Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Mailbag: 'Glenn Beck rules, PolitiFact drools.'

Our readers tell us what they think of our recent reports.
Our readers tell us what they think of our recent reports.

We got lots of reader feedback on our recent work. Here's a selection, edited for length and style.

The New York mosque controversy

We got a lot of reader criticism for our rating of Al Hunt's statement, "This is not a mosque. It's a cultural center that has a prayer area." We rated that False. We said it's imprecise to simply refer to the New York project as a mosque, but the center's organizers and backer regularly describe the project as including a mosque. Readers disagreed.

"This has to be one of the worst ratings you've done in evaluating Al Hurt's statement about the ground-zero cultural center. ... I am a regular reader to your website and generally appreciate your assessments but feel you could not be more wrong in your assessment of the situation."

"Al Hunt was more accurate than PolitiFact. His argument was that the entire edifice is a cultural center and the 'prayer area', or mosque, is just a small portion of it. Your investigations and comments say the same thing, but since the word 'mosque' is used you give him a 'false' rating? If Donald Trump builds a casino in Las Vegas with a chapel and says he is building one of the world's largest churches in the town would you give him a 'true' rating?"

"Now, Al Hunt's comment is certainly misleading: calling the mosque-within-the-center simply a 'prayer area' gives the impression that it is either nondenominational, used infrequently (like the Pentagon prayer area), or both. However, as admitted by your writer, the building at Park51 is in fact a cultural center, as Al Hunt states, and not - entirely - a mosque. And while the phrase 'prayer area' may be misleading and far too vague, it is an roughly appropriate description for the mosque area. I rate Al Hunt's statement Mostly True."

Others disagreed -- sometimes for different reasons -- with our ruling on Rick Lazio's statement, that a New York imam wants to "have a mosque at Ground Zero.''  We rated that Barely True. The project is close enough to to the site of the World Trade Center site to carry symbolic value, even to those proposing the project. But statement gives the misimpression that the project is either on the or immediately next to it.

"I have admired your site and paper long before you became the 'in' thing, but I have to take exception to you rating of Rick Lazio's statement of Barely True. Aside from the fact this should be a non-issue, how far away do you have to be for it not to be 'at Ground Zero'? Is 4 blocks not 'at', or is 10 blocks the official not 'at'? When referring to buildings or meeting places, especially in NYC, you are either there 'at' the location or near the location. If I am at Lincoln Center, I am not 2 blocks away. ... Not only is his statement not Barely True, it is a Pants on Fire lie."

"First, for more than 25 years I worked in the Woolworth Building which is next to the World Trade Center and the proposed Mosque (previously Syms and after that the Burlington Coat Factory). I walked from the PATH station to the Woolworth Building daily and it took me less than a minute. The statement that the mosque is 'two long blocks' away is false: they are two normal city blocks away. Further, the Trade Center was clearly visible from the Burlington Coat Factory store. There are no 'long blocks' in that area of downtown Manhattan."

"As usual, your biased, radical left omission of the facts is blatant. Your reporting is weak and non-transparent. How PolitiFact won a Pulitzer is beyond belief, other than those dishing out Pulitzers are also of your cult. The fact is On Sept. 11, the landing gear assembly of one of the planes used in the attack crashed through the roof of what was then a Burlington Coat Factory. The same building of the proposed mosque, 600 short feet from the site of the twin towers World Trade Center. If that's not part of ground-zero, what is? My rating of many of your totally biased PolitiFact ratings is 'Pants on Fire.'"

Glenn Beck

We heard from defenders and detractors of Glenn Beck in response to our recent report card of Truth-O-Meter rulings on the television talk show host. We rated his recent statement, "The government is trying to now close the Lincoln Memorial for any kind of large gatherings." We rated that statement Pants on Fire.

"The quote you judged from Glen Beck - 'The government is trying to now close the Lincoln Memorial for any kind of large gatherings.' This statement was not made as a fact but as a prediction. Beck makes many predictions on his shows, most of which are ridiculed by lib groups and media. However, many of these predictions have in fact come true. If you watch his show you know this."

"Ha ha, what is the matter, cat got your tongue!?!?! Where's your report on the 'Restore Honor' rally? Looks like you didn't find anything wrong with GLENN BECK. Glenn Beck rules, PolitiFact drools."

