The Obama White House vs. the Truth-O-Meter
By Bill Adair
Published on Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009 at 6:44 p.m.
President Barack Obama and his top administration officials have faced the Truth-O-Meter 21 times since they took office, and they can claim a small victory: They haven't earned any Pants on Fire ratings.
But their record for their first 100 days is far from perfect. We've given the Obama White House four False and two Barely True ratings. The Barely True ratings, along with a couple of the Half Trues, illustrate that the Obama White House has quickly learned the art of cherry-picking, selectively choosing the best scenarios and most favorable numbers for their claims.
For those of you keeping score: As of April 22, we've given Obama and his top aides a True or Mostly True 11 times, accounting for 52 percent of their ratings. They’ve earned six False or Barely True rulings, or 29 percent.
The White House’s lowest ratings were four Falses:
• For claiming that the United States has "fallen" to ninth in the world for achievement in eighth-grade math. Actually, the United States has been improving.
• For insisting the economic stimulus bill had no earmarks . We found at least a few, including $2 billion for a coal power plant in Illinois and $198 million for a program to compensate Filipino veterans of World War II.
• For claiming there was no disagreement about the need for government action to jump-start the economy. We found that there was, in fact, some disagreement from economists who felt he should simply let the free market work.
• For a claim by budget director Peter Orszag that earmarks in the 2009 omnibus spending bill were down 75 percent. We found that number was three times as much as the tally from a well-respected independent group.
Obama also earned a Barely True for cherry-picking economic predictions to claim his budget would reduce nondefense discretionary spending "to its lowest level since the ‘60s." We found that was true only for the last year in year his 10 year-projections. (And that wouldn’t happen until two years after the end of his second term, should he be re-elected.) And we gave him a Barely True for his claim that his budget has $2 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade.
Still, it's important to point out that, overall, they were right more than they were wrong. They earned True ratings for claims about the number of fatalities in Afghanistan , the political support of Warren Buffett , Teddy Roosevelt’s record on health care reform and Bill Gates’s tax deduction for donating to charity.
See individual Truth-O-Meter items.
Researchers: Bill Adair
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