Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Mailbag: 'Everybody gets one chance to be royally wrong'

Here's our special July Fourth edition of Mailbag.
Here's our special July Fourth edition of Mailbag.

As we head off into another holiday weekend, we leave readers with some of the reader feedback we’ve received on our recent work.

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One reader pointed out an omission in our analysis of Stephen Nodine’s claim that he can run for Congress to represent a district in Alabama, even though he is serving a sentence that requires him to spend his nights at the Baldwin County Jail. We gave a Mostly True rating to his claim that he can be on the ballot for Congress.

"I appreciate your research on the matter, but one thing that few mention is the fact that Nodine couldn’t serve in Congress until the term is almost over, as he is required to report to jail each evening. According to the Clerk of the U.S. House’s website, it would even require a special dispensation — generally reserved for serious illness — just for him to be sworn in outside of the U.S. Capitol. The notion that he can run for office is certainly made questionable by his inability to serve. Certainly the district would be without representation if he were still sitting in jail."

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Aaron Huertas, press secretary for the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote to clarify one point that came up in our fact check of a claim by Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla. We gave a rating of Mostly False to the claim that President Barack Obama "spends 30 times as much money on global warming research as he does on weather forecasting and warning."

"We just wanted to flag that the link between climate change and tornadoes is weak, at best. We recently dinged a few Democrats for trying to link them. Not sure if you meant to imply there was a link in your piece or if you just wanted to offer context for Bridenstine’s discussion of severe weather. Regardless, it’s been part of the climate conversation for the past few weeks."

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A reader posed some questions about our check of a claim by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., that "nearly 6 out of 10 believe that money and wealth should be more evenly distributed among a larger percentage of the people in the U.S." We rated the claim True.

"I am in a middle-income group. I pay $9,000 to $10,000 each year in federal income tax. Therefore, I am not against the top 5 percent paying more income tax. However, you failed to define just how increasing taxes on higher income people will redistribute wealth. Will the government then give money to the bottom 47 percent? Will the government give more welfare to the bottom 47 percent? Maybe the government will spend money to force the bottom 47 percent to have intact families and go to school and stop negative behaviors?"

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One reader telephoned to make a point about our fact-check of Obama’s claim that as a student at Occidental College in Los Angeles from 1979 to 1981, "there were days where folks couldn't go outside. … because of all the pollution in the air." We rated that claim Mostly True.

"Your article forgets that Obama smoked. I agree about the smog, but he can't whine about it if he sent smoke through his lungs intentionally."

(Here’s a 2011 Associated Press recap of Obama’s on-again, off-again smoking habit.)

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One reader was saddened to see that Obama earned a Pants on Fire for his claim that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court "is transparent."

"Well that's disappointing. But, then again, this is why I like PolitiFact. Let's hope this is the last Pants on Fire I hear from Obama. Everybody gets one chance to be royally wrong."

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A few other readers thanked us for our work. One said:

"While I have as many quibbles, or even annoyance, with your ratings as do others who send you their complaints, I want to point out a trend that I have noticed. Almost universally, the complaints are with the ratings, while the arguments that are made disputing your ratings actually rely on, and apparently show confidence in, the accuracy and completeness of the facts that you gather. That in itself is a compliment and a testimony to the tremendous value of your service. I realize that the ratings are probably a necessary feature and undoubtedly attract readers to the paragraphs of research that would otherwise be overlooked -- so I suppress my occasional objections to the ratings and am grateful for your efforts."

And another wrote to say this:

"I just want to say how much I enjoy reading the Truth-O-Meters on your site! It is nice to see a truly bipartisan look at who in both parties is lying and who is telling the truth. It’s good to know someone out there is actually doing some serious fact-checking on our politicians! Keep up the great work!"