Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Readers weigh in on Cantor's "blank check" claim

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's office urged us to reconsider a Mostly False rating we gave to one of his Obamacare statements in 2012.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's office urged us to reconsider a Mostly False rating we gave to one of his Obamacare statements in 2012.

We received a heavy reader response to our recent fact check on House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s claim that a Democratic proposal to lift the debt ceiling would have given President Barack Obama "a blank check."

Cantor, R-7th, made the comment during a July 26 interview on Fox News. He was referring to a  now-defunct plan by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., that never gained enough support to come up for a Senate vote.

"Harry Reid’s plan is basically giving the president a blank check, giving him what he wants, a blind increase of the debt ceiling to spend the money the way he wants," Cantor said.

We asked Cantor’s office for the factual basis behind the "blank check" claim. The House majority leader’s spokeswoman said Cantor was speaking metaphorically, and she cited definitions of "figure of speech" and "blank check."

"We are confident that your readers will understand the common meaning of the metaphor of a `blank check,’" Megan Whittemore, Cantor’s deputy press secretary, e-mailed us. "However, to help you along we first turn to About.com in the grammar section where you will find the following helpful."

We rated Cantor’s claim False for a simple reason: Only Congress can appropriate money. Obama can only spend what he is given. Reid’s plan would not have changed that constitutional requirement.

We received 120 comments on Facebook and a number more by phone and email. Most of the comments took issue with Cantor, but a few were directed angrily at us. We thought we’d share a sampling of the response.

"Cantor’s spokeswoman said he was speaking metaphorically, and people understand that," wrote Jeff Williams. "Yes, except that metaphors have a way of quickly morphing into the truth and get passed along as such. It is amazing how much political discourse seems to have in common with GOSSIP."

Several readers said we went easy on Cantor by rating his statement False.

"Oh come on, if this doesn't call for "Pants on Fire", I don't know what does," said Steve Mencik.

Daniel Moore agreed. "It really should be a ‘Pants on Fire’ for intentionally misleading the people," he wrote on Facebook.

Several people said Cantor and other Republicans are consumed by politics.

"The GOP leadership and the Tea Party agenda will do anything and everything to make Obama look bad in the eyes of the American public to include compromising our nation’s future," Andrew Martin said on Facebook.

And a number of readers didn’t buy the explanation by Cantor’s spokeswoman that the majority leader was speaking figuratively.

"Cantor’s spokeswoman said he was speaking metaphorically and people understand that," wrote Derek Straker. "In what realm does she & Cantor reside in? Obviously, not this one."
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Some readers were clearly unhappy with us, however.

"Lies, lies, lies," wrote Lois Petty Scriven. "I hope Americans aren't that stupid to believe this -- only congress can divvy out money not the president."

One reader left this phone message: "It’s so obvious to the people who run businesses that the problem is not with Reid, and the problem is not with Cantor. The problem is with you and your ridiculous nitpicking of what Cantor says."

We were accused of bias. "Is PolitiFact run by the far left?" asked Beth Coffey Fite. "I barely see liberal politicians under fire (and I know they're not perfect either) yet all I see are conservatives being highlighted. I'd like to see an equal number checked, please."

And there was a bit of name calling. "Rant all you want, witless buffoons," Thomas Brooks wrote on Facebook. "Then tell me how many of YOU can run your household while borrowing 40 percent of every dollar you spend? Someone has to say, `Can we afford to continue to borrow and pass the debt on to our kids?’ Whining about SOMEONE at least attempting to be responsible is childish."