Saturday, November 1st, 2014

Our top 5 fact-checking reports for July 2014

Our story on fact-checks about the Founding Fathers was our most popular story in July. (Tampa Bay Times Illustration by Don Morris)
Our story on fact-checks about the Founding Fathers was our most popular story in July. (Tampa Bay Times Illustration by Don Morris)

Last month, our readers looked at a lively mix of reports and fact-checks. Here, we countdown our five most popular reports for July 2014.

5. Could the Supreme Court’s contraceptive ruling affect coverage of vaccines and blood transfusions?

We didn’t offer a Truth-O-Meter rating here; instead, we asked experts if they thought the Supreme Court decision in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby on contraception could be applied to other medical treatments such as vaccines and blood transfusions.

We spoke with a number of constitutional and insurance industry experts. The unsatisfying answer is a resounding: We don’t know.

However, they did offer a few reasons why applying the court’s ruling to other health issues will be pretty tricky, including the Hobby Lobby’s unique ownership, details in the majority opinion, and the general reluctance of health insurers to deny mainstream treatments. Read the full report.

4. A Texas Democrat says President Barack Obama "offered fewer executive actions than almost any other president."

On CNN’s State of the Union, Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, stood up for Obama and his use of presidential power.

"This president has offered fewer executive actions than almost any other president preceding his presidency in recent history," said Beto, who is from El Paso.

People often point to the number of a president’s executive orders to indicate his use of unilateral action, and by that metric, Obama has a lower record than most presidents in recent history. But executive action includes much more than just orders, and there’s no way to definitively calculate how many Obama has carried out in order to compare him to other presidents. We rated O’Rourke’s claim Half True.

3. Who vacationed more, Obama or former President George W. Bush?

Summertime means vacation, and readers liked a fact-check on who took more vacation, Obama or Bush, from our archives. Our 2013 fact-check looked at the Rev. Al Sharpton’s claim that Obama had taken 92 days of vacation compared with 367 days for Bush at the same point. Sharpton correctly cited data from the leading authority, CBS News’ Mark Knoller. But he didn’t acknowledge that Bush often worked from a family home in Texas, while Obama has no equivalent family retreat. We rated Sharpton’s claim Mostly True.

2. Video of an Obama speech circulating on the Internet was edited to change his meaning.

Has President Obama suddenly started supporting dictatorship? That’s the case a viral video tries to make. A reader sent us the clip and asked us to check it out.

The video appears to show Obama saying this: "And for the international order that we have worked for generations to build, ordinary men and women are too small-minded to govern their own affairs, that order and progress can only come when individuals surrender their rights to an all-powerful sovereign."

The real speech shows that Obama said nothing of the sort. The viral video spliced two completely separate sections of Obama’s speech together. Our video fact-check shows the phony clip and then shows the real speech. We rated the fake video’s claim Pant on Fire!

1. Getting the facts straight about the Founding Fathers.

In honor of Independence Day, we looked back at some of our fact-checks about the Founding Fathers. It turns out that pundits and politicians get things wrong again and again when they use the Founding Fathers to support their political views. We found many errors about what the Founding Fathers supposedly said or did, especially when it comes to constitutional issues and civil rights.