Friday, October 31st, 2014

PolitiFact Florida Mailbag: "You got this one wrong."

Happy Thanksgiving from PolitiFact!
Happy Thanksgiving from PolitiFact!

Readers sounded off on some of our fact-checks from the Republican National Convention in Tampa and the presidential election. We pulled a sample of comments and edited them for length and style.

To get in touch with PolitiFact Florida, email us, comment on our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Israel

One reader took issue with our Pants on Fire for U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, who claimed she was misquoted and "didn’t say" that the Israeli ambassador Michael Oren said "what the Republicans are doing is dangerous for Israel."

Actually, Wasserman Schultz is recorded as saying just that. Still, a reader told us he thinks our ruling is a misfire.

"I don't think Debbie Wasserman Shultz (DWS) deserved the Pants on Fire ruling you gave her for her statements about Ambassador Oren. Having listened to the audio of her first comments, I think it’s very clear that what she originally said (and attributed to Oren) is that implying that the Democrats don't have as close a relationship to Israel as the Republicans is dangerous."

"During the televised interview with DWS at the DNC, the reporter said that Oren denied ever saying that Republican policies were harmful for Israel. DWS can legitimately claim that she never said he did. She never quoted Ambassador Oren's opinions of Republican policies. It's only the implication that Democrats will not support Israel as strongly as Republicans that she was referring to in her original statement. That is not what Oren reacted to in his statement. I think you got this one wrong."

Pam Bondi and what women want

In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer during the Republican National Convention, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi tried to tamp down talk of women leaning toward President Barack Obama because of the debate over abortion rights. She said women care most about jobs and the economy, and we rated her statement True.

A reader told us to re-examine the statement because the polls we cited were taken before women were aware of "their reproductive rights being stripped away."

"Personally I still think the economy will remain the number one issue, but there may be an increase of importance concerning abortion and women rights. Your website is very informative and fun. Thank you in advance."

Mitt Romney and the Iraq war’s ‘tragic’ end

Obama earned a Half True for saying that Mitt Romney "said it was ‘tragic’ to end the war in Iraq." What Romney called "tragic" was the way Obama ended the war. A reader said we went one notch too far on the Truth-O-Meter.

"I was going to call you guys out and ask why this statement by Barack Obama was not rated Mostly True, but then I read the report again and realized that, yes, it is plausible to rate this as Half True. Mind you, I said, ‘plausible.’ I am still trying to understand how the statements, ‘...[precipitous] troop withdrawal’ and, ‘...end the war in Iraq’ actually differ. A president ends a war by withdrawing troops, yes? Just because Romney applied the term ‘precipitous,’ does that make what the president said Half True? I am still inclined to believe, especially given that Romney used the words ‘enormous mistake’ and ‘failing,’ that what the President said rates as Mostly True."

Fast and Furious

Obama earned a False for saying the controversial "Fast and Furious" program did not begin under his administration. The program involved federal agents allowing guns to be sold and brought into Mexico so they could trace the weapons, but the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) ended up losing track of some of the guns, including two that were discovered at the crime scene where a U.S. border patrol agent was killed.

A similar program -- named Operation Wide Receiver-- went on during the Republican administration of George W. Bush in 2006 and 2007. But it wasn’t the same gun-walking program that started under the name "Fast and Furious" during the first year of Obama’s tenure.  

A couple readers thought out False rating was too harsh considering the similarities.

"Believing that my 82 years qualify me for disagreeing with other people’s positions, I submit the following: You rated Obama’s statement as False. However: When the two programs are so basically similar, it deserves AT LEAST a ‘Partially True.’"

It’s true or it’s false -- no in-between

Some readers have problems with our philosophy that everything is not simply true or false.

"So many items are listed as half-truth, which is surely a cop-out. Either something is true or it's false. Why do you try to work things so parts are true while other parts are false? Isn't the purpose of this task is to take the statement as stated and it's TRUE OR FALSE? Why is it your responsibility to reword things so the public really doesn't get an answer?"

