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The challenge facing PolitiFact Oregon and its affiliate sites entails finding claims that can be held up and assessed thoroughly enough to render up or down judgments.
Was a politician truthful in saying an opponent voted to end life as we know it? Did an administration official err in asserting that Congress wants to take vacation from now until the end of time?
These sorts of claims, of course, generally come away with PolitiFact’s harshest assessment – the dreaded Pants on Fire rating.
We’ve assembled a collection of five such claims for today’s PolitiFact Oregon Roundup. Before the pantaloons stop smoking, let’s get to it.
Images of hundreds of unaccompanied minors from Central America showing up at the U.S. border have moved off the front page in recent weeks, but the topic remains incendiary on the Internet. In Iowa, a chain email is circulating lauding Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, for supposedly standing up to President Barack Obama’s decision to send more than 100 of those children to Iowa. The governor, the email claimed, chartered a jet and sent 124 immigrant children back to Honduras.
The governor’s office denied the report, according to PolitiFact National’s check. It also found Branstad lacked the power to take such action, even if he wanted to. This claim lit up in flames.
An Internet blogger, unhappy with the "ALS Ice Bucket Challenge" that’s all the rage right now, recently claimed that "over 73 percent of all donations raised (from the challenge) are going to fundraising, overhead, executive salaries, and external donations."
"In reality," the check found, "nearly 79 percent of the ALS Association’s expenditures were for purposes that advance its stated mission." Hmmm. Who’d have thought an ice bucket could walk away with its Pants on Fire?
Sen. Mark Begich, the incumbent Democrat from Alaska, had to pull an ad recently that accused Republican Dan Sullivan of being soft on crime during his 18-month tenure as attorney general. Begich said Sullivan approved a "light sentence" for a sex offender now charged with "murdering a senior couple and sexually assaulting their two-year-old granddaughter."
The criminal, who is awaiting trial, did receive a shorter sentence than he was supposed to, but the mistake occurred before Sullivan became AG, according to the check. Begich’s suggestion that Sullivan actively approved the sentence "is a fabrication." The rating? Trousers aflame.
A Facebook meme making the rounds accuses McDonald’s of using hamburger meat containing only 15 percent "real beef." The rest, it says, is made up of "meat filler cleaned with ammonia, which causes stomach and intestinal cancer."
The check concluded that the fast-food giant stopped using the "filler" in question in 2011. Even then, the burger contained nowhere near 85 percent filler, it found. "What’s more, the lean beef does not have any documented links to cancer," it reported. The only thing hotter than the restaurant’s grill here is the Pants on Fire claim.
More Internet tomfoolery comes in the form of a chain email, which purports to quote Vaclav Klaus, former president of the Czech Republic. In it, Klaus supposedly said, among other things, that the American people were a ‘confederacy of fools’ to elect Obama.
"This quote," the check found, "has had various attributions since it first appeared on the Internet more than five years ago. The quote’s true origins may be forever buried far down in the depths of the Internet, but we’re sure it didn’t come from Klaus." Another rating, up in smoke.