Tireless Truth-O-Meter travels time
By Willoughby Mariano
Published on Sunday, July 3rd, 2011 at 6:00 a.m.
PolitiFact Georgia sent the Truth-O-Meter on assignment last week. Its destination: the past.
It traveled to the civil rights era to assess whether Birmingham was truly the "cradle of the civil rights movement." It visited President Ronald Reagan’s successful 1980 campaign to check a claim by former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and stopped during Reconstruction’s early days to look at similarities between current Georgia immigration laws and the infamous Black Codes.
Then our gizmo, ever tireless, roved the fields of current-day South Georgia to check out a pilot program that uses probationers to ease a labor shortage. Abbreviated versions of those fact-checks can be found below.
Gov. Nathan Deal: A "substantial number" of probationers participating in a pilot project to ease the farm labor shortage are able to "finish the work."
Deal’s plan to use probationers to ease the state’s farm labor shortage has farmers wondering whether these new workers can take the heat. Literally.
Hispanic immigrant workers, some here illegally, usually take on this backbreaking labor, but farmers say they’re leaving the state because of Georgia’s tough new immigration laws. Probationers taking their place have trouble lasting even one day, according to media reports.
Enter Deal’s comment, which he made June 16 during a radio interview.
By the time Deal made his comments, 7 out of 14 participating probationers returned the next day for more work. Yes, that’s a 50 percent success rate, but participation is so low that it’s premature, and even misleading, to say that "substantial" numbers of probationers have finished the work.
TV weatherman Al Roker: "(Birmingham, Ala.) is the cradle of the civil rights movement."
Former mayor Bill Campbell said it. So has entertainer Debbie Allen. One-time Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau president Spurgeon Richardson claimed the title for the city.
Atlanta, they say, is "the cradle of the civil rights movement."
So we were surprised when NBC "Today Show" meteorologist Al Roker, who was visiting Birmingham June 16 for a charity program, referred to that city as "the cradle of the civil rights movement."
Roker’s visit to Birmingham was a good cause on several levels. He raised money for charity and sparked a conversation about an important period in American history. NBC said its research showed Birmingham is the cradle.
However, the consensus we found is that the "cradle" title more likely belongs to another Alabama city: Montgomery. We rate Roker’s statement as Barely True.
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich: "On the day of the New Hampshire primary in 1980, the top 13 people of Ronald Reagan’s staff quit."
Gingrich summoned this historical tidbit to convince supporters he still has a shot at the presidency.
He made the comment June 22 at the Atlanta Press Club -- the morning after news broke that two of his top fundraisers had quit, and days after a mass exodus of high-level campaign staffers.
Yes, there was a mass exodus from the Reagan campaign. It began the day he won the New Hampshire primary by a landslide.
But it’s not entirely correct to say Reagan’s top three staffers quit. At the very least, they were pressured to leave. Gingrich’s count of 13 Reagan staffers is debatable, as is his description of them as "the top" aides.
Still, Gingrich’s main point stands. We therefore rate it Mostly True.
Macon mayoral candidate Robert Brown: Georgia’s illegal immigration crackdown laws should be called the "Brown Codes" because of their similarity to the "Black Codes" governing blacks after the Civil War.
Opponents of Georgia’s new immigration crackdown law are drawing ugly comparisons like this one between the bill and infamous chapters of civil rights history.
Former state Senate Minority Leader Robert Brown, a Democrat who recently resigned to run for mayor of Macon, made this comparison in a press release June 2.
We found that it’s fatally flawed.
The Black Codes forced freed slaves back to the fields of their masters. The new law chases illegal immigrants out.
Illegal immigrant workers come here by choice. Slaves were forced here. And the deportation modern-day workers face is a far cry from the cruelty of re-enslavement.
Both laws do single out groups for stigmatization, but the difference between the Black Codes and Georgia’s new immigration law is so vast it gives an inaccurate impression.
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