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    Just the Factuals, Ma'am

    Hearty thanks to Senator Jon Kyl and his mouthpiece for confirming a point we make in our next book:  euphemisms are best reserved for irony.

    You may have heard that Kyl made up a completely false statistic about Planned Parenthood on the Senate floor last week, claiming that “well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does” is provide abortions. Three percent of the organization’s budget goes for abortions. Kyl’s spokeswoman later told CNN that Kyl’s remark “was not intended to be a factual statement, but rather to illustrate that Planned Parenthood, a organization that receives millions of dollars in taxpayer funding, does subsidize abortions.”

    A gleeful Stephen Colbert had a factualfest and issued a series of hilarious afactual Tweets, while Democrats grabbed tweaky Twitter hashtags. Kyl finally blamed the whole thing on his flack, saying he merely “misspoke.” Wow, sure beats solving the nation’s deficit!

    “Not intended to be factual” is a euphemism; the term comes from the Greek, meaning to “speak good.” In this case, it means, “He was just lying.” The problem with a euphemism is that people see it as a euphemism. Not only is it easy to translate, but the speaker looks slimy to boot.

    If you’re going to use euphemisms, make sure they’re clichés like “misspoke.” That also means lying, but people are used to it. It’s lying, backed by years of congressional tradition.

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    Reader Comments (2)

    "Oh, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. 14% of people know that."

    --Homer Simpson
    April 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarco
    Have to agree with you that misspoke is better than "not intended to be factual," but I'd also have to say that I believe what the senator probably meant to say was that over 90% of the services that Planned Parenthood provides to pregnant women are abortions (with 98% the actual number touted by most anti-abortion/pro-life groups - a number they claim to have derived from PP's own data). So, that is indeed a flub-up by the senator, but I'm not sure it's a clear case of lying.

    Also, in the tradition of "lies, damned lies, and statistics," the 3% number that's been flying around as the "actual" percentage of Planned Parenthood services made up by abortions is also pretty darned flimsy. Apparently, that percentage is calculated simply by taking the total number of abortions and dividing that number by the total number of services they provide, without regard to cost of services, manpower required, facilities required, or even the definition of a service.

    So by unbundling the services and equating handing out a condom as a service on par with providing an abortion, Planned Parenthood has come up with the grossly misleading 3% figure. When looked at by revenue, Abortions make up nearly 40% of Planned Parenthood's income. When services are rebundled, we see that PP served 1 million patients and performed nearly 300,000 abortions. So of women who used PP, about 1/3rd of them used the institution for abortion.

    So, yeah, great for Colbert for mocking Senator Kyl, but why has PP been given a pass on its egregiously a-factual statements?
    April 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJeff

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