The Lie of the Year
Every year, the fact-checking site PolitiFact awards a “lie of the year.” The site’s first lie of the year award in 2009 went to Sarah Palin’s claim that the Affordable Care Act would lead to “death panels.”
PolitiFact attempts to highlight lies from both sides of the aisle. In 2011, the lie of the year went to the DCCC after they claimed that Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget proposal would “eliminate Medicare.”
But before offering my humble suggestion for this year’s prestigious award, I would first like to go back to December 12, 2013. On that day, PolitiFact awarded “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it” as that year’s winner.
The phrase, used by President Obama, became a rallying cry for defenders of the Affordable Care Act. It was meant to assuage nervous Americans as healthcare underwent its most dramatic change since Medicare.
The right became fascinated with the political saying. “Was it the biggest mistake of your presidency to tell the nation over and over ‘if you like your insurance you can keep your insurance,’” Bill O’Reilly asked President Obama during a Super Bowl halftime interview.
But even by PolitiFact’s own calculus, less than 2% of the total insured population received cancellation letters following the ACA’s implementation.
Furthermore, even if you were among the less than 2% of the population whose old plans were phased out by the ACA, there was a good chance that your new plan could have kept your old doctors.
And even if your old doctor wasn’t in your new network, ACA regulations mandate a certain basic coverage with specialists, so a patient would never be without, for example, a cardiologist.
In Politifact’s article, these two facts are never mentioned.
This year’s lie of the year award is fairly self-evident. However, there is a risk with awarding a yearly award in July. What if, for example, Trump loses this upcoming election by 10 million votes, and later claims that 10,000,001 illegal immigrants voted?
Trump has said some interesting things about the coronavirus, but the lie of the year should go to one of two statements.
First, he lied on February 26 about the number of cases. “And again when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job,” Trump proclaimed.
From 15 cases to zero. As of today, the number of positive coronavirus cases in the United States is slightly above zero — it’s 3.53 million.
Second, he lied about the virus “miraculously” disappearing in April due to the warmer weather.
“Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away,” Trump said at a campaign rally in New Hampshire on February 10th. “I hope that’s true.”
Well, it isn’t.
By the end of April, the virus had killed 62,557 Americans. Currently, the virus is surging in Arizona, Florida, Texas, and California — all warm weather states. In Phoenix, the temperature has averaged 110 degrees Fahrenheit all week and the hospitals are nearing full capacity.
Some of Trump’s coronavirus statements are comedic or bizarre. Drinking bleach, infecting sunlight, “if you want a test you can get a test.” These head scratching statements are chum for social media scrollers.
But the president’s word should mean something. Telling Americans that the caseload will go to zero when it balloons to over three and a half million is wrong. Saying the virus will miraculously disappear in warmer weather when it has killed 138,000 Americans is equally wrong.
Don’t expect PolitiFact to name lie of the year in July. But we have an early frontrunner.