Help! They’re lying and they can’t shut up!


By Doug Thompson

There’s an epidemic of lying about health care, says

The site ( is a project of the St. Petersburg Times in Florida. Reporters and editors from the paper fact-check statements “by members of Congress, the White House, lobbyists and interest groups and rate them on our Truth-O-Meter,” its self-description says.

PolitiFact is one of the too-few places to turn when claims and counterclaims fly. The site won a Pulitzer Prize for its 2008 election coverage. It spares no one. Turn to the site’s “Pants on Fire!” list of recent outrageous lies and you’ll find President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. You’ll also find the House minority leader and GOP presidential hopeful Sarah Palin.

What you’ll find the most these days is a firestorm of lying about health care reform. The topic’s earned its own section.

Thirteen of the last 20 statements of “fact” on the topic reviewed by PF were deemed false. Six of those 13 went all the way to “Pants on Fire!”

Here are a few of my favorites, each one rebutted in detail by PolitiFact:

“All non-US citizens, illegal or not, will be provided with free health care services.”

“In the health care bill, “The ‘Health Choices Commissioner’ will decide health benefits for you. You will have no choice. None.”

“The health care reform bill — on Page 16 — outlaws private insurance.” That comes from the editorial page of Investor’s Business Daily. PolitiFact’s rebuttal on this one particularly deserves a read.

As of Monday, the topper was Palin’s “death panel” remark. PolitiFact summarized it as a “sci-fi scenario not based in reality.” The detailed reply says, in part: “We have read all 1,000-plus pages of the Democratic bill and examined versions in various committees. There is no panel in any version of the health care bills in Congress that judges a person’s ‘level of productivity in society’ to determine whether they are ‘worthy’ of health care.

“… The truth is that the health bill allows Medicare, for the first time, to pay for doctors’ appointments for patients to discuss living wills and other end-of-life issues with their physicians. These types of appointments are completely optional, and AARP supports the measure.”

Let’s rise from the bottom just a bit to the simply “False” category. There we find House Minority Leader Rep. Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio. He said the plan “will require (Americans) to subsidize abortion with their hard-earned tax dollars.” That’s been amended out.

A statement by liberal lion Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and a columnist for the New York Times, gets to join Boehner near the bottom. He said the public protests about health care are a new low. Krugman said people behaved better, for instance, in talks about reforming Social Security in 2005. Uh, no, says PolitiFact.

Then there’s plan fan Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-Mo. He said the Congressional Budget Office concluded the health care plan was not only deficit-neutral, but also that over 10 years it would create a $6 billion surplus. CBO’s real figure is a $239 billion deficit.

The site also maintains a track of “more than 500 of Barack Obama’s campaign promises and are rating their progress on our new Obameter.” So far, he’s kept 34, compromised on 11, broke 7, has seen 12 stalled, made progress on 77 and taken no action on 374.

Another favorite section of mine is the “flip-o-meter,” which judges consistency. The latest entry in the ultimate “full flop” category is Obama’s. His position on mandating health care coverage is summarized simply: “He bashed Hillary for it, but now it’s OK.”

There’s even a section that tracks pundits. Glen Beck, for instance, has made PolitiFact’s notice twice this year. One was a false statement and the other was Pants-On-Fire. Liberal site owner Ariana Huffington was busted for a half-truth.

Conservative George Will hits the “True” gong twice with some remarkable claims.

Check it out.

Categories: Features