By George E. Curry
How can you tell when a politician is lying?
When he moves his lips.
Though originally intended as a joke, the number of candidates who have declared as for president have already ushered in a cascade of lies – and the situation will only grow worse as more climb aboard.
Fortunately, there are at least two non-partisan fact-checking groups that try to hold politicians accountable for their less than accurate assertions. One is FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania that describes itself as “a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.” The second is Politifact.com operated by the Tampa Bay Times.
The 2016 political season is just opening, but as each candidate opens his or her mouth, what’s leaving their lips is frequently false.
Here are a few examples:
Speaking on April 24, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) declared that worldwide threats “require strong American leadership, which we cannot exert as long as we eviscerate military spending, which is what we are doing now. We are placing our nation at a dangerous position.” Referring to this nation’s nuclear stockpiles, Rubio said, “We are the only nation that is not modernizing its nuclear weapons.”
Politifact’s Finding: “Rubio said that the United States ‘is not modernizing its nuclear weapons.’ Most of the experts we interviewed disputed Rubio’s statement. While the United States has reduced the number of warheads, it has also been modernizing nuclear equipment and has plans to continue to do so. We rate this claim False.”
FactCheck.org said that in U.S. Senator Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) official announcement of his run for president, he “repeated several misleading claims that we have written about before:
*Cruz vowed to repeal ‘every word of Common Core,’ which he called an effort by the federal government to ‘dictate school curriculum.’ As we have said before, the standards were developed by governors and state education officials and voluntarily adopted by states, and the curriculum is set by state and local school officials.
*“Cruz also warned that the Affordable Care Act puts the government ‘between you and your doctor.’ As we wrote when Cruz made a similar claim back in 2013, the law doesn’t create a government-run system. If anything, the law comes between you and your insurance company, forbidding them from capping your coverage or charging you more based on health status…”
On a May 5 visit to Nevada, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “This is where I differ with everybody on the Republican side. Make no mistake: Not a single Republican candidate, announced or potential, is clearly and consistently supporting a path to citizenship. Not one. When they talk about legal status, that is code for second-class status.”
Politifact: said, “She’s telling voters who want a path to citizenship that there’s no one on the Republican side who supports that issue. That is not accurate. There is one – [Senator Lindsey] Graham. She does have a point that the other dozen or so candidates either have never backed a path to citizenship or have sent mixed signals. On balance, we rate Clinton’s claim Mostly False.”
FactCheck.org noted, “In March, [Ben] Carson claimed that being gay is ‘absolutely’ a choice, and as proof he said ‘a lot of people’ go into prison and change their sexual orientation while incarcerated. There is no evidence to support these claims. Carson apologized for his remarks, but in doing so made another error by claiming that ‘we do know, however, that we are always born male and female.’ That’s not entirely accurate. Disorders of sex development, also known as intersex disorders, occur in about one in 4,500 births and have raised questions about the male-female gender dichotomy.”
FactCheck.org analyzed Senator Rand Paul’s recent comment that the attack on the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest in Garland, Texas, was “an example of how we do need to secure our border.”
However, the fact-checkers noted, “but neither of the attackers crossed the southern border to gain access to the U.S. Both were Americans who were believed to have been radicalized in their hometown of Phoenix.”
This is going to be a long and bitter campaign to determine who will become our next president. To remain informed and astute, voters will need to regularly check out the candidates’ assertions. After all, just because politicians move their lips doesn’t mean we have to believe them.
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and BlackPressUSA.com. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook. See previous columns at http://www.georgecurry.com/columns.