Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

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Pants on Fire ratings account for 9 percent of our 6,003 Truth-O-Meter fact-checks.
Pants on Fire ratings account for 9 percent of our 6,003 Truth-O-Meter fact-checks.

The writers behind chain e-mails may not be elected officials, but they sure need to be held accountable. Between seven PolitiFact state sites and PolitiFact National, we've found 27 of 85 claims in chain e-mails that we've reviewed since October 2007 to be False, and another 38 were Pants-on-Fire ridiculous. That means about 75 percent of claims we've checked in chain e-mails have not had even a grain of truth.

"TRUE OR FALSE?" a reader recently wrote us, forwarding an e-mail titled "State Propositions on Ballot to Tax Homesteads/November." It warns that three propositions on the November ballot would allow "the state of Texas to start taxing residential homeowners. So if you own a home, and these laws are passed, you will be taxed by the state." No such propositions this November; we rated that Pants on Fire. But it's not the first chain-e-mail claim to go up in flames.

— In November 2009 — shortly after the shooting at Fort Hood — PolitiFact National checked this claim: Maj. Nidal Hasan, the man accused of the Fort Hood shootings, "was an ADVISOR to the Obama Administration. In short, there was no evidence to backup the charge. Like PolitiFact National said, "another chain e-mail, another Pants on Fire!"

— Another reader wrote us this summer wondering about a chain e-mail that wrongly claimed that the 2010 health care law will institute a new tax on home sales. PolitiFact National rated that Pants on Fire. If you're wealthy and you sell your home at a substantial profit, it's possible you'll get hit with a 3.8 percent tax on investment income. Most Americans won't have to worry about this, though.

— More recently, we rated False a claim in a chain e-mail attacking Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill White. The e-mail said "In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina a few years ago, Dallas and San Antonio took in 5-10 thousand refugees each, but White brought in 250,000 and put them up in his 'buddies' empty apartment buildings and let the federal government pay their rents for over two years," the e-mail states. "They did not return to New Orleans, most of them are on welfare." The chain e-mail's count of the evacuees who settled in Dallas is on target, but that's the only thing it got right. Significantly, we found no evidence that White put up evacuees in apartments owned by his pals.

— Finally, more evidence that we should check chain e-mails: sometimes elected officials fall for them. In April, we rated False this claim by Rep. Ken Legler, R-Pasadena: "Cell phone numbers go public this month." Legler quickly told us that his campaign "fell victim to urban legend." Seems we weren't the only ones wondering whether that was true — the story has ended up as one of the most-visited on PolitiFact Texas.