Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lying Liars

PolitiFact announces the 2010 Lie of the Year:

PolitiFact editors and reporters have chosen “government takeover of health care” as the 2010 Lie of the Year. Uttered by dozens of politicians and pundits, it played an important role in shaping public opinion about the health care plan and was a significant factor in the Democrats’ shellacking in the November elections.

Readers of PolitiFact, the St. Petersburg Times’ independent fact-checking website, also chose it as the year’s most significant falsehood by an overwhelming margin. (Their second-place choice was Rep. Michele Bachmann’s claim that Obama was going to spend $200 million a day on a trip to India, a falsity that still sprouts.)

By selecting “government takeover’ as Lie of the Year, PolitiFact is not making a judgment on whether the health care law is good policy.

The phrase is simply not true.

Chances are that if you heard the claim that the healthcare bill was a “government takeover,” you heard it on Fox News. That’s not surprising, and neither is the finding by a study that the people who watch Fox News are routinely “misled” about the news.

The study was conducted by, a project that is managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland.

According to the study, which can be reviewed online, in most cases, the more a person watched and read the news, the less likely they were to have been misled about the facts. But “there were however a number of cases where greater exposure to a news source increased misinformation on a specific issue,” the study’s authors wrote. In particular, they found that regular viewers of the Fox News Channel, which tilts to the right in prime time, were significantly more likely to believe untruths about the Democratic health care overhaul, climate change and other subjects.


“Almost daily” viewers of Fox News, the authors said, were 31 points more likely to mistakenly believe that “most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit;” were 30 points more likely to believe that “most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring;” and were 14 points more likely to believe that “the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts.”

They were also 13 points more likely to mistakenly believe “the auto bailout only occurred under Obama;” 12 points more likely to believe that “when TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it;” and 31 points more likely to believe that “it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States.”

Or, to put it simply, Fox News lies. A lot.

Fox New’s response to the survey was predictable: “Squirrel!”

Asked for comment on the study, Fox News seemingly dismissed the findings. In a statement, Michael Clemente, who is the senior vice president of news editorial for the network, said: “The latest Princeton Review ranked the University of Maryland among the top schools for having ‘Students Who Study The Least’ and being the ‘Best Party School’ – given these fine academic distinctions, we’ll regard the study with the same level of veracity it was ‘researched’ with.”

Yeah, that’s telling ’em. But notice that Mr. Clemente doesn’t dispute the facts of the study because he can’t do that without lying. So I suppose we should give him props for his candor.