Saturday, December 20th, 2014

Reader: Maybe rename PolitiFact the Opinion-O-Meter?

Emails sometimes pile up, though not quite like this moment in Virginia in 2008 (Richmond Times-Dispatch, Dean Hoffmeyer photo).
Emails sometimes pile up, though not quite like this moment in Virginia in 2008 (Richmond Times-Dispatch, Dean Hoffmeyer photo).

Readers took umbrage at some of our fact checks of statements by Republican presidential hopefuls and others.

A sampling from our mailbag:

Several readers didn’t cotton to our Half True rating of Mitt Romney’s October claim that more than 1 million Texans are jobless, the state has its highest unemployment rate in more than 20 years and joblessness doubled on Rick Perry’s watch. Romney’s figures were right. But we saw weakness in blaming a state’s governor for its jobless residents and unemployment rate.

Stick to the facts, one reader responded, adding: "If I were to say that there were X many highway accidents in Massachusetts during Romney's tenure (as governor), would you grade my statement as half-true because Romney wasn't actively running people off the road?  How then can we cite ANY statistic about a state if you put an additional demand that the only true statements allowed are ones over which a governor has complete control?"

Another: "If you're saying that a factual rebuttal is a half-truth, it ought to be based on facts, not your political bias toward Rick Perry. ...Maybe you should rename your feature ‘Opinion-O-Meter.’"

A different take: "Isn't this inconsistent with Gov. Perry's advertising about his prowess in ‘creating’ jobs in Texas? The other side of the mouth claims that the ‘private sector’ is the job creator. ... I would rate Gov. Perry's claims in this regard not ‘Half True’ but ‘Pants on Fire.’ The standard argument of politicians in office is to claim credit for everything perceived as good that happens during their watch. The standard argument of politicians out of office is to blame the incumbent for everything perceived as bad that happens."

Generally, one reader wrote: "I've been wanting to ask you a question ~ why don't you fact check any Democrats? I would love to see Barack Hussein Obama fact-checked or maybe Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid. You are a bunch of liberals, admit it.  I don't read PolitiFact any more because it's not fact it's more ‘politifiction.’  You're not relevant or truthful. I have a suggestion -- Get Real!"

One reader spoke to our analysis of whether a certain Confederate battle flag ever flew over Texas: "The battle flag flew over tens of thousands of Texas soldiers serving in the Confederate Army and that is all that mattered...The actual battles in Texas where it might have flown (and likely did fly at some of them) were at Sabine Pass, Galveston, Corpus Christi and Palmito/Palmetto Ranch."

Several readers thought we were soft on Gov. Perry’s claim that President Obama thinks Americans are lazy.

"Mostly False! You've got to be kidding me! This is Pants on Fire, if ever there was one.There is NO wiggle room. Perry and Romney have completely misrepresented this quote and journalists allowing them to get away with this blatant lie is despicable."

Two: "The selective editing was deliberately done to distort his meaning so it could to be used as propaganda and should be recognized as such."

Three: "I would say the whole premise is ‘Completely and Utterly False.’ The president argued that American businesses have not paid the attention the East-Asian markets deserved. This is a strong subject that requires considerable debate. Having worked in electronics manufacturing for close to 20 years, I first saw my HP-connected job go from HP-in-house to a contractor in Tennessee to Mexico to the Far East. These electronics however were all destined for U.S. markets."

And four: "You don't provide your usual thoughtful analysis, and go straight to Mostly False just because he *could* have been referring to a smaller subset of the American population rather than the entire public? Isn't it reasonable to assume that the American president, when asked about how America as a whole might be viewed by a foreign nation, was likely in fact referring to America as a whole?"

Sometimes, notes turn broadly philosophical.

"PolitiFact is most effective when it not only points out factual errors but also inconsistencies in the statement of politicians and public figures. Lying, demonizing, and embellishing the facts have ever been the basic stock in the trade of politicians.

"PolitiFact helps us to keep a grasp on reality during the political silly season. If we were to believe all the lies and demonizing that goes on, we would cease to obey the devils that are eventually elected into office. Amazing, isn't it, how the winning and losing politicians pledge harmony and cooperation after an election? Hmm . . . just one more lie on the top of the heap?"

Keep your notes, and advice, coming to politifact@statesman.com and please join us on Facebook and Twitter. What strikes you as worth checking?