“If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep it.” This often repeated statement by President Obama was PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year for 2013. It is true that out of a total insured population of 262 million, an estimated 4 million people received cancellation notices on their insurance policies. These policies did not meet the “grandfathering” rules established under the Affordable Care Act. It is also true that most often these plans were junk insurance plans that did not meet the minimum coverage standards under the law.
According to Consumer Reports, many of these plans were so bad that the people might as well have been uninsured.
“The only people who like these plans are people who have never needed them,” said Nancy Metcalf, a senior editor at Consumer Reports. “They haven’t figured out how terrible they are. They think they have good coverage but they don’t.”
One woman who had her insurance canceled complained to CBS News. She paid only $54 a month for a Blue Cross discount plan in Florida and was afraid her premiums would be much higher under Obamacare. Turns out, her plan paid only $50 for doctor’s office visits and some out-patient services while covering nothing for hospitalization.
Even so, President Obama apologized for his misrepresentation of the facts in an interview with NBC News: “We weren’t as clear as we needed to be in terms of the changes that were taking place, and I want to do everything we can to make sure that people are finding themselves in a good position, a better position than they were before the law happened. And I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me.”
This admirable behavior by President Obama should be compared with the actions of the team of liars that currently occupy the White House.
PolitiFact’s 2015 Lie of the Year was the campaign misstatements of Donald Trump. This is a small sampling of the dozens of Trump statements that PolitiFact rated Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire:
“’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.’ Pants on Fire. There is no video of thousands of people in Jersey City cheering. Weeks later, Trump continues to stand by his claim but has not been able to point to evidence to back it up. Public safety officials on the ground in New Jersey say it never happened.”
“’The Mexican government…they send the bad ones over.’ Pants on Fire. There’s no evidence to show the Mexican government encourages criminals to cross the border. Most illegal immigration comes from people seeking work. Recent estimates show illegal immigration from Mexico dropped off dramatically during the recession and has remained low.”
”’Whites killed by whites - 16 percent. Whites killed by blacks - 81 percent,’ said an image he shared on Twitter. Pants on Fire. Most people are killed by someone they know, and someone of the same race. The correct number for whites killed by whites was 82 percent in 2014, while the number of whites killed by blacks was 15 percent.”
“ He talked about foreign policy: ‘If you’re from Syria and you’re a Christian, you cannot come into this country, and they’re the ones that are being decimated. If you are Islamic … it’s hard to believe, you can come in easily,’ Trump said in a speech in Las Vegas on July 11. ‘In fact, it’s one of our main groups of people that are coming in.’ This is wrong on its face - Syrian Christians have been admitted as refugees in recent months. There’s nothing in U.S. law or regulation that discriminates against Christian refugees. We rated the claim False.”
It took an entire page of the New York Times Opinion Section to simply list the “Trump Lies” between Jan. 20, when he took office and July 21. Just to mention one of the over 100 examples: “’Between 3 million and 5 million illegal votes caused me to lose the popular vote!’ (There’s no evidence of illegal voting.)”
Trump’s continuous lying has also tainted his staff and advisers. His former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and advisers Carter Page, Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner have all lied about contacts with the Russians during the campaign.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer was sent out to lie to the nation’s press about the inauguration crowd size: “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period,” claimed Spicer. Spicer is now a disgraced former press secretary who makes fun of himself and his lies on national television.
When asked about Spicer’s bald faced lie, adviser Kellyanne Conway said: “You’re saying it’s a falsehood, … Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that.”
As justification for Trump’s refugee ban, Conway concocted a false terrorist attack. “I bet it’s new information to people that President Obama had a six month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized - and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green Massacre.” There was never a Bowling Green Massacre. Two men were arrested during the planning stages. There was no refugee ban under Obama, although the number of visas issued were slowed during a review of the vetting process.
In many ways, the most disturbing lies coming out of the Trump White House came from an unexpected source. As a retired general, it was assumed that current Chief of Staff John Kelly was a man of impeccable integrity. That view was shattered by the cascade of lies he told about Congresswoman Frederica Wilson.
Wilson had been in the vehicle with Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, along with other family members when President Trump made a condolence call. Sgt. Johnson was one of four soldiers who had been killed during an attack in Niger. Myeshia put the call on speakerphone as they drove to the airport for the arrival of her husband’s remains. She wanted everyone in the car to hear the President’s remarks. Wilson reported to CNN that the President’s words were insensitive and had been hurtful for the family. Trump had said: “Well, I guess he knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurt.” Sgt. Johnson’s mother and Myeshia both have confirmed Wilson’s account of the phone call and their response was that it made them cry.
White House Chief of Staff Kelly gave a press briefing in which he seemed to confirm the words reported but argued that Trump had been misunderstood. Kelly was absolutely “stunned” that Wilson had listened in on the phone call even though it was the widow who had turned the speakerphone on in the moving vehicle.
Kelly completely went off the rails in the rest of his attack on Wilson. He spoke about attending the dedication of the new FBI field office in Miami. Then he made these comments about Congresswoman Wilson: “And a congresswoman stood up, and in the long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there and all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building, and how she took care of her constituents because she got the money, and she just called up President Obama, and on that phone call he gave the money—the $20 million—to build the building. And she sat down, and we were stunned. Stunned that she had done it. Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned. But, you know none of us went to the press and criticized. None of us stood up and were appalled. We just said okay, fine.”
“Except it wasn’t true,” as reported in USA Today: “A video of the ceremony released Friday by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel shows that Wilson never took credit for getting the money, which was appropriated before she came to office. To the contrary, she gives a speech praising the FBI and the dead agents for which the building is named. She does take credit for, at the request of the FBI, rushing through in four weeks the naming of the building for the agents in time for the dedication ceremony. Benjamin P. Grogan and Jerry L. Dove…The video shows Wilson recognizing a number of those attending, including then FBI Director James Comey, the families of the two fallen agents as well as other members of Congress who helped secure the funding.”
Before Kelly calls someone an “empty barrel,” he really should check their biography. Congresswoman Wilson worked as a teacher and as a coordinator for the Head Start program before becoming the principal of Skyways Elementary School. During her tenure, Skyways was recognized as one of the best schools in America in President George H.W. Bush’s “America 2000” plan to upgrade national educational standards.
As a member of the Miami-Dade County School Board, she established a mentoring program, the 500 Role Models of Excellence Project. Now known as the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, it has awarded millions of dollars in college scholarships. Today the program serves more than 8,000 students each year.
As a child, La David Johnson had benefited from this mentoring program. It has been announced that the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project will establish a Role Model La David Johnson Scholarship in his honor.
John Kelly’s legacy will forever be tarnished by his association with Donald Trump. At the very least, he should get his facts straight before attempting to malign the character of a good person in defense of a bad person.