Beyond the Truth-O-Meter

Gov. Scott Walker presented President Barack Obama with a Milwaukee Brewers jersey when Obama arrived at the Milwaukee airport on Feb. 15, 2012. Mayor Tom Barrett and U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore looked on.
Gov. Scott Walker presented President Barack Obama with a Milwaukee Brewers jersey when Obama arrived at the Milwaukee airport on Feb. 15, 2012. Mayor Tom Barrett and U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore looked on.

At PolitiFact Wisconsin, we are known best, of course, for the Truth-O-Meter.

Since our launch in September 2010, we have done more than 840 fact-checks on statements made by politicians and politically active groups (Some 176 this year alone).

But we also do stories that aim to provide clarity and analysis.

These articles (our most recent ones are here) might examine issues that don’t easily lend themselves to a fact-check, or pull together a series of fact-checks that we’ve done on a trending topic. We also offer the occasional In Context, a feature that gives context to a sound bite that gets widespread attention.

Today we look back at eight of our articles from 2014.

Right to Work

Legislation to make Wisconsin a right-to-work state -- where private-sector unions would be blocked from requiring workers to become members when hired at unionized shops -- could become a flashpoint when the new Legislature convenes in January 2015.

In December 2014, we reviewed how a number of right-to-work claims have fared on the Truth-O-Meter.

A key takeaway: There is some evidence of economic advantage in right-to-work states. But evidence is lacking that right to work, rather than other factors, is the cause.

Scott Walker 2016

In the wake of his November 2014 re-election win, Gov. Scott Walker became a hot property on national TV talk shows as a potential Republican contender for president in 2016. Many people outside of Wisconsin were hearing Walker for the first time. So we decided to examine what he was telling the country.

Our review found Walker had emphasized five themes, including Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination; his record as governor and his electability.
 

Next Michele Bachmann?

The November 2014 election also spotlighted GOP state Sen. Glenn Grothman, who won a seat in Congress that Republican Tom Petri has held for 35 years.

Some critics predicted Grothman will become the next Michele Bachmann, the outspoken GOP congresswoman from Minnesota whose ratings on the Truth-O-Meter have skewed toward False and Pants on Fire.

With the national media revisiting many of the provocative comments Grothman has made over the years, we decided to do an In Context article that provided a deeper look at five of them -- including his view that money is perhaps more important to men than women and his call for Kwanzaa to be "slapped down."

Walker’s campaign promises

Our Walk-O-Meter tracked 65 promises that Walker made during the 2010 campaign for governor. In October 2014, a month before Walker defeated Democrat Mary Burke in his bid for re-election, we reported on how he did.

Walker kept 57 percent of his promises and broke 23 percent of them (other promises received different ratings).

He did best on pledges about education, taxes and the outdoors. His record on other promises, such as those about jobs and transparency reforms, was more mixed.

Gwen Moore and Ebola

In October 2014, two months before our colleagues at PolitiFact National named exaggerations about Ebola as the Lie of the Year for 2014, we did an In Context article about Ebola comments made by U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee.

Moore differed from Republican lawmakers who had called for restrictions on travel to the United States.

Her main contention about a ban on travel to and from West Africa: "Aside from being impractical, this reactionary strategy will force Ebola patients underground, making it nearly impossible to track their movements, hinder the capacity for international healthcare workers to transport and administer critical aid, and erode the continent’s fragile economy."  

‘Back of his hand’

Appearing at a Milwaukee roundtable on women’s issues in September 2014, Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz gained national headlines for making a sharp attack on Walker.

She said: "Scott Walker has given women the back of his hand."

And: "What Republican tea party extremists like Scott Walker are doing is they are grabbing us by the hair and pulling us back."

Among other things, our In Context article provided a transcript of key portions of Wasserman Schultz's remarks.

Walker on gay marriage

Comments Walker made in May 2014 led to questions about whether he had backed away from supporting Wisconsin’s ban on gay marriage, or whether he was just making a change in tone on the subject.

Our In Context article filled in some of the blanks.

Wisconsin’s ban was overturned in the courts several months later.

Walker on new businesses

Also in May 2014, we did an article examining Walker’s talk of the state adding some 17,000 new businesses under his watch.

The count of newly registered "business entities" that Walker touted included not only new ventures that bring new jobs, but thousands with no workers on the payroll at all -- and little if any prospect of hires to come.

We’re always in the market for statements that we should consider fact-checking. But if you ever have suggestions for articles, please send those along, too:

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