Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

Greatest Hits Vol. 2

SUMMARY: PolitiFact staffers name their favorite Truth-O-Meter rulings.

With the publication of our 500th Truth-O-Meter ruling this week, we are celebrating our best work. Since we did a year-end Greatest Hits last December, we're calling this one Greatest Hits Vol. 2. (That puts us with an elite group of artists who have merited a Vol. 2, including Barry Manilow, Barbra Streisand and Mozart !)

We asked PolitiFact's writers and editors for their favorites since Vol. 1. Their choices:

Hillary Clinton's claims about ducking sniper fire in Bosnia. It was the most famous mistake of the campaign. Stories about her error by PolitiFact and other news organizations raised doubts about her credibility and changed the race's momentum. Bill Clinton compounded her problems by making further excuses that weren't true.

The Sierra Club's misleading accusation that McCain was "ducking important environmental votes." This one showed how interest groups distort a candidate's voting record. The Sierra Club cited a study by the League of Conservation Voters that showed that McCain had missed a lot of important environmental votes in 2007. The Sierra Club ignored McCain's relatively strong record (for a Republican) in previous years and the fact that McCain was running for president at the time. McCain wasn't ducking, he was campaigning. The Club earned a False.

Obama's mistake about which concentration camp his uncle liberated. His comment that his uncle helped to liberate the concentration camps at Auschwitz sparked an outcry on talk shows and blogs that he'd made a significant blunder. His critics noted, correctly, that Soviets troops actually liberated Auschwitz, and the statement quickly became Exhibit A that Obama was a serial exaggerator. The Obama camp came back and said Obama misspoke, but that his great uncle actually helped liberate a concentration camp in Ohrdruf, in Germany. As critics raised doubts about whether even that was true, we tracked down an obscure Army report that confirmed the great uncle did serve with the Army regiment that liberated Ordruf. So Obama was right about his uncle but had the wrong camp. He earned a Mostly True.

Clinton's claims about globetrotting and diplomacy. After Clinton made big claims about her diplomatic role as first lady, we decided to check for ourselves. So we examined each trip she made — to 82 countries. We created a database of her trips and this handy map to determine if her recollections were accurate. We concluded that she had not visited many places that were, as she claimed, "too small, too poor or too dangerous" for the president. But we also concluded that critics were wrong when they said she had not engaged in serious diplomacy.

False allegations against Obama in a chain e-mail from missionaries. A good example of PolitiFact's in-depth reporting. We didn't just disprove the e-mail's claims that Obama's middle name is Muhammed and that he gave money to a Kenyan candidate, we tracked down and interviewed the husband of the e-mail's author, who had to acknowledge he could not substantiate the claims.

Democratic distortions of McCain's 100-years-in-Iraq remark. McCain's straight talk on Iraq quickly became a talking point for Obama and other Democrats, and it inspired many homemade videos, including this amusing one. But Obama and others distorted the comments by saying McCain thought the war might go on for 100 years. That's not what McCain said, so we gave Obama a False.

Huckabee's recollection of frying squirrels. It wasn't the most meaty fact we checked, but, like so many items we do, it was simply to satisfy our hunger . . . for information. We wondered: Was Mike Huckabee telling the truth about cooking fried squirrel in his college dorm? We tracked down his roommate and confirmed it was True. As a bonus, we found a few recipes for squirrel cacciatore, squirrel croquettes and squirrels in cream sauce. Delicious!