"Why is there only one page of Glenn Beck statements subjected to analysis of validity? You could fill at least a page per day with his daily half-truths, falsehoods, and 'pants-on-fire' statements. Isn't this the kind of scrutiny he needs? Don't Americans, if we are to fulfill our duties as citizens, need more examined than this iota of a letter of a line in a volume shelved in the infernal Alexandrian library of propaganda that Mr. Beck produces?"

The Obama-as-Muslim myth

Readers criticized us for analyzing why some people still believe Obama is a Muslim when he's actually a Christian.

"While I certainly don't endorse those who believe that the President is Muslim, PolitiFact had so far been a tool to keep the powerful in line, not reprimand the misguided. The information you included in your article on President Obama's faith was widely available, so the article came across more as a hubris civics lesson than a community watchdog. I expect others felt the same way, and hope you continue closer to your mission in the future."

"Your discussion of the 'is Obama Muslim' issue, like that of many others, strikes me as somewhat naive. So far as I know, there is no reason at all to think he is a Muslim. But there isn't all that much reason to think he is a Christian either. A presidential candidate who announced that he was an atheist or agnostic would lose a lot of votes, and presidential candidates get to that point by not doing things that lose them a lot of votes."

"Why are you trying to convince the American people that he's a Christian, are you working for the Obama re-election campaign as their PR person? Because that's what it sounds like. The man is a liar and a socialist and the American people are realizing the truth about this man who somehow without credentials and positive proof of his citizenship has become our President. He supports building a mosque at ground zero, a total slap in the face to the American people as he well knows that the Muslims always build mosques on the grounds that they have conquered."

Iraq War vs. the Stimulus

We rated a statement from Mark Tapscott, that "Obama's stimulus, passed in his first month in office, will cost more than the entire Iraq War." We rated that Barely True. We found the costs from Iraq are still being calculated, and may be the same or greater than the stimulus.

"Regarding you article, 'Did the stimulus cost more than the war in Iraq?', your Truth-o-Meter appears to be broken. ... The fact is clearly that 2 years of Obama-nomics has cost more than 8 years of Bush's wars. What happens in the future is subject to speculation. When measuring truth, I would recommend that you stick to what is known. If you choose to speculate about the future, you must consider all likelihoods, including the real possibility that Obama will be throwing more of our good money after his ill-conceived recovery packages."

Apportioning blame for the economic crisis

A reader challenged us on our rating of candidate Sharron Angle's statement about Sen. Harry Reid. "Harry Reid says he does more for Nevada. He's done more for unemployment. We were at 4.4 percent. Now we're at 14 percent. He's done more for the foreclosure rate. We have the highest foreclosure rate in the nation. He's done more for bankruptcy. We have the highest bankruptcy rate in the nation." The two are running against each other for U.S. Senate in Nevada. We rated her statement Half True.

"You rated Sharron Angle's economic statement as 'Half True' in part because 'she forcefully attributes Nevada's woes to Reid -- while his responsibility is unclear at best.' I'm curious, why aren't you also saying the same about Obama's claim that Republicans are responsible for the nation's economic woes? It's the same type of claim, and Obama is a far more prominent politician than Angle. So why no mention? Obama has claimed that Republicans 'drove the car into the ditch' and 'got us into this mess.' Is that true? Did Republicans cause the subprime mortgage crisis, which features so prominently in our current economic situation? Did Democrats play no role whatsoever in causing the subprime mortgage crisis? Or is this an economic claim that you're not going to rate as 'unclear' because doing so would make Obama look bad? Don't be gutless, rate the damn claim."

Praise!

We got more than the usual amount of letters praising us this month, and several readers congratulated us on our third anniversary. Thanks!

"Please keep up the good work on PolitiFact. If you determine that some statement from the Repub, the Demo, the Cheney, the Bush, the Obama,......etc. is a Pants/False/Half/True....then just make the damn call...letting the chips land where they may."

"Yours is the only site I go to without fail because of your meticulous documentation and attribution. Thanks for all you do, the finest place to go for quick reference."

"Three years of truly needed public service deserve thanks and gratitude from those American people who are really interested in facts vs. soundbites/hate mongering/distortion/outright lies. It is so interesting the influence that television and money have on our political and governmental process. Shameful, actually. Many thanks for your hard work in bringing facts to light."