Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

We didn't stop at 140 characters

President Barack Obama answered questions sent in via Twitter in a special town hall on July 6, 2011. We fact-checked several of his comments.
President Barack Obama answered questions sent in via Twitter in a special town hall on July 6, 2011. We fact-checked several of his comments.

When you're president of the United States, you can find ways to get around Twitter's 140-character limit.

At the Twitter town hall on July 6, 2011, President Barack Obama answered questions by speaking to a moderator and tweeting. The president made a number of statements we wanted to take a look at.

One statement that caught our attention was that "young veterans have a higher unemployment rate than people who didn't serve." We found that was true for veterans in the post-9/11 era, who have fared worse in terms of unemployment than their predecessors and rated it True.

Then we took a look at his claim that his administration has provided "at least 16 tax cuts to small businesses." We had looked at a similar claim by Democratic National Committee chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D.-Fla., earlier this year and had found it Mostly True. We came to the same conclusion about the president's claim.

Finally, we looked at the president's claim that there was great job growth after former President Bill Clinton raised tax rates. We found that he was right about jobs increasing after the increase in tax rates, but we thought he went too far, suggesting that the tax increase caused job growth when he said, "we should go with what works." We rated that claim Half True.

Meanwhile, a reader asked us to look at the following comment by the president, in which he compared the size of the budgets for the departments of Defense and Education:

"The nice thing about the defense budget is it’s so big, it’s so huge, that a 1 percent reduction is the equivalent of the education budget. Not -- I’m exaggerating, but it’s so big that you can make relatively modest changes to defense that end up giving you a lot of headroom to fund things like basic research or student loans or things like that."

Because Obama stopped and said he was exaggerating, we won't rate this one on the Truth-O-Meter. But we did think it was worth a look at how these two budgets actually compare.

There are several ways to look at this, but are some:

• The fiscal 2011 Education Department budget is 14 percent of the base Pentagon budget, and 11 percent of the total Pentagon budget (which includes both the base budget and funds for overseas war operations).

• The proposed fiscal 2012 Education Department budget is 13 percent of the base Pentagon budget proposal, and 10 percent of the total Pentagon budget proposal.

So, Obama was off by at least a factor of 10, with the 1 percent figure he initially offered -- but he also immediately realized his error and called that an exaggeration.