Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

"Pardon me, but your bias is showing!"

Our readers tell us what they think of our recent reports.
Our readers tell us what they think of our recent reports.

Here's a sampling of what PolitiFact Texas readers are lately saying, edited for length and style.

Unemployment

Congress barely passed another round of unemployment benefits in July, but U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said the reason Republicans didn't vote for it is because they don't want to run up the deficit. "Sen. McConnell offered a fully paid two-month extension of unemployment insurance," he said before the final action. He was referring to the GOP leader's proposal to pay benefits with stimulus money. We rated his statement True.

Some people said we blew it.

"John Cornyn's introduced his two-month extension bill due to public outcry. The Republicans are experts in deceiving the people, something Democrats don't do. It's time voters get educated on what has transpired here. He and Kay Bailey Hutchison should be held accountable for their vote of 'nay.' These senators have broken the backs of the American people, and are not for the people. I do not know when their terms end, but they are what Texas has to represent them. This article is written to confuse the people."

"PolitiFact's most recent comment about Sen. Cornyn's assertion that Sen. McConnell offering to vote for unemployment extension and paying for it through cutting expenses elsewhere is typical of what I see in the media. It may be factually true what McConnell offered, but it belies the reality behind that offer. I have no doubt that McConnell offered it only because he knew that the Democrats would not accept it. Effectively, his offer was 'robbing Peter to pay Paul.' Practically all of the cuts mentioned affect people who are poor or are stressed financially — cutting food stamps obviously and the broadband proposals are clearly aimed at making it available to people who otherwise cannot afford it. I would like to see PolitiFact be a real force for knowledge and not just engage in the surface truths!"

Humorless, or less humor?

Sometimes we like to have some fun and fact check deliberately funny people; when they poke at current events, we consider them pundits. Recently, Stephen Colbert, host of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report," said on his show that "Texas has an $18 billion budget shortfall and can't afford its new science textbooks." We rated his statement Mostly True.

We couldn't resist putting the pseudo-pundit to the Truth-O-Meter when he mouthed off about Texas. Most readers chiming in thought we should have passed.

"Fact checking a comedian's joke??? Please! Look up the word oxymoron in the dictionary."

"Funny, but why are you fact checking a comedian?"

TCEQ

State Sen. Wendy Davis, a Democrat from Fort Worth, recently lambasted the state's environmental agency for failing her constituents. "The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality — what a joke," she said. "In my district, we caught them lying to us about the results of air quality studies in the Barnett Shale. They are playing with the health and safety of our communities, and we are going to tell them that is not acceptable." We rate her charge Half True, because while the agency failed to alert the public of tests that detected elevated levels of benzene, she didn't prove their intent to deceive.

"I am glad your article lambasted TECQ for the lousy agency it is. I live in Harris Branch and we have been fighting the landfill for years. And that agency is rewarding bad behavior. I think alll those officials should be investigated from (Commissioner) Buddy Garcia on down. That agency is a joke... they don't care about communities just giving in to big business, which in my mind always spells someone is getting goodies under the table."

Others thought we were too soft on the agency.

"I was with you until the conclusion: 'Hiding the truth is lying, Davis said. However, absent proof of an intent to deceive, we rate her statement as Half True. Should her open-records request yield new information that shows that TCEQ knowingly lied to the public, we"ll reconsider our rating.' That"s a pretty tough standard you"re setting. Would that require a document that said 'let"s lie to the public?' I assume something less than that. The law generally accepts circumstantial evidence to prove knowledge."

Frankly, we've never received a call from President Barack Obama.

Perry doesn't cotton to Washington, but he's also unimpressed by Obama's outreach to the Lone Star State.

"We don"t get a lot of calls from this White House," he said in a July 13 TV interview. Asked about his relations with the Democrat"s administration, the Republican governor said: "I have, frankly, never had a call from them." We rated that Pants on Fire after the White House gave examples of calls to the governor and Perry's schedule of state events, which doesn't show everything he does, listed a recent conference call involving the White House.

Readers thought that a conference call doesn't count as a call.

"You really had to stretch to mistakenly call Governor Perry a liar in your article. It is doubtful in my mind that an incompetent, socialist, unAmerican would call the Governor of a State that is well run. obama might have conference calls where he reads from his prompter, however it is doubtful that he has any interest in talking directly with Governor Perry. Your article is misdirected and draws incorrect conclusions."

"This so-called 'PolitiFact' is mostly the opinion of its author..."

(For the record, we don't call individuals liars. We rate the "truthiness" of individual statements.)

Math 101

Bill White, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, was on a roll labeling Perry as the highest-paid state employee on an hourly basis. "If you divide the hours (Perry) works in by the amount he"s paid, then he"s by far and away the highest-paid state employee on an hourly basis," he told reporters. Pants on Fire!

"Someone should read this stuff before it's printed. Dividing hours worked by dollars paid does not yield an hourly rate (I know, you attribute the quote to Mayor White but you should have called it if you saw it). It yields the inverse, hours/dollar. Duuuh. Any reader, journalist or candidate for public office who fails to understand this point, may be unable to grasp or make important budgetary choices."

Duh is right. We updated the article and thanked the reader.

Where IS the No. 2 kidnapping capital of the world?

We don't know, but we're still hearing from readers since we checked Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's statement that Phoenix is the No. 2 kidnapping capital of the world — a statement we rated False.

"It's time you really put the heat on your media community that report serious news without checking out the source and the truthfulness of its stories. I did not see the Charlie Gibson (ABC News) clip when it first ran on the air, but am really disgusted with him and his crew and all media that they would make such an outrages claim without following through with information that most kidnappings are happening within the Mexican-Phoenix drug dealing community. Whereas it comes across as a concern for Phoenix's general community."

"Excellent work, fact checkers! I'm sure that the victims in Phoenix will appreciate your efforts to prove that their kidnapping is far less serious a problem than previously reported."

"Thank you for your well-researched article debunking the claim of Phoenix being the No. 2 kidnapping capital of the world. I live in Tucson and with the passage of the Arizona law, things are getting rather ugly here. I realize you are well aware of this, as your article mentioned the issue of definitions, but I wanted to give a concrete example. A couple of years ago, my godson and his two roommates were held at gunpoint by one man in the living room of their house in Tucson while two other guys ransacked their house. Marijuana was involved, and I don't know where it came from in the first place, but none of the roommates or suspects were from Mexico; all are U.S. citizens. When the three suspects were caught, they were charged with, among other things, kidnapping."

Darts: Media bias

It's an old chestnut: hardly a week goes by without a reader accusing us of leaning liberal. But this time we were charged with kowtowing to Democrats and Republicans.

"I was hoping to find a truly honest site that presented everything fairly. Unfortunately, you only have one mention on your site of the Texas Libertarian Party and one mention of Kathy Glass being nominated. The race for governor this year is probably the most important race Texas has had since being a state and you only list two of the three candidates. Unfortunately, this shows that your site is unfairly slanted and this is exactly what we will tell people."

Laurels: PolitiFact love

Flattery makes the world go 'round. With that in mind, we like to end our mailbags on nice notes.

"I love your website and I would love for you guys to open up here in the land of Tony Soprano and Jersey Shore. It's a political hotbed currently with the politicians (both parties) running rampant. Come and help us out up here and have some fun at the same time."