Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Obama, Dewhurst and a climate change musical figured into readers’ favorite April fact checks

This David Dewhurst ad included a flawed claim about opponent Dan Patrick's name change. Our look at the claim was online readers' No. 1 fact check of April.

A flammable David Dewhurst claim by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst topped our online readers’ favorite fact checks in April.

Dewhurst, who faces state Sen. Dan Patrick in a May runoff for the 2014 Republican lieutenant governor nomination, said Patrick changed his name to hide his debts. Pants on Fire, we concluded, noting a time gap between Patrick’s financial troubles and his legal name change as well as the absence of other back-up information coming from Dewhurst.

A gassy oldie placed second among readers. U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, said last July that President Barack Obama’s policies contributed to gas prices rising from $1.89 in January 2009 to $3.51 today. Mostly False, we said. Williams got the prices correct, but presidents don’t generally have the ability to make them rise or fall and experts didn’t see that reversing various policies would have necessarily kept prices from rising as much. Also, gas prices collapsed right before Obama took office--a wrinkle unnoted by Williams.

Our check of a claim by the U.S. Census Bureau landed No. 3. Austin radio personality Bob Cole wondered if the bureau was correct when it told him federal law requires residents to participate in the government’s American Community Survey. Mostly True. The law has that mandate, but the bureau doesn't seek to penalize individuals who resist.

Obama saluted President Lyndon B. Johnson at a summit on civil rights. Still, he said that Johnson opposed every civil rights measure that came up for a vote in his first 20 years in Congress. That’s True, per research by Johnson biographer Robert Caro and research undertaken at our request by a Senate official. Readers made this the No. 4 favorite fact check in April.

No. 5 among the April favorites: Our look into a claim by U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio,  that the National Science Foundation awarded $700,000 to fund a climate change musical. It did. True.

Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Kesha Rogers touched off our No. 6 hit when she said Obama was responsible for the assassination of at least four U.S. citizens in drone strikes. Half True: U.S. drone strikes reportedly carried out on Obama’s authority killed the citizens listed by Rogers. But three deaths were evidently not intended, while it’s debated -- unsettled at best -- whether one killing was an assassination.

Rounding out our 10 most-viewed fact checks of the month:

--Our Mostly False rating of a claim by Democrat Wendy Davis that Republican Greg Abbott said expanding pre-kindergarten to all students would be a "waste." Abbott actually said it would be a waste to offer pre-k to more students without addressing quality.

--Another chestnut; our Pants on Fire for a chain email spotted in 2012 stating 11 states had more residents on welfare than on the job.

--More flames flew when we checked if U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., said "English was good enough for Jesus when he wrote the Bible." She didn’t.

--Our False bestowed on a leading Democrat’s claim that Rogers, in a May runoff with Dallas investor David Alameel for the party’s Senate nomination, is not a Democrat. Rogers has anti-Obama views; she wants him impeached. But she’s twice won primaries to become the party’s nominee for a House seat. Under state law, too, a voter affiliates with a party by voting in its primary, which Rogers has repeatedly done.

Happy May. What do you hear that makes you wonder?