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Two years later, a thousand truths

PolitiFact's Truth-O-Meter has been overheating lately because of all the fact-checking we've been doing on the health care debate.

In the past month, PolitiFact has published 38 items on health care, 20 of which have been rated False or Pants on Fire. Our item about insurance companies considering pregnancy a pre-existing condition (True!) was the 1,000th Truth-O-Meter ruling. And Saturday was our second birthday.

PolitiFact launched on Aug. 22, 2007, when few people were paying attention to the presidential campaign. Our first items were about Bill Richardson's record in New Mexico and Mitt Romney's criticism of defense cuts. The first Pants on Fire went to Joe Biden for claiming that President George W. Bush "is brain-dead." (Our tongue-in-cheek item said that Dr. Biden had not performed the requisite tests to make that diagnosis.)

Since then, we have amassed an extraordinary database of political discourse (and picked up a Pulitzer Prize to boot). We fact-checked more than 750 claims and attacks during the presidential campaign, from Hillary Rodham Clinton's claim that she dodged sniper fire in Bosnia to Barack Obama's Spanish-language ad that linked John McCain with Rush Limbaugh (both were rated Pants on Fire).

To mark the 1,000th item and the second birthday, we've compiled some highlights of the past two years on Page 5A.

To celebrate PolitiFact's milestones, here are some highlights from the past two years:

Truth-O-Meter rulings

(For 1,004 items published since Aug. 22, 2007)

True 25 percent

Mostly True 17

Half True19

Barely True13


Pants on Fire7

The Truth-O-Meter's Top 10

Truth-O-Meter items with the highest number of page views:

1. Chain e-mail claims Obama sworn in on the Koran.

2. McCain says Obama and Bill Ayers ran radical education group.

3. Mike Huckabee says most Founding Fathers were clergymen.

5. Betsy McCaughey claims end-of-life counseling will be required for Medicare patients.

6. Sarah Palin on the Bridge to Nowhere (Flip-O-Meter).

7. Chain e-mail on Michelle Obama's senior thesis says America founded on "crime and hatred."

8. Palin on selling the state plane on eBay.

9. Chain e-mail suggests Barack Obama fits biblical description of the Antichrist.

10. "Birthers" on whether Obama's real birth certificate is posted on the Internet.

Gimme the truth

The impact of the Truth-O-Meter: During the campaign, we gave Obama a False for a stock line in his stump speech that gasoline prices had never been higher. The next day, Obama changed the line and got it right.

Number of Truth-O-Meter items

On taxes: 93

On health care: 116

On sneezing: one (Biden's claim that "when one person sneezes, it goes all the way through the aircraft" — another Pants on Fire)

Odds and ends

Truth-O-Meter items that generate the most e-mails: Anything involving Obama's birth certificate.

Best Truth-O-Meter item involving a dog: Spike the Romney Attack Dog on Huckabee's record on taxes.

Best one to read at lunch: Clinton on the regulation of ham and cheese sandwiches. Runner-up: Huckabee on cooking fried squirrel.

Most prominent person who has written us to complain about an item: Biden (as a candidate for president, on a claim about crime in New York).

Significant Truth-O-Meter mistakes: Both involve Rudy Giuliani. In checking a Giuliani attack on Fred Thompson's record on tort reform, we missed some votes and had to change a ruling from Half True to Barely True. On a Giuliani tax-cutting claim, we understated his role in a local income tax cut and had to change our ruling from Barely to Mostly True.

Most unusual medium for a Truth-O-Meter item: We checked a Planned Parenthood condom wrapper that attacked McCain.

Strangest call we had to make: to the Waldorf Astoria to ask whether Michelle Obama had ordered lobster from room service (she had not).

Two years later, a thousand truths 08/23/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 25, 2009 3:17pm]
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