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The most overlooked ‘Lie of the Year’: The so-called Republican ‘War on Women’

This week, PolitiFact came out with its list of finalists for the 2012 ‘Lie of the Year.’ The “lies” cover everything from abortion to health care to taxes to the auto bailout, and hit on an equal number of claims from both sides of the aisle.

Every year PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year” causes controversy. In 2009 and 2010, it rated “death panels” and “government takeover of health care” as the respective Lies, rankling conservatives, and in 2011 it ranked the Mediscare tactics of the Left as the worst Lie.

Each of these “Lie of the Year” awards can be argued and debated endlessly. While “death panels” may not technically exist, it is clear that the Independent Payment Advisory Board does have the power and incentive to limit care to seniors. Is that an effective death panel? Only time will tell.

This year, however, PolitiFact missed what is to me the clear winner of the ‘Lie of the Year’ award: the claim that Republicans are waging a ‘War on Women.’

In a phone interview, PolitiFact Editor Bill Adair explained why the “War on Women” didn’t make the cut.

“Lie of the Year comes from statements PolitiFact has rated ‘False’ or ‘Pants on Fire.’ We rate the ‘Lie of the Year’ as the boldest statement or the statement with the biggest reach. Obviously, it’s subjective,” he said. “We didn’t do a fact-check on a statement that there was a War on Women. It was an opinion, and we don’t fact-check opinions. People used it as a sum-up of a variety of aspects of the 2012 campaigns, but it was an overall opinion, not a statement of policy fact.”

Unfortunately, I think Adair and his staff missed the boat here. The ‘War on Women’ claim was indeed related to many policy claims. Politicus USA even provided a whole list of policy aspects of the ‘War on Women. Furthermore, the ‘War on Women’ was launched on January 20, 2012 by none other than President Obama when his Administration put out the HHS contraception/abortifacient/sterilization mandate, which is a policy. Prominent liberal pundits like Gail Collins then claimed religious opponents of the mandate were trying to force “their particular dogma on the larger public,” when in fact all the religious organizations wanted was the freedom to not engage in government-coerced action.

The false ‘War on Women’ claim that may have done the most damage to GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012 was Planned Parenthood’s assertion that Romney wanted to “get rid of” Planned Parenthood, when he was actually talking about federal funding for the organization. Romney was eventually forced to run an ad stating he is pro-choice, becoming possibly the first modern Republican candidate for President to run on a platform supporting abortion. He was also forced to declare in a debate that “[e]very woman in America should have access to contraceptives.”

Additionally, Richard Mourdock, Rep. Todd Akin (R-MS) and Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), among other Republican candidates, lost their races at least in part because of the alleged ‘War on Women.’ The Mourdock and Akin losses helped leave the Senate in control of the Democratic Party.

The claim that Republicans are engaged in a ‘War on Women’ was prominently displayed at the Democratic National Convention by Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, among others. And President Obama’s campaign made national news when it released a vote with your “lady parts” graphic (that was quickly deleted).

Of course, in the end, women supported Obama over Romney by a substantial margin overall, especially in key states. How can Politifact argue that the ‘War on Women’ lies Democrats told about Romney and fellow Republicans didn’t have a broad enough reaching effects to be considered for ‘Lie of the Year’?

Besides impacting the election and public opinion, the “War on Women” could result in the shut down the Catholic Church’s entire affiliated network in America. This includes one-sixth of hospital beds in America, schools and adoption centers across the country.

Given how widespread this lie was, the implications for the 2012 elections, and the future implications on health insurance and private education in America, it definitely qualifies as at least a candidate for ‘Lie of the Year,’ if nothing else.