Video recycles dubious statistics about lawmakers’ crimes
CLAIM: Statistics show that among members of Congress, 117 have bankrupted at least two businesses, 71 can’t receive credit cards due to bad credit and 84 have been arrested for drunk driving.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Those purported statistics have circulated via email and social media posts for years, but are not backed by evidence. The numbers were largely lifted from a dubious 1999 blog post that did not provide specific sources or details. While members of Congress have been accused of various crimes over the years, experts say there are no known databases that track such crimes committed by members of Congress.
THE FACTS: An old copy-and-paste missive purporting to offer statistics about crimes committed by members of Congress has found renewed energy online.
In a TikTok video viewed by millions and also shared on Instagram, a 2012 video clip shows Mark Bailey, now chancellor of the Dallas Theological Seminary, relaying a text from a son and asking whether the statistics are “NBA or NFL?”
“Thirty-six have been accused of spousal abuse. Seven have been arrested for fraud. Nineteen have been accused of writing bad checks,” he says. “One-hundred seventeen have directly or indirectly been bankrupted at least two businesses. Three have done time for assault. Seventy-one, I repeat 71, cannot get a credit card due to their bad credit. Fourteen have been arrested on drug-related charges. Eight have been arrested for shoplifting. Twenty-one currently are defendants in lawsuits and 84 have been arrested for drunk driving in the last year.”
Bailey adds: “How many of you think NBA? How many of you think NFL? Well the answer is neither. It’s the 435 members of the United States Congress.”
But there is no factual support for those statistics, which have been routinely recycled in emails and social media posts for years — long before Bailey rattled them off in 2012. Additionally, Congress is made up of 535 members: 100 senators and 435 representatives.
The purported numbers are largely lifted from a political blog post, whose author isn’t named, that was published in 1999. That post claimed to have scoured public records, media reports and court records, but it offered no specific sources for the information and didn’t offer details about the lawmakers supposedly accused of each crime.
The post has since been deleted, but the figures have continued to spread online — with some deviations made along the way.
Experts contacted by The Associated Press said they were unaware of any sources or databases that track crimes among members of Congress in such a way.
“In general, I’ve never heard of such a list and doubt that one exists,” said Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist and professor in Dartmouth College’s Department of Government.
Bailey told the AP in an email that he was surprised to learn that people were circulating the video of him speaking in 2012 and reiterated that he was reading from a piece that a son passed along to him.
“I haven’t used the piece since and with the information you sent – I wouldn’t unless I could fact check it,” he said.
Arijeta Lajka contributed to this report.
This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.