Fact Checking

Who Are The Biggest Liars In Politics?

trump

Donald Trump: Biggest liar in politics?

A conservative friend told me today that he couldn’t possibly vote for Hillary Clinton because she is a “serial liar.” Another voiced agreement, saying, “The Clintons are some of the biggest liars in the history of American politics.”

At first this felt like one of those unmeasurable assertions. Except…there are fact checking websites like, PolitiFact. Others exist, but PolitiFact publishes a handy table providing a numerical breakdown of each person and organization it’s fact checked.

PolitiFact rates claims they’ve fact checked in one of the following categories:

– True
– Mostly True
– Half True
– Mostly False
– False
– Pants on Fire

To create a measure of political truthiness, I combined the first two as “truth” and the last three as “liar”.

Here are the TRUTH leaders from my self-selected group of news makers, according to the information published by PolitiFact (percentage of claims made by each individual that have been rated true or mostly true by PolitiFact):

  1. Bernie Sanders 53%
  2. Hillary Clinton 51%
  3. Barack Obama/Jeb Bush (tie) 48%
  4. Rand Paul 47%
  5. Chris Christie 40%
  6. Joe Biden 39%
  7. Marco Rubio/Sean Hannity/Mitch McConnell 38%
  8. Rachel Maddow 37%
  9. Scott Walker 34%
  10. Harry Reid 33%
  11. Paul Ryan 32%
  12. Mitt Romney 31%
  13. John Boehner 30%
  14. Ted Cruz 22%
  15. Nancy Pelosi 18%
  16. Donald Trump 7%
  17. Rush Limbaugh/Chain e-mails 6%
  18. Ben Carson 4%

In other words, 53% of the claims and assertions made by Bernie Sanders have been rated as true by the journalists at PolitiFact — the highest level (by a hair over Clinton) in this group. And kudos to Donald Trump for being slightly more truthful than anonymous chain e-mails and Rush Limbaugh. Ben Carson, the most honest student at Yale, rated as the least truthful — just 4% of his claims were rated as “true” by PolitiFact.

On the LIAR leaderboard (percentage of claims made by each individual rated as Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire by PolitiFact):

  1. Obama 26%
  2. Sanders 28%
  3. Clinton 29%
  4. J. Bush 31%
  5. Biden/Paul 32%
  6. Christie 33%
  7. Rubio 40%
  8. Romney 41%
  9. Pelosi 43%
  10. Hannity 44%
  11. Ryan/McConnell 46%
  12. Walker 47%
  13. Maddow 48%
  14. Reid 52%
  15. Boehner 54%
  16. Cruz 66%
  17. Trump 75%
  18. Limbaugh 82%
  19. Carson 84%
  20. Chain e-mail 89%

If I make it into a ratio — TRUTH/LIAR, I get these results:

  1. Sanders 1.92 (truths per lie)
  2. Obama 1.86
  3. Clinton 1.78
  4. J. Bush 1.55
  5. Paul 1.47
  6. Biden 1.23
  7. Christie 1.22
  8. Rubio 0.94
  9. Hannity 0.86
  10. McConnell 0.82
  11. Maddow 0.77
  12. Romney 0.74
  13. Walker 0.73
  14. Ryan 0.70
  15. Reid 0.64
  16. Boehner 0.57
  17. Pelosi 0.42
  18. Cruz 0.33
  19. Trump 0.09
  20. Limbaugh/Chain e-mail 0.07
  21. Carson 0.05

So there you have it: the biggest liars in politics are Ben Carson, Rush Limbaugh, chain e-mails and Donald Trump.

In the interest of fairness, I’ll point out that the forgoing numbers don’t necessarily represent “lies” in the sense that each of these people knew they were saying something untrue in each of these instances. Some of these are likely factual errors.

In addition, the PolitiFact database includes only claims they fact-checked. Each of these people have made a gazillion claims, many of which could be true, false or something in-between. What’s presented by PolitiFact (and therefore by me) is analysis of claims that were controversial or iffy enough to indicate a need for third-party evaluation. (I use “third-party” intentionally because PolitiFact has been accused of having a liberal bias. That’s a subject for another day.)

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