Friday, October 24th, 2014

Mailbag: ‘Your journalism professors would be so proud of you’

Mail comes in, usually electronically. We share.
Mail comes in, usually electronically. We share.

After we reviewed a claim about the IRS targeting groups seeking tax-exempt status, readers suggested we went overboard.

We rated as Pants on Fire the claim by Progress Texas, a pro-Democratic group, that two thirds of groups targeted by the IRS were "not conservative." We found no proof for this statement amid indications that it would not bear out.

One reader heartily disagreed, writing: "You gave the claim your lowest rating--Pants on Fire. However, by your own admission YOU still don't know whether the claim was true or not. You proved that the claim has no backing, but you DIDN'T prove that it was false. Based on the facts presented, no one can determine the truth of the claim, not even you, since the political leanings of the other groups were not disclosed.

The missive continued: "Labeling a claim ‘Pants on Fire’ implies that you can prove that the claim is egregiously false. You cannot do this, by your own admission."

Chimed another: "While lacking iron-clad evidence of the claim, this hardly deserves to be classified a Pants on Fire; that should be reserved for those claims made up out of whole cloth. This is a good example why your group's reputation with the public continues to slide."

"I get that Progress Texas was wrong about their statement," another reader wrote, "but I think it's disingenuous to say that it LIED about it. The fact that PolitiFact should focus on is that we don't know what the political affiliations of those groups are. I am, like everyone else it seems, ignoring the fact that these groups were trying to ‘legally’ evade taxes."

Another reader noted that we did not quote a portion of congressional testimony: "What is problematic is your reference to the May 17, 2013, testimony by outgoing acting IRS commissioner Steve Miller before" a House committee. "You omitted something else that Miller stated. He was asked by Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill.: ‘How come only conservative groups got snagged?’ Miller's response: ‘They didn't, sir. Organizations of all walks and all persuasions were pulled in. That’s shown by the fact that only 70 of the 300 organizations were tea party organizations, of the ones that were looked at by TIGTA [Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration].’"

Earlier, readers questioned our poke into Sen. Ted Cruz’s claim that Americans invented the iPhone and "Pong" and "Space Invaders" arcade games. We found his statement Half True; "Space Invaders" was invented by a Japanese engineer.

Waste of time, a reader implied: "So in a month where stories broke concerning the IRS targeting based upon political ideology, the (attorney general) signing off on a warrant making a journalist a criminal co conspirator, the (Department of Justice) tapping other journalists’ phones, the (Supreme Court) determining DNA-gathering to be constitutional and the president continuing a policy, maybe even expanding it, which is constitutionally questionable at best, the most important fact you can check is Ted Cruz saying ‘Space Invaders’ was invented in the U.S. I think the fourth-grade twins next door have written on more important topics this week--and school was out. Good work.

Another reader said our Half True rating of Cruz’s statement didn’t make sense given that the senator was right about Americans inventing the iPhone and 'Pong.' Their email closed: "You can’t even do integer arithmetic! Your journalism professors would be so proud of you :-)."

We’re proud that readers write. What else?