-publication update to the PolitiFact Texas website stressing that we weren't ruling on whether the government will ultimately make good on Social Security's investments in U.S. Treasury notes. Bachmann had told delegates to the Texas GOP's convention that Social Security is out of money and is now borrowing from the Treasury to cover its expenditures. We rated that statement False, noting that the latest available projection said payroll taxes wouldn't cover benefits starting in 2016.

No. 8: U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, said the United States is the only nation that affords citizenship to anyone born here, "whether you are here legally or illegally." We rated that False, after noting that a Republican spokesman amended Carter's statement by telling us correctly that the United States is among a few industrial nations with such a provision.

No. 9: In mid-August, Perry's campaign issued a press release saying: "Today is day 164 of liberal trial lawyer Bill White refusing to debate.” Wrong: It was Perry who was resisting debates with his Democratic challenger and other aspirants. Perry said he wasn't going to debate until White released more personal income tax returns. They never did go mano a mano. We rated Perry's statement Pants on Fire.

No. 10: Stephen Colbert, host of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report,” said Texas "has an $18 billion budget shortfall and can't afford its new science textbooks.” We rated that Mostly True. Colbert cherry-picked the higher figure of what was then the Legislative Budget Board's latest revenue shortfall projection — $18 billion. Yet so did the Texas Education Agency in explaining the board's decision to delay buying new science texts.