A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Energetically Wrong. Still.

Last Friday, we wrote an article debunking Sarah Palin’s claim that Alaska “produces nearly 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of energy.” That’s false. The state’s share of U.S. energy production is actually 3.5 percent.
Palin has now changed her tune:

Palin (Sept. 15, Golden, Colorado): My job has been to oversee nearly 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of oil and gas.

That’s still bogus. As our colleague the Washington Post’s Fact Checker points out,

Did McCain Invent the BlackBerry?

John McCain is having his very own Al Gore moment. McCain’s top economic adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, waved his BlackBerry to a room full of reporters, explaining that "you’re looking at the miracle that John McCain helped create.”
Gore was widely mocked for his claim that “I took the initiative in creating the Internet,” although anyone who reads the entire comment in context can easily discern that Gore was actually saying that he authored legislation which cleared the way for what we now know as the Internet.

That’s ‘Former Lobbyist’ to you

The Obama campaign has been pushing a connection between John McCain and lobbyists — as in saying that McCain has them working on his campaign. This ad, for instance, claims that “John McCain’s chief adviser lobbies for oil companies” and his “campaign manager lobbies for corporations outsourcing American jobs.” But neither of those campaign staffers are currently lobbyists – a McCain campaign conflict-of-interest policy doesn’t allow it.

The ad refers to campaign manager Rick Davis, who formerly lobbied for telecommunications companies and Airborne Express.

More on the Phantom 62 Percent

In our recent article “Sliming Palin,” we addressed the pervasive rumor that Gov. Palin slashed funding for special needs education. She didn’t. Instead, she increased funding. Here’s more detail on how an increase got mistaken for a 62 percent decrease.
The evidence that’s been cited to support the false decrease claim:

The special schools component of the education budget for fiscal year 2007, before Palin was governor, was $8.3 million.
The special schools budget for 2008 was $3.2 million.

Under FactCheck’s Hood: A Note on Methodology for our Palin – 20% Energy Piece

Last Friday, we pointed out that a Palin-McCain talking point stating that Alaska “produces nearly 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of energy” was false. The actual figure was 3.5 percent.
Within the story, we allowed (several times) that Palin and McCain may have misspoken and meant to say “oil” instead of “energy,” or “production” instead of “supply.” We ran the calculations and found that they were still off. Keeping with our standards of transparency and accountability,

Population of Wasilla

Q: What was the population of Wasilla, Alaska, when Sarah Palin was mayor?
A: When she took office, it was about 5,000. The population has been growing since.

Corsi’s Dull Hatchet

Summary
Despite its place near the top of The New York Times’ nonfiction bestseller list, where it has been riding high for the past six weeks, Jerome Corsi’s "The Obama Nation" is not a reliable source of facts about Obama. Corsi cites opinion columns and unsourced, anonymous blogs as if they were evidence of factual claims. Where he does cite legitimate news sources, he frequently distorts the facts. In some cases, Corsi simply ignores readily accessible information when it conflicts with his arguments.

Fact-Checking Is Useless

Well, okay, they’re not actually saying that it’s useless. Just potentially counter-productive.
An article last September pointed to cognitive science research showing that debunking myths can have the effect of reinforcing the very myths you’re trying to refute. That’s because the human brain is hardwired with a lot of shortcuts. One of those shortcuts: Over time, we tend to forget the “not” part of a claim while retaining the rest. So “Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction” becomes “Iraq had WMDs.”
Now,

Distorting Our Findings, Part II

On Sept. 10, we objected when the McCain-Palin campaign released an ad implying that we’d criticized Obama for “completely false” and “misleading” claims about Sarah Palin. We did use those words, but we used them to criticize anonymous Internet rumormongers, not Obama.
Now that same claim from the McCain-Palin camp is being recycled into fundraising letters. Here’s the passage from an e-mail from McCain-Palin Victory 2008, a joint project of the Republican National Committee and the Michigan,

One Bridge, Two Bridge

Once upon a time, there were two Bridges to Nowhere. There was the Bridge to Nowhere, and the Bridge to Nowhere’s brother, the Bridge to Nowhere. Or, if you prefer, there was the Gravina Access Project, which would connect the town of Ketchikan to the island of Gravina for purposes of development and airport access, and the Knik Arm bridge, which would improve access between Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. The bridge would connect the port in Anchorage to Port MacKenzie in Mat-Su.