Commentary on current events, politics, government, and popular culture from John Sheirer, author of the book, Make Common Sense Common Again.

Friday, December 13, 2013's "Lie of the Year" is "half true" ... PolitiFact, you're fired! just lost all credibility when they named President Obama's "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it" as their "lie of the year."

First, PolitiFact actually rated Obama's statement "half true." They named their "lie of the year" based only on an online poll, not on the actual analysis of the statement.

All of the other choices in the poll, mostly outright lies by Republicans, were rated "false" or "pants on Fire." Why is a "half true" statement even one of the possible choices for "lie of the year"? How does a reputable fact-checking organization let an online poll determine its "lie of the year" instead of actual analysis of the statement? How can a statement be the "lie of the year" when it's "half true"?

Second, less than 2% of insured people had their policies cancelled by their insurance company.

Third, most of the cancelled policies were junk policies with little coverage and high costs that were sold after the Affordable Care Act was passed, the insurance companies knew they wouldn't meet the legal minimum requirements for acceptable policies that kicked in this year.

Fourth, most of the reports of people angry about their policies being cancelled were lies from the right or sloppy journalism. The people whose policies were cancelled could usually get better policies at less cost under the Affordable Care Act.

Fifth, if people already had purchased those junk policies before the Affordable Care Act was passed, they could keep them--just as the president said.

Here are just a few of the much bigger right-wing lies about health-care reform that PolitiFact had to choose from:

- Obamacare exempts Muslims. (pants on fire)
- Obamacare exempts members of Congress. (false)
- Obamacare will question your sex life. (pants on fire)
- Obamacare means forced home inspections by government agents. (pants on fire)
- Doctors who went to American medical schools won't accept Obamacare. (pants on fire)
- The IRS will administer Obamacare, know all your personal information, and deny health care to conservatives. (pants on fire)

Earlier this year, a study of PolitiFact's findings showed that Republicans lie far more often than Democrats.

Yet PolitiFact let an online poll choose Obama's statement, which was an exaggeration at worst, as the "lie of the year."  PolitiFact's ridiculous selection of the president's statement as "lie of the year" simply gives credibility to a Republican Party that bases much of its politics and policies on dishonesty.

We desperately need fact-checkers in our world of dishonest public figures and sloppy journalists, so when a big-name fact-checker such as PolitiFact gets its "lie of the year" so wrong, it damages public discourse in countless ways. In the words of Rachel Maddow, "PolitiFact, you're fired."


Update: Adding further embarrassment to PolitiFact's lie of the year for 2013 is the fact that PolitiFact could have check its own rulings to see President Obama's overall honesty.  

All politicians, pundits, and activists stretch the truth to some extent. But President Obama has been remarkably honest, according to PolitiFact itself.

PoltiFact has checked the president 500 times over his career, more than twice as often as any other politician, and he has been rated "half true," "mostly true" or "true" 73% of the time, a far higher percentage than most other politicians or media figures.

Anyone who thinks the president is some kind of pathological liar is misinformed.


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