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Religious Right Parrots Lie of the Year

December 17, 2010, 11:27 pm | Posted by Dan Nejfelt

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Politifact.com gave its Lie of the Year award to the widely circulated conservative argument that health reform legislation constituted a “government takeover” of the health care system. From their explanation of the award:

But as Republicans smelled serious opportunity in the midterm elections, they didn’t let facts get in the way of a great punchline. And few in the press challenged their frequent assertion that under Obama, the government was going to take over the health care industry.

PolitiFact editors and reporters have chosen “government takeover of health care” as the 2010 Lie of the Year. Uttered by dozens of politicians and pundits, it played an important role in shaping public opinion about the health care plan and was a significant factor in the Democrats’ shellacking in the November elections.

Unsurprisingly, numerous religious right leaders and organizations eagerly repeated this award-winning lie throughout the health care reform debate and during this year’s election season. A few examples:

  • The Susan B. Anthony List took out radio ads alleging that Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) “cast the deciding vote to allow the government takeover of health care.”
  • FRCAction PAC ran campaign ads accusing numerous Democrats of supporting “big government” that is “taking over our health care.”

Politifact traces this term back to an influential 2009 strategy memo by Republican pollster and messaging guru Frank Luntz, which straightforwardly says “you’ll notice we recommend the phrase ‘government takeover of health care.’” It’s a shame that the Gospel of Luntz trumped the 9th Commandment.

3 Responses to “Religious Right Parrots Lie of the Year”

  1. Bryan White says:

    PolitiFact noted that Republicans who were asked about how healthcare reform constituted a “government takeover” responded in terms of specifics from the legislation. But PolitiFact insisted that “government takeover” had to mean either socialized medicine or a government takeover (straw man).

    It bothers me that people in the “Faith Community” seem so eager to turn the job of showing compassion over to the government. Do that and you’re not going to get it back without divine intervention. The state will see to it that churches are marginalized with respect to one of their key roles in community life (and the state loves no one). If you don’t believe me then look at Europe.

  2. Dan says:

    Equating health care reform with “turning the job of showing compassion over to the government” is the real straw man in this discussion.

  3. Bryan White says:


    Note that I made no such equation and we have at least two straw men in the discussion (PolitiFact’s and yours). Don’t you and I both know that many evangelicals want to go way beyond the present health care reform proposal? They call it social justice, and it’s a duplication of of much of the error of pietism about a century ago.