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Kyl throws away dignity with absurd statement

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“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” This quote is often attributed to Mark Twain, but it has taken on new meaning in the last few weeks.

In what has now become a somewhat famous error, Jon Kyl (R–Ariz.) stated on the Senate floor that over 90 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services are abortions, while the actual figure is only about 3 percent. Kyl’s press secretary, Ryan Patmintra, said the statistic “was not intended to be a factual statement,” a response that only a political aide could give. Last Friday, a week later, the aide retracted his comment, saying that it was “a comment that, in retrospect, made no sense.”

Senator Kyl should not be blamed for his aide’s gaffe. And while many politicians would fire a press secretary for making such an inane comment, Kyl has kept Patmintra on board. Whether this shows loyalty or just an inability to find a better aide, I don’t know, but everybody has bad days, and focusing on the press secretary is missing the point. Observers of politics should always take any statistic with several grains of salt. We assume that politicians will manipulate facts to serve their interests. Kyl’s attribution is in a league of its own, however. Over a week after his error, he claimed that he was thinking of a statistic he had read “out of context.”

First: It does not take a week to realize that such an absurd misrepresentation is out of context. I question whether Kyl was referencing a statistic he had read or if his reference to a study by the Chiaroscuro Foundation was researched after the fact. Second: Such a huge discrepancy between claim and reality is only possible if Kyl truly believes that Planned Parenthood might provide abortions as its primary service. This is just as disturbing as the original error and the aide’s response to it. “Not intended to be a factual statement,” despite its absurdity and later retraction, is probably the most accurate response by a political press secretary in years. While the primary purpose of studies and statistics should be to use facts to support an argument, Kyl was trying to use scare tactics to advance his ideological dogma.

His utter disregard for the truth is unsurprising, but it is still disappointing.