Accuracy in Media

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) repeated use of a bogus claim of gun deaths of children throughout the year has earned her four Pinocchios by the Washington Post fact-checker.

The fact-checker was alerted by a reader who found the figures Pelosi was citing — that 47 percent of gun violence deaths in the U.S. were teenagers or younger.

“In the 266 days since we sent this bill, about 25,000 people have died from gun violence in our country, 47 percent of them teenagers or children younger than that.”

— House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), remarks to the media, Nov. 20, 2019

When the fact-checker researched the figure, they came up with a dramatically different number.

A check of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention database found that in 2017, 3,443 deaths from firearms were between the ages of zero and 19. Given that the CDC recorded 39,771 deaths from firearms, that would be just under 9 percent. That’s significantly lower than 47 percent.

The Post contacted Pelosi spokesman Henry V. Connelly who said that she “misspoke.”

“The Speaker misspoke. The statistic that she intended to reference is that an average of 47 children and teens (ages 0-19) are shot every day.”

The difference between 47 percent of young people being killed and 47 being shot per day is huge.

Connelly told the Post that the statistic was drawn from a study by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which averaged five years of data — 2012-2016 — from the CDC.

But Brady’s five-year data indicate that 7.3 percent of the people in the United States who die every day because of firearms are 19 and younger. (The number killed is seven a day.) In terms of people being shot, teenagers and young children account for about 14 percent of the total.

The fact-checker would have been willing to give Pelosi some leeway on the misstatement- a common excuse from politicians except when they reviewed the record they found multiple instances of Pelosi “misspeaking” the same figures.

  • In February, during a floor speech before a vote on the House’s proposed law to enhance background checks, Pelosi said: “Nearly 40,000 lives are cut short every year from gun violence. An average of 47 children and teenagers are killed by guns every single day.”
  • In a September news release, she said: “Every day that Senator McConnell blocks our House-passed, lifesaving bills, an average of 100 people — including 47 children and teenagers — die from senseless gun violence.”
  • On Sept. 26, she tweeted: “100 people die every day from gun violence — 47 of them children & teenagers.”
  • In October, she told reporters: “We said 200 days, 100 people on an average day, around 20,000 people have died, 47 percent of them children or teenagers, as old as teenagers.”
  • In November, she told one of our Washington Post colleagues: “Every single day, about 100 people die from gun violence, 47 percent of them children or teenagers.”

There were three additional instances in November where Pelosi stated a variant of the figure as well according to the Post.

That led the fact-checker to award Pelosi the maximum of  Four Pinocchios.

The Pinocchio Test

For months, in speeches, news conferences, tweets and interviews, Pelosi has been using a version of an incorrect talking point to make the firearms death toll for teenagers and children appear significantly higher than reality. Fewer than 9 percent of those killed by guns are 19 or younger — not 47 percent. Seven children or teenagers are killed a day — not 47.

When we queried her staff, we were told she had simply misspoken. But that was false, too.

Gun violence is an important issue in the United States. There’s no reason to goose the numbers for political purposes. Pelosi earns Four Pinocchios.

Pelosi’s repeated misstating the facts relating to gun violence deaths of young people continues a trend by liberal politicians to twist the facts in order to build support for increased gun control laws, rather than deal with the root cause of gun violence.

 

 

 

 




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