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PolitiFact's Lie of the Year - Guess Who?


It's that time of year to once again cast our gaze on some of the most outrageous comments made by politicians. WUSF talks with PolitiFact Florida's Amy Hollyfield about their latest stocking stuffer - The Lie of the Year.

It probably wasn't hard to figure out who has produced the most hyperbole of any of the candidates this year.

But that hasn't stopped Donald Trump's meteoric rise to the top of the Republican polls.

So when it came time for PolitiFact to name it's annual "Lie of the Year," guess who led the reader's polls with not just the first - or the second - but the top three most popular whoppers. Yes, you guessed it, The Donald.

Here's the statement that got nearly half of all the votes:

"I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down," he said at a Nov. 21 rally in Birmingham, Ala. "And I watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering."


Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling on that:

The Associated Press, on Sept. 17, 2001, described "rumors of rooftop celebrations of the attack by Muslims" in Jersey City. But the same report said those rumors were "unfounded."
The Washington Post, on Sept. 18, 2001, published an article that claimed "law enforcement authorities detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops while they watched the devastation on the other side of the river." The Post story includes no source for this information, and we found no evidence that any of these allegations ever stuck. Three percent of New Jersey residents are Muslim -- the highest of any state -- according to Pew Research Center. Suspected 9/11 terrorists had ties to Jersey City and Paterson. But there is no conclusive evidence that any New Jersey residents celebrated the attacks, and there is no evidence whatsoever of any demonstrations where "thousands and thousands of people" cheered. Nor is there any evidence Trump saw these events play out in any way, be it on TV or in person. We reached out to Trump’s campaign but didn’t hear back. What we did find are many stories of Muslims living in New Jersey speaking out against the attacks and bracing themselves for anti-Muslim backlash. For example, Paterson residents put up a banner on the city’s main street that said "The Muslim Community Does Not Support Terrorism.'' Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop responded to Trump’s statement on Twitter, saying Trump "has memory issues or willfully distorts the truth." Our ruling Trump said he "watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering" as the World Trade Center collapsed. This defies basic logic. If thousands and thousands of people were celebrating the 9/11 attacks on American soil, many people beyond Trump would remember it. And in the 21st century, there would be video or visual evidence. Instead, all we found were a couple of news articles that described rumors of celebrations that were either debunked or unproven. Trump’s recollection of events in New Jersey in the hours after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks flies in the face of all the evidence we could find. We rate this statement Pants on Fire.

Next up on our Trifecta of Trump, the day after a black activist was kicked and punched by people attending a Trump rally in Alabama, he tweeted an image packed with racially loaded murder statistics.

The picture shows a masked, dark-skinned man with a handgun, alongside a set of points. One of the most contested statements was one claiming "Whites killed by blacks -- 81 percent".

The tweet

Several of those statistics are way off the mark, according to PolitiFact Florida:

Interracial homicides While the image references 2015, the year is not over, and no official numbers have been released. The latest data comes from the FBI for 2014. This table contrasts Trump’s figures with the official ones:
The most glaring inaccuracies have to do with white homicide victims. Trump cast blacks as the primary killers of whites, but the exact opposite is true. By overwhelming percentages, whites tend to kill other whites. Similarly, blacks tend to kill other blacks. These trends have been observed for decades. Parenthetically, the website Little Green Footballs traced the original image back to a Twitter stream that appears to originate in the United Kingdom and features a modified swatiska with the line "Should have listened to the Austrian chap with the little moustache." Our ruling Trump tweeted an image that made various statistical claims, including that blacks kill 81 percent of white homicide victims. Almost every number in the image is wrong. The statistics on white victims are exaggerated five-fold. The police-related deaths are off as well. We rate this claim Pants on Fire.

Continuing with our lightning round of Trump's dalliances with the truth was this comment about illegal immigrants from south of the border:

In a July 8 interview with NBC, Trump told interviewer Katy Tur, "The Mexican government forces many bad people into our country because they're smart. They're smarter than our leaders, and their negotiators are far better than what we have, to a degree that you wouldn’t believe. They're forcing people into our country. … And they are drug dealers and they are criminals of all kinds. We are taking Mexico’s problems."

Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling:

About the closest support for Trump’s claim that we could find is the argument that the Mexican government’s failure to provide strong economic growth and restrain drug violence has been a factor in convincing people to leave the country and come to the United States. Still, it’s not accurate to equate the Mexican government’s inability to accomplish these goals and the idea that the government is pushing people out.
It’s also worth noting that migration from Mexico to the United States has been declining in recent years. This is due to demographic factors more than anything else, Massey said. Trump "does not seem to have gotten the memo, but undocumented migration stopped in 2008 and has been zero or negative since -- not because the economic fundamentals have changed, but because the fertility rate dropped from 6.7 births per woman in 1970 to 2.2 births today, bringing about an aging of the population," Massey said. "People initiate migration between the ages of 18 and 30, and if they don't migrate then, they are unlikely ever to migrate." In other words, Massey said, the number of people in the age category most conducive to immigration is dropping, so immigration is dropping as well. Our ruling Trump said, "The Mexican government ... they send the bad ones over." Setting aside the question of whether Mexicans who have come to the United States are "bad" or not, we found no evidence of any Mexican policy that pushes people out of Mexico and into the United States. As has been the case for decades, a combination of economic and family factors accounts for most of the migration from Mexico to the United States. For the second time, we rate this claim Pants on Fire.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.