Truth-tellers, liars and equivocators

Tea Party Truth: Fact checking the Glenn Beck Rally

August 28, 2010 - 12:32 PM
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Glenn Beck says his rally won't be political. We somehow doubt that. So we're going to be fact checking the statements of Beck, former Alaska Gov. and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin and the other speakers at the "Restoring Honor" Rally today on the National Mall.

And don't worry, conservatives, we'll also be looking at the statements of the Rev. Al Sharpton and the other speakers at counter-rallies and marches.

1:43 p.m. — Wrapping up

The day's main festivities are over now, but we're looking for transcripts of the speeches to look over again for possible falsehoods. We're also looking at anything coming from Sharpton's Reclaim the Dream rally.

12:51 p.m. — King wrote at the Willard

Much thanks to Twitter user @EmilyHaHa, who pointed out to us that King wrote his speech at the Willard Hotel. Beck didn't mention the specific name of the hotel he was staying at, so we can't give this a grade yet.

12:32 p.m. — See, they even stayed at the same hotel!

Beck is claiming he is staying at the same hotel where Martin Luther King, Jr. finished writing his 'I Have A Dream' speech. We're looking at this claim, too. If anyone has any info that could help us out, e-mail or tweet at us.

The TV host later added: "I can probably relate to Martin Luther King the most out of all these giants."

12:15 p.m. — We knew this was coming

Beck just said the last two media estimates he heard regarding crowd size were 300,000 and 500,000. (He then implied that the media was biased and would understate the crowd size.) This is sure to be controversial tomorrow, since the Park Service (usually) doesn't release official crowd estimates.

We're going to try to find where Beck got the numbers he mentioned.

11:52 —Dr. Alveda King? Not quite

Glenn Beck just introduced Alveda King, the niece of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, as Dr. Alveda King. That title isn't quite accurate.

Alveda King has an honorary doctorate from St. Anslem College in New Hampshire. People who have only received honorary doctorates don't use the title 'doctor.'

Beck (and King, who refers to herself as Dr. Alveda King on her website) both get Total Malarkey.

11:25 a.m. — Is the Purple Heart a "progressive" invention? Not really, Glenn

Beck appears right that the Purple Heart is descended from the 'Badge of Merit.' The Center of Army History reprints this letter from the War Department, authorizing the Purple Heart:

By order of the President of the United States, the Purple Heart established by General George Washington at Newburgh, August 7, 1782, during the War of the Revolution, is hereby revived out of respect to his memory and military achievements.

By Order of the Secretary War:

Douglas MacArthur,
Chief of Staff

Beck attributed the switch to FDR in his speech, but it appears General Douglas MacArthur was the driving force behind revitalizing and changing the award. While he didn't directly do in this speech, it also looks like Beck has used this in the past as a way to attack the "progressive" FDR for distorting the legacy of the founders. FDR appears to have done little to cause the change, and MacArthur can't exactly be called a progressive.

We'll try to do some more digging, but for now, we'll give Beck an Only Kind of True.

11:05 a.m. —Beck's Purple Heart history

Beck is now handing out 'Badges of Merit,' which is what he says the Purple Heart was originally intended as. He said Washington invented the Purple Heart as a 'Badge of Merit.' It was FDR, he said, who made the Purple Heart an award given to wounded soldiers.

Beck has made similar statements in the past, and a few people on Twitter flagged this for us. We're looking in to it and we'll report back in a bit.

10:44 a.m. —The records

For a little context, here are the records for Beck and Palin from PolitiFact. We would link to Sharpton's, but it doesn't look like PolitiFact has ever checked him.

10:35 a.m. — Sarah Palin isn't running for anything?

Beck just said he didn't want to "have someone running for something" speak at the Restoring Honor rally. He then proceeded to introduce Sarah Palin ... who is a leading Republican presidential candidate for 2012.

Yes, she hasn't officially announced anything, and she no longer holds any government position. But to act like Sarah Palin — probably the most divisive figure in politics right now — can simply "speak as a mom" without political content is ridiculous.

10:25 a.m. — Faith in the troops

Our first fact check. Beck said that as Americans were losing faith in institutions, the institution they have the most faith in has remained constant: the military. Americans' faith in the military remained 15 percent higher than their faith in any other institution.

There's a variety of polling on this subject. We found at least one poll indicating faith in the military was highest. A Gallup poll from July showed 76 percent of Americans had confidence in the military, a higher amount than any other institution. But 66 percent of Americans had confidence in the second-highest ranking group, small businesses. That's only a 10 percentage difference.

It looks like Beck might have been using outdated polling. A Gallup poll from June 2009 showed 82 percent of Americans had faith in the military, and 67 percent had faith in small businesses — a 15 percentage point gap.

We think that's good enough for Beck to earn an Honest Abe.



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  1. Brandon W Brandon W

    Brandon Windsor

    Aug 28, 2010 - 11:05:15 PM

    10 hours later and STILL waiting for that "fact check" of the Sharpton rally.  Clearly it isn't coming.  Clearly you, TBD, are no different from the rest.  That's disappointing, but not a surprise.

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  2. ZZMike ZZMike

    Mike Zorn

    Aug 30, 2010 - 09:39:40 PM

    Bob Michaels seems to have been reading the Fantasy Network News.

    "Recent demonstrations by the so-called "tea partiers" have included signs depicting the president as a monkey. "

    Sorry, Bob, that was "progressives", it was a while back, and it was George Bush as a monkey.

    "They also showed up at the Capitol not long ago to spit on members of congress. "

    Sorry, Bob, the guy who they were supposed to have spit on told us that nobody spit on him.

    "The number of racists incidents and the racist signs are too numerous to list..."

    Sorry, Bob, you're thinking of SEIU rallies.  Now if you can show us a link showing these "racists incidents", we might just stop laughing at you for a bit.

    "Your charge that MSNBC gave money to the Democrats is simply a lie."

    Sorry, Bob, it's a fact:  (They don't like URLs here - this is from, 8/19/10)

    "Olbermann said that GE, MSNBC’s parent company, donated an equal amount of money to both the DGA and RGA. He didn’t mention, however, that according to, in 2008, 100 percent of MSNBC Cable’s donations went to Democrats and 99 percent of NBC’s donations went to Democrats."

    "I just want to point out that there really is no "Tea Party" to speak of. "

    Gee whiz - I never would have known.


    The problem, Bob, is that we read the news, and are quite capable of doing our own fact-checking.

    Unlike TBD.

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  3. Merely Tim Merely Tim

    Merely Tim

    Aug 28, 2010 - 09:49:42 PM

    Oops, Of course I was referring to Mr. Beck's comments regarding the Washington Monument and the difference of color in the stones.

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