PolitiFact's 9 biggest whoppers of the 2014 campaign
One thing we’ve noticed about the campaign of 2014: There hasn’t been a unifying theme. Candidates around the country have launched a grab bag of talking points in races for Senate, House and governor. In Florida, it’s jobs and education. In Kentucky, it’s coal. In Colorado, it’s abortion and contraception.
When it comes to the grossest distortions -- the biggest whoppers of the 2014 midterm campaigns -- the topics have been equally varied. When we put together our list, we found claims about the Islamic State, global warming, gun rights and the farm bill.
Here, then, in no particular order are some of the least accurate claims of the 2014 cycle -- with days left for the candidates to come up with even more.
In an interview on Fox News, U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., made the startling claim that members of the Islamic State (called ISIS or ISIL) have been caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
"ISIS is coming across the southern border," Hunter said, adding a moment later: "I know that at least 10 ISIS fighters have been caught coming across the Mexican border in Texas."
We dug into the evidence and came up with sand. Hunter’s office pointed us to partisan media outlets that used anonymous sources. Both the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the lead Texas agency for public safety said there were no apprehensions. We rated the claim Pants on Fire.
We should note that this Duncan Hunter is the three-term congressman who’s the son of former Congressman Duncan Hunter who served from 1981 to 2008.
Greg Abbott, the attorney general of Texas, told a Fox News interviewer that "We’ve had about 3,000 murders" connected with people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. Abbott is a Republican who leads Democrat Wendy Davis in the race for Texas governor.
Abbott’s number came from counting homicide charges against nonresidents jailed in Texas. But charges aren’t convictions. And, Abbott is counting more than just people who came over the southern border; the numbers include noncitizens residing in the United States legally, as well as people who may have overstayed visas or come into the United States on airlines. PolitiFact Texas rated this claim Pants on Fire.
Democrats have done a lot of fundraising around claims that Republicans want to restrict abortion and access to birth control. In Florida, Democratic U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel penned a fundraising email that claimed Republican incumbent Gov. Rick Scott "closed 30 women’s health care centers."
Staffers for Frankel and Democrat Charlie Crist admitted the email was wrong, saying they intended to say Scott had reduced funding for women’s health centers. But even that claim is shaky is best. We rated Frankel’s statement that centers had actually closed as Pants on Fire.
We don’t see many candidates who will say straight-up they think global warming is a hoax. One of the few is Lenar Whitney, a candidate for Congress in south Louisiana. In a video, she said that global warming was "the greatest deception in the history of mankind."
Science proves otherwise. As we’ve long noted, there’s an overwhelming consensus among respected scientists that human-caused global warming is real. We rated Whitney’s claim Pants on Fire.
An attack ad from incumbent Democrat Mark Begich in the Alaska U.S. Senate race made the case that his Republican opponent approved a "light sentence" for a sex offender who got out of prison and is now charged with a gruesome murder and sexual assault.
But the connection to Sullivan just isn’t there. The suspect, who was awaiting trial when the ad aired, did receive a shorter sentence than he was supposed to. But the mistake happened before Sullivan was attorney general. To blame him for it is wrong, and to suggest he approved it is even worse. We rated this one Pants on Fire.
The Begich campaign pulled the ad at the request of the victim’s family.
An ad from the National Rifle Association showed video of a mom putting a baby to bed and then intruders breaking in. "It happens like that," a narrator says. "The police can’t get there in time. How you defend yourself is up to you. It’s your choice. But Mary Landrieu voted to take away your gun rights."
There’s a lot wrong here. First, Congress didn’t take a vote to take away people’s gun rights. On measures to restrict assault weapons, Landrieu, the Democratic incumbent senator, has actually voted with the NRA’s position. When we asked for evidence, the NRA said Landrieu voted to require background checks for firearms purchases at gun shows and for the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Both votes are a far cry from taking away people’s gun rights. And two Republicans that the NRA supports voted to confirm Sonia Sotomayor, too. We rated this claim Pants on Fire.
A campaign ad in the U.S. Senate race for Georgia opens with this simple statement: "Michelle Nunn’s own plan says she funded organizations linked to terrorists."
Nunn used to work for an organization, Points of Light, that directed money to charities. In an internal campaign memo that was leaked to the press, Nunn’s team worried her opponents would make links between Islamic charities and terrorism. That’s a far cry from saying that the Islamic charities actually did have ties to terrorism. The ad was from Republican businessman David Perdue, who’s running against Nunn. We rated his claim Pants on Fire.
The farm bill is pretty important in Arkansas, where Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton is challenging incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor for the U.S. Senate. Cotton explained his "no" vote on the farm bill by claiming in a campaign ad that Obama "hijacked the farm bill (and) turned it into a food stamp bill."
Actually, the farm bill has included food stamps since 1973. It was Cotton and other tea party supporters who tried to take food stamps out of the farm bill, a move that ultimately failed. We rated Cotton’s statement Pants on Fire.
This one isn’t from a campaign; it’s a Facebook meme passed around by voters who don’t have a high opinion of the body that represents us. The message is set up as a quiz: Is it the NBA or the NFL that has 36 people accused of spousal abuse, 84 people arrested for drunk driving, 71 people with terrible credit, etc.? (See the meme.) The punchline: Neither! It’s Congress!
Only, it isn’t. People may have a low opinion of Congress, but this chain email is at least five years old and it likely wasn’t even accurate then. It’s certainly not accurate today. We rated the claim Pants on Fire.