Mailbag: 'This seems like an "Onion" spoof'

Here's a recent selection of mail from PolitiFact readers.
Here's a recent selection of mail from PolitiFact readers.

As summer nears, the temperature is heating up, and so are reader complaints. Here’s our latest roundup of emails from concerned readers.

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The office of Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., responded to our check of President Barack Obama’s claim that Loretta Lynch’s nomination "has been now sitting there longer than the previous seven attorney general nominees combined." We rated that Mostly True, but Leahy’s office pointed to a different way of calculating the delay that they said would have made Obama’s claim fully accurate.

"He is probably counting, as Sen. Leahy does, how long Loretta Lynch’s nomination was waiting on the Senate floor from the date it was reported from the Judiciary Committee. Lynch’s nomination was approved by the committee on Feb. 26, which from today (April 20) was 53 days ago. For the last seven Attorneys General, the wait time was as follows: Richard Thornburgh, one day; William Barr, five days; Janet Reno, one day; John Ashcroft, two days; Alberto Gonzales, eight days; Michael Mukasey, two days; and Eric Holder, five days. That is a total of 24 days. Times two, and you are at 48 days for the last seven combined."

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Several readers addressed our coverage of the Baltimore riots. One reader took issue with a portion of our article, "In Context: What Baltimore's mayor said about space for rioters."

"The article begins, ‘Did Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake make a conscious decision to allow violent protestors to loot and set fire to stores and police cars in her city? That’s the take from conservative pundits and journalists.’ It later reiterates that this is a criticism coming from conservative sources, implying that’s a reason to take the claim with a grain of salt. As it happens, I learned of the story from The Daily Beast, and they're pretty emphatic about it, using the headline, ‘Baltimore Mayor Gave Permission to Riot.’ I can find the same criticism discussed, less forcefully, on CNN and other sites."

Another reader questioned PunditFact’s methodology in checking a claim by Fox News host Chris Wallace that "Baltimore spends the third highest per capita on its public schools." We rated that claim Half True, noting that the statement is only true if you look at the 100 largest school districts. Among the top 500, Baltimore ranked 20th. Among school districts with at least 5,000 students, Baltimore ranks 160th.

"Wallace was right, period. Baltimore City Public Schools ranked No. 3 among their cohort, the top 100 school districts. It's not a rural or a suburban school district, so it shouldn't be compared with rural or suburban schools. Not sure what you're point was other than to try to discredit Wallace."

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One reader questioned our rating of a claim by former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, that in the United States, we’ve had "12 years in a row of wages declining." We rated that Half True.

"The article performs an analysis, considering inflation-adjusted wages from 2002 to 2014. I think it is reasonable to analyze inflation-adjusted wages. But analyzing the chart in the article, it is clear that wages, on an inflation-adjusted basis, went up and down during the period analyzed.  I counted six declines and six non-changes or increases. How the specific statement can be rated as anything other than False is beyond my understanding of the English language."

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A reader was unimpressed with our check of Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s claim that "90 percent of American workers don't own their own business." We rated that Mostly True.

One reader wrote, "Of course not -- very few people could possibly ever have the capital to own their own business, nor would they want to. Nor would it be possible to have hundreds of millions of different businesses. Who could possibly be so clueless as to think otherwise? This seems like an ‘Onion’ spoof."

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A few readers commented on our check of a claim by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, that "we spend more money on antacids than we do on politics." We rated that False.

"Your article has a serious flaw. You take annual antacid revenues, but you take CRP's data on the 2014 election cycle. That cycle is two years long and counts all funds raised and ads bought from 2013 and 2014. It would be more accurate to double the estimated antacid spending or halve the election spending. If you do that, Boehner's claim is correct for federal elections. It is still incorrect if you include state and local races, though perhaps it is reasonable to assume that a national figure on a national television program was speaking only about national politics."

Another reader joked, "I was hoping you would say it’s because of politics that the antacids are needed."

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A reader took issue with PunditFact’s check of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, who said that "wholly domestic communication between you and your wife can go to New York to London and back and get caught up in the (NSA) database." We rated that Mostly True.

"You write that Snowden’s claim is accurate but misses context. But it's PunditFact that's misunderstanding the context. A primary objection to government surveillance is the possibility that your communications will be intercepted. If you know your communications might be monitored, then it affects your behavior. Even if the likelihood of interception is low, it has a chilling effect on speech, and serves as a means of government control. Also, Snowden is saying that the legal framework the NSA operates within permits the interception of domestic communication if it travels outside the USA at any point. And that's a valid observation whether or not the scenario ever occurs. You shouldn't be wishy-washy on this rating. Snowden's statement is clearly and fully True. Most of your caveats have holes in them."

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One reader praised us for our careful analysis of a claim by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., that "the average family not in the top 10 percent makes less money today than they were making a generation ago." We rated that Mostly True.

"The biggest surprise and shock to me is that she is referencing the Saez-Piketty approach for income by including pre-tax income and capital gains for the 'rich' to magnify and skew their number higher. Then, the number for the lower income people the approach ignores government payments -- Social Security unemployment insurance, food stamps, earned income tax credit, etc. This is a great example of how someone can torture the numbers enough to make them say what they want to say. A good write-up."

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Finally, one reader offered a more general comment.

"I find your fact checking to be humorous. Of all the comments that people in the media say, you have picked out some obscure, ridiculous comments. I am more interested in comments that are made within the last two weeks. But for once-in-a-while reading, it does remind us that speechwriters are more important than the speakers think. Carry on; just don’t take yourself too seriously."