by Marcus Feldman/Media Matters
Politifact, the St.Petersburg Times fact-checking organization, has unveiled its annual "lie of the year" for 2011: the statement that "Republicans voted to end Medicare." This designation is deeply flawed, given that the assertion that "Republicans voted to end Medicare" is arguably a true statement.
But that isn't all that was wrong with Politifact's decision. Politifact's Editor Bill Adair wrote an editor's note trying to explain why Politifact's editors did not choose something else as their "lie of the year." And the explanation rings hollow.
Regarding the false claim that the stimulus created "zero jobs" (the winner in Politifact's reader poll), Politifact stated that "it was more a falsehood from last year." Similarly, regarding the false claim that Obama has traveled the world and "apologized for America," Adair noted that Romney says this repeatedly but claimed that "it wasn't picked up much by other candidates and didn't reach critical mass."
When asked about his explanation about the "zero jobs" lie by Media Matters' Joe Strupp, Adair said that the Lie of the Year "is a subjective decision of Politifact editors. ... [I]t's not based on data points."
Given how often the lies about the stimulus and the Obama apology tour were repeated by conservatives, it may have been helpful for Politifact to look at "data points" rather than just their editors' "subjective" sense of how widespread the lie was.
Conservatives Lie About The Stimulus' Effect On Job Creation All The Time
Adair acknowledges that the claim that the stimulus created zero jobs "had been a popular Republican talking point that was uttered by everyone from Rick Perry to the National Republican Senatorial Committee." Adair is right. Here are examples Politifact itself cited as examples of politicians lying about the stimulus not creating jobs:
- House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA): The Stimulus "Failed To Get People Back To Work." [Politifact Virginia, 5/26/11],
- Texas Governor Rick Perry: The Stimulus "Created Zero Jobs." [Politifact 9/12/11]
- National Republican Senatorial Committee: The Stimulus Created "Zero Jobs." [Politifact Virginia10/13/11]
But the lie wasn't limited to politicians. The claim that the stimulus failed to get people back to work was also repeated ad nauseum by the right-wing media. The enduring popularity of these attacks on the stimulus is a testament to the stubborn perniciousness of the falsehood:
Here is a small sample of conservative attacks on the stimulus for supposedly failing to create jobs:
- Washington Times: Obama Sold The Stimulus As A Way To "Jump Start Job Creation," But It "Didn't Work."
As with Mr. Obama's $825 billion spending spree in 2009, the ostensible goal of the latest giveaway is to jump-start job creation. At least he has the priority straight. The economy failed to create any jobs at all last month, the unemployment rate has been stuck above 9 percent for most of this year, and the rate of long-term joblessness has been growing steadily while labor-force participation has declined. It's his "solution" that will make the situation worse. Temporary tax cuts and permanent spending on "shovel-ready" infrastructure didn't work in 2009, and they won't work now. [The Washington Times, 9/7/11]
- Fox Business Reporter Sandra Smith: "We know That The First Stimulus Failed." [Fox News, Hannity, 9/7/11]
- Stuart Varney: Unemployment Data Shows That "The First Stimulus Program Did Not Work."
VARNEY: Look, there's a lot of pressure on the president to come up with something big, bold and new come next Thursday evening. And there's a lot of skepticism that he can do it. Is he going to propose a brand new trillion dollar stimulus program? I mean, this forecast of nine percent unemployment is an admission that the first stimulus program did not work. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/2/11]
- Gretchen Carlson: "The Democrats Believe That Spending And Putting More Stimulus Money Into The Economy Is What Will Create Jobs ... So Far, Nothing Is Working For The Economy." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/4/11]
- The Washington Examiner: "Obama's Economic Stimulus Follies In 2009 Failed Miserably To Get The Economy Growing." [The Washington Examiner, 8/22/11]
- Charles Krauthammer: The $1 Trillion Stimulus "Won't Leave A Trace." [Fox News, Special Report, 5/31/11 via Media Matters]
- Sean Hannity: The "Failed Stimulus" Made The Recession "Worse." [Fox News, Hannity,7/13/11 via Media Matters]
- Discussing Unemployment Data, Eric Bolling Claimed: "All These Economics, These Stimulus Programs, Obamanomics, Epic Fail." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/30/11]
- Laura Ingraham: "The President's Economic Plan, The Stimulus, The Bailouts, More Big Government Stuff, Failed." [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 2/4/11]
Conservatives Also Always Repeat The False Claim That Obama Apologizes For America
Adair also wrote off the false conservative talking point repeated ad nauseam by Mitt Romney that Obama engaged in an "apology tour":
Another finalist was Mitt Romney's claim that President Obama traveled the world and "apologized for America." Romney said this many times (he even titled his book No Apology), but it wasn't picked up much by other candidates and didn't reach critical mass.
However, Romney was hardly the only GOP candidate to make this claim in 2011. Here are a few examples:
- Tim Pawlenty. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty delivered a speech in February in which he demanded that Obama "stop apologizing for our country." (Pawlenty dropped out of the race in August.) [The Washington Post, 2/11/11]
- Rick Perry. In October, Rick Perry claimed that "this President has traveled around the country making excuses for America. Apologizing for America." [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 11/18/11]
- Rick Santorum. Just two days before Politifact announced its lie of the year, Rick Santorum responded to the question "is President Obama undermining American statute in the world" by saying, in part: "We shouldn't be going around apologizing for America." [The Daily Caller, 12/18/11]
And other prominent conservative voices, including media figures and even former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have also repeated the falsehood in 2011. A Nexis search of Fox News primetime transcripts shows that people have accused Obama of going on an "apology tour" at least 16 times in 2011. And people have accused Obama of "apologizing for America" at least 11 times.
Some examples of these false attacks include:
- Liz Cheney: One Of The "Three Pillars" Of Obama's Foreign Policy Is "Apologizing For America." [Fox News, Hannity, 12/13/11, via Nexis]
- Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton: Recent Obama Actions Fit In "With The American Apology Tour. He Thinks America Shouldn't Be Documenting Its Victory. [Washington Times, 11/9/11]
- Investor's Business Daily: "The Obsessive Need Of This President To Apologize For American Exceptionalism And Our Defense Of Freedom Continued Recently."[Investors.com, 10/11/11]
- Michelle Malkin: Obama's "Apology Tour Has Been Around The World And Back."[MichelleMalkin.com, 8/31/11]
- Charles Krauthammer: "It's A Line Of Attack That Republicans Can Easily Use On The President And Ought To Use On The President." [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier,8/30/11]
- Sean Hannity: "[Obama] Went On An Apology Tour." [Fox News, Hannity, 6/21/11]
- Rush Limbaugh: "Of Course Obama Has Apologized" For America. [Premiere Radio Networks'The Rush Limbaugh Show, 6/3/11]
- Heritage: "Though The President Has Embarked On A Worldwide "Apology Tour" For What He Believes Are America's Transgressions, He Now Truly Has Something To Apologize For." [The Heritage Foundation, 5/24/11]
- Fox's Steve Doocy: Will Obama's Speech To The Arab World "Turn Into Another Apology Tour?" [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/19/11]
- Donald Rumsfeld: "I Think He Had Made A Practice Of Trying To Apologize For America. I Personally Am Proud Of America." [CNN, 2/20/11]
- Glenn Beck on Obama: "I'm Not Really Feeling Confident That At The Dinner, Mr. Apology Tour Is Going To Stand Up And Give One For America." [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 1/18/11, via Nexis]
- Fox's Gretchen Carlson: "Some Would Say" That Obama Is "Apologizing To These Muslim Terrorists." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/7/11]