As is always the case when there is a presidential election, 2012 was a banner year for political fabrications—from misleading little fibs to OMFG whoppers, there was something for everyone who knows how to tell fact from fiction.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning falsehood fact-checkers over at PolitiFact.com put their famed Truth-O-Meter to work to root out the biggest untruths of the year, and invited its readers to weigh in. The Truth-O-Meter rates political statements as Half-True, Mostly True, True, Mostly False, False and the illustrious “Pants on Fire,” awarded to lies of obscenely gargantuan proportions that contain not a single shred of truth.
An evenly split collection of red and blue malfeasance (five Republican lies, five from the Democrats, plus one “other” category –all rated either False or Pants on Fire), the list contains the greatest hits of 2012, from “you didn’t build that” to “apology tour,” and PolitiFact’s readers were invited to vote on which massive distortions were the most shameless.
Not surprisingly, the Top 5 come from the right, an impressive three of the five scoring a Pants on Fire (Dems, by contrast, earned a measly one POF). Perhaps even more impressive, though, is that tall tales emanating from that side of the aisle garnered a whopping 88.8 percent of reader finger-wagging.
Sitting proudly atop the heap of big, fat liars is, predictably, Rush Limbaugh — who, with trousers ablaze, claimed that “Obamacare is… the largest tax increase in the history of the world.” A combination of that piece of fiction and the fact that Rushbo is generally considered to be, well… a big, fat liar earned the radio gasbag 26.6 percent of the vote.
After having put this array of skulduggery up for public scrutiny, the powers-that-be at PolitiFact deliberated, and emerged from sequester (we like to imagine) to announce their own choice for Lie of the Year. And the winner is…
“It was a lie told in the critical state of Ohio in the final days of a close campaign — that Jeep was moving its U.S. production to China,” says PolitiFact’s Angie Drobnic Holan. “It originated with a conservative blogger, who twisted an accurate news story into a falsehood. Then it picked up steam when the Drudge Report ran with it. Even though Jeep’s parent company gave a quick and clear denial, Mitt Romney repeated it and his campaign turned it into a TV ad.
“And they stood by the claim, even as the media and the public expressed collective outrage against something so obviously false.”
The choice of the Romney campaign’s brazen, barefaced lie — one told in a swing state right before the election, no less — was turned over, once again, to the readers for their opinions. The gravity of Romney’s flagrant foul was perhaps best summed up by the reader who said, “I’m from Northwest Ohio where we build Jeeps and where we knew Jeep had just pledged a mega-million dollar upgrade to their facility. This lie was personal to all of us in the region.”
The award — like the eventual consequences of the lie that earned it — is richly deserved.