Mailbag: The 'Cars, SARS, and Bars Czar'

The mail brings a fresh batch of criticism (and some praise, too!)
The mail brings a fresh batch of criticism (and some praise, too!)

Readers vs. the Truth-O-Meter

Our Truth-O-Meter items prompted the most mail this week:

•  A reader disagreed strongly with our rating of False for Republican Karl Rove, who said a study showed that Democratic health care plans would force 120 million people into government-run health care.

"Most of you in the news business are young or, at least, younger, and have health care paid for by your companies. A warning: Don't lose your jobs and don't get old! Because our health care doesn't have to get just like the socialized care of Britain, the rest of Europe or Canada. It just has to move further down the path that we are already on with Medicare. That is rationed health care, government-style. ... I would say that Karl Rove is right on the mark and that your Truth-O-Meter is rigged."

• Another reader said were too easy on House Minority Leader John Boehner. He said that even Vice President Joe Biden admits people are getting "scammed" by the economic stimulus package. We rated that statement Barely True .

"You say that Congressman John Boehner claims that Biden admits that the stimulus package is a scam, but that Boehner's claim is Barely True? Too generous. Boehner's claim is actually completely false. (And I voted for John McCain and am skeptical of the stimulus package. But I'm mostly concerned here about what is true.) Boehner said, in effect, that the stimulus package itself is a scam, and that Biden admitted it. Biden did no such thing. What he actually said (and you correctly pointed out) is that scam artists are taking advantage of the stimulus package, not that the package is a scam. Perhaps the package is a scam — time will tell — but that certainly is not what Biden admitted to. I would like to see your judgment changed to Pants on Fire, because that's what Boehner's claim is."

• One reader said we let our guard down in evaluating a statement from Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele about General Motors. Steele said that "President Obama will now own 60 percent of GM, and his union buddies will own almost 20 percent." We rated that statement True .

"To be absolutely consistent with other rulings you'd have made, you'd need to rate this at most Half True. Obama, unless he happens to have some shares of GM stock in some blind trust somewhere, will not own any percent of GM ... or rather, he will own precisely as great a percentage of GM as I will, you will, every American will own. I find your easy acceptance of Steele's inaccurate phrasing of his point to be out of character for PolitiFact. Normally, you'd nail the phrasing as inaccurate even while crediting the general sense of 'government will own 60%.' This ruling disappointed me, though I'm not going to stop reading the meters!"

Big Ideas

Every so often, readers send us suggestions for how we can improve. Here are the latest ideas for innovations to our meters.

• "I would really appreciate a Mended Promises option on the Obameter. I'm not sure if he has, in fact, mended any of his broken promises, but if he does it would be great to see that reflected in the statistics you present. Maybe no promises broken will ever be mended, then there is no problem here. But if Obama later begins to consistently allow five days of public comment before signing bills, I'd love to see a mended promise or an atoned (or partially atoned) given."

• "I have come to the conclusion that the Barely True rating is misleading. Since it uses the word True in it, a person could interpret it to mean that a statement is true, but with asterisks. But in my opinion, the correct interpretation should be that the statement has so little truth as to be patently misleading. So your Barely True category would actually be better described as Mostly False."

• A reader suggested this after we published a True rating for Sen. John McCain, who said that "Obama has more czars than the Romanovs."

"In addition to being Director of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers, I hope Ed Montgomery will also be given oversight of human respiratory diseases and the public sale of alcohol. Then, he’d be known as the 'Cars, SARS, and Bars Czar.' Try saying THAT ten times fast."

Bipartisan criticism

• A reader told us we were too hard on Sarah Palin. She said economic stimulus money required Alaska to institute impractical new housing standards; we rated her statement False .

"If this had been a Dem or Obama, and a strict reading of the language was true, but it was not being implemented strictly (at this time, by the way), you would never have gone so far as to call it FALSE. More like a partial-true/false. Your bias is showing. Try harder to hide it."

• Another reader disliked the contents of our weekly e-mail newsletter (which you can subscribe to here ). A health care advocacy group said that 62 percent of people supported a public option for health care, but we found that to be False .

"You are too negative. Where were you when that awful Bush was in office? Remove me from your list of contacts."

Thanks, Mom!

Finally, we end with a note of praise:

"I want to thank your Web site for the labor that you folks put in to telling the truth and research that goes in to make sure we are all informed and have the very essence, nook and cranny of information. I have yet to see any other Web site that puts in such painstaking accuracies. I have followed you folks and will follow your Web site because of such detail and hard work that your staff puts into it."