A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactCheck’s Most Wanted

Enthusiastic truth-seekers (and angry partisans) have been inundating us with questions this election cycle. We’re thrilled to be your go-to guys, but sometimes the rumors take a long time to untangle — the truth is rarely straightforward enough to fit neatly into an ad, a sound bite or a chain e-mail. As the election nears, though, we’re pleased to say that we’ve wrapped up pieces on some of the most requested fact-checks of all time, or at least of this year.

$700 Billion Blame Game

Summary
We find House and Senate campaigns are taking liberties with the facts as they seek to assign blame for the nation’s financial mess.

A Democratic ad in Kentucky accuses Republican Senate Leader McConnell of conduct bordering on the criminal, but falsely accuses him of taking $4.4 million from "big banks."
A Republican ad in Pennsylvania claims Democratic House member Kanjorski sponsored a bill to "slash oversight" and "banks made millions." In fact, the bill never made it out of committee.

Obama’s False Medicare Claim

Summary
In a TV ad and in speeches, Obama is making bogus claims that McCain plans to cut $880 billion from Medicare spending and to reduce benefits.

A TV spot says McCain’s plan requires "cuts in benefits, eligibility or both."
Obama said in a speech that McCain plans "cuts" that would force seniors to "pay more for your drugs, receive fewer services, and get lower quality care."
Update, Oct. 21: A second Obama ad claims that McCain’s plan would bring about a 22 percent cut in benefits,

Robo-attacks

Late last week Huffington Post broke the news that a massive robo-call campaign linking Obama and former Weather Underground activist Bill Ayers was targeting voters in numerous states, including Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Maine. Paid for by the McCain-Palin campaign and the Republican National Committee, the call tells listeners that “Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, whose organization bombed the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, a judge’s home, and killed Americans.”
Is the caller really meaning to imply that Obama “worked closely”

Scaring, and Misleading, Seniors Again

In what is becoming a bit of a pattern, a group that backs Sen. Barack Obama is trying to convince senior citizens that Sen. John McCain would be their worst nightmare. The AFL-CIO is distributing a mailer that claims McCain is “turning his back on retirees,” by “privatizing Social Security, taxing health care benefits” and “cutting $1 trillion from Medicare.”
Talking Points Memo reports that the AFL-CIO is sending this flyer to retirees in Indiana, North Carolina and more traditional swing states.

Health Care Premium Costs

In last week’s final debate, Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama cited greatly different estimates for the average cost of health insurance, and a number of readers have asked us to sort it out.

Obama: By the way, the average policy costs about $12,000. …
McCain: The average cost of a health care insurance plan in America today is $5,800.

Both candidates were talking about the relative value of the $5,000 tax credit McCain wants to give to families and couples (individuals would get up to $2,500) to purchase health care policies.

100 Percent Negative?

Sen. Obama was somewhat misleading when he claimed 100 percent of Sen. McCain ad’s were negative. His claim is backed up only in so far as it regards a single week examined by the Wisconsin Advertising Project of the University of Wisconsin. In an Oct. 8 report, they concluded that, “during the week of September 28-October 4, nearly 100 percent of the McCain campaign’s advertisements were negative. During the same period, 34 percent of the Obama campaign’s ads were negative.”

ACORN Accusations

Summary
The McCain-Palin campaign accuses ACORN, a community activist group that operates nationwide, of perpetrating "massive voter fraud." It says Obama has “long and deep” ties to the group. We find both claims to be exaggerated. But we also find Obama has understated the extent of his work with the group.

Neither ACORN nor its employees have been found guilty of, or even charged with, casting fraudulent votes. What a McCain-Palin Web ad calls "voter fraud"

Autism and Down Syndrome

Scores of readers have written in asking why Sen. John McCain had said several times during the debate that his running mate, Sarah Palin, knew about autism.
McCain: And, by the way, she also understands special-needs families. She understands that autism is on the rise, that we’ve got to find out what’s causing it, and we’ve got to reach out to these families, and help them, and give them the help they need as they raise these very special needs children.