A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Berg Gets Sunk

Readers have been champing at the bit to know our view of the lawsuit brought against Obama by a Philadelphia Hillary supporter, which alleges that the candidate is not a natural-born U.S. citizen. (We know —this again?) Of course only a judge is qualified to legally determine the validity of a suit, so we’ve held off on opining, though we’ve certainly put forth our findings on various aspects of the claim. But we stress that there are no such qualification requirements to bring a suit.

Obama’s Citizenship and the Survival of the Fittest

Yesterday we posted something about the evolution of rumors. Here’s a postscript: Sometimes in addition to developing new eyespots or camouflage, they actually engage in a little adaptive development — rumors that aren’t working mutate into slightly altered versions that haven’t been debunked yet.
A case in point: First there was the canard that Obama didn’t have a valid U.S. birth certificate. We were able to help put that one to bed. (Never mind the additional rumor it spawned due to the erroneous date stamp on our photos of the document,

Life Cycle of a Rumor

One thing we’ve noticed at FactCheck is that e-mail rumors tend to circulate, get debunked (ideally), go dormant for a while, and then flare up again. Think of it as a horde of zombies — they come at you, you kill them, you breathe a sigh of relief, and then there’s an extreme closeup and a finger twitches and you realize they’re not really dead. That’s what it looks like from our end.
Different stories have different life cycles —

More Robo-Calls

Yesterday we wrote about a robo-call attack from the McCain campaign making much of Obama’s relationship with Bill Ayers. Today, we’ll look at another robo-call (posted by Talking Points Memo late last week) that’s covering well-trodden ground. The subject is Obama’s record on born-alive legislation, which we’ve written about twice before.
The audio posted at TPM says that “Barack Obama and his Democrat allies in the Illinois Senate opposed a bill requiring doctors to care for babies born alive after surviving attempted abortions.”

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.

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.

FactChecking Debate No. 3

Summary
Spin and hype were apparent, once again, at the third and final debate between McCain and Obama:

McCain claimed the liberal group ACORN “is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history … maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.” In fact, a Republican prosecutor said of the biggest ACORN fraud case to date: “[T]his scheme was not intended to permit illegal voting.” He said $8-an-hour workers turned in made-up voter registration forms rather than doing what ACORN paid them to do.

Plumber Joe and His Health Care

Fines for small businesses? Higher income taxes? The government choosing your health care plans? Gold-plated Cadillacs? It all sounds bad (or at least confusing) for Joe, and everyone else … but luckily we’ve broken it all down for you. For the full scoop on both Obama’s and McCain’s health care plans, see our recent article Health Care Spin.

Obama’s ‘Projector’ Earmark

Q: Did Obama request a $3 million ‘overhead projector,’ as McCain claimed?
A: Obama did seek a $3 million earmark, but it was not for the sort of ‘overhead projector’ commonly found in classrooms or offices. It would have replaced the Adler Planetarium’s projector, last upgraded in 1969.