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Pumpkin pies, pilgrims and pre-existing conditions: PolitiFact’s 2018 Thanksgiving dinner guide
By Kyra Haas November 18, 2018

The conversation may start out innocently enough, but there will be hints of what’s to come after the turkey’s been carved.

"I love all of you, regardless of your pre-existing conditions."

"My, my, you’re getting tall! Almost as tall as the border wall."

Then, after a few rounds of stuffing and possibly a few rounds of something stronger, someone will say something you can’t ignore.

"This pie is delicious. Democrat activists are funding the caravan, you know."

They’re not. You know that. You can bite your tongue, but for how long?

Like the last piece of pumpkin pie, a fact-based Thanksgiving conversation is calling your name. (We can’t promise it will be civil.)

We’re here to help you tackle the common falsehoods circulating this holiday season. Find your place card, grab a fork and dig in.

Stick a fork in the election, it’s rigged

Some guests at your table might still be grumbling about the midterm elections just a couple of weeks ago. Like some elected officials, they may even question the integrity of the vote.

Florida saw three statewide recounts of high-profile races. But there’s no evidence to support President Donald Trump and Gov. Rick Scott’s claims of fraud in the left-leaning Florida counties of Broward or Palm Beach. In the case of Broward, though, it’s Mostly True that its election department has a history of violating the law. However, while there’s a long list of errors and problems in vote counting in the county, that’s different than fraud.

Debate on pre-existing conditions coverage: a mouthful

You couldn’t open your mailbox without a campaign mailer from a Democrat calling out a Republican for weakening or trying to eliminate pre-existing conditions protections. You also couldn’t make it through an episode of "This is Us" without a Republican ad saying the Democrat lied about Republican’s position.

Here’s the short version of what to know (and here’s the long one): Prior to the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, private insurers could deny coverage to sick people who were not insured by their employers or the government (and even in those cases, some people could be shut out for a year). They could also offer them a health plan that excluded coverage for their pre-existing condition, or charge higher prices.

Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare have all aimed to retain the guarantee that past conditions would be no bar to new coverage. But Democrats didn’t buy it, and built a slew of attacks against Republicans based on that in Nevada, Indiana, Florida, North Dakota and beyond.

We found Republican proposals are not as air-tight as Obamacare. But no one actively campaigned on cutting coverage.

Skip the socialism

Your cousin might say the Democratic candidates in your district were actually socialists who wanted the United States to be more like Venezuela or Cuba.

Save the red scare for an undercooked turkey. We rated individual attacks and sweeping versions of these socialism claims False and Pants on Fire.  

In one example, Florida Gov. Rick Scott claimed his Democratic opponent in the Florida Senate race, incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, was a socialist. Nelson doesn’t want to abolish ICE. He isn’t interested in Medicare for All, and he’s voted for tax cuts on occasion. We rated that statement Pants on Fire.

Socialism is when the government owns (or at least controls) the means of production. It has also been used to refer to expanding already available social programs and potentially raising taxes to do so. That’s how more left-leaning politicians like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., or Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., use the term.

A side of Mediscare

One of those programs is Medicare. While Democrats have proposed numerous ways to expand health care coverage, the most aggressive is Medicare for All.

Trump has suggested that Medicare for All would obliterate Medicare. The proposed new system would actually get exchange Medicare and Medicare Advantage as they stand for a new program with more generous coverage. But tell your grandpa to breathe easy because nobody would lose their health care coverage. And anyway, the bill still has a long way to go.

Sanctuary cities

If your sister opens her round of giving thanks by saying she’s grateful she doesn’t live in one of those sanctuary cities where people are rioting in the streets, take a deep breath.

You can tell her she has even more cause for gratitude, because there’s no credible evidence of that happening.

In recent rallies, Trump said that criminals and gang members were being released into communities en masse. Trump said people were rioting in California over sanctuary cities. Pants on Fire. He said "thousands upon thousands of illegal alien criminals and vicious gang members" were preying on the streets in Pennsylvania. Also not true. He also said ICE liberated towns from the violent MS-13 gang. False.

Tax cuts

Taxes are drier than turkey, but you might overhear your neighbor dressing down your uncle over the 2017 Republican tax law — did he save money or not? The 2017 Republican tax bill passed without Democratic support. During election season, some Republicans said if Democrats were elected, they would look to raise taxes and repeal the 2017 tax law.

In 2019, all income groups would experience a tax break, but the benefits of the bill would flow disproportionately to higher income groups over time. Some Democrats criticized the bill for not benefiting the middle class enough. Some Democrats do support repealing the law and replacing it.

We’ve rated several Democratic iterations of a claim that around 80 percent of Trump tax breaks go to the wealthiest 1 percent. That’s only true in 2027 — the last year of the tax law. In the two earlier years estimated by the Tax Policy Center, the share going to the highest income group was between 20 and 25 percent.

The caravan

The caravan headed toward the U.S.-Mexico border might make some waves in the gravy boat. Be sure to mash potatoes, not facts — there’s a lot of misinformation.

The migrants in the caravan were not caught on camera burning the American flag; that’s Pants on Fire. There’s no evidence of Middle Easterners being mixed in. Given what we know about the caravan, it’s an exaggeration to call it an "invasion" because the migrants are seeking asylum and are not an organized, armed group. While some are hitching rides on passing vehicles, most are walking. Because of this, they won’t reach the border for weeks or months.

Secondhand social media ‘news’

If your cousin starts a story with, "Well, I saw on Facebook…,"  that’s a big red flag.

Secondhand social media news is likely, at minimum, to omit nuance, and just as likely to be completely inaccurate. We’ve doubled down on our false news checks, but there’s a never-ending stream of junk out there.  

Nearing Election Day, misinformation was rampant.

Did Black Panthers take over and wage war in the streets of Atlanta? Nope.

Was the guy who sent pipe bombs to people who are critical of the president a Democrat posing as a Republican? No.

Did Democrats vote twice in Maryland? Pants on Fire.

False news blogs and posts often feed on fears, baiting clicks by stretching any semblance of truth tighter than your post-Thanksgiving dinner waistband. They pull content from satire sites and present it as fact. They use old, unrelated photos to make new, suspicious claims.

By sticking to trusted sources and savvy techniques, you can help your loved ones stay focused on what’s important: making it to naptime.

Clarification, Nov. 20, 2018: This story has been edited to clarify varying definitions of socialism.

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Pumpkin pies, pilgrims and pre-existing conditions: PolitiFact’s 2018 Thanksgiving dinner guide