Monday, October 20th, 2014

Mailbag: ‘Get out of your parents’ basement and into the real world!’

Some of our readers' comments recently have been as colorful as these mailboxes.
Some of our readers' comments recently have been as colorful as these mailboxes.

Some recent feedback from our readers:

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Many readers thought we were too limiting in our check of a claim by Fox News personality Steve Doocy, who said, "If you make more than $250,000 a year … you only really take home about $125,000." We consulted with accountants and tax policy experts and concluded that the most accurate way to check it was to look at federal income and payroll taxes and state income taxes. We gave it a False rating.

"Doocy said ‘taxes,’ not just federal and state taxes, but ‘taxes.’ We pay taxes on our energy bills, waste-disposal bills, food bills, cable bills, cars, houses, business equipment, tires, cell phone bills, etc., etc., etc. These taxes all go to some level of government. My guess is that if you got out of your parents’ basement and into the real world, you would realize that we pay much more in taxes then you could ever imagine."

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A few readers criticized our check of a claim by the Republican National Committee that over the last six months, Obama golfed 10 times and held 106 fundraisers, but his jobs council never met. We rated the statement True.

"So Obama played golf 10 times in six months. Why not report that, in context, it amounts to about one visit to the links every two weeks. That's not enough time to improve his handicap or meet the exercise requirements for a guy his age -- let alone solve the economic problems of the nation. To bring it up is a total red herring, and it's in line with the pettiness of political campaign rhetoric these days."

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Several readers said we were too generous to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, when we gave him a Half True rating for his claim that the United States has "the best health care delivery system in the world."

"I am baffled and disturbed by your rating of John Boehner’s comment. Since you rated the comment Half True, it seems reasonable to expect that by roughly half of the measures you investigated, the US is on top. However by only one of the measures you cited did the US come out first, and in that measure -- keeping down wait times -- the study was limited to only five English-speaking countries, which is hardly a representative sample. In no other measure that you cited did the U.S. finish close to first. Boehner said ‘best,’ not ‘among the best’ or another more nuanced phrase. Please note that I do not attribute this disparity to any political bias on your part, like so many of your critics do. I just think that sometimes your efforts to tease out the nuances that politicians fail to make when they utter absolute statements leads you astray. Still, while I sometimes disagree with your ratings, I still support the efforts of all fact-checking organizations to go beyond the efforts of most campaign journalism."

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A number of readers took issue with our rating of the claim by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., that under President Barack Obama’s health care law, "everybody will have lower rates, better quality care and better access." We rated that False.

"I have a strong objection to one element of your analysis. Your second caveat claims that some people will pay more because the ‘discounted’ rate will entice them to purchase better coverage. I fail to see how this has anything to do with the veracity of Pelosi's statement, or lack thereof. Pelosi used the words ‘lower rates.’ Just because people buy more insurance does not necessarily mean the rate increases, since ‘rate,’ in this case, means level of services divided by cost. If people buy better insurance, they pay more, but their level of services increases as well. When people hear ‘lower rates,’ they assume you're talking apples-to-apples for level of service. It may very well be that in light of your first caveat, Pelosi's statement is still False. But the second half of your argument is bogus."

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One reader had a quibble with our Half True rating for the claim by Obama that "Mitt Romney's companies were pioneers in outsourcing U.S. jobs to low-wage countries."

"Obama’s ad clearly sources the Washington Post for the ‘pioneer’ quote. If you disagree, your beef should be with the Post, not the president."

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A reader took issue with our True rating for Obama’s claim that Romney "had millions in a Swiss bank account."

"The Obama statement was made in an accusatory ad deriding Romney’s wealth. It took no effort on your part to determine that the statement was True, since Romney acknowledged that fact. But what your quasi-analysis did was to reinforce the Obama-created picture of Romney as someone who had – ooooh! -- an un-American Swiss bank account. How about some analysis of the overall message and its legitimacy? You do that in other cases. Why not here?"

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One reader objected to what they considered an unnecessary editorialization in our check of an Obama claim that Romney had millions in the Cayman Islands, a tax haven. We rated that claim True, but described the ad it came from as "snarky."

"You discredit yourselves when you mix a subjective judgment of ‘snark’ with an objective fact check. The facts checked out as true. Leave it at that. Let the public judge whether the tone was snarky or not."

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A grammarian took us to task for an error in our check of Rush Limbaugh’s claim that it's not "accidental" that the villain in the Batman movie is named Bane. Limbaugh was referring to Romney’s company, Bain Capital; we rated the statement Pants on Fire.

"You stated that ‘the villain bears the same name as the company formerly run by Romney.’ The fact is, they don't have the same name. Their names are homophones -- two words that sound the same but which have different spellings (and different meanings), like ‘red’ and ‘read’ or ‘reed’ and ‘read.’"

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Finally, a few readers praised aspects of our work. One said:

"I think a number of the folks who write to you miss the most important point of what you do. I don't really care if I agree with your rating. The important thing is the analysis which gives me the opportunity to decide what I think about it. This is not something I'll ever get from any of the folks you're checking."

Another wrote, "Thanks for all the great work you do! It is so important to hear the truth, as we are rarely hearing it in other media. I am a teacher and I give my high school students assignments to verify the validity of some of the most egregious accusations that are in print and on the airwaves. I always suggest they check with your site first. It is so important that they learn not to believe everything that they hear and to be an educated consumer of the media. I am grateful that they have places like your site so they can form their opinions based on the truth."