Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Mailbag: Party conventions edition

We check the mail and find a lively mix of praise and criticism.
We check the mail and find a lively mix of praise and criticism.

As we slogged through two weeks of political conventions, you challenged our judgment on how we choose what to check, such as this reaction to Mitt Romney's claims that President Barack Obama apologizes for America (Pants on Fire) and said "You didn't build that" (False):

"The power of fact-checking lies in the fact that one only looks at FACTS. But PolitiFact consistently delves into matters of opinion while claiming to be objective. Two examples are Romney's charge that Obama apologized to other countries, and Romney's interpretation of Obama's "you didn't build that" remarks. Reasonable people can disagree about these issues, but they do not belong on this site."

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The office of Sen. John Thune, R-S.D, disagreed with our Pants on Fire ruling of his Republican National Convention claim that the Obama administration "even proposed banning farm kids from doing basic chores!"

"Sen. Thune’s comment that (the Department of Labor's) aborted rule was proposing to ban farm youth from doing certain chores is accurate and factual.   In fact, in its first attempt to salvage the rule, DOL realized its waiver that allowed youth to work on farms only operated solely by their parents would actually apply to only a fractional number of overall agricultural operations because it failed to recognize that most of today’s agricultural operations are not sole proprietorship 'dad and mom'-operated farms and ranches.  Instead, in today’s complex production agriculture world, these once simple ownership operations have evolved into limited liability corporations, partnerships, trusts, corporations, and other legal entities that most often include additional family or other members — meaning youth would be restricted by DOL’s proposed rules when working on these operations for their parents."

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A retired foreign service officer took issue with our understanding of geopolitics in our Mostly True rating that of Obama's Democratic National Convention claim that Romney called Russia 'Our No. 1 enemy':

Your article "contributes to a lack of understanding among the American public about international relations.  America's biggest geopolitical foe does not necessarily have to be America's No. 1 enemy.  Clearly, at the present time al-Qaida is America's biggest enemy.  They declared war on us in the 1990s, and continue killing Americans, and often citizens of our allied countries, every week.  But our biggest foe or rival in a geopolitical sense is Russia or China. I would humbly suggest that someone on the staff there learn what geopolitics is, starting with a study of Alfred T. Mahan."

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Some of you took us to task for our False rating of Rep. James Clyburn's Democratic National Convention claim that Republicans sat on the sidelines for the passage of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid:

"I'm puzzled how you can lay out that there was substantial GOP opposition to both Social Security & Medicare, even right up to the final votes in Congress, and then conclude that Clyburn's statement was False. ... I'm old enough to remember how vociferous the opposition was when Medicare was proposed by LBJ's administration; it was seriously ugly, much like the severely polarized campaigns today.  Yes, a substantial number of congressmen and senators came around in the end, but that wasn't just because they saw the light eventually: they got a lot of pressure from seniors in their districts, make no mistake. Usually I find the Truth-O-Meter's conclusion pretty accurate, but in this case I believe it should be pointed more to Half True."

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Before the conventions, readers were frustrated with our Pants on Fire rating for Harry Reid's claim that Mitt Romney didn't pay taxes for 10 years:

"I love your work but I was disappointed and confused with the review of Harry Reid's comment about Romney's taxes.  It got a 'Pants on Fire' rating because Reid did not backup his claim?  Does that mean if Romney releases tax returns showing this to be the truth, you would change your rating?"

"If Harry Reid has no proof for his claim Romney paid no taxes, will you also give Romney a Pants on Fire for saying he paid taxes but providing no proof? Or does Romney get the benefit of a doubt? ...  I think you erred though on even taking this 'claim' since all Reid said was this was what he was told.  This is just political tit for tat, not really worth your time."


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Finally, as we celebrated our fifth birthday and 6,000 Truth-O-Meter item in August, we took a minute to enjoy your well-wishes:

"Thanks for at least trying to present the truth in all the garbage that comes out in our political system. Most people want to believe the leaders of their selected parties, but unless a trusted, unbiased, politically unfinanced organization can reveal the researched facts behind a statement or accusation, no one can call themselves an informed voter. Although I sometimes (often) disagree with your ratings, I feel your website presents a HUGE public service to the voting public. … Happy 5th birthday, and I wish you many more."

"I was watching Fox News during the RNC and heard a pundit describe ‘fact-checkers’ as having ‘jumped the shark.’ Nothing could be further from the truth, and I applaud the work PolitiFact and similar organizations do for the American people. Facts matter. The good work PolitiFact does every day is appreciated by thinking Americans."

"I love how the right says 'PolitiFact is biased!' and the left says 'PolitiFact is biased!' You folks just keep on doin' what you do."

"I hope you realize each and every day that you are saving democracy in America."