Romney wins at last for . . . the Lie of the Year

Fri, Dec 14, 2012, 00:00

It was not the sort of victory Mitt Romney had in mind when he declared his candidacy for the US presidency, but the former governor of Massachusetts finally won something this week. The Politifact project, run by the Tampa Bay Times newspaper of Florida, gave him its Lie of the Year award.

The project involves journalists fact-check statements by politicians for truth. According to the Pulitzer Prize-winning Politifact, Romney’s claim that car-maker Chrysler considered moving its Jeep production to China at the expense of American jobs, was the biggest whopper of 2012. Romney might have been forgiven for picking up the falsehood from a conservative website, which published a link to a conservative blogger who misread an article by Bloomberg News.

But Romney turned the lie into radio and television advertisements and brazenly persisted after denunciations by Chrysler and General Motors.

“We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” a Romney pollster had warned at the Republican convention.

The Romney campaign is still in denial about the Chrysler/ Jeep ad. “If you look in those markets, we did better in those markets for having run that,” Romney’s senior adviser Stuart Stevens told a post-election seminar with officials from both campaigns at Harvard University.

Degrees of mendacity

It is a truism that politicians lie and Politifact did not spare Barack Obama either. But the fact-checkers’ rating system seems to indicate that Republicans lie more than Democrats.

The Grand Old Party has won Lie of the Year three of the four years it has been conferred. The Democrats’ only win, in 2011, was for claiming that Republicans voted to end Medicare. The Republican slogan – still widely believed – that Obamacare constitutes a government takeover of the medical system, won in 2010. Sarah Palin’s fiction of “death panels” created by Obamacare won the first award, in 2009.

Under Politifact’s ranking system, the three lowest degrees of mendacity are “mostly false”, “false” and “Pants on Fire”. Twenty-eight per cent of Obama’s statements qualified for one of these rulings; 41 per cent of Romney’s.

Politifact submitted 10 lies, which it had rated “Pants on Fire” to readers.

Talk radio host Rush Limbaugh’s claim that “Obamacare is . . . the largest tax increase in the history of the world” was chosen as Lie of the Year by 26.6 per cent – the largest share – of the 5,314 readers who responded.

Lies ranked second, third and fourth by readers all came from the Romney campaign.

The Republican’s distortion of Obama’s statement that “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen,” came second, at 20 per cent.

China commercial

The Chrysler/Jeeps in China advertisement came third, at 18.7 per cent. A Romney television commercial which said that under Obama’s welfare plan, “you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare cheque,” was fourth, at 13.1 per cent.

“It’s not that President Obama and his campaign team were above falsehoods, either,” Politifact said. “Their TV ads distorted Romney’s positions on abortion and immigration to make them seem more extreme than they actually were.”

Politifact also faulted a pro-Obama ad for implying that Romney was responsible for the death from cancer of a woman whose husband was fired by Bain Capital, the company Romney founded.