Mailbag: 'Y'all have lost your marbles'
It may be winter, but complaints and comments about our work have not gone into hibernation. Here’s a sampling of recent reader email. We have edited them for length and clarity.
Several readers thought we treated Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders unfairly when we gave Clinton a Mostly True for her claim that Sanders "voted for regime change with respect to Libya."
"It is clear that Sanders is opposing the idea of deposing governments through military force. Clinton's statement conflates Sanders' vote for political transition with an endorsement of military action -- her preferred policy. Clinton's statement was not an intellectually honest elucidation of the candidates' differences, but an obfuscating conflation, and it should be noted as such."
One reader said we were too generous in giving a Mostly False to Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz for this claim: "Here’s the simple and undeniable fact: The overwhelming majority of violent criminals are Democrats."
"Y'all have lost your marbles. After reviewing all of the many limitations and disconnects related to Cruz’s ludicrous claim, you awarded Mostly False. That's pure nonsense. By any logical standards, the only legitimate rating would be False. This ruling will stand tall in your ‘hall of shame.’ "
A reader offered additional evidence to refute the claim by the group Occupy Democrats that "if Trump had just put his father’s money in a mutual fund ... he’d have $8 billion." We rated that False:
"If Trump had invested every dime of the money he inherited from his father, he wouldn’t have had the cash to pay for his quite significant living expenses. I imagine to live the lifestyle that he does, he would have had to spend far more money than just what one would make from the returns he would have had in the stock market."
One reader supported our Mostly False for the claim by Clinton that "Ted Cruz tried to ban contraception" five times, but took issue with one of the views we passed on -- that "a potential gray area -- emphasized by anti-abortion advocates -- is that emergency contraception may take effect after fertilization has already taken place. Regardless of how early that occurs, this is enough for some abortion opponents to classify it as causing a pregnancy to be aborted."
"While it is true that many anti-abortion advocates use this as a rationale, the medical community has widely discredited the idea that intrauterine devices or morning-after pills can block a fertilized egg from implanting. This was once a popular hypothesis, but research over the last few decades has led to a strong scientific consensus that IUDs work solely by disabling or blocking sperm, and that morning-after pills work solely by disrupting ovulation."
One reader argued that we glossed over some legitimate concerns in our fact-check of Trump’s claim that 25 percent of U.S. Muslims "agreed that violence against Americans here in the United States is justified as a part of the global jihad." We rated that Mostly False. Among other things, we noted that a Pew study found that in 2011, about 13 percent of American Muslims said they believed that violence in the name of Islam was justifiable -- half the rate of the poll Trump cited.
"The Pew numbers alone don't scare you? I had never been aware that they were that bad. This is making me start to think that Trump has a point. I had previously viewed him as a loudmouth."
A reader offered a wrinkle we hadn’t included in our analysis of Carly Fiorina’s GOP debate claim that "one of the things I would immediately do … is bring back the warrior class -- Petraeus, McChrystal, Mattis, Keane, Flynn. ... Every one was retired early because they told President Obama things that he didn’t want to hear." We rated that Mostly False.
"Even if a couple of the generals were dismissed for differences with Obama administration, it is important to note that replacing generals over policy differences has a totally different connotation than replacing them ‘because they told President Obama things that he didn’t want to hear.’ The former is a management decision about who can best carry out the policy that the commander in chief has decided upon. The latter suggests a demand that the truth be buried to make that policy appear more reasoned. There is no evidence that Obama failed to listen to all sides before making his decisions."
And one reader offered a general comment about our terminology:
"I would suggest that using the term Pants on Fire is way too cute for the the sort of lies we've been seeing. I believe the term, taken from a common schoolyard scolding, suggests that the lie in question is of little consequence. But as we've been seeing lately, when the political lies are so divisive and mean-spirited, Pants on Fire doesn't cut it. May I suggest something stronger, like Total Lie, Completely False, or Monstrous Lie?"
A few readers passed on their appreciation for what we do. One cited our look into the claim that President Jimmy Carter had done much the same as what Trump proposes doing -- preventing Muslims from coming to the United States.
"Very well done, and exactly the kind of fact-checking and accuracy I expect from PolitiFact. Thank you so much for taking the time to both research and address the claim."
Another reader praised our coverage of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, which has been spearheaded by PolitiFact Wisconsin:
"Thanks for working so hard every day to provide fact-checks for me and many others. I honor you for that. I showed your website to a few of my friends and their viewpoints on our governor changed within minutes. Even my own father got an insightful look into politics that no news station offers us locally. You put your hearts and souls into this website, and that's the best thing that can be done for all Americans right now."
One reader singled out our coverage of Trump for praise:
"I just finished reading PolitiFact on Trump's statements and found it to be an excellent educational experience. Your editorial staff did an outstanding job. I printed the entire document, and I will distribute it among family members and friends."
Other readers offered more generalized kudos:
"You are doing such a great and needed service during this election cycle, and previous ones as well. I wish more people used your services; too many candidates are evading the facts."
Another wrote: "Some people seem to believe you are ‘bought’ by a particular political persuasion, which to me is an easy cop-out to facing facts. I think you do a great job trying to reach something closer to the truth. Sometimes we don’t like to hear the facts, but we need to hear them. Keep up the good work!"