The last weekend of summer may have knocked a day off of the work week, but the false and misleading claims didn’t take a break. As always, we were on the case.
The highlight of the week, of course, was President Obama’s Sept. 9 address on health care to a joint session of Congress. Contrary to at least one now-notorious critic, the president did not lie about illegal immigrants: The House bill specifically states that no affordability credits will go to anyone in the country illegally. Republicans have countered, with some justification, that the bill lacks much in the way of enforcement mechanisms. But it remains the case that any attempt by an illegal immigrant to obtain coverage would constitute fraud.
We found that Obama was less accurate on a few other key details. The president repeated his questionable claim that the plan would not use federal money to fund abortions. And he continued to state that the plan will be paid for – as we’ve noted already, none of the bills are paid for yet. We also found the president misstating some of the details of the public option and, at times, choosing his words very carefully. Click to read our full analysis.
Republicans got in on the action, too. Louisiana Rep. Charles Boustany’s official response to Obama’s speech had a few factual flubs. Boustany recycled the myth that limiting medical malpractice lawsuits will lower health care costs, and he wrongly implied that money "saved" or "cut" from the Medicare budget would reduce current or future benefits (it won’t). We also found him confusing "bureaucrats" with "bureaucracies" and making dubious generalizations about small-business owners. You can read all about it here.
House Republican Whip Eric Cantor joined his Louisiana colleague in mangling facts in front of the camera. In a press conference before the president’s speech, Cantor charged that the House bill could result in discrimination based on gender. We asked Cantor’s office how that might happen. You can read about the not-very-satisfactory answers in a post on the Wire.
The Democrats were doing some Medicare fearmongering of their own. We debunked an ad from the Democratic National Committee that falsely accused 10 GOP representatives of voting "to abolish Medicare." In fact, the Republican proposal called for preserving Medicare as is for anyone 55 or older. For younger workers, the plan would convert Medicare into a system of private plans purchased mainly with government funds. Few Democrats support such a plan, and we noted that President Obama correctly characterized the proposal as one "that would essentially have turned Medicare into a privatized voucher program." But it’s flatly false to claim that the proposal would have "abolish[ed] Medicare."
We found a couple of Republican-leaning groups making some distorted health care claims. The Independent Women’s Forum bashed the House health care bill by wrongly claiming that "government-run" health care might have killed 300,000 American women with breast cancer. The ad is wrong in two important ways. It falsely implies that the House bill would impose a health care plan similar to the one used in the United Kingdom, a claim we’ve debunked before. And it bases its figures on the same unreliable five-year cancer survival rates that we’ve criticized several times now. We criticize the ad’s claims and its reasoning in the full post.
There’s some suspect reasoning going on in another ad from Conservatives for Patient’s Rights, and we take that on in a post on The FactCheck Wire. The ad predicts a number of scary possible outcomes if the House bill becomes law, arguing that there is "no guarantee" that these things wouldn’t happen. The ad just fails to note that there’s no guarantee against those things happening without the health care bill, either.
Believe it or not, there were also some non-health-care stories this week. Our Ask FactCheck items took on a pair of e-mail rumors. We looked into accusations that protests from conservatives led Obama to change a nationally televised speech to students on Sept. 8. The answer? The administration revised one line in an optional classroom exercise for children in pre-K through grade 6. A section that initially asked students to "write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president" was amended to suggest that students "write letters to themselves about how they can achieve their short-term and long‐term education goals." And we had an even simpler answer for all the e-mailers worried that their "cash for clunkers" tax credits would be treated as taxable income. They won’t.
That’s it for another week here at FactCheck.org. We’re ready for the weekend. But be sure to check back next week for our coverage of another speech from President Obama, where we’ll be shifting gears to discuss the financial crisis.