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PolitiFact Florida | Tampa Bay Times
Sorting out the truth in state politics

PolitiFact Florida's top fact-checks of 2012

With 2012 now behind us, PolitiFact Florida editors decided to look back at your favorite fact-checks of a busy political year. In no particular order, here are a selection of the most-read PolitiFact Florida fact-checks of 2012.

Presidential race

Mitt Romney came to Florida in January fending off Republican challengers like Newt Gingrich, who accused Romney of being anti-immigrant. Romney hit back with a Spanish-language radio ad, telling voters that Gingrich once said, "Spanish is the language of the ghetto."

In a 2007 speech, Gingrich did say that a language other than English was the "language of living in a ghetto." He didn't specifically say Spanish, but a lot of people assumed it, given the context. After negative reaction, Gingrich released a Web video saying he could have phrased his comments better. We rated Romney's attack Mostly True.

During the general election, President Barack Obama wooed Hispanic voters at a town hall event hosted by Univision's Jorge Ramos. Ramos asked Obama about "Fast and Furious," a federal investigation intended to track illegal gun sales. But investigators lost track of the guns, and they ended up at a crime scene where a federal agent was killed.

Obama said the operation ended when his administration learned of it and blamed the administration of George W. Bush for starting the operation. But Obama got his time line wrong. While similar programs happened under Bush, "Fast and Furious" began after Obama took office. We rated his statement False.

Scott and health care

Gov. Rick Scott spent most of 2012 opposing the federal health care law, even after the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the law's constitutionality. In the days after the court ruling, Scott went on a media blitz saying he still opposed it.

But Scott didn't quite get the basics of how the law works. Scott claimed a company he knew of with 20 employees would go "out of business" because of health care law requirements to buy insurance. Actually, businesses with fewer than 50 employees were exempt from that. We rated his statement Pants on Fire.

After Obama was re-elected, Scott seemed to soften his rhetoric on the law, and he's scheduled to meet with federal officials to discuss it Monday.

'Strip club capital'

In Tallahassee, legislators from South Florida tried unsuccessfully to allow casino gambling at new destination resorts. In support of the move, they said gambling wouldn't hurt Florida's wholesome image.

"People do not go to South Beach to see Mickey Mouse. They just don't," said Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale. "We have the strip club capital of the world in Tampa. … We have not ruined our family-friendly image."

We exhaustively researched whether Tampa could claim the "strip club capital of the world" title and found that it couldn't. Even Miami outdoes Tampa. We rated the claim False.

'Real' Trayvon Martin

Florida was riveted by the death of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old who was shot in February by George Zimmerman, volunteer neighborhood watchman. When Zimmerman wasn't arrested immediately following the shooting, local protests soon went national.

Zimmerman's defenders blamed the media for portraying Martin as an innocent child, focusing on the fact that some photos in press coverage were several years old.

But a chain email crossed the line into fabrication when it claimed the media refused to run a photo of Martin with tattoos on his face. The photo in the email wasn't Martin at all, but a 32-year-old California rapper who uses the stage name "Game." We rated the chain email's claim Pants on Fire.

Fluoride in the water

The war over putting fluoride in the water — long since settled in most parts of the country as a sensible way to prevent tooth decay — came to Pinellas County last year when the county commission voted to stop it.

PolitiFact Florida looked at the claim from fluoride opponents that water fluoridation started in Nazi Germany ghettos and death camps to pacify the Jews.

Holocaust experts we spoke with said they had never heard of such a thing.

Historians of fluoridation, though, said conspiracy theories are common that falsely attribute fluoride in water to Nazis, communists or a shadowy "One World" order. The claim about Nazis, at any rate, is flat-out wrong. We rated it Pants on Fire.

By the end of the year, voters tossed two of the commissioners out, and a new commission voted to put fluoride back.

PolitiFact Florida is partnering with 10 News. To see video fact-checks and the full versions of these fact-checks, visit

PolitiFact Florida's top fact-checks of 2012 01/01/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 1, 2013 10:01pm]
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