PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year: “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it”

PolitiFact has awarded President Barack Obama with its “2013 Lie of the Year” for his now-infamous and flatly false claim that that Americans could keep their health plans under Obamacare.

“It was a catchy political pitch and a chance to calm nerves about his dramatic and complicated plan to bring historic change to America’s health insurance system,” wrote Angie Drobnic Holan yesterday at PolitiFact.

“‘If you like your health care plan, you can keep it,’ President Barack Obama said — many times — of his landmark new law,” she noted. “But the promise was impossible to keep.”

So this fall, as cancellation letters were going out to approximately 4 million Americans, the public realized Obama’s breezy assurances were wrong,” she wrote, adding that President Obama and his administration’s excuses for lying to Americans “made matters worse.”

The bungled rollout of the federal Obamacare exchange website and stories covering the cancellations caused President Obama’s approval ratings drop to all-time lows. Congressional Democrats have seen their advantage in completely disappear to the point where Republicans now hold a slim edge.

“For all of these reasons, PolitiFact has named ‘If you like your health care plan, you can keep it,’ the Lie of the Year for 2013,” wrote Holan. “Readers in a separate online poll overwhelmingly agreed with the choice.”

Among the 10 choices presented to PolitiFact readers, President Obama’s claim took 59% of the vote. None of the other finalists for the dishonor took more than 8%. Some of the reader responses are very humorous.

“‘If you like your health care, you can keep it,’ will go down in history as Obama’s ‘Read my lips,’ ‘I’ve never had sexual relations,’ and ‘I am not a crook,’” wrote one reader in reference to famous statements made by President Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon.

“We now have proof that when the president said that, he knew it was false. Pants gone, boxers now aflame,” said another reader.

The choice represents a reversal on the part of this fact checker, which is run by the Tampa Bay Times. In August 2009 and again in June 2012, PolitiFact rated President Obama’s promise with a “Half-True.”

PolitiFact offered no explanation, apology or admission for what is tacit admission that they got wrong the previous “fact checks” on the statement. Nor did they offer any sort of process through which these sort of mistakes will be avoided in the future.

PolitiFact’s annual “dishonor” has been controversial in the past. In 2009, the “Lie of the Year” was given to Sarah Palin because of her Obamacare “death panels” claim, though, some contend that she had a point.

The following year, PolitiFact said that the claim that Obamacare was a “government takeover of health care” was the “Lie of the Year” based on the reasoning that health insurance would still be provided, largely, through the private market. Nevermind that the law is a huge centralization of power and dictates minimum coverage that insurers have to offer, among other mandates and regulatory controls.

Matt Welch, editor at Reason magazine, has accused PolitiFact of focusing too much on rhetoricrather than serving as a “check on the exercise of power.” Human Events has criticized the fact checker for targeting Republicans, which, the conservative publication says, shows PolitiFact’s bias.

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