PolitiFact Web Site Checks on Candidates' Claims Bill Adair, editor of the PolitiFact Web site, talks about the reality behind claims made the presidential campaign trail. PolitiFact vets statements made by the campaigns in ads, speeches and debates.
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PolitiFact Web Site Checks on Candidates' Claims

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PolitiFact Web Site Checks on Candidates' Claims

PolitiFact Web Site Checks on Candidates' Claims

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

As the field of presidential hopefuls narrows, it should be easier to keep track of what the candidates are saying. But with 24 states participating in Super Tuesday, there has been a flurry of debates, speeches and political ads. And with all that information coming at you, it's hard to know which candidates' messages are legit and which ones are stretching the truth.

We've asked Bill Adair, the editor of PolitiFact.com, to help us sort through some of the candidates' claims. Welcome back, Bill.

Mr. BILL ADAIR (Editor, PolitiFact.com): Thanks for having me.

HANSEN: We have this ad from John McCain, although we're not going to hear John McCain's voice. The voice we're going to hear is that of Mitt Romney.

(Soundbite of ad)

Mr. MITT ROMNEY (Former Governor, Massachusetts; Republican Presidential Candidate): I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I will preserve and protect a woman's right to choose, and am devoted and dedicated to honoring my word in that regard.

I am pro-life and favor that legislation.

HANSEN: Now, even though that's a John McCain ad, he's juxtaposing Mitt Romney's various statements on abortion. Is that fair?

Mr. ADAIR: It is very fair. And we gave this a true on our truth-o-meter. And it's a very clever ad. It is simply Romney's words. There's no narrator. There are no charges. It just sort of lays out the facts. And so it's one of the more effective ads that we've checked.

HANSEN: Now we have something from a speech that Barack Obama gave last Wednesday in Denver, Colorado.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois): The way to win a debate with John McCain is not by having the Democrats nominate someone who agreed with him on voting for the war in Iraq, who agreed with him in voting to give George Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran.

HANSEN: Barack Obama is equating Hillary Clinton with John McCain. Is it accurate?

Mr. ADAIR: Well, largely. Of course, as it relates to Iraq, Obama is correct that Senator Clinton voted to authorize the war, as did McCain. So we gave that one a true on our truth-o-meter. The Iran one's a little more nuanced, and he is referring to a vote from a few months ago on an amendment that would have declared, that did declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to be a terrorist organization.

And indeed, Senator Clinton voted in favor of that. And Obama, I think, had he voted - he wasn't there for that vote - he would've voted against it. McCain was a co-sponsor, and from that, we assume that he supported it. We ended up giving this a mostly true on our truth-o-meter, that there's still some interpretation of that amendment and what it did. It didn't actually become law. So we gave that one a mostly true. We gave the Iraq one a true.

HANSEN: Well, let's see how your truth-o-meter rates our final one. This is Bill Clinton, claiming that Barack Obama prefers Republican ideas.

President BILL CLINTON: The last two days, he said President Reagan was the engine of innovation and did more - had a more lasting impact on America than I did. And then the next day he said in the '90s the good ideas came out from the Republicans.

HANSEN: Well, only a few days earlier, Bill Clinton made a similar statement, claiming that Obama had said that since 1992, the Republicans had had all the good ideas. I mean, what's going on? Does Barack Obama have a secret love for Republicans, or is Mr. Clinton stretching the truth just a bit?

Mr. ADAIR: Definitely stretching the truth here. We gave this a false on the truth-o-meter. Senator Obama gave an account of why he believed the Republicans had been more successful with their agenda in the '90s. And when you look at it, it is not as President Clinton characterized it. And so we gave this a false.

And this gets to something interesting that we've discovered on PolitiFact. It's one thing to make a mistake in a debate. We call that sort of under the Klieg lights errors. The different kind of mistake is when a distortion is repeated over and over again, and so we try to call attention to both on PolitiFact.com and to say to voters, you know, here's the truth of all this, and you decide and you can use it making up your mind.

We've found these kind of mistakes for all the candidates, and we're, at this point, we've now checked over 300.

HANSEN: Bill Adair edits PolitiFact.com, a Web site run by Congressional Quarterly and the St. Petersburg Times, a newspaper that also employs him as its Washington bureau chief. Thanks for coming in again.

Mr. ADAIR: Thanks for having me.

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