Mailbag: Lie of the Year

A military appreciation Christmas tree at the White House in Washington.
A military appreciation Christmas tree at the White House in Washington.

Our Lie of the Year prompted a flood of e-mails, columns and editorials. Readers who voted in our poll agreed with us that the claim that the health care law is a "government takeover" deserved to be the Lie of the Year, but the e-mails overwhelmingly panned our conclusion. Several readers sending us links to critical blog posts on the libertarian website Reason and the conservative blog Hot Air. Today, the Wall Street Journal editorialized against it, calling it "PolitiFiction."

Below, we've collected the most interesting reader e-mail we've received, both pro and con. Letters are edited for style and length.

'You communist and anti-American leftists just don't get it.'

"I don't understand how 'the government takeover of our health care' can be the biggest lie of the year. To begin with, doesn't the government want to MANDATE that we all buy health care insurance? Secondly, isn't the government MANDATING that pre-existing conditions cannot disqualify one from getting private health insurance? Thirdly, isn't the government MANDATING that children must be covered by their parent's health insurance policy until the age of 26, which is way beyond adulthood?"

"The Lie of the Year is your cover-up of the government takeover of health care. What you seem to forget is that we all have access to the same Internet where we can fact check you. Nice try, but the people will no longer be so easily manipulated."

"When the government says it will regulate what insurers must cover, and what they can charge, it is a government takeover. I think when the government says you must pay a fine or buy insurance that you don't need, it is a government takeover. When the government indirectly decides which doctors you can see, it is a government takeover. Only a liberal steeped in Orwellian double-think could believe this is anything but a government takeover."

"Now honestly, to say that those who state that health care reform amounts to a government take over are liars? Reasonable people can look at the law and hold the opinion that the changes will put the private health care sector in an untenable position and create de facto government control of health care. This is an opinion, and quite likely a correct one. To equate this with a 'lie' is disingenuous. It is the equivalent of saying that those lonely voices who said our invasion of Iraq was a bad idea were lying simply because the Operational Plan did not include a murderous insurgency. Your reputation for fairness hangs by a thread here....."

"While your article did raise some interesting points, I don't consider PolitiFact to be the gospel as others may. It is true that the public option is not part of the health care bill, (but) it isn't because it wasn't attempted. Opposition to it is the only reason why it was excluded. Citing automobile insurance on the state level is also dishonest. You are required to have liability insurance since you're operating a dangerous vehicle -- it's required to protect the public. The state is well within its jurisdiction to mandate auto insurance; the federal government government is not within its rights to mandate health insurance. ... There is nothing free market about the federal government forcing insurance companies to accept those with pre-existing conditions. I have never used the words 'government takeover' -- I will agree that it is an exaggeration. However, concerns about overreach by our government are not. I think your site is useful, however it is not a stone tablet."

"How can it be a lie to say that Obama Care is a government takeover of the health care industry when it doesn't go into effect until 2014? Wouldn't it be an opinion until the event actually happens in the future? Only then will it be known whether it is or isn't a takeover."

"I respectfully disagree. If Obama care is fully implemented, it will control every aspect of medicine for every American and many that are not American citizens. Medicare and Medicaid use private contract processing agents also, but they are surely programs controlled by Washington. Are they not?"

"Your Lie of the Year is not even a statement of fact and is so vague that you cannot really affirm or deny it. Your decision to make that particular choice, however, shows your bias, which has been apparent in most of your opinions."

"I have to disagree with you and your readers who say that the Obama health care bill is not a government take over of health care. It most certainly IS a government takeover of health care. If you don't believe me, just wait and see what happens when you decide you don't want what the government wants to offer you as 'health care.'"

"I am disgusted that an organization that labels itself as a fact checker would be so partisan as to try and side with the liberals who crammed this takeover of health care down our throats and say it was a lie. It is NOT a lie and your credibility has just tanked to somewhere lower than the depths of the ocean. NEVER IN THE HISTORY OF THE U.S. has such a blatant takeover been done. NEVER has the government so stripped the rights of its citizens as this past congress did. How dare you say the biggest non-constitutional grab of power ever is not what it is. You have zero credibility from this point forward. You have shown yourself for what you are ... a mouthpiece for Obama and his cronies who want to destroy this nation and all its represented since we declared our freedom from England's monarchy. It's a shame that the biggest liars are the ones who represent themselves as fact checkers. You just told the biggest lie of 2010!!"

"You need to change your name to PolitiFiction."

