Chain e-mails, generally characterized by exclamation points, typos and a strained relationship with the truth, were perhaps the most effective distribution method for falsehoods in the 2008 presidential campaign.
They spread like viruses, infecting the ill-informed and anyone unfortunate enough to be in their address book.
But they live on.
This one targets Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat and speaker of the House of Representatives, accusing her of trying to take money from retirees and give it to illegal immigrants.
A version of this e-mail popped up as early as October 2006, just before the Democrats won control of the House. "'Only the rich benefit from these record highs,'" it alleged Pelosi said about the stock market. "'There is no question these windfall profits and income created by the Bush administration need to be taxed at 100 percent rate and those dollars redistributed to the poor and working class.'"
Pelosi never said anything of the kind. (If she had, it's reasonable to conclude it would have hampered her fundraising, which netted $151,000 from the securities and investment sector in the past two years.)
A more recent version, forwarded numerous times to PolitiFact from readers imploring us to check it out, shares the same thrust, though it is in a class by itself when it comes to misplaced capital letters.
"Nancy Pelosi wants a Windfall Tax on Retirement Income," it says. "Madam speaker [where's that shift key when you need it?] Nancy Pelosi wants to put a Windfall Tax on all stock market profits, including Retirement fund, 401K and Mutual Funds! Alas, it is true — all to help the 12 Million Illegal Immigrants and other unemployed Minorities!"
"Send it on to your friends," the e-mail concludes. "I just did!! This lady is out of her mind."
Pelosi's office is well-practiced at responding to inquiries about this hoax, and did so with a prepared letter from the speaker:
"Internet and e-mail rumors indicating that I support a windfall profits tax on earnings from the stock market are completely and utterly fabricated," Pelosi's letter says. "In addition, my record on promoting retirement security and strengthening 401(k)'s and other savings incentives in the tax code contradict these rumors."
The Democratic presidential candidates kicked around the idea of a windfall tax on oil companies, and Democrats support the idea of raising the capital gains tax rate somewhat. But there simply is not a shred of proof in the public record that Pelosi has ever advocated anything even remotely like the windfall tax described in these e-mails.
In her letter she provided links to two other fact-checkers who have debunked these e-mails, Snopes.com and Truthorfiction.com. She might consider adding FactCheck.org — they took on this hoax on Jan. 14, 2009.
And by all means, feel free to add us to the list. This chain e-mail, distinguished by its longevity and implausibility, is Pants on Fire wrong.