The Readers' Choice poll: Comments from readers

The Capitol Dome and the Capitol Christmas Tree are illuminated on Dec. 11, 2014. (AP Photo)
The Capitol Dome and the Capitol Christmas Tree are illuminated on Dec. 11, 2014. (AP Photo)

Choosing the Lie of the Year is always a tough task for PolitiFact — and it’s no easy feat for our readers either.

We received 14,000 responses to our Lie of the Year Readers' Poll and 1,400 people submitted additional comments as well. The most common reaction we received, by far, was: How can we just pick one?

"It is hard to choose because all of these statements earn a plaque, and the picture of the person stating it, on the wall of shame."

"Can there be a 10-way tie?"

But, in the end, people found a way to whittle the choices down to their "favorite" lie. A plurality of people, nearly 32 percent, went with a statement by Louisiana Republican lawmaker Lenar Whitney, a failed congressional candidate who put out a bombshell video claiming, "Global warming is a hoax." We rated that statement Pants on Fire.

Many of our readers said they gravitated toward Whitney’s whopper among the 10 lies presented because of the significance of the issue.

  • One reader said if global warming "takes hold then all the other concerns really won't matter that much."

  • "Global warming is the most important facing the U.S. and the world today."

  • "Many of them are hugely bad. But global warming is the only issue that affects the possibility of life on earth as we know it — or even close to what we know."

A handful of people let us know they didn’t think Whitney’s quote should be part of our list. Why? They agreed with Whitney’s statement. "Global warming is a hoax. We are in the beginning of a cold period," one reader said.

It seems every year people on both end of the political spectrum allege poll fixing by examining the choices we provide — even though we make it clear that this isn’t a scientific survey, and the results don’t have any bearing on the official Lie of the Year. This year was no different.

A conservative reader alleged that by having two entries for President Barack Obama "you've cannibalized his votes. Those two point totals should be combined."

But another reader claimed the opposite, and said the deck was stacked against Obama.

"Because most of the statements are criticisms of Obama and his policies, most of the votes will probable be split between these options. Inversely the two statements made by Obama; while possibly receiving less total votes than the statements made about him, will likely be the top vote receivers as a result of there being fewer such options."

But it’s all a matter of point of view, perhaps. Because others saw balance in the options.  

"It is pleasing to see that your choice of quotations is more-or-less equally divided between lies emanating from both the left and right wings."

A good number of readers agreed with our ultimate pick for Lie of the Year: exaggerations about Ebola. While such phrasing was not an option for readers to vote on, there were two Ebola-related claims that together received 7.2 percent of the vote.

One came from Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., who claimed that migrants may be bringing Ebola virus through the U.S.-Mexico border. (Pants on Fire)

As one reader put it: "This lie has it all. It combines the racist fear of Mexican immigrants infiltrating this country with the nonracist but equally outrageous fear of a massive Ebola outbreak in the U.S."

The other Ebola claim came from conservative commentator George Will, who said research showed Ebola could be spread through a cough or sneeze. (False)

Some people took particular issue with Will’s comments because they didn’t come from a politician, but a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper columnist.

"I chose George Will because I expect politicians to expand the truth, but I expect journalists to endeavor to adhere to it, particularly when they could create panic."

This idea that the speaker’s position should be a factor was reflected in many answers. Some people specifically said they chose one of the two statements by Obama because of his stature:

"Weight should be given to who is telling the lie, some political pundit or the president of the United States lying to the American people?"

Others picked the False statement by Republican House Speaker John Boehner for similar sentiments:

"We can tolerate and chuckle at inanities from the likes of (Rep.) Louie Gohmert — but not from the Speaker."

Of course, some people said many of the year’s biggest fibs we absent. There was remorse that the choices didn’t include claims about the Senate’s CIA torture report, released after the list was finalized. Had we waited a couple weeks, perhaps Rep. Peter King’s latest salvo would have made the cut.

A noticeable contingency of commenters said we overlooked claims about the safety of Genetically Modified Foods. We don’t quite know what to make of that, but we’ll try harder in 2015.

Many readers had kind words and thank you’s for our work. (We thank you back!)

"Keep up the good work! I don't always like what you publish, but my dislike is issued towards those who utter the statements."

"Thanks again for this important service."

"There are some good ones here. Thanks for collecting them. I definitely appreciate your efforts to call out self-serving dissembling."