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PolitiFact Florida | St. Petersburg Times
Sorting out the truth in state politics

PolitiFact Florida's Top 10 fact-checks of 2011

Before we do a deep-dive into the election year excitement of 2012, we wanted to take a final look back at 2011. Here, we're counting down to our most popular fact-checks of the year, as determined by which reports got the most online page views.

10. Sen. Marco Rubio said his parents "came to America following Fidel Castro."

The national spotlight got hot for Rubio when reporters started looking into his parents and their arrival in the United States. Rubio or his campaign said several times that his parents arrived from Cuba after Castro took over. But the record shows they got here years before that. We rated his statement False.

9. U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer was wrong to say the wealthiest pay the most in taxes.

During a back-and-forth on TV, Blitzer said that "the wealthiest Americans, they pay the most in taxes already — 50 percent of Americans don't even pay any federal income tax." Wasserman Schultz responded by saying "that's actually not true." But both of Blitzer's points are valid, and our report explored why. We rated her statement False.

8. U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland said his congressional health insurance is no different than any other federal employee.

Southerland, R-Panama City, said at a town hall that members of Congress don't get the special perks that the public thinks they do. "The health insurance plan that I have is no different than any other federal employee's in the United States government," Southerland said. We checked into the federal benefits program and found that Southerland was right, so we rated this True.

7. Gov. Rick Scott denies he promised to protect education funding.

Back on the campaign trail in 2010, Scott said several times that he wanted to leave education funding intact. But when he unveiled his state budget in February 2011, it included billions of dollars in education cuts. Scott said he never promised to keep education funding the same if the funding included federal dollars. We reviewed Scott's campaign statements, though, and found no such stipulation. So we put his denial of his promise on our Truth-O-Meter and rated his statement False.

6. Gov. Rick Scott changes the terms of his promise to create 700,000 private-sector jobs.

Here's another instance of saying one thing during the campaign and another thing after taking office. In 2010, Scott promised to create 700,000 new jobs over seven years in Florida, above and beyond the normal projected growth of about 1 million jobs, for a total of 1.7 million jobs. After taking office, Scott said, no, he only meant he'd create 700,000 jobs. In this case, we put Scott's position on our Flip-O-Meter. After a review of his public statements, we rated his change of position a Full Flop.

5. Gov. Rick Scott's campaign promise to drug test welfare recipients.

Scott promised on the campaign trail to drug test welfare recipients, and he kept that promise by signing a law in May 2011. Later in the year, though, a federal judge said the law couldn't take effect until courts considered its constitutionality. This is a campaign promise we track on our Scott-O-Meter, a database of 57 Scott campaign promises. The current rating of his promise is In the Works.

4. Did Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays really make that incredible catch?

Every now and then we take a break from politics. We couldn't resist investigating this viral video of the Tampa Bay Rays' celebrated third baseman, Evan Longoria. In the video, he makes a spectacular catch of a line drive, protecting a reporter from getting beaned in the head. Was the video real, or a clever marketing stunt? Longoria said it was real, but we reviewed the evidence and gave his claim a blazing fastball: Pants on Fire!

3. Former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson defends the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Florida's liberal firebrand came to the defense of the Occupy Wall Street movement, citing a flurry of statistics to make the case for income inequality and a struggling middle class. Grayson said that 24 million people in this country "can't find a full-time job"; 50 million "can't see a doctor when they're sick"; 47 million people need government help to feed themselves; and 15 million families owe more than the value of their home. Grayson represented the Orlando area in the U.S. House of Representatives before losing his seat to a Republican in 2010, but he's said he'll run again in 2012. We checked his statistics and found them True.

2. Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain says the middle class would pay lower taxes under his "9-9-9" plan.

Florida had a short-lived flirtation with businessman Cain, who won a major state straw poll in September 2010 for the Republican nomination for president. But Cain dropped out later after accusations of marital infidelity and sexual harassment. Before he left, his "9-9-9" tax plan was the talk of the contest. Cain claimed someone earning $50,000 a year would fare better under his plan than under the current tax system. Our examination showed that was not true for most taxpayers, so we rated his statement Mostly False.

And our No. 1 most viewed fact-check of the year …

1. Former U.S Rep. Alan Grayson says the United States has one of the most unequal distributions of wealth in the world.

Grayson makes his second appearance on our Top 10 list, again discussing income inequality. In an interview on MSNBC's the Rachel Maddow Show, Grayson said, "According to Wikipedia, there are only five countries in the entire planet that are more unequal than the United States in the distribution of our wealth." We wanted to see if both Grayson and Wikipedia had their facts straight. They did, so we rated Grayson's statement True.

PolitiFact Florida's Top 10 fact-checks of 2011 01/08/12 [Last modified: Sunday, January 8, 2012 10:54pm]
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