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So much for the summer being slow for political news! At PolitiFact, we have been fact-checking statements related to the 2024 presidential contest, the indictments of former President Donald Trump and Florida’s classroom controversies.
Here’s a selection of reader reactions to our recent fact-checks, edited for length, style and clarity. Readers can email us fact-check ideas and feedback at [email protected], or reach us via Facebook, X (Twitter), Instagram and TikTok.
Readers reacted to our fact-check of Vice President Kamala Harris, who said Florida "decided middle school students will be taught that enslaved people benefited from slavery." In a section in the state standards about the duties and trades performed by enslaved people, the state adopted a clarification that said "instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit."
We rated her statement Mostly True.
"So you conclude VP Harris' statement is ‘Mostly True.’ Doesn't this also mean that some part was false? Why not say what specifically is false and what is true? … If you pride yourself on being 100% accurate, you might want to amend things," a reader wrote.
Our definition of Mostly True is the statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information.
When he entered the presidential race back in May, Gov. Ron DeSantis said, "There's not been a single book banned in the state of Florida." But DeSantis’ own words contradict him; he was quoted in a press release that said 23 school districts had removed 175 books. We rated his statement False.
"The number of books removed from school libraries is barely the tip of the iceberg," a reader wrote. "Fear of repercussions under the Stop WOKE Act have caused classroom teachers to eliminate their personal classroom libraries, denying students easy access to reading materials in their own classrooms."
We explored the number of transgender people in the U.S. for a July story. We found survey data showing that 0.5% to 1.6% of U.S. adults identify as transgender or nonbinary — but people often overestimate what percentage of the population is transgender. Psychologists say cognitive quirks can explain our faulty math.
A reader replied: "I believe that the reason for the general overestimating of the number of trans people is the media."
We fact-checked a Fox News chyron that discussed the graphic memoir "Gender Queer." The chyron stated, "Gender Queer on NEA summer reading list for kids." The National Education Association recommended "Gender Queer" to its members, but it titled its list as being "for educators." We rated the chyron False.
A high school counselor responded: "Thank you for using your platform to publicly call them out on this." Such "blatant falsehoods" are "making my job increasingly more difficult when it comes to just taking care of ALL of my students."
Our Instagram post about a fact-check of President Joe Biden drew attention. Biden said that in the U.S., "a person can be married in the morning and thrown out of a restaurant for being gay in the afternoon." We rated that Mostly True. It’s not clear how often people are "thrown out" of restaurants for their sexual orientation, because incidents like this are difficult to track. But news reports and testimony from legal advocacy groups show that it does happen, including in states that have legal protections against discrimination for sexual orientation.
"Why rate it Mostly True when at the end there you have that small statement about being unsure?" wrote a reader. They said the fact-check left them "more confused than when I got there."
We wrote about a pro-DeSantis ad that used artificial intelligence to create Trump’s voice. It won’t be the last, experts told us. Artificial intelligence, also known as AI, has existed for years. But generative AI, a subset of the field, recently has propelled the technology into public view.
"I don’t like this situation at all," a reader wrote. "I hate all these fake ads, whether produced by AI or some creative campaign staffers. It’s all screwing with people’s minds. They just won’t know what is real or fake. What can people trust anymore???"
"Thank you. Facts matter," a reader replied. "Fact-checking should be done live. Like live, on air, in real time. Should be a non-partisan 3rd party there with the moderator doing so."
We have written about the differences in the classified document cases involving Trump and Hillary Clinton. Clinton was investigated by the FBI for her use of a private email server for exchanges with her staff during her tenure as secretary of state, but she was not charged. FBI director James Comey said she handled classified information carelessly, there was no evidence that she intended to break the law. The federal indictment against Trump shows he knew he had classified documents stored at his home and blocked efforts by federal officials to retrieve them.
"Once again, PolitiFact's bias is on full display," a reader replied. "Although each case is decidedly different, the whitewash of Hillary Clinton's actions stand in stark contrast to the strong implication that Donald Trump is guilty of virtually all charges contained in the indictments. If you choose to believe that Clinton had no intention of violating a variety of laws, you must also believe that the tooth fairy is real. And even if Fairy Tale Lane is your preferred place to do research, it is patently obvious that Clinton's actions were intentional and she knowingly violated several laws."
We are committed to fact-check statements and writing stories about climate change.
"Regarding climate change solutions, has anyone at PolitiFact ever considered reporting on the counter-productive nature of the Biden administration's policies?" wrote a reader. "Any honest attempt to reduce carbon emissions would not restrict domestic oil production."
"Thanks for all of your hard work," wrote a retired extension educator. "This country is a mess politically and it's hard not to be distracted constantly. We just never spend any significant time on a foundational problem that is going to hurt us and our grandkids the most: climate change. It will change our local and regional economies substantially. PolitiFact and Poynter can make a difference helping the sane people in our country to keep focused on this important issue."
We appreciate the suggestions. Have a great rest of your summer.
See links in fact-checks and stories