Fact Check: A real political “no spin” zone

Like many Americans, I found myself a bit bewildered at times as I watched the Democratic and Republican national conventions these past two weeks.

Last night, GOP Presidential nominee John McCain attacked his Democratic counterpart Barack Obama for voting for “corporate welfare” for oil companies.

On Wednesday, Sarah Palin claimed Barack Obama hasn’t authored “a single major law or even a reform” in the U.S. Senate or the Illinois Senate.

Last week, Barack Obama said he could “pay for every dime” of his spending and tax cut proposals “by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens.”

Last night, Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani claimed John McCain had been a fighter pilot.

Is it all true? Not entirely, or even at all.

Try this reliable Web source to sort out the truth: factcheck.org

Factcheck.org is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, “consumer advocate” for voters. Its goal is to reduce the deception and confusion in U.S. politics. Fact Check does this by monitoring the accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases.

Fact Check is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. The APPC was established by publisher and philanthropist Walter Annenberg in 1994 to create a community of scholars within the University of Pennsylvania that would address public policy issues at the local, state, and federal levels.

The APPC accepts NO funding from business corporations, labor unions, political parties, lobbying organizations or individuals.

Fact Check has taken both political parties to task over false, misleading or inaccurate statements made these past two weeks.

Here’s what Fact Check says about some of the GOP speeches this week in St. Paul, MN:

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GOP Presidential nominee John McCain

GOP Presidential nominee John McCain

  • Last night, Republican Presidential nominee John McCain claimed that Barack Obama’s health care plan would “force small businesses to cut jobs” and would put “a bureaucrat … between you and your doctor.” In fact, the plan exempts small businesses, and those who have insurance now could keep the coverage they have.
  • McCain attacked Obama for voting for “corporate welfare” for oil companies. In fact, the bill Obama voted for raised taxes on oil companies by $300 million over 11 years while providing $5.8 billion in subsidies for renewable energy, energy efficiency and alternative fuels.

Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin

Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin’s much-awaited speech at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night may have shown she could play the role of attack dog, but it also showed her to be short on facts when it came to touting her own record and going after Obama’s.

  • We found Rudy Giuliani, who introduced her, to be as factually challenged as he sometimes was back when he was in the race. But Mike Huckabee may have laid the biggest egg of all.
  • Palin may have said “Thanks, but no thanks” on the Bridge to Nowhere, though not until Congress had pretty much killed it already. But that was a sharp turnaround from the position she took during her gubernatorial campaign, and the town where she was mayor received lots of earmarks during her tenure.
  • Palin’s accusation that Obama hasn’t authored “a single major law or even a reform” in the U.S. Senate or the Illinois Senate is simply not a fair assessment. Obama has helped push through major ethics reforms in both bodies, for example.
  • The Alaska governor avoided some of McCain’s false claims about Obama’s tax program – but her attacks still failed to give the whole story.
  • Giuliani distorted the time line and substance of Obama’s statements about the conflict between Russia and Georgia. In fact, there was much less difference between his statements and those of McCain than Giuliani would have had us believe.
  • Giuliani also said McCain had been a fighter pilot. Actually, McCain’s plane was the A-4 Skyhawk, a small bomber. It was the only plane he trained in or flew in combat, according to McCain’s own memoir.
  • Finally, Huckabee told conventioneers and TV viewers that Palin got more votes when she ran for mayor of Wasilla than Biden did running for president. Not even close. The tally: Biden, 79,754, despite withdrawing from the race after the Iowa caucuses. Palin, 909 in her 1999 race, 651 in 1996.
Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama

Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama

Here’s Fact Check’s analysis on the accuracy of Barack Obama’s speech accepting the Democratic nomination at last week’s Democratic National Convention in Denver, CO:

  • Obama said he could “pay for every dime” of his spending and tax cut proposals “by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens.” That’s wrong – his proposed tax increases on upper-income individuals are key components of paying for his program, as well. And his plan, like McCain’s, would leave the U.S. facing big budget deficits, according to independent experts.
  • He twisted McCain’s words about Afghanistan, saying, “When John McCain said we could just ‘muddle through’ in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources.” Actually, McCain said in 2003 we “may” muddle through, and he recently also called for more troops there.
  • He said McCain would fail to lower taxes for 100 million Americans while his own plan would cut taxes for 95 percent of “working” families. But an independent analysis puts the number who would see no benefit from McCain’s plan at 66 million and finds that Obama’s plan would benefit 81 percent of all households when retirees and those without children are figured in.
  • Obama asked why McCain would “define middle-class as someone making under five million dollars a year”? Actually, McCain meant that comment as a joke, getting a laugh and following up by saying, “But seriously …”
  • Obama noted that McCain’s health care plan would “tax people’s benefits” but didn’t say that it also would provide up to a $5,000 tax credit for families.
  • He said McCain, far from being a maverick who’s “broken with his party,” has voted to support Bush policies 90 percent of the time. True enough, but by the same measure Obama has voted with fellow Democrats in the Senate 97 percent of the time.
  • Obama said “average family income” went down $2,000 under Bush, which isn’t correct. An aide said he was really talking only about “working” families and not retired couples. And – math teachers, please note – he meant median (or midpoint) and not really the mean or average. Median family income actually has inched up slightly under Bush.

If you prefer, Fact Check has a weekly videocast, RSS feeds, email alerts and mobile Web access.

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About Bernard McCoy

My views are my own and not a reflection of my employer. I'm an associate professor of Journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I've also been a working journalist for the past 29 years. I have covered news stories in war zones, reported on human and natural disasters, presidential conventions, a presidential inauguration and the September 11th, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. My career experiences include work as an award-winning documentary producer, television news reporter, photographer, producer, and anchor. I worked at WIBW-TV, Topeka, KS., KCTV, Kansas City, MO, WKBD-TV, Detroit, MI., WILX-TV, Lansing, MI. and WBNS-TV, Columbus, OH. I have also worked as a contributing reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, Associated Press, CBS, CNN, the Ohio News Network and lecture at the Kosovo Institute of Journalism and Communications. I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in telecommunications management from Michigan State University.
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One Response to Fact Check: A real political “no spin” zone

  1. Pingback: McCain “less than honest” in campaign ad « JournalCetera

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