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The biggest Pinocchios of Election 2016

The Fact Checker’s Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee round up the most egregious lies of the 2016 presidential campaign. (Video: elyse samuels/The Washington Post)

This presidential election race has been one for the record books — including for Pinocchios.

In many ways, it was an unbalanced race. Donald Trump has amassed such a collection of Four-Pinocchio ratings — 59 in all — that by himself he’s earned as many in this campaign as all other Republicans (or Democrats) combined in the past three years. His average Pinocchio rating was 3.4. (By contrast, the worst Pinocchio rating in 2012 was earned by Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota — an average of 3.08 Pinocchios.)

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, ended up with an average Pinocchio rating of 2.2. That put her in about the same range as President Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in 2012. (She had a total of seven Four-Pinocchio ratings.) If not for her statements about the email controversy, which earned her lots of Pinocchios, her average rating would have been much lower.

Here are some of the lowlights of the 2016 campaign.

Most absurd facts

Trump repeatedly made claims that boggled the imagination. He said the unemployment rate was 42 percent when it was actually 5 percent. He claimed there were 92 million “jobless Americans,” which included everyone who did not want to work, such as retirees and students. He even claimed that he could save $300 billion a year from a Medicare prescription drug program that only costs $78 billion.

Return to sender award

Hillary Clinton earned 24 Pinocchios over the course of the campaign for a series of misleading statements about her private email server arrangement when she was secretary of state. Among other claims, she falsely said the arrangement was permitted, that she had not sent or received classified information, and that the FBI director had said her answers were truthful.

Most imaginary history (GOP version)

Trump repeatedly claimed things that did not happen. He said he saw thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrate the collapse of the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He falsely claimed that Hillary Clinton started the “birther” movement that questioned whether Obama was born in the United States. He said Russian President Vladimir Putin called him a “genius” when in fact Putin called him “colorful.” And he suggested that the father of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) had a hand in John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

Most imaginary history (Democratic version)

Hillary Clinton claimed that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act was enacted to thwart an anti-gay constitutional amendment; hacked emails later showed that her staff immediately knew the statement was false. She also claimed that she tried to join the Marines on the eve of her marriage in 1975 but was turned down — a story that did not add up for a number of reasons. And she asserted that Trump opposed the auto bailout in 2009 — when in fact he supported government action.

Most amazing foresight

In hindsight, Trump often said he was right. He said he was against the Iraq War, even though the evidence showed he supported it. He claimed he predicted that Osama bin Laden would attack the United States, when Trump made no such prediction. And he said he knew Obamacare would be a disaster when it passed, even though he did not say that at the time.

Gold medal for flip-flops

Every politician shifts position from time to time, but Trump took it to new heights. He suddenly found Bill Clinton’s sex scandals abhorrent, though he had once said they were insignificant. His stance on the H-1B program, which grants temporary visas to nonimmigrant workers, changed so many times that his position became incoherent. We also counted at least five different positions on the minimum wage, ranging from too high to too low. And of course he said allegations of sexual assault should be believed — until the allegations were about him.

Funny numbers (minority version)

Trump often hyped statistics concerning minority groups. He claimed that 58 percent of black youths were unemployed, when the real number was less than 20 percent, and he said more Hispanics were in poverty under Obama, when in fact the number has decreased. He also falsely said the murder rate is the highest in 45 years, when it’s really half the peak of the 1980s and early 1990s.

Go back to school award

Ben Carson, making the case for not having any political experience, asserted that the Founding Fathers had no elected office experience. As most junior high schoolers could tell you, the American Revolution was successful because it was led by men with many years in politics, political action and protest, often honed in the debates held in Colonial legislatures.

Brag line that flopped (GOP version)

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) claimed credit for inserting a legislative provision that weakened the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. But it turned out he had no role in the legislative maneuvering that resulted in the change in law, so he was taking credit for the work of other lawmakers.

Brag line that flopped (Democratic version)

Hillary Clinton loved to say that she was the only candidate in the race who would not raise taxes on the middle class and would raise incomes. But this was rhetorical hooey, as just about every candidate on the right had signed a pledge to never raise taxes (and said they would raise incomes).

Greatest collection of phony scandals

Trump repeatedly made exaggerated claims about the Clintons that crumbled to dust after scrutiny. Laureate Education did not receive $55 million in grants from the State Department while Bill Clinton was being paid by the company. Hillary Clinton did not give 20 percent of U.S. uranium to the Russians. And Swedish telecommunications giant Ericsson did not get a break from Iran sanctions because Bill Clinton gave a speech.

Biggest rags-to-riches fable

Trump repeatedly said he built his business with only a $1 million loan from his father. But his father provided him with tens of millions of dollars in loans, trust funds and inheritance — not to mention crucial contacts in the real estate world.

Biggest evil billionaires fable

As part of his stump speech, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) would claim that Charles and David Koch, the conservative billionaires, would spend more money ($900 million) on the 2016 election than either major political party. But this prediction was wildly off-base.

Biggest evil government fable

While campaigning for president, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) loved to tell the story of an elderly man sitting in prison for 10 years — just for putting dirt on his land. But just about every aspect of Paul’s recounting was inaccurate and misleading. The man was convicted for his role in developing 67 mobile home lots inside federally protected wetlands, building on wetlands without approval and knowingly selling land with illegal sewage systems that were likely to fail.

Sean Hannity’s fantasy plane ride

The Fox News personality touted the claim that Trump sent his personal plane to rescue Marines stranded after fighting in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. But Trump had nothing to do with it; the jet was provided by the Trump Shuttle, under contract with the military, at a time when it had been seized by Trump’s bankers for failing to pay loans. Hannity continues to display this false claim on his website.

Most amazing ‘Whoa if True’ claim

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) falsely claimed that longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin had been “an editor for a Sharia newspaper” and had “ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.” She actually worked for a sober academic journal edited by her mother.

Most ridiculous zombie claim

Despite our best efforts, the Internet continued to circulate the bogus rumor that, as a young lawyer, Hillary Clinton had been fired from her job on the congressional Watergate inquiry. But pay records showed that was false. She served until the inquiry was disbanded after President Richard Nixon’s resignation.

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