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C. Eugene Emery Jr.
By C. Eugene Emery Jr. November 30, 2011

Talk-show host John DePetro says for eight years, Governor Carcieri hosted lighting of 'Christmas tree'

Thanksgiving is over and you know what that means -- shopping, bright lights, parties and the traditional gnashing of teeth by people who obsess over what to call those evergreens bedecked with lights and baubles.

You could hear the molars grinding Nov. 29 when WPRO talk-show host John DePetro complained indignantly that Governor Lincoln Chafee, an independent, had invited everyone to the lighting of the "holiday tree" at the State House.

While talking to guest state Rep. Joseph Trillo, a Republican who co-sponsored a House resolution in January urging that such trees always be referred to as Christmas trees, DePetro said the terminology used by Chafee (whom DePetro calls "Governor Grinch") was a break from tradition.

"For the past eight years, Gov. Carcieri and Mrs. Carcieri would host the lighting of the State House Christmas tree," he said, referring to Chafee's predecessor, Republican Donald Carcieri.

Chafee's office issued a response asserting that "use of the term 'holiday tree' is a continuation of past practice."

So who is correct?

Credit Ted Nesi of WPRI.com for digging into this one.

Nesi found the Carcieris' 2009 invitation to "The Annual Holiday Tree Lighting," which includes a list of "Holiday festivities." The word "Christmas" doesn't appear.

One of Nesi’s Twitter followers forwarded an archived 2006 news release from Carcieri that talks about "the annual tree-lighting ceremony." The word "Christmas" never appears.

We found another news release, this one from 2003, in which there's no reference to Christmas in the announcement of the "annual tree-lighting ceremony."

When we contacted DePetro Tuesday evening, he said he did a Google search and found that in 2010 it was referred to as a Christmas tree. "I just went on last year," he said. "I think I said the eight years, but I didn't have that as a fact."

Our ruling

Talk-radio host John DePetro stated, "For the past eight years Gov. Carcieri and Mrs. Carcieri would host the lighting of the State House Christmas tree" -- emphasizing the words "Christmas tree" --  to criticize Chafee's reference to "holiday tree."

Certainly the Carcieri administration wasn't reluctant to use the term "Christmas tree." But we found more than a few exceptions that used the term "holiday tree" -- just as Chafee has -- and the word "Christmas" was noticeably absent.

We rule DePetro's statement False.

(Get updates from PolitiFactRI on Twitter. To comment or offer your ruling, visit us on our PolitiFact Rhode Island Facebook page.)

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Our Sources

RI.gov, "Governor Chafee to Host State House Holiday Tree Lighting, Announces Other State House Holiday Events," Nov. 28, 2011, accessed Nov. 29, 2011

630WPRO.com, "John DePetro Show - Trillo talks about Governor Grinch," Nov. 29, 2011, accessed Nov. 29, 2011

WPRI.com, "'Holiday trees' nothing new at the Rhode Island Statehouse," Nesi's Notes, Nov. 29, 2011, accessed Nov. 29, 2011

Facebook.com, "Annual State House Christmas Tree Lighting," Rhode Island Senate, Dec. 10, 2010, accessed Nov. 29, 2011.

Web.Archive.org, "Governor & Mrs. Carcieri to Host Annual Tree-Lighting Event," Dec. 1, 2003 and "Governor to Host Tree Lighting Ceremony," Nov. 21, 2006, both accessed Nov. 29, 2011

Interview, John DePetro, talk-radio host, WPRO-AM, Nov. 29, 2011

RILIN.state.ri.us, "2011 -- 5005 -- House Resolution Respecting Christmas Trees," accessed Nov. 29, 2011

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Talk-show host John DePetro says for eight years, Governor Carcieri hosted lighting of 'Christmas tree'

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