Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

Jon Huntsman and the Truth-O-Meter

We've checked Huntsman 15 times and given him one Pants on Fire.
We've checked Huntsman 15 times and given him one Pants on Fire.

Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of stories summarizing our ratings on the Republican candidates for president. We'll be publishing them through Dec. 31.

Among the Republican presidential candidates, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has faced the Truth-O-Meter 15 times mostly managed to avoid our worst ratings.

Of the 15 statements we’ve rated, Huntsman -- a comparative moderate in the Republican field who is lagging in national primary polls -- earned one Pants on Fire and no Falses. By contrast, he earned two Trues, four Mostly Trues, four Half Trues and four Mostly Falses.

The Pants on Fire came when Huntsman repeated a Republican talking point we’ve criticized on numerous occasions -- that "the IRS is already planning on 19,500 new employees to administer" President Barack Obama’s health care mandate.

But for the claims that hit closest to home -- those related to his tenure as governor or as U.S. Ambassador to China -- Huntsman typically ranked in the middle of our scale.

He boasted that "we created a flat tax in the state of Utah." While the tax changes he implemented didn’t produce a pure flat tax system, we found that it was flatter than what preceded it. We rated this claim Mostly True.

When he provided more detail to the claim, however, his accuracy fell. We gave a Mostly False to the statement that when he was governor of Utah, he worked with the Legislature to create a flat tax that "cut income taxes by 30 percent."

We gave a Half True to Huntsman’s claim that Utah was "the No. 1 job creator in this country during my years of service" as governor, with a 5.9 percent increase in jobs. Utah did do well compared to most states, but the Huntsman camp used the wrong set of statistics when declaring itself the undisputed champion.

As for China-related items, Huntsman earned a Half True for his claim that China is or soon will be "the largest English-speaking nation" in the world. We found some truth to the underlying point that there is tremendous growth in English proficiency in China. But it's important to note there is a significant difference between English learners and speakers, and by this standard, China remains far away from having the largest number of English speakers.

And Huntsman earned a Mostly True for the claim that there are 500 million Internet users "and 80 million bloggers who are driving discussions in China. … So you’ve got a lot of people voicing frustration and discontent." The one quibble we had is that experts say the vast majority of bloggers are writing about social rather than political topics.

Finally, Huntsman scored well when he pointed out alleged flip-flops by his main competitor for votes in New Hampshire -- Mitt Romney. We called it True that Romney flip-flopped on abortion and Mostly True that Romney flip-flopped on gun control.