The Top Ten of 2013
By Tom Kertscher
Published on Monday, December 30th, 2013 at 10:00 p.m.
What do Hillary Clinton, Scott Walker and the Wal-Mart Waltons have in common?
Popularity among PolitiFact Wisconsin fans.
Based on page-views at PolitiFactWisconsin.com, articles about those folks piqued our readers’ interest the most in 2013.
Items about Obamacare, the NRA and property taxes did, too.
So, here’s a rundown. We hope you enjoy our version of re-gifting.
Please spend time with us again in 2014, which features elections for governor and attorney general.
Trust us: there’ll be plenty to fact check.
1. "What difference does it make?"
Our most-clicked item was something of an outlier. It was an In Context article in May that got a big boost after Matt Drudge linked to it.
The quote came from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during an exchange she had with U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. The setting was a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing about the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
"Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night and decided they’d go kill some Americans," Clinton said in response to questions from Johnson. "What difference – at this point, what difference does it make?"
2. 250,00 jobs
Walker’s promise to create 250,000 private-sector jobs by January 2015 led readers again and again to that page of our Walk-O-Meter, which tracks 65 of the governor’s campaign pledges. We update the status of the jobs promise regularly.
At last check, Walker was less than halfway toward keeping the jobs pledge.
3. Walker’s college days
Our December article investigating Walker’s time at Marquette University looked at how and why he left school and what role he had in a student government controversy. After the item was published, the state Democratic Party removed from its website the accusation that Walker was kicked out of school and student elections.
4. Wal-Mart Waltons’ wealth
Ahead of the annual Black Friday shopping day in late November, the liberal One Wisconsin Now advocacy group stated: "The Walton family, which owns Wal-Mart, controls a fortune equal to the wealth of the bottom 42 percent of Americans combined." We rated the statement True.
An economist using the latest figures available determined the Waltons’ wealth in 2010 was valued at $89.5 billion -- equal to the entire bottom 41.5 percent of American families.
Important to remember: The statement was about wealth, not income. A person can have a big income but negative wealth if, for example, their debts outweigh assets, such as their home and savings accounts.
In late September, two days ahead of what turned out to be the troubled launch of the Obamacare marketplaces, we published a roundup of statements on the Affordable Care Act that we and PolitiFact National had rated on the Truth-O-Meter.
6. Off target
The most-clicked Pants on Fire item of the year was uttered by Walker. In January, in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, Walker said too much attention was paid to the weapon used in mass shootings and stated: "We just had someone last week in Neenah near a school kill someone with a bow and arrow." No such homicide ever occurred.
7. NRA and KKK
Another Pants on Fire statement that got a lot of page-views was made by the president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce; we took notice in June after the Milwaukee County Republican Party posted it on its website.
The statement: The National Rifle Association was " founded by religious leaders who wanted to protect freed slaves from the Ku Klux Klan." The NRA itself says the group was formed by Union Civil War veterans to improve soldiers’ marksmanship. And we found no evidence that religious leaders founded the NRA to protect freed slaves from the KKK.
8. Blocking and rocking
Our final Truth-O-Meter item of 2013 also turned out to be one of our most popular.
In his memoir, released in November 2013, Walker said that during a 2011 demonstration, protesters surrounded, blocked and rocked his vehicle. Unable to find any evidence that the demonstration became that unruly, we rated Walker’s claim False.
9. Wealth disparity
The most enduring PolitiFact Wisconsin item since we launched in September 2010 involves liberal filmmaker Michael Moore. Attending a protest in Madison in 2011, he said 400 Americans "have more wealth than half of all Americans combined." We rated the claim True and readers have been clicking on it ever since.
10. Fact disparity
Computer mouses also liked another Walker Pants on Fire claim. In October, he said his property tax relief legislation would save the typical Wisconsin homeowner $680 over four years. We found nothing to back up that number or anything close to it. You could only get to it using a rough hypothetical scenario based on some big assumptions.
We welcome suggestions for statements that we should consider fact checking:
You may comment on this item on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel website.
PolitiFact Wisconsin articles as noted.
Researchers: Tom Kertscher
We want to hear your suggestions and comments. Email the Wisconsin Truth-O-Meter with feedback and with claims you'd like to see checked. If you send us a comment, we'll assume you don't mind us publishing it unless you tell us otherwise.