Mailbag: 'I regard this fact-check as a total failure ... Get your act together'
By Katie Sanders
Published on Friday, September 13th, 2013 at 1:26 p.m.
Readers lit up our inbox with opinions on our end-of-summer fact-checks, including plenty of disappointment about our rating of a claim that evaluated the toxicity of marijuana compared with alcohol.
Reader feedback is edited for style and length.
Is marijuana ‘less toxic’ than alcohol?
The Marijuana Policy Project claimed marijuana is less toxic than alcohol in effort to garner support for legalizing the drug. We rated the claim Mostly True, which many readers said they found inexplicable.
"Your final verdict was Mostly True but the very last bullet point specifically said that cannabis is at least 100 times less toxic than alcohol. As a matter of fact all three bullet points stated that alcohol is much more toxic than cannabis. How do you justify a Mostly True when you said, ‘Our job as fact-checkers in this case is not to decide whether marijuana is good or harmful. We're focused on whether the drug in its natural form is "less toxic" than alcohol?’ If you don't have the conviction to stand behind your own research you are doing a disservice to anyone who pays attention to your supposedly nonbiased statement vetting."
"The only points that even favor any doubt are by opponents to marijuana reform, and they are blatantly false statements (toxicity is NOT a ‘vague’ concept, nor is it dependent on ‘unique set of risks and consequences for a given individual’). Toxicity is measured (mathematically) by comparing the effective dose to the lethal dose. The opponents are trying to argue that marijuana isn’t ‘good,’ but that isn’t the question being fact-checked; the question is whether or not it is ‘less toxic than alcohol.’"
"How does the weed stack up with regular cigarettes? Compare apples with apples! Left-wing morons!"
Alan Grayson: 45,000 people die because they don’t have health insurance
U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-FL, returned to his feisty rhetoric in support of the health care law recently, saying "We have 45,000 people in this country who are dying each year because they don't have health coverage." We examined the research for and against the figure here and ultimately issued no Truth-O-Meter rating. One reader said it’s hard for low-income seniors to get good care even with coverage.
"I HAVE health Insurance, Medi-Cal and Medicare. I cannot get a doctor here except in community health centers, which are known to be outrageously incompetent and untrustworthy. I feel as I may die WITH the types of health insurance available to low-income seniors like me."
Is Miami-Dade the state’s top donor county?
Sen. Rene Garcia, D-Miami, welcomed Gov. Rick Scott and the rest of the Florida Cabinet to Miami-Dade by calling the host county the "No. 1 donor county in the state." We rated it Mostly False. County-based sales tax collections are highest in Miami-Dade by far. However, that’s alone doesn’t indicate that Miami-Dade is the No. 1 donor county. For one thing, tourists pay some of the sales taxes in Miami-Dade.
"Why would one totally discount tourist dollars being collected and sent to the state by Miami Dade? Tourists do use our utilities, roads, hospitals, emergency services, etc... ."
U.S. Rep. Murphy - no, the other one
Americans for Prosperity tried to attack U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, for voting for the health care law in 2010, "yet he reversed himself and voted to delay" the employer and individual mandates. We rated the claim Mostly False, as AFP actually targeted the wrong Murphy. The Florida representative was not yet in office to vote for the 2010 health care law, though he did vote for the subsequent delays.
"Mostly False when Americans For Prosperity was referring to two completely different congressmen? Just because they got one fact correct about the current Rep. Patrick Murphy does not mean that their statement was partially true because they were conflating two DIFFERENT people, whether intentional or not. If intentional, it should deserve a Pants on Fire rating. If it was an honest mistake due to incredible incompetence, it should have a False rating. The idea that you would rate this Mostly False is astounding."
Jesse Jackson and black homicides
The Rev. Jesse Jackson wrongly claimed that homicides against blacks tripled since Florida passed its "stand your ground" law in 2005. We rated the claim False. Some readers thought we were too harsh and used poor methods.
"Your methodology is seriously flawed. Jackson clearly meant that homicides against blacks had tripled in comparison with the numbers before the ‘stand your ground’ law took effect. One can quibble with the precision of the wording, but the intent is clear and well within the standards of colloquial usage. You failed to present the comparable figures for the the period before the law passed. You should have presented the statistics for 2006-present with the comparable statistics for the same number of years ending in 2004, leaving the composite year 2005 out of the picture. I regard this ‘fact-check’ as a total failure, regardless of whether a proper redo supports the False label or not. Get your act together."
Prison food promise
Scott promised in his 2010 campaign for governor to use inmate labor to grow prison food, which we rated Compromise on our Scott-O-Meter. A parent of an inmate spoke out about the quality of prison meals.
"If the prisons grow the food, what are they doing with it? The food my son is being served is ridiculous. Why aren't they getting the healthy food they are suppose to be growing? He's starving, and I pay tax money for this awful food, and I send him money for the junk food in the commissary! What's going on? I know they are in prison for a reason, but give them some real food. It's cheaper for them to grow the food, so give it to them instead of the crap they serve! Would the governor eat it? Prob. Not."
The massive Stevie Wonder-led boycott that wasn’t
We debunked a social media meme claiming dozens of the nation’s hottest musical acts -- Jay Z, Justin Timberlake, Rod Stewart and the Rolling Stones, etc. -- were boycotting Florida in protest of the "state your ground’ law.
"The boycott by these so call important people will not affect Florida’s economy. Besides, who really cares?"
Obama and immigration enforcement
One reader thought we were too hard on Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, when she said, "President Obama has the most border patrols and border security deployed at the border of any previous president." We rated it Mostly True.
"I’m sorry, you just can’t add your own opinions and spin it where ever you want. This is TRUE, period. I used to respect this website to get the real truth on important issues, but I see that is no longer the case. Are you going to change the name of this website? Maybe something like...’PolitiFiction’ "
From Twitter: "And yet totally irrelevant. ‘Most ever’ still doesn't do the job."
"Nice Work. Well Done and Bravo Zulu!"
See fact-checks linked within story.
Researchers: Katie Sanders