A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Why Do They Do It?

Why do politicians persist in peddling exaggerations, twisted facts and outright falsehoods? Here's a theory from a veteran political reporter.
Jon Keller of WBZ in Boston offered up his explanation in his "Keller @ Large" commentary for Sept. 15. It was prompted by our coverage of the recent Republican presidential candidates' debate and our criticism of President Obama's jobs speech.
We were flattered by the nice mention, of course. But what really caught our attention was Keller's conclusion:

Jon Keller,

An Antidote for Bachmann’s Anecdote

No scientific evidence backs Rep. Michele Bachmann's second-hand story of HPV vaccine causing mental retardation. Our research reveals that 35 million doses of the vaccine have been administered, without a single reported case of mental retardation. A total of four cases of a disorder involving inflammation of the brain have been reported, but a panel of scientists found there was insufficient evidence to establish that the vaccine caused those.
The Republican presidential candidate has repeatedly related an anecdote about a post-debate encounter with a woman who told her a vaccine promoted by Texas Gov.

FactCheck Mailbag, Week of Sept. 6-12

This week, readers sent us comments about our fact-checks of the Reagan presidential debate and ads in a New York special election.
In the FactCheck Mailbag, we feature some of the e-mail we receive. Readers can send comments to editor@factcheck.org. Letters may be edited for length.

CNN/Tea Party Debate

The GOP presidential candidates debated for the second time in six days — tossing out a variety of false and misleading claims on everything from Social Security to vaccines for sexually transmitted diseases. …

Social Security Silliness

Prior to the GOP debate in Florida, Republicans and Democrats alike floated false statements on Social Security. The Florida Democratic Party incorrectly says in a web ad that Mitt Romney "would privatize" Social Security, while Romney wrongly claims in a campaign flier that Rick Perry "wants to end Social Security."
It's true that Romney has expressed support for allowing younger workers to voluntarily invest a portion of their Social Security taxes in private retirement accounts. But that's not the same as privatizing Social Security,

Obama’s Jobs Act ‘Bipartisan’? Not Entirely

In his jobs speech to the nation on Sept. 8, President Barack Obama overstated his case for bipartisan support for each "kind of" proposal in his new jobs stimulus bill. While it's true there is much common ground in Obama's proposal, several of the planks in the plan, called the American Jobs Act, have gotten only token Republican support in the past, while being opposed by an overwhelming majority of Republicans.
In his speech to a joint session of Congress,

‘Panicked’ Dems Run False Ad in NYC

A Democratic ad falsely claims Republican House candidate Bob Turner would cut Social Security benefits for seniors, something Turner says he would not do.
The truth is that Turner has taken contradictory stands, saying he’d preserve both Social Security and Medicare “as they are” for anyone age 55 or over — but also calling for massive budget cuts, elimination of the capital gains tax, and repeal of the new health care law which, among other things,