Mailbag: 'Jebio' edition

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio asks a question at a Senate committee hearing on U.S.-Cuban relations on May 20, 2015.
Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio asks a question at a Senate committee hearing on U.S.-Cuban relations on May 20, 2015.

Few members of the Republican presidential field are attracting more attention than the two leading contenders from Florida -- former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio. We’ve recently received a number of comments from readers about our coverage of their two campaigns. Here’s a selection of them, lightly edited.

Marco Rubio

Several readers took issue with our article looking at Rubio’s comment that "our leaders put us at a disadvantage by taxing and borrowing and regulating like it’s 1999" -- a cheeky reference to Prince’s 1982 smash hit. Because it’s a joke to make the point that his opponents are stuck in the past, we didn’t offer a Truth-O-Meter rating. Still, we looked at the data and found that it’s not a particularly useful comparison because there was a budget surplus in 1999.

One reader wrote, "What was the point of the article? Seriously, what was the point? You admit this was jest, and yet you proceeded to treat it as gospel? Have some dignity and stop focusing on ‘cheeky’ minutiae."

Another reader added, "To whom it may concern: You guys are idiots! It was a figure of speech, hyperbole. He knew it was a play on pop culture. Who was the moron who thought this was worthy of an article? Is this what modern journalism has become?"

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In a more serious article, we looked at Rubio’s claim that "Iran is developing long-range rockets that will at some point in less than a decade be capable of reaching the East Coast of the United States." We didn’t rate this statement on the Truth-O-Meter either, because it involved a prediction and classified intelligence. But several readers went further and expressed skepticism about Rubio’s suggestion.

"The likelihood of Iran building intercontinental ballistic missiles is not high. No one is going to deliver fission weapons that way -- the cost-benefit is not there. The course of rockets can be backtracked, so any clearly marked delivery from Iran would incite a mutually assured destruction response. The response would obliterate all major cities in Iran. The probability of a land delivery is so much higher, so much easier and so much less ruinously expensive as to make Rubio’s claim absurd."

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Finally, a reader said we should not have rated Rubio’s statement that "I can tell you with certainty (cap and trade) would have a devastating impact on our economy." We rated that False.

"Your piece is at best questionable. Frankly, it smacks of open bias against Mr. Rubio. How can you ‘fact check’ something that hasn’t happened yet? The assertion that existing programs haven’t had any impact is naïve at best. I expect better from you guys. Even though your bias is sometimes an issue, your integrity is generally at a higher standard than this piece of nonsense. You might want to amend this one. Actually, you probably should kill it."

Jeb Bush

One reader thought our analysis fell short in checking Bush’s claim that "there are more poor people today as a percentage of our population than the 1970s." We rated it Mostly True, but others thought that was too generous.

"Given that Jeb Bush made the comparison during a presidential campaign season, one has to read into it a condemnation of the Obama administration. The issue then becomes whether the 1970s statistic is relevant. If the poverty rate increased after the 1970s -- a period that begins with Ronald Reagan -- and has come down under Obama, then the statement is strictly true but effectively misleading. It is especially relevant that Bush did not cite the poverty rate during his brother's administration. Please recheck with the implied message in mind."

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A reader questioned PolitiFact New Hampshire’s check of a claim by Bush that "on my last trip to New Hampshire, I think I met the guy who founded the first and only bank since Dodd-Frank passed, since the financial crisis. One bank in the country." We rated that claim Mostly False.

"I do not understand the time you spent on this statement. Gov. Bush clearly was just making a point through exaggeration, since he said ‘I think’ at the beginning of his statement. Yet you went out of your way to get him a Mostly False rating on an issue where which is a possible connection. We have our major leaders making daily statements that are not even close to the truth and you spend your time on this? It makes one wonder about your motives.

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A reader raised concerns about our framing of a fact-check of Bush’s claim that "we are in the sixth year of recovery, and median income is below what it was at the start of the recovery." We rated that statement True.

"Based on all evidence you provided and checked, the verbatim statement is indeed true. But it's what he said next that I found thought-provoking: ‘That is the legacy that Barack Obama has brought us. He has divided the country. The wealthy are wealthier, the poor are more stuck, and the middle is getting squeezed.’ Bush is clearly blaming the factual plight of the middle and lower classes on the Obama administration. I believe that in leaving out the second portion of the statement attributing the decline in wages directly to Obama, you are doing your readers a disservice. I would love to see the Politifact team tackle that as well. That said, thanks for helping this reader stay more engaged, informed, skeptical, and even occasionally (gasp!) optimistic. Keep up the good work."