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As 2013 comes to close, it’s time again to share our most popular fact-checks from the past 12 months. Topics ranged from government surveillance to the national debt to the Obamas’ family vacation.
The following are the 10 fact-checks that received the most page views this year, in reverse order as a countdown to our most popular check.
10. Barack Obama says the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court 'is transparent'
The federal intelligence gathering community came under fire in 2013 after former National Security Agency employee Edward Snowden leaked information on the government’s classified spying programs. Amid the fallout, President Obama told Charlie Rose that the federal court that oversees some of those programs is "transparent." We rated the statement Pants on Fire.
9. Obama says Reagan raised debt ceiling 18 times; George W. Bush seven times
As Congress and the White House headed toward another impasse over the debt ceiling, Obama called on the nation to pressure Republicans to once again vote to increase the nation’s borrowing limit. He invoked his Republican predecessors to make his case, and we rated his statement True.
8. Sen. Ted Cruz says Obama 'just granted all of Congress an exception' to Obamacare
Just as uninsured Americans can purchase insurance on the federal or state-run health insurance marketplaces, Congress will to do the same. In fact, through a special provision in the law, members of Congress were forced out of the insurance programs for government employees and onto the online marketplaces. We rated Cruz’s statement False.
7. Al Sharpton defends Obama family vacation, saying George W. Bush spent more time away
Presidential vacations often draw the scorn of the opposing party, whether for the cost to taxpayers or to accuse the commander in chief of skirting his duties. Obama has certainly not been the exception, as Republicans have notably counted the rounds of golf he has played since taking office. Sharpton set to quiet the critics, telling his MSNBC viewers that Bush spent four times as much time vacationing as Obama. And for the most part, Sharpton was right and we rated his statement Mostly True.
6. Ann Coulter says no doctors who went to an American medical school will be accepting Obamacare
Coulter, a conservative author and pundit, is known for her provocative statements. But there was absolutely no basis for her claim about doctors in the law or in news reports. And while there are certainly concerns in the health care industry surrounding doctors not accepting Medicaid patients, it had nothing to do with where they earn their degrees. We rated her statement Pants on Fire.
5. Harry Reid says 82 presidential nominees have been blocked under President Barack Obama, 86 blocked under all other presidents
Multiple fights in the Senate over filibuster rules twice tempted Senate Majority Leader Reid to flirt with the so-called nuclear option, a consequential shakeup of chamber rules to benefit the ruling party. As he stated his case (before going through with it), Reid accused Republicans of blocking more Obama nominees than all his predecessors combined. We took issue with the wording, but we rated his statement Mostly True.
4. Obama says deficit is falling at the fastest rate in 60 years
Back in his home state of Illinois, Obama was hoping to shift the political conversation back to the economy when he dropped the stat on the deficit. His statement was not about the national debt, which continues to grow. Obama was instead talking about the annual federal budget deficit, which was in decline. We rated his statement True.
3. PBS commentator Mark Shields says more killed by guns since '68 than in all U.S. wars
Shields made these comments following the mass shooting at a Newtown, Conn., school that left 20 young children and six adults dead. While the statement was made in 2012, it remained popular among readers in 2013 as Congress debated gun control.
2. A closer look at a Facebook post on a man's struggle with the Obamacare marketplace
This one proved (again) that anyone can write whatever they would like on the Internet, but it doesn’t make it true. A man posted a sob story on the HealthCare.gov claiming he was fined $4,000 after a long, process to "opt-out" of the law. It was completely false, and apparently, a lot of readers sent along our fact check to friends who fell for hoax, because it was easily the second most-read story of the year. We rated it Pants on Fire.
1. 'Dhimmitude' on page 107 of the health care law exempts Muslims, claims chain email
This email preyed on anti-Muslim fears and angst about the Affordable Care Act, and apparently, it’s gone viral. The law does not mention the word "dhimmitude" on page 107 (or anywhere else), and Muslims are not exempt from the health care law. This fact-check was the most read PolitiFact post of 2013.
See individual fact-checks for complete sources.