A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

April Fools’… Still

In view of today’s date, we’d like to pay tribute to the longest-running and most successful April Fools’ hoax we’ve yet encountered.
In the spring of 2009, a chain e-mail started circulating with claims of a "smoking gun" proving President Obama was a foreigner.

AP- WASHINGTON D.C. – In a move certain to fuel the debate over Obama’s qualifications for the presidency, the group “Americans for Freedom of Information” has released copies of President Obama’s college transcripts from Occidental College.

Overstated Stats

Congressional Republicans appearing on CBS’ "Face the Nation" repeated a couple of false claims we’ve talked about before.
The first guest, Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, inflated some statistics when he talked about opposition to the health care bill. His claim, that 60 percent of Americans support repealing the bill, was immediately countered by host Bob Schieffer, who pointed out: "Well, you know, a new poll out this morning in the Washington Post does not suggest that a majority of Americans are against this,

Misleading on Military Pay

Q: Did Obama propose a 1.4 percent pay increase for the military, the lowest since 1973?
A: Yes. Military pay raises are based on the Employment Cost Index, which grew very little this year.

Breast Cancer Ballyhoo

This ad from Americans for Prosperity caught our eye because of the sheer number of falsehoods it hits on, both new ones and old faithfuls. The group, whose president helped organize the Tea Party protests, is spending $750,000 to run this very misleading ad in nine states.

In the ad, breast cancer survivor Tracy Walsh denounces new government guidelines on mammograms, which she says “[save] money, but could cost your life.” She claims the “guidelines” say that “women shouldn’t receive mammograms until age 50.”

Ad Serves Up a Dose of Exaggeration

The Washington Post reported on March 9 that Employers for a Healthy Economy, a coalition of business groups that includes the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, plans to spend up to $10 million running an ad about the effects of health care legislation on the economy.

The ad, which portrays workers and businesses going through difficult times, says that "health care costs will go even higher" and that this will "[make] a tough economy even worse." These claims need context.

Pelosi’s Party Plane?

Q: Has Nancy Pelosi spent $100,000 on food, booze and "partying" during her air travel?
A: No. Pelosi’s congressional delegations do eat well and drink pricey alcohol. But the costs are not as high as critics claim, and they’re comparable to those of her Republican predecessor, Dennis Hastert.

Climate Science Slipping?

In our article on Climategate, we cited overwhelming scientific consensus — represented in part by the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — pointing to a global rise in temperatures. But the IPCC’s credibility has been challenged since we wrote that article, with several situations coming to light in which the panel reproduced erroneous results from non-peer-reviewed literature.
Himalayan Glaciers: The IPCC’s 2007 Working Group II report misrepresented the melt rate of the Himalayan glaciers,

Bush at Ft. Hood

Q: Did President George W. Bush drop everything to visit Ft. Hood victims? Was he ordered away by the Obama administration?
A: Bush did visit the wounded at Ft. Hood, but a Bush spokesman says that his visit was coordinated with base officials and that he was not asked to leave by the White House.

Fake News, Real Fact-Checking

"Daily Show" anchor Jon Stewart has an uneven record of fact-checking political figures. In September 2008, we called him out for getting his gun facts wrong — he called Joe Biden "crazy reckless" and wrong when he referred to his Beretta shotgun, claiming that Beretta "is a handgun." In fact, Beretta is famous for its shotguns, as well as the handguns mentioned in James Bond novels. And he could have done better when Betsy McCaughey, who referred to us as "spot-check dot org"

Not A Fake, But A Stretch

Debunking e-mail rumors today seems to require that one be an image analysis expert. We regularly get requests to say whether pictures are real or a result of Photoshop. While some of the photos are obviously fabricated, like the one of the president and first lady in stereotypical "pimp and ho" getup, others are more subtle. For instance, we found that the picture being circulated as "Obama’s crotch salute" was a real photo, but that the circumstances were being grievously misrepresented.