In the eighteen previous Republican presidential debates, our crack team of three hundred and seventy-four full-time fact checkers has found over four million inaccurate or misleading statements made by the candidates. But why stop there? For the final Iowa debate, we turned our attention not just to the debate answers themselves, but to literally everything that came out of the candidates’ mouths. What follows is a critical assessment of the pre-debate banter:
Rick Perry: “Good evening, Mitt.”
FACT: Merriam-Webster defines “evening” as the period between sunset and bedtime. The sun had not fully set when Governor Perry made this statement.
Mitt Romney: “You too, Rick. Nice tie.”
FACT: In an independent study conducted by our partners at NeckwearSurveys.com, only 21 percent of likely voters rated Perry’s tie in the “nice” category, with 17 percent calling it “fair,” 36 percent calling it “blue,” and the remaining 28 percent undecided.
Michele Bachmann: “Looks like a great audience tonight.”
FACT: The audience for this debate was 14 percent smaller than the average audience for the 6,134 previous debates logged in our exclusive Debate Audience Database 3000. In addition, at the time she made this statement, Representative Bachmann had yet to occupy a position where she could view more than 30 percent of the seats from behind the curtain, and thus any observation she made about the audience was hopelessly premature.
Ron Paul: “Absolutely.”
FACT: By agreeing with Bachmann, Representative Paul displayed either a failure to understand how to evaluate a debate audience or a lack of interest in fully investigating the topic before offering an opinion. For this statement, we give Paul a rating of “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire, and Since Paul Doesn’t Believe In Government Regulation, the Pants Would Actually Be Flammable.”
Newt Gingrich: “Michele, your hair looks terrific.”
FACT: Four out of five voters rated Bachmann’s hair as average or worse in a post-debate poll conducted by our partners at Vidal Sassoon. On the positive side, three out of four said they might still change their minds.
Bachmann: “Thanks. I was worried about it, given the crazy weather.”
FACT: While the Bachmann campaign was able to provide us with evidence that the candidate was indeed worried about her hair prior to the debate, her assertion that the weather in Iowa was “crazy” is a gigantic and inexcusable lie. According to our partners at the National Weather Service, the weather for the debate was within one standard deviation of the average in terms of temperature, wind speed, and humidity.
Romney: “You know, Ann and I had a wonderful dinner last night.”
FACT: Romney left two-thirds of his steak uneaten, and Ann hardly touched her pasta, making it highly unlikely that the meal could be called “wonderful.” We also found Romney’s fries a little too salty.
Perry: “Good to hear it.”
FACT: A brain scan, brought to you by our partners at InstantBrainScans.com, found that Perry’s areas of pleasure did not react at all to Romney’s statement about his dinner.
Romney: “Thanks. How’s Anita?”
FACT: According to sensors we secretly placed in a number of key locations on the bodies of the candidates and their spouses, Perry’s wife, Anita, was suffering from a mild headache and slightly elevated heart rate. Our panel of medical experts classifies her condition as “okay” at best.
Paul: “I should probably use the bathroom before we start.”
FACT: Representative Paul did not have to use the bathroom.
Gingrich: “It’s over by the door.”
FACT: It was not.
Rick Santorum: [silently thinking] “I wish the rest of them would let me join their conversation.”
FACT: Romney and Bachmann would have had no problem with Senator Santorum joining their conversation, but Gingrich would have been moderately irritated.
Gingrich: “Hey, what kind of mind-reading device did that stupid fact-checking website slip inside our ears?”
FACT: Our website is not stupid.
FACT: Okay, fine. Maybe just a little.
Jeremy Blachman is a freelance writer and the author of Anonymous Lawyer, a comic novel about corporate law.