Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Happy birthday, PolitiFact! PolitiFact turns 7

Happy birthday to us!
Happy birthday to us!

On Aug. 22, 2007, we launched an experiment in accountability journalism just because we thought American politics could use more fact-checking. We called it PolitiFact.

Today, our fact-checking website is still going strong. The most exciting thing we did in the last year: We launched PunditFact, our website devoted exclusively to fact-checking the pundits.

In honor of our seventh birthday, we’re counting down the 7 most popular fact-checks of the past 12 months from both PolitiFact and PunditFact.

7. Did Hobby Lobby once provide the birth control coverage it sued the Obama administration over?

On CNN, commentator Sally Kohn panned a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court against the Obama administration and for Hobby Lobby. The issue: whether employers should have to provide contraception such as morning-after pills if they had religious beliefs against it.

Kohn suggested the company was playing politics on the issue: "Hobby Lobby provided this coverage before they decided to drop it to file suit."

The Christian-owned company did previously offer insurance plans that included the coverage, but reports suggest owners weren't aware of it. When the company found out, it stopped offering the drugs and took the contraceptive mandate to court. We rated her statement Mostly True.

6. Could a minimum-wage earner in 1978 earn enough in a summer to pay a full year's tuition?

A Facebook meme said that "in 1978, a student who worked a minimum-wage summer job could afford to pay a year's full tuition at the 4-year public university of their choice."

The data is correct for average in-state tuition -- but not for any university in the country, where out-of-state rates may well have kicked up the tuition amount beyond a summer’s minimum-wage haul. On balance, we rated the claim Mostly True.

5. Did Ted Nugent conduct federal raids with the DEA, the ATF, the FBI, U.S. Marshals, and the Texas Rangers?

Ted Nugent got media attention this year not for his music for calling President Barack Obama a "subhuman mongrel." That phrase has connotations with the Nazis, and Nugent apologized. But he also said law enforcement uses the term.

"I've been a cop in Lake County, Michigan, since 1982 thereabout," Nugent said I conduct federal raids with the DEA and ATF and U.S. Marshals and the FBI and Texas Rangers and heroes of law enforcement. … We call bad people who are destroying our neighborhoods mongrels."

Nugent is not a cop in Michigan by any conventional meaning of the word. No agency said he presently plays any role in any of their raids. We rated his claim Pants on Fire.

4.  Did Obama say that "ordinary men and women are too small-minded to govern their own affairs" and that people should "surrender their rights to an all-powerful sovereign"?

A chain email spliced together two separate thoughts from one of Obama’s actual speeches in a way that twists Obama’s remarks beyond recognition. He said nothing about people surrendering their rights to an all-powerful monarch. We rated the video’s claim Pants on Fire.

3. Who vacationed more, Bush or Obama?

People often criticize presidents when they take vacation. MSNBC’s Rev. Al Sharpton defended Obama in August 2013. Sharpton that Obama "has taken 92 days of vacation since he was sworn in," compared to 367 for President George W. Bush at the same point in his presidency.

The difference is explained by the fact that Bush often worked from a family home in Texas, whereas Obama has no equivalent family retreat. But Sharpton correctly cited data from the leading authority, CBS News’ Mark Knoller. We rated the statement Mostly True.

2. Was a man fined $4,037 for opting out of buying health insurance from healthcare.gov?

Readers sent us a Facebook post from a man who that he tried to sign up for Obamacare back in 2013, then decided to not go along with it. He then said he received an email detailing fines he would face and how they’d be directly deducted from his bank account.

The post includes elements that make no sense or are flat-out wrong -- and can be easily debunked by reading the law or reliable summaries of it. We rated it Pants on Fire.  

1. Does 'Dhimmitude' appear on page 107 of the health care law?

Have you ever heard of "Dhimmitude"? A chain email claimed that "dhimmitude" is on page 107 of the health care law, and it means Muslims will be exempt from the health care law.

In fact, the email is wrong on just about everything: The word "dhimmitude" is not in the law. Muslims are not specifically exempted. And if anyone is exempted, it’s a small number of Christian groups. We rated the claim Pants on Fire.