Saturday, November 1st, 2014

Mailbag: The non-Obamacare edition

Here's a look at some of the complaints (and compliments) our readers have sent our way.
Here's a look at some of the complaints (and compliments) our readers have sent our way.

In part two of our Thanksgiving-weekend edition of Mailbag, we look at emails and Facebook posts by readers on all topics beyond health care. (Our previous Mailbag covered comments, complaints and compliments about Obamacare and other health care issues.)

One reader thought we were too generous when we gave a Half True rating to Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., for his claim that in 1929, the Secretary of State shut down a program that was "collecting information to protect America" because it was "unseemly," but that move led to "millions and millions" of deaths in World War II.

The reader said, "So, I can get a Half True by getting some background facts right, then drawing from them a wildly inaccurate and screamingly disingenuous conclusion?" the reader wrote. "The only part of Rogers' claim that matters is the cause-and-effect association, which is totally ridiculous. Have we gotten to the point that we’re giving politicians credit for sewing their fabrications out of cotton instead of unicorn hides?"

One reader thought we wasted our time with a fact check of a tweet sent by celebrity chef Tom Colicchio. We gave Colicchio a False for claiming that under Obama, the debt has increased by 23 percent, which was less than under any president going back to Ronald Reagan. "I don’t believe celebrity chefs are where most people turn for their political news," the reader wrote. "What’s next? Will you be fact-checking Peter Griffin of The Family Guy?"

One prominent politician responded publicly after we gave him an unflattering rating.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, disagreed with our Mostly False ruling for his claim that "in the last four years, our economy has grown on average 0.9 percent a year."

In a Facebook post, Cruz’s office said, "PolitiFact wishes that Sen. Cruz would calculate the average annual change in GDP using quarterly percentage change, which yields a result more favorable to the president, rather than looking to the annual change in dollars. However, as a factual matter -- and as a matter of math -- Sen. Cruz's statement was unquestionably correct." The full text of Cruz’s response can be found here.

A few readers raised philosophical critiques of our coverage. One took issue with how we rate statements that include more than one claim.

"It seems to me that when you analyze a quote comprising of several statements connected by the word ‘and,’ where some elements are true or mostly true and some are false or mostly false, you systematically aggregate the entire quote as half-true," the reader wrote. "From a mathematician’s point of view, this is simply wrong. If a person makes two statements connected by an ‘and’ in one quote, basic logic dictates that if one of them is false then the entire quote is false. You can split it into two if you wish and give separate ratings, but if you decide to aggregate them into one statement and give only one rating. … I sincerely hope that in the future you will abide by the rules of logic that are at the foundation of our civilization for over 2000 years."

Two readers wrote that we were being too loose in our use of the word "libertarian."

"The Koch brothers have a very mixed agenda that is sometimes libertarian leaning, and other times clearly not," one wrote. "Ever hear them rail against oil and gas subsidies? Or rail against the construction of roads in the oil patch? Or rail against federal subsidies for airports? They have a very mixed political record that is mostly characterized by supporting things that support their business efforts. While you can certainly characterize folks as being a Democrat or a Republican or an Independent, or pro-agricultural subsidies or pro-Iraq invasion, be very, very careful with more subjective monikers such as libertarian, conservative, liberal, or left wing."

Finally, a number of readers thanked us for our work.

"Sometimes I don't like what I read, and that's good," said one. "Keep it up!"

Another said, "As long as everyone’s mad at you (and they're not claiming the Earth is ruled by shape-shifting lizards from outer space) I'm reasonably sure PolitiFact is hitting the nail on the head."

A third wrote, "I have taken quite a few political science, sociology, law, and ethics classes recently. I've written hundreds of pages of reports using university resources that give me access to raw data and statistics that otherwise would be difficult to get. I consider myself to be very well informed on political and social issues. Double checking PolitiFact claims, I have to say that they carry a high degree of accuracy. After a couple years of personally vetting PolitiFact, I'd have to say they're a trustworthy fact checking site."