Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

The Truth-O-Meter on Weiner -- with certitude

Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., holds a news conference on June 6, 2011, to acknowledge that he'd made inappropriate electronic contacts with several women. We checked his pre-scandal record on the Truth-O-Meter.
Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., holds a news conference on June 6, 2011, to acknowledge that he'd made inappropriate electronic contacts with several women. We checked his pre-scandal record on the Truth-O-Meter.

With all the attention focused on Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., we thought we'd take a look at how he has fared on the Truth-O-Meter.

We're not fact-checking the Twitter brouhaha -- we'll leave that to others. But it's timely for us to look at his pre-scandal ratings.

As our report card shows, we have rated him four times and he has never gotten anything higher than a Half True.

Our most recent check was for a statements he made that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas must recuse himself from the case challenging the constitutionality of the health care law because his wife, Virginia, made more than $700,000 working for groups that oppose the law.

The law, he said, "has certain categories where you must recuse yourself, and one of them is if you or your household, your spouse has any financial interest in the outcome. And we found out recently that Ginni Thomas, the spouse of Justice Thomas, has received more than $700,000 from organizations whose existence is based on making sure the health care law is ruled unconstitutional."
   
We found a great deal of disagreement among legal experts we spoke to that Virginia Thomas' previous jobs meet the definition of "financial interest" or whether it's enough to establish that Justice Thomas' "impartiality might reasonably be questioned," and that even those who supported Weiner's position said it was a matter of interpretation and ruled his statement Half True.

In the same interview with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, Weiner also said that Justice Elena Kagan has recused herself in "many cases where she had little role" as solicitor general, "simply because the appearance (of a conflict of interest) was there," suggesting that she went beyond the letter of the law.

We found that in Kagan’s case, she appears to be following the law and recusing herself in instances not only when she was "counsel, adviser or material witness" but also where she has "expressed an opinion concerning the merits of the particular case in controversy" -- even if it is in a routine memorandum bearing her signature that says the government is not taking sides.
   
Contrary to Weiner's claim that she wentbeyond the law, that struck experts as playing precisely within the rules. Again, we ruled his statement Half True.

Early this year, we ruled on another statement by Weiner that the health care law included tort reform.

We found that the law included a tiny amount of money for state pilot projects that look at alternatives to litigation, but that they were so small that they were ignored by the leading group that opposes tort reform -- the trial lawyers. The group's president said the projects weren't anything to be concerned about. That put the projects at such a great distance from any sort of traditional notion of tort reform that they're just not even in the same ballpark. So we rated Weiner's statement False.

In August, 2009, we looked into another statement by Weiner about the controversial health care plan.

"Under the plan, for the first five years your employer not only has to keep the coverage, but you can't migrate to the public plan. The concern was we didn't want a giant movement," he said on the show Fox & Friends .

We found that there was nothing in the legislation that forces companies to keep coverage, although large employers would face a tax penalty if they dropped it altogether and rated his statement Barely True.