Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Mailbag: PolitiFact Texas proves facts ‘are irrelevant to what you do’

We're sharing our mail. Ouch!
We're sharing our mail. Ouch!

A congressman struck one reader as silly, while our look into a claim by an editorial cartoonist who provoked Gov. Rick Perry left other readers aghast at our analysis.

Let’s peek into our mailbag.

On our Facebook page, where anyone may comment the moment a fact check posts to our site, a reader didn’t cotton to U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert’s claim about al Qaeda camps in Mexico (which we rated as False): "Gohmert is an uninformed, silly man. He is a Texas disgrace and we have an overabundance of these people in our state."

We also hear from readers by email.

We rated as False a claim by California editorial cartoonist Jack Ohman that 2006 was the last time the state of Texas inspected the plant that blew up in April in West, Texas.

An Austin reader said of our work: "This is, quite possibly, the worst PolitiFact opinion yet. The (Ohman) cartoon depicts four things: Rick Perry advocating low taxes; Rick Perry advocating low regulations; Rick Perry proclaiming ‘Business is booming in Texas’; and a fertilizer factory exploding in Texas. Each of these is 100% true. Even (reporter W. Gardner) Selby's defense of the State Chemist's duties contained a sleight of hand to tilt his article in Perry's favor when he wrote: 'The office can also inspect individual sites "for product safety and security."' It ‘can,’ but apparently was not required to. Please remove ‘fact’ from ‘PolitiFact.’ You have proven time and again that ‘facts’ are irrelevant to what you do."

Another reader: "Superb example of political nitpicking. I rate your analysis as ‘Pants on Fire.’" And a third pointed out our quotation of a spokeswoman for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality as saying that agency "last conducted a ‘site investigation’ at the plant Jan. 16, 2007," just after the end of 2006. "Your label of False is false."

Another reader said we whiffed in rating Pants on Fire a claim by Perry that he was still waiting for President Barack Obama to respond to the letter on border security that Perry attempted to hand the president in Austin in August 2010. The reader noted that the reply fielded by Perry from a White House aide did not, in fact, come directly from Obama: "Perry's statement is true.  John Brennan," then a White House deputy, "IS NOT Barack Obama. Spin it as you may, but a White House assistant is not the president... PolitiFact is playing on words -- unacceptable when dealing with facts.  Semantics."

Our January 2013 check of a chain email about 11 states having more people on welfare than holding jobs continues to draw reader interest. One suggests we didn’t complete our mission: "In your examination of the welfare costs mentioned in the analysis of the ’Welfare death spiral’ article, you did some cherry picking of your own.  Look at all welfare programs, not just federal ones. We taxpayers pay for all of them in our respective states."

On the same Truth-O-Meter article, another reader wrote: "Can you provide any information or estimates of the number of people who receive money from state, local, or non-profit sources? I suppose that would be much harder, since probably there is no one central place to go to. Perhaps looking at two or three representative states would allow one to obtain a reasonable estimate of numbers, but then again,  there might be substantial overlap with recipients of federal dollars, so the result would be inconclusive. The bottom line does seem to emphasize the basic point... that there are a lot of people who obtain money from the federal government--which obtains the funds to pay them from taxpayers, and taxed organizations."

Finally, reacting to our confirmation that most state workers did not get a raise from 2009 to 2012, a reader urged another related check, writing that "it’s even worse for state and teacher retirees...  If you will look at the unemployment rate and job layoffs, most state employees are lucky to still have a job between 2009 and 2012. When I worked for the state of Texas, job stability was a major factor, especially during recessions. There are a lot of unemployed people who would love to have a state job with income now. It’s time the state of Texas gives retired state employees and teachers an increase!"

The fastest way to comment on any of our fact checks is to like our Facebook page and comment there, but we welcome emails, too. Some of our most popular fact checks start with a reader wondering if what they’ve heard or read could be so. What do you hear?