GOP’s Fact-Challenged Convention

Even by the measure of modern U.S. political events, the Republican National Convention was fact-challenged. Again and again, Republicans reprised their favorite canards and distortions, including the claim that President Obama has eliminated the work requirement in welfare, writes William Boardman.

By William Boardman

Some people don’t believe in such a thing as objective truth. Other people don’t care what’s true or not true. And then there’s the rest of us, trying to figure out what’s real in the modern media maelstrom. Take Tuesday night at the Republican National Convention, just a snapshot, the truth problem in a microcosm, before, during, and after Rick Santorum spoke.

Rachel Maddow was anchoring the coverage on MSNBC, Maddow is avowedly liberal, but even more avowedly committed to getting facts right. She habitually asks her guests if she got her facts right in stories they are knowledgeable about, something few other newspeople do so consistently. And she is scrupulous in making corrections when she gets something wrong.

Participants at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. (Photo credit:

In other words, Maddow is a reporter with real integrity and here she is with her assortment of MSNBC talking heads getting ready to listen to former Senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum, and she predicts that he will lie. (Journalists often do have the benefit of getting prepared texts of major speeches.)

Maddow predicts that Santorum will specifically lie about the waivers that five governors (including two Republicans) asked the Obama administration to consider in relation to the federal welfare rules on work for those receiving welfare.

When the administration agreed to consider waivers, it made clear it would grant a waiver to the law’s work requirements only on the condition that more welfare recipients find jobs than under current rules. To date, the Obama administration has granted no waivers. And the two Republican governors who joined in the original request, Brian Sandoval of Nevada and Gary Herbert of Utah, are backing away from their initial position.

In 2005, during George W. Bush’s administration, Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts joined 28 other governors who wrote a letter to Congress seeking broader waiver authority from the law than the Obama administration has agreed to consider. And Gov. Romney also supported a program that provided free automobiles to welfare recipients.

But since early August, presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been running ads claiming that President Obama is eliminating work as a welfare requirement with a racially tinged explanation suggesting that Obama is pandering to his base.

One Romney ad in early August claimed that: “On July 12, President Obama quietly ended the work requirement, gutting welfare reform. One of the most respected newspapers in the country called it ‘nuts’.  Under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and you wouldn’t have to train for a job.  They just send you your welfare check. And welfare to work goes back to being plain old welfare.”

Romney’s claims have been widely criticized and debunked as false by fact-checking organizations including CNN, the New York Times, Daily Kos, ABC News, the Christian Science Monitor, the Los Angeles Times, and others. PolitiFact called Romney’s claims “pants on fire” bogus, the Washington Post gave Romney four “Pinocchios” for maximum falsity, and the Annenberg Public Policy Center agreed. Even Republican Newt Gingrich said there was “no proof” to support Romney’s claims.

The Romney campaign responded through pollster Neil Newhouse who said matter-of-factly, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”

In this context, Maddow made her prediction that Santorum, who has had several dramatic engagements of his own with untruth, would end up lying in his speech about Obama and welfare reform.

Sure enough, Santorum lied when he said, “This summer [Obama] showed us once again he believes in government handouts and dependency by waiving the work requirement for welfare.  I helped write the welfare reform bill; we made the law crystal clear — no president can waive the work requirement. But as with his refusal to enforce our immigration laws, President Obama rules like he is above the law.”

When the MSNBC panel returned after the speech, one of its members, Chris Matthews, commented respectfully on Santorum’s speech and remarked that Santorum hadn’t even mentioned welfare. Moments later Maddow gently and gracefully corrected him and Matthews admitted he’d missed the comments.

The next day, on The Maddow Blog featured Kansas Republican Gov. Sam Brownback reluctantly acknowledging that the Romney campaign’s claims about work and welfare are false.

And the ads are still running.

William Boardman lives in Vermont, where he has produced political satire for public radio and served as a lay judge.   

7 comments for “GOP’s Fact-Challenged Convention

  1. Aaron
    September 2, 2012 at 14:56


    Although I agree with some of your postings only when the real underlying reasons srtictly regard the great geo-political chess game regarding Eastern Vs. Western powers and their long term interests in the Mid East and broader region, the way I read it.

    And that also includes Israel as a pawn of the West to do its biding against regimes that don’t comply with Western strategic and corporate interests, which will automatically have consequences against Israelis or Jews and Arabs of neighboring states if that useless insanity – like bombing Iran into oblivion – plays out.

    But I again, I have to agree with your critics that your other comments regarding what you call a “Global Jewish Conspiracy” or “Zionists controlling the US ” to domanitate the world is real anti-Semitism. From that aspect, you’re just like David Duke.

    It’s no better than all the baseless current hysteria in the mainstream media against Muslims in general by the likes of Daniel Pipes, Frank Gaffney and Co.

  2. Kenny Fowler
    September 1, 2012 at 19:34

    C’mon, the whole spectacle was a trip down fantasy lane. Facts are not necessary when you go there. Of course Clint and the empty chair were priceless. Is Clint becoming Jack Palance? Definitely channeling a little Charleton Heston there. Anyhow, no one will remember any of the gibberish from the GOP convention very long except for Clint and the chair maybe.

    • F. G. Sanford
      September 2, 2012 at 16:05

      I just watched the Eastwood speech (or should I say monologue) on Youtube. There seems to be a lot of criticism which asserts that he was senile, rambling, “losing it”, etc. Someone mentioned the play, “Harvey”, in which Jimmy Stewart relates to a “Pooka” which is a mythical, invisible creature not everyone can see. In this case, “Harvey” was a six-foot tall rabbit. Eastwood asked the audience to imagine President Obama in an empty chair, and far from senile or dawdling, he pulled off the distracted, pandering, benevolent Jimmy Stewart persona perfectly. What probably escapes most viewers is the connection between Eastwood’s choice of analogy and the darker (and, yes, color may be figuratively at play here) interpretations of the legendary creature to which he chose to allude. This was a deeper, more poignant criticism of the President than seems to be recognized. Suffice to say that the specific criticisms which Eastwood chose to directly identify were Guantanamo Bay and the war in Afghanistan. This was no doddering fool. This was a real professional, a master of his craft who avowed his sense of betrayal. He twisted the knife into both candidates, each at the expense of the other. And I don’t think anybody realizes that.

  3. Otto Schiff
    August 31, 2012 at 17:39

    Rehmat clearly has a Jewish problem.
    So did Hitler.

    • Eddie
      September 2, 2012 at 17:56

      Yeah, ‘borat’ / flat5, take a look at your mirror image…

  4. caf
    August 31, 2012 at 17:00

    Isn’t is considered slander if you publicly lie about someone and it causes harm to their reputation? Couldn’t that be considered a crime? How is it that political candidates can openly lie so much about their opponents and not be held accountable? Does it just come down to who is more believable?

Comments are closed.