Top 5 most popular fact-checks for September 2014

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, invoked the potential harm to "Saturday Night Live" executive producer Lorne Michaels from a constitutional amendment now under consideration. But is the fear justified?
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, invoked the potential harm to "Saturday Night Live" executive producer Lorne Michaels from a constitutional amendment now under consideration. But is the fear justified?

Here are PolitiFact’s top 5 most viewed fact-checks of September 2014, counting down to the most popular item.

5. Do Denmark, Australia, Germany and France have a higher minimum wage than the United States? Half True.

A Facebook meme said countries with a higher minimum wage than the United States’ $7.25 an hour include Denmark at $21, Australia at $15.81, Germany at $11 and France at $12.35.

The figure for Denmark is questionable because the country has no single minimum wage. Meanwhile, the other figures don’t take into account differences in the cost of living in each country. When purchasing power is taken into account, the gap between the other countries and the United States narrows, though it does not disappear. The claim is partially accurate but leaves out important details, so we rated it Half True.

4. President Barack Obama said his comment about extremists being a JV team "wasn’t specifically referring to" Islamic State. False.

Chuck Todd won an interview with President Barack Obama for Todd’s first installment as the new host of Meet the Press. Todd asked Obama about ISIS, noting that things had come a "long way from when you described them as a JV team."

"Was that bad intelligence or your misjudgment?" Todd asked.

"Keep in mind I wasn’t specifically referring to (Islamic State)," Obama replied. "I've said that, regionally, there were a whole series of organizations that were focused primarily locally, weren’t focused on homeland, because I think a lot of us, when we think about terrorism, the model is Osama bin Laden and 9/11."

The origin of the comment is a New Yorker profile of Obama by editor David Remnick, and if you look at the story, it’s pretty clear that the group Obama was talking about was Islamic State. The transcript backs this up, as do news events from the time of the discussion. We rated Obama’s denial False.

3. Sen. Ted Cruz said Saturday Night Live’s Lorne Michaels could be jailed under Democratic-backed amendment on campaign finance. Half True.

Democrats want to overturn Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that loosened campaign-finance laws for corporations. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said that proposal could undermine the First Amendment.

"What the amendment says is for any corporation, Congress would have the constitutional authority to prohibit it from engaging in political speech. …  Lorne Michaels could be put in jail under this amendment for making fun of any politician."

Cruz actually got on the phone with us to defend his statement. Most experts we talked to agreed that the proposed amendment’s language left open the door to that possibility.  But many of those same experts emphasized that prosecuting, much less imprisoning, a comedian for purely political speech would run counter to centuries of American tradition, and would face many obstacles. So we rated Cruz’s statement Half True.

2. An Arizona congressman says Islamic State, or ISIS, is in Mexico and planning to cross the border. Mostly False.

Rep. Trent Franks, a Republican from Arizona, said his state faces an imminent threat from extremists trying to slip into the United States from Mexico.

"It is true, that we know that ISIS is present in Ciudad Juarez or they were within the last few weeks," Franks said. "So there’s no question that they have designs on trying to come into Arizona. The comment that I’ve made is that if unaccompanied minors can cross the border then certainly trained terrorists probably can, too. It is something that is real."

The evidence suggests it’s highly unlikely that the group would operate in Mexico and stage an attack across the border. The claims originated in an article with unnamed sources, published by a right-wing outlet. We could not find one law enforcement official or another media outlet that independently verified or corroborated the claims.

It’s a far stretch to say "we know" with certainty that ISIS is in Juarez, so we rated this claim Mostly False.

1. Bloggers say 73 percent of money raised by the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge goes to overhead and fundraising. Pants on Fire!

By now, very few Americans haven’t heard of the "ALS Ice Bucket Challenge" -- the social media-driven campaign to dump ice water on your head as a way of raising awareness of the neuromuscular disease ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. We checked a claim from bloggers who said that most of the money raised wasn’t actually going to fight the disease, but to administration and overhead.

Whether purposely or by incompetence, the anonymous blogger misreported the ALS Association’s figures. In reality, nearly 79 percent of the group’s spending went to advance its mission. Fundraising, overhead and executive salaries account for no more than 21 percent. We rated the claim Pants on Fire!