Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

PolitiFact's greatest hits

SUMMARY: Our Top 10 Truth-O-Meter rulings cover the Pledge of Allegiance, military shrinkage and crime linkage. We also examine whether God has a position on the Iowa caucuses.

It's the season for Top 10 lists — CareerBuilder.com's "Hot Jobs," Autograph magazine's "Best & Worst Hollywood Signers" and Time's "Top 10 T-Shirt-Worthy Slogans" (No. 1: "Don't tase me, bro.").

To keep in the spirit, PolitiFact offers its Top 10 Truth-O-Meter Rulings for 2007. The first eight are our most significant and revealing findings on claims or attacks by the candidates since we launched Aug. 22. The final two are our favorite Pants On Fire rulings.

Our greatest hits:

1. Mitt Romney's misleading claim that President Clinton shrank the military. Romney is right that defense spending went down under Clinton. But his claim is misleading because the decline began under the first President Bush as he and Congress spent the "peace dividend" after the Cold War. It was not a Democratic initiative, as Romney suggests, because it had broad bipartisan support. We rated his statement Half True.

2. Hillary Clinton's inaccurate claim that the Bush administration cut spending for health research. She made the claim during a debate when asked how she would fight cancer. But the numbers show just the opposite: Spending has gone up. We gave her a False.

3. Rudy Giuliani's exaggerations about fighting crime in New York. Giuliani has taken credit for a big reduction in crime and said the national decline would be "fairly small" if not for his work in the Big Apple. When we wrote this article examining his record , we discovered Giuliani has some numbers right but that he overstates his role and New York's significance in the national statistics.

4. Barack Obama's exaggerations about Clinton's policy on Iran. The Obama campaign contended that Clinton's vote on an Iran amendment gave President Bush "a blank check." But we found that was a stretch and gave Obama a Half True.

5. Mike Huckabee's inaccurate attempt to deflect criticism about tuition benefits for illegal immigrants. When he was attacked for supporting lower tuition for immigrants in Arkansas, Huckabee said it would only help immigrants who met stringent requirements. But we found he was wrong on many counts and gave him a Barely True.

6. The exaggerated claims by Bill Richardson and Mitt Romney about experience. In hyping his international credentials, Richardson neglected the long resume of Sen. Joe Biden . Likewise, a Mitt Romney TV ad went too far when it said Clinton "has never run anything." We also wrote this story about experience and created this helpful chart comparing the candidates' experience.

7. The Democratic National Committee's misleading attack on John McCain about Iraq. The DNC alleged that McCain was "trying to have it both ways on Iraq" because he was trying to cast himself as a longtime critic of the administration while refusing to change course on the war. We found McCain had been consistent on both counts, that the Democrats were oversimplifying the facts and ruled the DNC's attack Barely True.

8. Chain e-mails that are spreading spurious rumors about Clinton and Obama. One said Clinton "refused to meet" with mothers whose children were killed in combat ( False ) and another said Obama refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance (also False ).

Pants on Fire!

We've made eight Pants on Fire rulings, which we reserve for the most ridiculous falsehoods. We've awarded them for serious blunders (such as Mike Huckabee's claim that most of the Founding Fathers were clergyman ) and also given them as tongue-in-cheek critiques for over-the-top rhetoric (such as when Joe Biden said President Bush was "brain-dead." )

Here are a couple of our favorites:

• Bill Richardson said Iowa's caucus should remain the first in the nation "for reasons related to the Lord." But we could find no evidence that the Lord has spoken on the presidential nominating process or the primary calendar.

• Rudy Giuliani claimed he was "one of the four or five best-known Americans in the world." Lacking any global opinion surveys, we devised our own scientific testing to check his claim: Google hits. We found that Giuliani lagged behind plenty of politicians and celebrities , including Tom Cruise, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Angelina Jolie and Oprah.