Parsing Palin's Speech For Facts
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
In her speech last night at the Republican convention, vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin made a number of claims that we thought merit some scrutiny. So, we turned to Bill Adair, editor of Politifact.com. The Web site is a project of the St. Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly. It's been truth-squading claims by both sides in the presidential race.
Bill Adair joins us from the Xcel Center in St. Paul. Welcome.
Mr. BILL ADAIR (Editor, Politifact.com): Thank you for having me.
BLOCK: And let's start by listening to one of Sarah Palin's digs at Barack Obama. She said there is a lot to admire, but then she added this…
Gov. SARAH PALIN (Republican, Alaska; Vice Presidential Candidate): Listening to him speak, it's easy to forget that this is a man who has authored two memoirs, but not a single major law or even a reform, not even in the state senate.
(Soundbite of cheers)
BLOCK: Hasn't authored a single major law or reform. Bill Adair, is that accurate?
Mr. ADAIR: Well, it depends on your definition of the word major. But he has definitely authored and passed what I think reasonable people would consider significant laws, one involving weapons of mass destruction in trying to help nations track down weapons of mass destruction and shoulder-fired missiles; another one involving nuclear materials to India; another one involving making government contracts more transparent. He also had significant accomplishments in Illinois on welfare reform. So I think she was exaggerating a lot there.
BLOCK: Sarah Palin also said that Barack Obama will add a massive tax burden to the American economy. Let's listen to some of the specifics she mentioned.
Gov. PALIN: The Democratic nominee for president supports plans to raise income taxes and raise payroll taxes and raise investment income taxes, and raise the death tax, and raise business taxes, and increase the tax burden on the American people by hundreds of billions of dollars.
(Soundbite of boos)
BLOCK: Bill Adair, what about those claims?
Mr. ADAIR: Well, those claims are really quite a stretch. We have looked into these claims a lot that the McCain campaign has made. And what they have been doing is relying on a provision in Obama's tax plan that would not renew the Bush tax cuts for people earning more than $200,000 a year as individuals or $250,000 as families.
So, to the extent that taxes would go up under Obama, it really would only affect the wealthiest Americans. And so we gave that particular claim that she made about income taxes and payroll taxes a half true on our Truth-O-Meter. It's really quite a stretch.
BLOCK: You actually have a little image of a dial on your Web site, the Truth-O-Meter, and the dial is at half-mast right there.
Mr. ADAIR: Yeah. We have found that the truth isn't black or white, that there are shades of gray, and so the Truth-O-Meter can help readers and listeners see exactly the relative truth of what the candidates are saying.
BLOCK: Well, Sarah Palin also made a number of claims about her own record in Alaska. Let's listen to one of them.
Gov. PALIN: We suspended the state fuel tax and championed reforms to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. I told the Congress, thanks but no thanks on that Bridge to Nowhere.
BLOCK: I can feel we're going to be hearing that thanks-but-no-thanks a lot in the months to come. What's your take on that?
Mr. ADAIR: Well, if only it were true that way. She really is exaggerating her role in this. I'm sure everyone can remember once this bridge became known as the Bridge to Nowhere, it became the most famous earmark, pork barrel project and became a symbol of wasteful spending. And so Congress responded to a public outcry about it by withdrawing the specific authorization for it.
So Congress had actually already begun the process of killing the Bridge to Nowhere. They gave the same amount of money to the state of Alaska, and the state decided to spend that money largely on other projects. So by the time it got to Governor Palin for her to say, no, we don't want to do it, it really was already on its death bed, and Governor Palin was really just performing the last rites.
BLOCK: Let's end by talking about a smaller point. Governor Palin talked about things that she has gotten rid of as governor - the personal chef and the luxury jet.
Gov. PALIN: I put it on e-Bay.
(Soundbite of laughter)
BLOCK: And that, I gather, is true, up to a point.
Mr. ADAIR: Indeed. She did indeed put it on e-Bay and they tried to sell it there. They were unsuccessful and ultimately had to sell it through an aircraft broker. But the way she said it, I put it on e-Bay, was correct, so at least that claim earned a true on our Truth-O-Meter.
BLOCK: Bill Adair, thanks very much.
Mr. ADAIR: Thanks for having me.
BLOCK: Bill Adair is editor of Politifact.com.
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