Warren gets Pinocchios for whoppers on auto lending

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2015/12/15/warren-gets-pinocchios-for-whoppers-on-auto-lending/

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren scored a spot on the annual “Pinocchio” list published by the Washington Post for telling one of the biggest tall tales of the year.

The Pinocchio roster also features Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State John Kerry, a Boston resident, and U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, among others. Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, earned her place by citing old and questionable data about auto lending in an April 15 speech, according to reporter Glenn Kessler, who writes the newspaper’s “Fact Checker” column. The list, which includes other presidential candidates, reflects the most egregious misuse of data, misstatements of fact or overblown claims over the past year.

Warren used her speech before the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College to focus on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s track record in its brief existence, and advocated for new rules on auto loans made through car dealers, which she suggested unnecessarily cost consumers $26 billion a year.

She cited a 2011 report from the Center for Responsible Lending, which Kessler described as an advocacy group. Kessler’s original report showed the data used by the center was from 2009, the height of the last recession, and was derived from reports by a category of lenders who focus on loans to people with poor credit histories. The center then extrapolated that data to make dubious estimates about the entire auto lending industry, and reported incorrect and apparently inflated results to boot.

According to Kessler, the advocacy group’s numbers were “misleading and dated.” He added about the $26 billion: “But then she also wildly mischaracterized the number, as even the advocacy group conceded that the figure includes reasonable compensation owed to car dealers.”

Warren’s Senate website still presents the speech text with no indication that the data it cites on auto lending is incorrect, or at best, grossly misleading. Kessler said in April that a Warren spokeswoman declined to provide an on-the-record comment about the issue.

Typically, Kessler ranks a politician-spouted fact anywhere from one to four Pinocchios, which are described in short as “whoppers” and are denoted with a cartoon version of the mythical puppet whose nose lengthens based on the degree of the offense. Warren snagged a whopper,  along with the others on this year’s list.

Kerry, a former senator from Massachusetts, earned a four-Pinocchio rating for claiming that he organized the first climate change hearing held by a Senate committee, along with Al Gore and Tim Wirth. Kessler said Kerry not only didn’t organize it, he didn’t even attend the 1988 hearing. He also scored Kerry for saying he had seen events that actually never happened.

Other whoppers by U.S. politicians cited includes three by Republican presidential candidate Trump: his assertion that he witnessed Muslims in New Jersey celebrating after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, that Mexico is forcing criminals into the U.S. and that President Barack Obama intends to bring 250,000 Syrian refugees into the country. Trump earned the most Pinocchios of anyone on the list.

Clinton scored with her assertion that her husband, then-President Bill Clinton, signed the Defense of Marriage Act as a way to thwart a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Obama earned one for doubtful asserions about the Keystone XL pipeline, which he subsequently blocked, and Murphy got his for an overblown claim about the number of shootings in schools since december 2014.

Kessler also called out Democratic lawmakers for showing solidarity over the “hands up, don’t shoot” slogan used to rally protesters late last year after white cop Darren Wilson fatally shot Michael Brown, a black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri. Despite witnesses stating they had seen Brown surrender and pleading, “don’t shoot,” further investigations found that this never happened – Wilson was later found to have been justified in shooting to defend himself.

The “special award” on Kessler’s list this year went to statistics cited by politicians, government officials and advocacy groups about sex trafficking and exploiting children.

Among the misused numbers Kessler cites: “There are not 300,000 children at risk for sexual exploitation. There are not 100,000 children in the sex trade. Human trafficking is not a $9.5 billion business in the United States.” Without awarding any one person a Pinocchio, he wrote: “Girls do not become victims of sex trafficking at an average age of 13 years. The federal government has not arrested hundreds of sex traffickers.”

Contact Kara Bettis at [email protected] or on Twitter @karabettis.