Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

How is that Barely True?

We are considering retiring Barely True and replacing it with Mostly False.
We are considering retiring Barely True and replacing it with Mostly False.

Last week, we fact-checked a Texas Department of Transportation billboard warning drivers that "a DWI costs $17,000."

We rated that Barely True. Our research showed drivers who are slapped with a DWI can pay a range of costs. In the Austin area as of June 2006, offenders could pay $6,000 to $21,000 in fines, legal fees and other costs.

So why is the statement Barely True?

According to the principles of the Truth-O-Meter, which PolitiFact editor and creator Bill Adair recapped in February, a Barely True rating means the statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. In this case, we concluded that it’s possible a DWI can cost someone $17,000 — but the study cited as the basis for the figure doesn’t support that sum as an average.

Readers often ask us about our rulings, so we’ve just posted each rating’s definition to our home page.

Here are the others:

True — The statement is accurate and there’s nothing significant missing.

Mostly True — The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information.

Half True — The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context.

False —The statement is not accurate.

Pants on Fire — The statement is not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim.

The Truth-O-Meter is supposed to reflect the accuracy of a statement, but, as Adair has noted, we respect that reasonable people can reach different conclusions.

If you disagree with our ratings, we encourage you to e-mail the writer, editor or politifact@statesman.com with your comments. You can also post comments to our Facebook page, message us on Twitter or write a letter to the editor.