Angry at Gov. Rick Scott

We got a few messages from people who aren’t pleased with Gov. Rick Scott, whose sunny characterization of the state’s declining unemployment rate earned a Mostly False.

"Get rid of Scott!!! The reason the unemployment rate is down is because we've all given up after a few years of trying to find work in Florida. READ THE STUDIES, PEOPLE!!! Don't blame our president for this mess."

Kal Penn’s comments on the Pell Grant doubling

A reader/community college employee disliked our rationale in awarding actor Kal Penn a Mostly True in his Democratic National Convention speech for saying Obama doubled "funding for the Pell Grant."
 
"While your reporting specifically says that funding was doubled, your Mostly True suggests that Penn said that it also increased the number of people who were funded or maintained past eligibility rules. All he said was that funding was doubled, which you specifically say happened ‘Kal Penn correctly stated Obama doubled funding for the Pell Grant.’ To bring in other factors that he did not include in his statement to downgrade the statement is disingenuous. Please reconsider this ruling on the basis on what was SAID and not just use it as an opportunity to pull apart what you see as the drawbacks or costs of this increased funding."

Medicare

The presidential candidates pelted one another in Florida over Medicare, the federal health care program primarily for seniors.

We rated the oft-repeated line from Mitt Romney that Obama "cut" $716 billion from Medicare to pay for the health care law as Half True. One reader thought we were too generous.

"Your own analysis says: ‘Neither Obama nor his health care law literally cut funding from the Medicare program’s budget. Rather, the health care law instituted a number of changes to try to bring down future health care costs in the program.‘ The Medicare budget increased $27B from 2011 to 2012 and is scheduled to increase $45B from 2012 to 2013. With these facts how can you rate Mr Romney’s claim that President Obama is ‘cutting’ Medicare as anything but False or Mostly False?"

One reader had trouble reconciling why we gave Romney a Half True for his $716 billion remark when we gave a Mostly False to Obama for saying "the Ryan-Romney plan will end Medicare and replace it with a voucher."

"Then you look at Romney's claim that ‘Under the president's plan, he cuts Medicare by $716 billion, takes that money out of the Medicare trust fund and uses it to pay for Obamacare,’ and rate it Half True. But in the explanation you point out a specific, totally false statement, that this money will be taken out of the Medicare trust fund to pay for Obamacare. Why is that not Mostly False?  A questionable statement containing a genuinely false statement seems at least as false as a statement that is less questionable but contains a phrasing you rate false (although a large number of readers would understand exactly what the president meant by it).

"I recommend that the Romney statement be rated either Mostly False or False. Your comment that it ‘needs more explanation’ ignores the part of the statement in which Romney claims the money will be taken out of the Medicare trust fund."

Trayvon Martin email

One reader was upset we did not include a recent photo of Trayvon Martin, the teenager who was shot and killed by a neighborhood watchman, in our post debunking a chain email purporting to have a photo of the "real" Trayvon. Actually, the photo was of the older rapper Game.

"Why didn't your story include a recent photo of him? It's fine that you disprove what the email chain claimed and included the false picture. But for those who are using your stories as a basis for truth, it would help to go a little further and include a correct picture as well."

Some compliments

We like to finish our mailbags on happy notes.

One reader said he disagreed with a Fox News pundit who said fact-checkers have "jumped the shark."

"Nothing could be further from the truth, and I applaud the work Politifact and similar organizations do for the American people. Facts matter. The good work Politifact does everyday is appreciated by thinking Americans."

Another reader praised our work while expressing some concern about how we decide what facts to check.

"What I love about your fact checker is that it supports the belief that "you can have your own opinions, but not your own facts". My only question is that can the reading public be assured that there is no 'cherry picking' during the fact checking process that reflects any kind of political bias? In other words, can we believe in the 'truth' of the Truth-O-Meter?  ; ) Thanks again for all your work. It sure saves the rest of us a great deal of time and angst."