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Posted by on Sep 10, 2009 in Health, Media, Politics, Society | 33 comments

Politifact Truth-O-Meter: Joe Wilson Wrong When He Said Obama Lied

The St. Petersburg Times’ Pulitzer Prize winning Politifact has its Truth-O-Meter look at Rep. Joe Wilson’s shouted “You lied!” to President Barack Obama and finds: Wilson erred.

It’s an extensive post that needs to be read in full, but here is the conclusion:

The best argument that we find that health reform would help illegal immigrants is that some might be able to purchase the public option — if it passes, and it might not — on the new health insurance exchange. They would purchase that at full cost. Obama’s said “the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally,” which Wilson said was a “lie.” Actually, Obama can make a pretty thorough case that reform doesn’t apply to those here illegally. We don’t find the public option argument enough to make the case that Obama “lied.” We rate Wilson’s statement False.

Read it in its entirety.

It really won’t matter that Politifact won a Pulitzer or what it publishes here and in the future. You can even now hear on some talk radio and read in the new media people who recite the “lied” statement — if someone or a site doesn’t’ agree with them they must be part of a liberal plot, or the Democratic party payroll, or shilling for Obama — as a kind of mantra. If you say it over and over it must be true. (“Death panels…Obama wasn’t born here..He’ll indoctrinate school kids with socialism…Death panels…Obama wasn’t born here..He’ll indoctrinate school kids with socialism…He’ll indoctrinate school kids with socialism…Death panels…Obama wasn’t born here..Death panels…Obama wasn’t born here..He’ll indoctrinate schoolkids with socialism..” Some are even declaring Wilson “a great hero” and raising money for him. (John McCain and many other Republicans don’t quite consider Wilson a hero, even if they didn’t like other parts of Obama’s speech.) [UPDATE: A reader tells me Rush Limbaugh has also declared Wilson a hero, a further confirmation of the kind of politics that is being embraced and a seeming rejection of all the Republicans who found Wilson’s behavior repugnant.]

It’s clear that the GOP could face a long term problem. Companies need to expand their markets; the GOP needs to at least partially expand its base. If it isn’t now exactly stuck on stupid, it is now most assuredly stuck on polemics.

People like Wilson play not just to the party’s base but to basest form of politics that in the long run could turn off a large chunk of independent voters who recent polls showed were just starting to stray from Obama. Plus — as we have noted often here — there are thoughtful, serious-minded Republicans who seek positive solutions that won’t just solve problems but make their party a positive, affirmative, attractive choice over the Democratic alternative.

The attitude of some now enmeshed in the talk radio/Internet political culture will be “Politifact Politischmackt is part of the liberal media so they’re lying, too, and trying to help the Democrats! Rush, Glenn and Sean say Obama is lying and they never say anything that isn’t 100 percent accurate on their shows!”

And the Easter bunny will hide eggs in your house this April….

UPDATE: James Joyner sees what happened last night differently – -and has a different view on Politifact’s findings HERE.

See my earlier post.

UPDATE II: Obama has accepted Wilson’s apology. Here’s a chunk of what he told the press today, from Mark Halperin’s must-read The Page site:

Q Do you accept Wilson’s apology, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I do. I’m a big believer that we all make mistakes. He apologized quickly and without equivocation, and I’m appreciative of that.

I do think that, as I said last night, we have to get to the point where we can have a conversation about big, important issues that matter to the American people without vitriol, without name-calling, without the assumption of the worst in other people’s motives.

We are all Americans; we all want to do best for our country. We’ve got different ideas, but for the most part, we have the same aims, which is to make sure that people who work hard in this country and who act responsibly are able to get good jobs, good wages, raise their families, make sure those kids have a good education; that they are protected from misfortune or accident by having health care and retirement security in place; want to keep people safe — and that’s why our national security team is so important.

Our goals are generally the same, whether we’re Democrats or Republicans, and in fact, most Americans don’t even think about those labels all that much. They are turned off when they see people using wild accusations, false claims, name-calling, sharply ideological approaches to solve problems. They want pragmatism; they want people to stay focused on the job. And I hope that some of the fever breaks a little bit.

The media can always be helpful by not giving all the attention to the loudest or shrillest voices, and try to stay a little bit more focused on the issues at hand.

Q Will you talk with him if he decides to call you?

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I talk to everybody.

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