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PolitiFact California’s most popular fact checks in 2016 included our investigations of claims that now Vice President-elect Mike Pence denies evolution and supports conversion therapy. These provocative assertions, made by California Gov. Jerry Brown and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, respectively, held some truth but were not fully supported.
Others on our Top 10 list include fact checks on the health of California’s economy and about the state’s hotly-contested ballot measures — including one that would have required condoms in pornography.
Altogether in our first year, PolitiFact California produced 63 fact checks. We also published a dozen in-depth articles, two of which were particularly popular with readers: Fact & Fiction: Ending California’s Drought, which debunked myths about the state’s long dry spell; And Examining Bernie Sanders’ claim: Prop 61 ‘great for California taxpayers’. That article investigated the Vermont senator’s statement about the state’s prescription drug ballot measure.
Here are our Top 10 most popular fact-checks in reverse order:
10. Is California's economy 'growing a hell of a lot faster' than Texas?
Gov. Jerry Brown said in December that "California is growing a hell of a lot faster than Texas." Brown was on the right track. California has expanded jobs and per capita personal income faster than Texas in recent years. There are a few examples, however, where that growth has been strong but not necessarily "a hell of a lot faster." We rated his claim Mostly True.
9. Mostly False claim that California gun control measure will 'criminalize' the sharing of bullets
A gun rights group asserted in June that California's Proposition 63 would "criminalize the sharing of bullets between hunting and shooting partners." The measure makes sharing bullets with a felon a misdemeanor, but the vast majority of people would not be affected. We found the claim is way off target. We rated it Mostly False.
8. Viral Facebook claim about Target adding urinals to women’s restroom is Pants On Fire
Fake news spread in April when a viral facebook post, including a photo, claimed Target had installed urinals in a women's’ restroom in Los Angeles. Target representatives called the claim "inaccurate" as did fact-checking site Snopes.com. The original poster never responded, and no other photos of the alleged urinal surfaced. We rated the claim Pants On Fire.
7. Pence dodges question but doesn’t outright 'deny’ evolution
California Gov. Jerry Brown said in June that now Vice President-elect Mike Pence "denies that there's such a thing as evolution." Pence has expressed skepticism of science and dodged the question of whether he believes in evolution multiple times, leaving the impression he rejects it. He has not, however, explicitly said he denies it. We rated Brown’s claim Half True.
6. Donald Trump’s claim about receiving the most votes ever in Republican primaries is False … for now
Speaking in April at the California Republican Party Convention, then candidate Donald Trump claimed: "In the history of Republican primaries, I’ve gotten the most votes in the history of the Republican party." At the time, Trump was on pace to break the record but still 800,000 votes shy. We rated his claim False … for now. We later updated the fact check to show he broke the record in late May.
5. Ted Cruz misfires on Feinstein gun claim
During a GOP presidential candidates debate in January, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz claimed California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein has stated her desire to tell Americans "I want all of your guns," or "I'm rounding 'em up." The claim distorts Feinstein’s call to ban all assault weapons, which is a far cry from banning all guns. We rated Cruz’s statement False.
4. Mostly True: Bernie Sanders' claim about U.S. voter turnout one of 'lowest on earth'
At a campaign rally in San Diego in June, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders claimed: "Today, the United States has, sadly, one of the lowest voter turnouts of any major country on earth." Research shows he’s correct. But unlike the U.S., some major countries require their citizens to cast ballots. Sanders’ statement could have used this additional information. We rated it Mostly True.
3. Will California’s Prop 60 expose adult film workers to lawsuits?
Opponents of California's Proposition 60, requiring condoms in pornography, claimed in June the measure would expose adult film workers to lawsuits. They had a point. But they left out the key context that only workers with a financial stake in the content would be liable. We rated their claim Half True.
2. Pants On Fire for viral rumor Bernie Sanders won California
Blog site Justice Gazette claimed in June after California’s presidential primary -- with no evidence -- that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders "wins California landslide, But ⅔ of his votes aren’t counted." Sanders’ campaign never made such a claim, and told us "No one’s questioning the fundamental integrity of the election." We rated the claim Pants On Fire.
1. Pence's support for conversion therapy not a settled matter
California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said in July that now Vice President-elect Mike Pence "advocated diverting taxpayer dollars to so-called conversion therapy." Pence’s words on his 2000 congressional campaign website have been interpreted by LGBT advocates as supporting the controversial practice. We found, however, the claim is not fully supported and rated it Half True.
As we move into our second full year, we’d like feedback from you -- our audience. Whether you agree or disagree with our ratings, we’d like to hear your voice.
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We also want your ideas for a fact-check. Have you heard something that makes you wonder: ‘Is that true?’ If so, fill out a form here with your idea.
It’s now time for more fact-checking in 2017.
A Happy New Year to all!
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