Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

Mailbag: 'You really mucked that one up!'

Some of our readers' comments recently have been as colorful as these mailboxes.
Some of our readers' comments recently have been as colorful as these mailboxes.

Now it’s time for comments from readers. You can email us at florida@politifact.com, message us on Twitter using @PolitiFactFL or comment on our PolitiFact Florida Facebook page.  Comments are edited for length and style.

Fact-checking Pat Boone

The 1950s singer Pat Boone is now a national spokesman for the 60 Plus Association, a conservative political group. In a television ad, Boone attacked Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., for supporting the national health care law of 2010. Boone singled out the Independent Payment Advisory Board for criticism: "This board can ration care and deny certain Medicare treatments so Washington can fund more wasteful spending." We rated that claim Pants on Fire.

Here’s what readers said:

"I use to love you, Pat, back in the '50's. What happened to you, that you would lie to us now? Shame on you!!!"

"I think Pants on Fire is not warranted for Pat Boone’s comments. Consider: It is probably true that the IPAB does not have the power to focus on specific individuals, but they do have the power to focus on a class of items. If your mother had a serious ailment that the IPAB had selected to disallow as a class, you would feel the same as if they picked on your mother directly. Also, it is probably true that they do not have the power to redirect any savings into other programs but if there actually are savings, you know full well the government will spend them on something else."

Romney and tax breaks for oil companies

We fact-checked a television ad airing in Florida from Priorities USA, a pro-Obama super PAC. Their ad claimed that presidential candidate Mitt Romney "pledged to protect … billions in special tax breaks" for oil companies. We didn’t find any "pledge," but Romney has said repeatedly he doesn’t want to raise taxes on businesses. He’s repeated that talking point when asked specifically about oil companies.

We rated the ad’s statement Half True. Romney doesn’t intend to end tax breaks for oil companies, but he hasn’t "pledged" to protect them.

Readers said we should have rated the super PAC’s ad False.

"If the claim is that Romney made a pledge, and there was no such pledge, how can the ruling be anything higher than False? Speculating about what Romney may or may not believe is irrelevant to the claim at hand, which can't be true without an actual pledge."

"Romney hasn’t made a ‘pledge.’ Sooooooo … Why is this not rated Pants on Fire or whatever it is now?"

Obama and the oil rigs

President Obama defended his administration’s record on energy in a speech in Miami. The U.S. has a "record number of oil rigs operating right now – more working oil and gas rigs than the rest of the world combined," Obama said.

We rated that Half True --  the available data doesn’t tell the full picture because it excludes China and Russia, where getting accurate rig counts is difficult.

A reader said we were biased against Obama.

"To rate the President's oil drilling point as Half True is total crap. You based your rating on ‘possible’ drilling rigs in China and Russia, what a joke. You guys are leaning so right these days, I can no longer take you seriously."

Same-sex marriage

We fact-checked a statement from Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota. In a mailer, Buchanan said the Obama administration "recently announced it will no longer enforce the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal law defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman."

We rated his statement Half True. The Obama administration has refused to defend challenges to the law, but the federal government still refuses to recognize same-sex spouses.

One reader said we weren’t tough enough on Buchanan.

"You really mucked that one up. There is a big difference between failing to enforce (carry out) a law and refusing to defend its constitutionality. The point Republicans are trying to make with their lies is that President Obama is failing to enforce or carry out a federal law, which would be a breach of his duties as president and arguably an impeachable offense. It's not a half truth, it's an outright lie, and you know it - just read your own article!"

An 11th Commandment?

We got this random suggestion from a reader who said politicians from the "religious right wing"  lie too much.

"I suggest that the Ten Commandments be ‘reformed’ to accommodate these crusaders of the religious right wing. So they will not have to sin in the practicing their usual politicking; it would be called the ‘Save Their Souls’ amendment.  It would make ‘lying for political purposes’ acceptable under the Ten Commandments officially. In the practice of right-wing politicians, it already is."

Voter fraud versus shark attacks

We thought a fact-check inspired by The Colbert Report would make for an interesting read, so we looked into this statement from the head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. ACLU chief Howard Simon said there are "a larger number of shark attacks in Florida than there are cases of voter fraud."

We rated the claim Mostly True. When we compared shark attacks with the number of voter fraud cases deemed legally sufficient for an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, we found a greater number of shark attacks. We knocked the rating down a peg, though, mostly because the state’s count doesn’t represent a complete set of possible fraud being prosecuted in the state.

We got several complaints on it, from different points of view.

"Your rating on shark attacks and voter fraud may be your worst yet, and you have had some bad ones. … You left out the word ‘probably’ and then, although the numbers basically bear this out to be true, you rate it a notch below TRUE.  His use of the word ‘probably’ earned him a full true in my mind. Your leaving the word ‘probably’ out of the item is shameful.  If you are going to
nitpick the ratings, which you often do, be fair and don't leave out a key qualifier like you did in this case." (Editor’s note: Our story notes that Simon said "probably," but we did not consider that qualifier in our rating.)

"The fact that you dignified Colbert's claims with a fact-check shows it.  Why is it so hard for you and the company you work for to be unbiased?  Why is it so hard for you to NOT bend the facts to fit your desired outcome?  You really should be ashamed of yourself.  Thanks for being the constant example of how biased the media is."

"The shark attack article is absurd. I'm sorry, I lived through the Miami voter fraud scandal in the mid-1990s and watched as supervisors ability to routinely clean voter rolls was eliminated ....  Who knows how many voters on our rolls are now dead, illegal or have moved to new locations?  Certainly not our election officials because of laws meant to enhance participation. There must be balance. Requiring a picture ID to vote is neither burdensome nor threatening. Voter fraud is real, and each vote cast that should not be, either by an illegal or ineligible voter, negates the votes of legitimate voters.  I'm a big fan of enhanced participation … but comparing voter fraud and registration fraud, which happens and is rarely caught, with shark attacks, which are relatively rare and receive massive attention anytime they occur, is just silly."