Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Mailbag: 'Grow a funny bone!'

Some criticism, with a little praise, in the latest mailbag.
Some criticism, with a little praise, in the latest mailbag.

It's been awhile since our last installment of reader e-mail, and our mailbag is overflowing!

Saturday Night Live and the Obameter

Saturday Night Live skewered President Barack Obama for not keeping his campaign promises, and we couldn't resist comparing their checklist to our Obameter database of campaign promises . We noted in our story that were doing it just for fun, but some readers still thought we were being frivolous or showing favoritism. Some said we were humorless for looking at the facts behind a comedy skit. And Jon Stewart criticized CNN for interviewing us.

"Did I miss your 'just for fun' fact checks on SNL's Tina Fey's Palin jokes? Or all of the lies spread about Palin: Banning books comes to mind. I really don't remember your taking time to dispell the lies, bias, and blatant disregard for the truth regarding Palin and the network news shows which are a travesty in honesty and completeness." ( Editor's note: Read our 2008 report on Sarah Palin and banned books .)

"I've always been willing to give you the benefit of the doubt as far as your claims of non-partisanship are concerned. However, after seeing that you are 'fact checking' a comedy skit I have to call that claim into question. That you would even bother fact checking a parody makes it clear that you have an agenda. Why else would you go out of your way to call out SNL on its satirical critique of Obama's performance to date? I would especially like to bring up your assertion that SNL was wrong, with the item on its checklist, that Obama promised to make Afghanistan better, but it's worse. You noted that it was a Promise Kept as Barack Obama sent reinforcements , but SNL's assertion was that the situation in Afghanistan is worse. From everything I have been reading, including recent statement by General McChrystal, the situation in Afghanistan is worse, so I rate your rating False. The next time you go out of your way to defend Barack Obama against a comedic smearing try to get your facts straight…and grow a funny bone!"

"I watched a clip by CNN where one of your guys (Adair) says that Saturday Night Live is an important factor in how people get information about American politics. This is unbelievable to me, seriously? I for one, have never gotten my political information from Saturday Night Live, and I have watched it on and off since the days of Bill Murray and Steve Martin. You might want to run the Truth-O-Meter on your guy's statement."

Arguing with the Truth-O-Meter

• We looked at oil drilling advocate Barney Bishop's statement that there was "no evidence anywhere that offshore drilling has hurt tourism in any area where it has been allowed." We rated that False. A reader said we were nit-picking.

"You had to look long and hard to find any tourism troubles with offshore drilling. The first incident you referred to happened 30 years ago. The second incident happened 40 years ago. Do you think there is a possibility that methods and safety have improved in the last three or four decades? I live in southwest Florida, and I would welcome offshore drilling for Florida's sake and for the Nations sake."

• Democratic Congressman Steny Hoyer called the Republicans the "party of no" and said they had "failed to produce" alternative health care legislation . We rated his statement Half True.

"When you quote Hoyer, you ignore that his quote is factually wrong (as you say that ' there are dozens of GOP bills ') but then spin it to a Half True saying, 'He's right that the Republicans have not rallied behind a single bill.' By this logic, Democrats haven't offered a health care bill either, since the Democrats 'have not rallied behind a single bill.' ... You should join the Web 2.0 community by allowing visitor interaction with your fact checking such as a comments or feedback area. I think your conclusions are more up for debate that you acknowledge." ( Editor's note: Comment on our reporting on PolitiFact's Facebook page .)

• We also looked at Michael Moore's new movie , Capitalism: A Love Story . We examined his statement that during the Reagan era, " the richest Americans had their top income tax rate cut in half." We rated that statement Mostly True.

"I think that despite your balanced approach, you are still giving in to Moore's rhetoric. Here's why: Moore's use of the term 'richest Americans' is false. He uses it to describe the 'top income earners,' not the richest. Many of the very richest do not earn 'incomes', i.e. money reported on a W-2, at all. The do not have to work for a living and are thus immune to many of the tax hikes or cuts on personal income. Moore's trick is clear. He wants to use terms like 'tax cuts for the richest Americans' to conjure pictures of the idle rich laying about on their yachts, while the tax statistics he cites are actually for people who work for a living: doctors, researchers, pilots, technologists, entrepreneurs and small business owners - the people who actually make health care and every other good and service that the rest of us consume possible. Moore knows that he is using false images and false definitions in the service of his polemics. Please don't enable him. Call him out."

Also from Michael Moore, we rated his statement that during the Reagan era, " millions of people were thrown out of work ." We rated that Barely True.

"There is a huge gap in logic in your Barely True assessment ... The actual number is much, much higher than two million. In the state of Iowa alone, over 80,000 people left to find work during Reagan's presidency. I doubt very much that any of them found employment that paid better than their old job. And those who left were only a fraction of those who stayed and took crappy jobs that paid less and had fewer benefits than their previous jobs. At least 150,000 Iowans lost their jobs under Reagan. I don't recall many states doing better. You chose to examine the wrong data because you misinterpreted what Moore said. He was speaking about the end of a way of life; you only heard the jobs number. A job is not a job is not a job. Some jobs are much more equal than others. The jobs we lost were good jobs. The jobs that replaced them weren't nearly as good."

• On health reform, we looked into a controversial report that insurance companies commissioned from PricewaterhouseCoopers that found insurance premiums for consumers would rise under health reform. Nancy-Ann DeParle , director of the White House office of Health Reform, said the report ignored "key policies" that would reduce costs . We rated her statement True.

"It is also true that the health bill voted on in the Senate Finance Committee leaves out potential costs when they estimate the overall cost of the plan. You should rate their claim that the bill will cost 800 billion. That would be more helpful. It seems that Pricewaterhouse is attempting to do the job that you should be doing here. Your reporting sucks!"

Philosophical Musings

We got two e-mails from readers who had more general observations and concerns about PolitiFact's mission .

"Some of President Obama's promises will take years to accomplish and most reasonable people know that. However, his detractors will use the Obameter's tally of 515 promises made to X promises kept as a demonstration that he is not keeping his word. There is also the problem that the information that Obama had as a candidate is different from the information that he has as the President of the U.S.A. How does one evaluate President Obama's work in the light of these problems with the evaluations? I am concerned that the Obameter is becoming a tool for those who would like to damage President Obama and reduce the probability that he can keep the promises, in that there are only so many things that any president can do at a time."

"I do enjoy and applaud your efforts at determining the truth of statements, promises, and claims made by politicians and pundits alike, but can't help but wonder at the underlying premise of your Truth-O-Meter . Perhaps not futile, but certainly ranking with the quest for the Holy Grail would be a search for truth in American politics. I don't think our system works that way. I mean we do elect (as well as fervently view on cable) bigger and better BSers until we cull out the very best-est at the top. I guess I'm saying your idealism, and perhaps even desire to un-bury truth, is, while quite noble, at best misplaced. Would it not be better (for society) to simply take a stand on one side of an issue and passionately lie about it? Look at the people, no one wants the truth. It's useless for what they desire."

Fan Mail

As always, we close on a positive note.

"I just want to say that Politifact is an absolute Godsend to allow us to cut through all the misinformation, partial information and total bullshit that saturates the media these days. I LOVE you guys, and have recommended your site to just about anyone who sends me some politically charged e-mail. Keep up the good work!"

"You should all receive the Nobel Peace Prize for your excellent work. Every fear-mongering false/half true email I receive I am forwarding your link to all of them. ... Thank you again for all you do for our great American tradition of truth."