As the race for the White House heats up, Brooks Jackson and FactCheck.org untwist political tongues.
Let the voter beware. Primary season is here, bringing with it the exaggerations, half-baked statistics, and bald-faced whoppers that tend to flow from the mouths of presidential hopefuls. The live debates, especially, are epistemological free-for-alls. Claims, assertions, and figures babble forth too rapidly for viewers to go back and check them. Not too rapidly, however, for Brooks Jackson.Since 2003, Jackson, a veteran investigative journalist and self-described "consumer advocate" for the spiel-stunned voter, has logged the candidates' statements, weighed them against their sources-and their sources' sources-and posted the results at FactCheck.org. Funded by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, the site has no advertising and no backing from any political party. Brooks, 66, has been scrutinizing politicians since 1970, when he moved to Washington to cover the Nixon administration for the Associated Press. He says misleading political speech is as old as Athens. "My theory is that candidates running for office have been fudging facts to attract voters for the past 2,500 years. We're probably not going to change that behavior."To wit: Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson have both inflated the spending increases implemented during Mike Huckabee's term as Arkansas governor; Hillary Clinton has understated the Bush administration's spending on health care; Barack Obama has overstated the growth of the national debt; and Rudy Giuliani has had an especially troubled relationship with the facts, exaggerating his mayoral record on crime and the economy, and grossly overstating the superiority of U.S. medical care for prostate cancer. Often, rather than taking 15 minutes to verify this hogwash, the mainstream media allows the candidates' quotes to slide by as if they were incontrovertible.
|Candidates have been fudging facts to attract voters for 2,500 years.|
Among the many inaccuracies from the final Republican debate before the Iowa caucuses, FactCheck.org found that "Rudy Giuliani said a big federal tax cut would produce 'a major boost in revenues for the government,' a notion that nearly all economists say is a fantasy."
The web, long driven by partisan invective, seems to be developing a taste for unbiased truth. In August, the St. Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly launched PolitiFact.com, which rates candidates' statements on a scale from "True" to "Pants on fire!" The Washington Post soon joined in with "The Fact Checker," where fibs rate one to four "Pinocchios." With more and more sites continuously monitoring candidate credibility, there may never have been this much pressure on candidates to talk straight.LEARN MORE factcheck.org