Politicians aren't always known for being the most honest people. Still, it's hard to stand up and call them liars.
But that's just what the Pulitzer Prize-winning website PolitiFact.com does. It looks at what politicians say, then determines how honest they are. And at the end of the year, PolitiFact names the biggest political lie of the year.
So what is that lie for 2011, according to PolitiFact?
"This was a claim we heard over and over again after the House voted in April on a budget by (Rep. Paul Ryan (R, Wis.). It's just not true," Adair said. "The way they say it, they say the House voted to end Medicare. That's not what they did. The House voted to protect Medicare on people who are 55 or older, but to privatize it and restructure it in a dramatic way for people who are younger. It's wrong to say 'end Medicare' and it's the classic scare tactic we've seen targeting the elderly for many years."
Adair shared two ads that mention this claim -- one featuring an elderly woman in a wheelchair being thrown off a cliff by a Paul Ryan lookalike, and one of an elderly man dressed up as a fireman, presumably to be a stripper at a bachelorette party -- the assumption being that he's working until death to maintain health benefits.
Editor's note: The video of the elderly woman being thrown off a cliff was produced by The Agenda Project, a progressive non-profit 501(c)(4) organization, as part of its "America the Beautiful" campaign.
"(The ads are) targeting an audience of elderly people," Adair said. "But the elderly people are actually protected under the Ryan plan. So it really was a distortion of what Ryan was trying to do, which was change the plan and save money for people who were younger. And, you know, it's amazing, when you go back in history, this kind of attack has been going on since 1952 -- at least. Why? Because it works."
This isn't the first time a health care-related topic has been named one of the top lies of the year by PolitiFact. In fact, Adair said last year, the top lie was the claim by Republicans that the health care law was a government takeover. The year before that, it was the existence of "death panels" in President Obama's healthcare reform measure.
"Health care is ripe for big falsehoods because it's complicated, there are life-or-death stakes to it," Adair said. "And I think everybody is worried, 'Am I going to be able to afford health care?' So I wouldn't be surprised if we see another lie of the year involving health care."
A finalist in this year's lie of the year consideration was a statement about the HPV vaccine by Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann.
Bachmann said during a TV interview, "I had a mother last night come up to me here in Tampa, Florida, after the debate. She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter."
PolitiFact rated that claim as false.
"The doctor's organizations came out and were very critical of Congressman Bachmann for saying that, saying something that was not based on medical evidence, going out with something based on one anecdote," Adair said. "That was a finalist. Ultimately, we didn't pick that one because it didn't have the reach that the Medicare claim did. But definitely, a big falsehood in 2011."