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Not intended to be a factual statement

01 Jun 2011

U.S. Senator Jon Kyl’s less than factual statement has made its way onto Twitter, providing users with some serious laughs at Kyl’s expense.On April 8th, an emphatic Kyl took the Senate floor to make the following misguided statement: "Everybody goes to clinics, to doctors, to hospitals, and so on. Some people go to Planned Parenthood. But you don’t have to go to Planned Parenthood to get your cholesterol or your blood pressure checked. If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood, and that’s well over 90% of what Planned Parenthood does.”Well, it quickly came to light that this little statement is not quite true. And by not quite, I mean not even close.  It turns out that a mere 3% of the organisation’s work is related to terminating pregnancies, while "well over 90%” relates to preventative health care services.In a perhaps even more concerning (and humorous) follow up, CNN anchor TJ Holmes addressed the topic telling viewers that, "we did call [Kyl’s] office trying to ask what he was talking about there. And I just want to give it you verbatim here. It says, ‘his remark was not intended to be a factual statement, but rather to illustrate that Planned Parenthood, an organisation that receives millions of dollars in taxpayer funding, does subsidize abortions.’”Not surprisingly, people everywhere began Facebook, blog and Twitter bashing the Arizona Republican for his interchangeable use of factual and "non factual” statements. Among his critics is comedian and talk show host Stephen Colbert, who slammed the Senator on an episode of his Comedy Central show, the Colbert Report.The next day, Colbert began tweeting a series of ludicrous rumours about Kyl with the hashtag "#NotIntendedToBeAFactualStatement.” The series began with, "Jon Kyl is one of Gaddafi’s sexy female ninja guards #NotIntendedToBeAFactualStatement,” and since then, there have been more than 30 such tweets.Some other particularly colourful ones include:

  • In 2009, Jon Kyl lost $380,000 wagering on dwarf tossing.
  • Jon Kyl calls the underside of his Senate seat: "The Booger Graveyard.”
  • Jon Kyl is an accomplished nude hula dancer. He is not welcome in Hawaii.
  • Carly Simon wrote that song about Jon Kyl.
  • Citing religious reasons, Jon Kyl refuses to utter the number 8.
  • Legally, Jon Kyl cannot be within 100 yards of Helen Mirren.
It didn’t take long for the series to catch on, as Colbert’s twitter followers and others amused or annoyed by Kyl’s inaccurate rant began to offer their own groundless "facts” about the Senator.The statement turned joke turned pop culture meme has now come nearly full circle, as Democrats have begun to use the phrase on the Senate floor. The first jibe came from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in a floor speech defending Planned Parenthood, "for my friends and colleagues, this is a factual statement,” she began, using Senator Kyl’s fumble to strip away his authority on the subject before launching into a spiel providing the actual facts on the Planned Parenthood issue.The Democratic Policy Communications Centre also got in on the joke when they requested a fact check from reporters regarding a statement Kyl made about Medicare. The request included a note reading, "seems like another #notafactualstatement from Senator Kyl.”This isn’t the first time that social media sites have served as an outlet for political criticisms and something tells us it won’t be the last, but it is an interesting example of how sites like Twitter can put a unique twist on something and get it out to others who may never have otherwise heard of it. It also demonstrates the impact that these sites can have in areas you wouldn’t expect, like politics. It used to be that if you were in the public eye, you only needed to worry about reporters and paparazzi. But now, comedians, bloggers and anyone with a high traffic Twitter or Facebook profile can do equal damage. Don’t underestimate the power of the people!

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