PolitiFact Florida Mailbag: 'True or false ... It is not complicated'

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.

We love hearing from readers. Here’s a handful of recent comments. We also include a response from one of the elected officials whose statement we rated on our Truth-O-Meter. Submissions are edited for length and style.

You can email us at florida@politifact.com, tweet us @PolitiFactFL, or check out the PolitiFact Florida Facebook page.

• • •

One reader emailed us with a complaint about our fact-check of Sen. Marco Rubio’s statement, "I still live in the same working-class neighborhood I grew up in." Rubio made the comment in a rebuttal to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. Our fact-check looked at whether Rubio’s neighborhood was working-class; we rated the statement Mostly True.

"Are you kidding me? True or false. It is not complicated. Does he still live in the same neighborhood he grew up in or does he not? It is not ‘Mostly True’ or ‘Mostly False.’ Either it is true or false. It is not complicated. It is rather like a criminal shooting and killing someone. Either the victim is dead or alive. He is not partly dead or partly alive, is he?

"But just maybe you are trying to make him look like a bad senator because he lives in D.C. as well. I guess it is a bit odd that the people from his district who elected him to Washington would expect him to live there as well. As opposed to commuting every day to go to work. If you are going to write editorials, then request a transfer to the editorial room."

• • •

We rated another statement from Rubio’s rebuttal, that "our economy actually shrank during the last three months of 2012." We rated the statement True. One reader said we missed the point.

"This post is an excellent example of a limitation of the fact-check format. Marco Rubio said that the economy shrank in the last quarter, and it did, so ‘True.’ But in context, the senator was using this fact to demonstrate that government involvement is not good for the economy. The study you cite says that the reason for the shrink in the GDP was tied directly to a drop in government expenditures. So this ‘true’ fact actually demonstrates the exact opposite of what the senator was trying to prove.

"I find this kind of thing much more insidious than statements judged false because the speaker said ‘all’ when it was only ‘most,’ or ‘never’ when ‘rarely’ would have been correct. If you had fact checked the larger idea -- ‘Marco Rubio says last quarter drop in GDP shows that government involvement in the economy doesn’t help,’ that would have been an easy ‘False’ or maybe worse."

• • •

Another reader emailed asking us a weather question:

PolitiFact is doing a great job and we the readers appreciate getting the ‘real’ facts.
However, this is something on a more lighter note! Considering the terrible winter the people up north are experiencing at this late date, maybe PolitiFact should look into this year’s prediction of the famous "Groundhog" in Pennsylvania ??? I think it was Mostly False.

• • •

We recently put a statement from Mayor Mike Ryan of Sunrise on our Truth-O-Meter. He said that people committed involuntarily for 72 hours under the Baker Act will get their guns back "automatically and immediately upon discharge....and their commitment is never entered into a background check database." We rated that Half True: People do get their guns back, but the law enforcement agencies we checked with require a court order. The mayor sent this response to our public radio partners at WUSF in Tampa.

"I do not agree with the assessment that this is Half True.

"First, there is no dispute that the Baker Act is NOT a firearm impediment in Florida.   

"Second, the attorney general opinion on return of guns is clear -- someone discharged from Baker Act facility absent a criminal charge is absolutely entitled to return of their weapon, without a court order.  

"Third, there was a very limited survey done of departments ... 67 counties across the state with hundreds of police departments not addressed.  Importantly, this problem was identified by law enforcement in a roundtable on gun violence and agreed as interpreted by (the) State Attorney's Office, a judge assigned to mental health and FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) representative.   As a result, while some departments may implement policies for court orders there is NO basis under law to withhold the gun.  That is 100 percent accurate AND judge's have complained that all the departments are doing is pushing the responsibility to the courts where no legal right to withhold."

• • •

An expert on marriage we interviewed on a fact-check about domestic partnership registries disagreed with our final ruling. We examined a statement from a lobbyist for the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, who testified before a state legislative committee in Tallahassee. "In other jurisdictions where (a domestic partnership registry) has been enacted, we have seen that fewer people enter into marriage," said Michael Sheedy, public policy director for the group. We rated his statement Mostly False, primarily due to lack of evidence. Marriage rates have been declining in areas with and without domestic partnership registries and same-sex marriage.

Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, disagreed with our conclusion; we quoted him in our original fact-check.

"As your own story acknowledges, he is generally correct at least with respect to the European experience. Neither the left nor the right can say definitively if this correlation is causal or not re: Europe.

"It is true that we don't know definitively if changes in legislation have deepened the retreat from marriage in Europe, and there are also no good studies of the U.S. experience in this regard. So, it would be fairer to just say that the jury is out on whether civil unions cause a decline in marriage.

"But Mr. Sheedy's statement is factually correct, judging by the European experience. In general, where civil unions have been enacted in Europe, ‘fewer people enter into marriage.’

"And that's a fact."

• • •

Have something on your mind that needs fact-checking? Want to comment on one of our recent reports? Send us an email at florida@politifact.com.