"Listen up, you Obamanoids: Barry Hussein is a certifiable Marxist, ergo his agenda is Marxist, and that includes his predilections in the arena of 'health care' ... Well, it ain't over 'til it's over. We have much work to do in cashiering the remaining bulk of the Fascists in the House and Senate ... Once complete, your fans will have plenty of time to read your alleged fact-checking swill."

"The government did take over health care for all practical matters. ... We did have the greatest health care system in the world, and I do hope this gets totally defunded and repealed before it gets wiped out totally."

"If not changed or repealed, the health care law will certainly lead to a complete government takeover. A company will be foolish to continue offering expensive health care insurance to its employees if the alternative is to pay a small fine per employee and let them buy their own... often with subsidies. The Fed will be (and are) telling hospitals and doctors what they can charge. They are telling insurance companies what percentage of premiums they must spend on coverage. That's what any reasonable person would call seizing control. Obama himself has said he couldn't get complete takeover immediately... it will have to evolve over years."

"Can your organization please stop pretending that you don't lean left and spin 'news' to favor Democrats? The fake 'not biased' stuff is really transparent."

"Your analysis of the health care bill is quite one sided. It is the first article I've read on your (now unbookmarked) site. By your reckoning, the Trojan Horse wasn't an attack. I can only imagine that you got your Pulitzer from the same folks that gave Obama his Nobel."

"Your organization is a disgraceful left-wing communist outfit. If health care wasn't about destruction of the system, why was it crammed down our throats by deceptive means without being read? NOBODY knew what was in it. Why is hiring thousands of IRS agents part of the bill? This is about communism."

"Your site is slanted so far left....typical media. You give journalism a black eye! What happened to patriotism and truth in journalism? Take a hike ... Prior generations who fought and sacrificed EVERYTHING for this great country are rolling over in their graves. I know my dad is! By the way, if Obummer is Christian, why doesn't he go to church?"

"You're totally biased and I will never read anything with your name on it. People like you are destroying the news."

"Your Lie of the Year is just that -- a BIG LIE! You people truly are nuts and biased."

"How disingenuous! Harry Reid has come out and stated the public option is not dead. None of us are fooled. By loading on mandates and forcing everyone to buy them people will scream for tax payer funded government run health care or should we say single payer. Go back to your liberal snot land!"

"You communist and anti-American leftists just don't get it. Soon you will be panhandling on the streets, that is if you are not already turning tricks on the street corner."

'Thumbs-up for the effort'

"I am disgusted with both sides, but find your site a little left of center, which for a media-type site is actually pretty good nowadays. So I give you a thumbs-up for the effort. I look forward to reading more of your statements to see what items are not quite correct. Thanks for taking the time to read this and keep doing what you are doing and best wishes in the new year."

"Thank you for the report (on the) Lie of the Year: 'A government takeover of health care.' Thanks for exposing Republicans and their lies. I completely agree with you. That lie, together with Sarah Palin's 'death panels,' is just shameful. Shame on the GOP!"

"Thank you to the staff of PolitiFact! I believe that the services you provide are invaluable to America's future. … Those who put forth lies –- and those who so easily and readily believe them –- do not strengthen us. They weaken us and the very fabric of the United States of America. They do not respect us; they loathe us. They do not respect our institutions; they would undermine if not destroy them. They are relevant only because they sell out the truth in favor of their fifteen-minutes of self-serving media time. They do not add to the civility of discourse or the quality of life; they ridicule the very notions. They do not make us admirable to the world; they make us laughable and contemptible in the eyes of the rest of the world. They feed on inciting panic, thrive on attention and lust for the sound of their own voices and the sight of their names in print."

"I am merely concerned about what we're being fed by much of contemporary, popular media because it is the theater of partisan opinion, not fact-based news. Yet, I am deeply and truly frightened by the number of Americans who accept the lies at face value, then staunchly defend them as truths. As Adolf Hitler noted: Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it. I am comforted that the same Constitution which guarantees them freedom of speech does not require the rest of us to take them very seriously. I would fear much more for our future, were it not for people such as you. Keep up the good work!"

"I just wanted to thank you for putting the time, effort, and money into putting forth the best level truth you can. I appreciate the care and research that goes into checking the facts behind every statement made by politicians today. This is especially true in today's political climate where sensationalism is the norm, and opinion routinely replaces actual news. My only hope is that you all continue to report the truth and remain unbiased. You are among the last bastions of reality and honesty in media today. ... There are many of us out there that believe in moderate politics and honesty. Thank you again for keeping both sides accountable."