In this confusing era of fake news, news fakes, and fake "fake news," we like to think we're getting pretty good at spotting when a politician is lying to us (read: when their mouth is moving). And yet there have been plenty of times when ridiculous claims not only managed to slip by us, but actually inflicted serious damage in the process. For example ...
In 2000, drunken cowboy George W. Bush became president of the United States, ushering in an era of political buffoonery and illegal warfare that wasn't nearly as fun as it sounds. And it needn't have happened at all. During the Republican primaries, Bush was facing off against John McCain, a respected war hero who could string together two sentences without personally offending the dictionary. When Bush realized he might lose to McCain, he ordered his staff "to take the kid gloves off" ... and put on some much more racist ones. You know, with little metal spikes on the knuckles and Confederate flags sewn on the backs. Those gloves.
Scandalous rumors began spreading about Cindy McCain's illicit drug use and John's sexuality. Flyers and leaflets that may or may not have been created by the Bush campaign started appearing under windshield wipers all over South Carolina. They all featured the McCain couple in the company of a dark-skinned girl, and they all carried the same accusation: Not only did McCain have a child out of wedlock, it was also a "Negro child." Which is a problem in South Carolina, whose largest demographic is people who insist they're "very comfortable with the Negroes."
All this talk about a dark-skinned illegitimate child must've been very confusing for Bridget McCain, the very legitimately adopted daughter of the McCain family.
Cindy McCain had met Bridget while on a relief mission in Bangladesh, and helped the girl receive surgery for her cleft lip in the United States. The couple decided to adopt her, granting her the wonderful chance to live in the kind of place where her mere existence destroyed a presidential bid.
"Cop killers" supposedly refer to Teflon-coated rounds that have the ability to pierce Kevlar vests -- the kind police officers wear. During his presidency, Bill Clinton loved to speechify about the dangers of cop killers, at one point meeting with a police widow whom he claimed lost her husband to that damnable ammunition. To end the madness, Clinton called on Congress to finally start banning these menaces outright. "I never saw a deer in a Kevlar vest," the president said, and we all nodded. Deer are stupid like that.
One problem: Cop killer bullets don't exist. They're imaginary, like Bigfoot and political integrity. Yet when reporters figured this out and started calling Clinton on his crap, it didn't make a difference. "I've told [Clinton] five times that the story isn't right, but he doesn't care that he's wrong!" his press secretary would later admit. Silly little details like that wouldn't stop Clinton's administration from using imaginary ammunition to enact a racially motivated crackdown on crime, because fearmongering bullshit can penetrate any armor.
Americans have long feared the infiltration of their political offices by weird fringe religious groups.
By which we mean Catholics.
These days, presidential candidates simply have to throw Jesus a "what's up" nod and they're good to go, but past generations were a lot pickier. JFK broke the mold, of course, but only three decades prior, being a Catholic meant your chances of becoming president were smaller than a wine pour at mass. Seriously, what is up with those stingy pours, Father? It takes forever to get drunk in church.
Anyway, in 1928, Governor Al Smith was running as the Democratic presidential nominee. Smith was the perfect American success story. Born to a poor family, he started working at the age of 12 and never stopped. He was eventually elected New York governor four times. He sounded great on paper. However, he was also a proud Irish Catholic, which according to the majority of American voters meant they might as well be voting for the Antichrist.
From day one of his campaign, Smith was bombarded with ridiculous fake news surrounding his beliefs. Baptist ministers told their congregations that they would damn their souls if they voted for him. The Dayton Beach school board sent students home with a letter that read, "If he is elected President, you will not be allowed to have or read a Bible." You know, the same book that Catholics like.
But the greatest fear of all was the dreaded "Pope Tunnel," a term that really sparks the imagination. Is it a tunnel dug for the pope, or by the pope, or perhaps most disturbingly, through the pope? The biggest issue with Catholics at the time was trust. After all, how can you call yourself an American patriot when you take orders from some Italian dude in a dress? Playing on these ridiculous fears, anti-Smith campaigners pointed at the recently constructed Holland Tunnel in New York and claimed that it was in fact part of a secret plot to build a 6,000-mile tunnel to the Vatican (which apparently hadn't run phone lines yet), allowing Smith to start a literally underground theocracy.
Amazingly, these increasingly absurd tactics worked, and Herbert Hoover handily defeated Smith in the 1928 election. And it's a good thing he did. After all, we have had zero Mole Popes pop out of manholes and infiltrate our country. Thanks, President Hoover!
If you're a regular viewer of Fox News, first of all, welcome to your regularly scheduled hate-browsing of a liberal-leaning website. Now, you're no doubt well aware of how the Obama presidency was filled with more devastating scandals than you can shake a Muslim prayer stick at. From wearing disrespectful suits to ordering un-American mustard, it's amazing that this monster wasn't thrown out of the country. Especially since he was also caught using an entire branch of the government as his personal goon squad to effectively silence the political voices of "real Americans." Except that he wasn't.
In 2013, Republicans exploded over the revelation that Obama had the Internal Revenue Service unfairly single out conservative groups.
For years, the IRS had been targeting groups with conservative buzzwords in their names, like "tea party," or "patriot," or "FEMA death camps," and tried to take away their tax cuts under the guise of political bias. The IRS scandal was so big that even liberal rags like CNN and MSNBC had to take a break from their abortion documentaries and George Soros variety shows to report on Obama's dirty dealings.
Now, was the IRS scrutinizing conservative groups? Of course they were, along with every other political group on their to-do list. Because the amount of time you spend promoting a political cause affects your tax bracket, the IRS had set up a search system wherein organization names that sound political would get flagged for immediate review. Of course, the same technique was applied to blatantly liberal and Democrat groups by combing through keywords like "occupy," "progressive," and "green energy." This is why the group we started to gain squatter's rights by camping in wind turbines never qualified for those tax breaks.
Few things are more American than the story of Pat Tillman. An NFL safety who gave up a multi-million-dollar football career to join the military after 9/11, Tillman made the ultimate sacrifice in service of his country. That's why Republicans from George Bush Jr. to Donald Trump all use Tillman as the perfect example of their America, the real America.
Which is a little ironic, since the story itself isn't real.
Oh, Tillman was real enough. He was killed in action in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004, only two years after ditching his $3.6 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals to join his brother in becoming an Army Ranger. According to the Army, Tillman died bravely while drawing enemy fire away from his brothers in arms, as is every good American's dream.
Tillman didn't quite fit that imaginary Republican ideal, though. In truth, he was a free thinker, a vocal atheist who thought the Iraq War was "fucking illegal" and hated that people like him were used as "a big Public Relation stunt." And he didn't die protecting his fellow soldiers, but was in truth shot in the face by his own squad.
Within hours of his death, it was determined that Tillman had been killed by a three-bullet burst to the head coming from his own side. Was it an accident? We'll never know, since the Army and Bush administration refused any kind of criminal investigation into his death. They even had his personal effects burned to limit the forensic evidence. See, the Iraq War was a little bit of a PR nightmare from the darkest depths of Hell, and pretending the football star died a war hero was so juicy that officials referred to Tillman's death as "a steak dinner."
Huh. That might be the grossest thing we've ever heard, and we once wrote an article about botflies.
Support Cracked's journalism with a visit to our Contribution Page. Please and thank you.
Follow us on Facebook, why don't ya?
Instagram influencers are often absurd.
A good horror story is hard to pull off.
All commercials are a least a little weird.
These actions stars were so bad at being badass, they were just ass.