Mailbag: Readers celebrate freedom of expression

Happy Fourth of July from the reporters and editors at PolitiFact!
Happy Fourth of July from the reporters and editors at PolitiFact!

The Fourth of July is a great time to celebrate our First Amendment freedoms! Here are our readers' latest opinions on the Truth-O-Meter and the Obameter.

Obama's birth certificate

We recently looked again at the controversy surrounding President Barack Obama's birth certificate. An ad from the owners of the conservative Web site WorldNetDaily said that White House spokesman Robert Gibbs "lied" when he said Obama's birth certificate was posted to the Internet. We found WorldNetDaily's statement False . Obama's birth certificate is on the Web, and it shows he was born in Honolulu. We didn't get much thanks for revisiting the issue, though.

• Via the Twitter messaging service, reader Zelbinian said, "I think revisiting the birth-certificate controversy counts as beating a dead unicorn."

• Another reader said were just wrong: "You are just the type of gullible groupie BHO (Barack Hussein Obama) needs to grow his power. You must be blind and ignorant and YOU have NEVER seen a BHO birth certificate! Anyone can send you a FAKE ‘live birth form’ for anyone from George Washington to Napoleon and only someone as gullible as you would fall for such a silly trick. People like you enabled the rise of Adolf Hitler from thug to murdering dictator and fools like you are condemned to repeat history."

Medicare, Medicaid and the deficit

President Obama has been town-halling it lately to promote his health care agenda. During one appearance, he said that Medicare and Medicaid are the biggest drivers of the deficit. We rated the statement Mostly True , and got disagreement from both sides of the Truth-O-Meter.

• "He said Medicare and Medicaid ARE the single biggest factors…Key word 'ARE' – not 'will be.' He’s talking present tense, today. And they are not, as pointed out in the article. Even taking some liberties to say he meant the future (which I disagree with this practice – don’t put words in his mouth), I would rate this Half True at best, but Barely True seems more fitting. I think a case could even be made this his statement is completely False, given the present tense. It’s a stretch for sure, especially given the context that we must rush to approve federal health care right now because it’s costing us so much. (It’s not.)"

• "On that particular day, he didn't add the 'in the future' part, but he has in the past. You should amend your rating to True."

Rep. Michele Bachmann, the Census and ACORN

We looked into statements from Michele Bachmann on the Census. She said the left-leaning community organizing group ACORN would be paid by the Census to go door to door to collect data, and that the U.S. Constitution only requires people to say how many people are in their home. We found both statements wrong and rated them Pants on Fire ! We heard from two readers who disagreed, but for very different reasons.

• "Back at ya. If you believe that ACORN will not have their people working the Census, you are naive. They have proven through their actions that ends justify the means. What's more important to community organizers than a database of the community members (copied while working for the census). I rate your rating abilities as Pants on Fire!"

• "As much as I am loathe to come to Rep. Bachmann's defense, I think you are overly harsh on her view of the census as defined by the Constitution. By focusing on a qualifying clause, you may have diverted attention from what is actually a reasonable conservative reading of the document. As you quoted, the Constitution says that 'enumeration shall be made ... in such a manner as they [Congress] shall by law direct.' Enumeration means counting. The 'as they shall by law direct' clause could reasonably be read as meaning that Congress may specify the method of counting (e.g. by mailings, physical visits, statistical sampling, etc) but is not given power to specify additional data to collect. That this mandate has been expanded by the Congress from the very first census to collect other metrics does not contradict that the Constitution itself.  Whatever Bachmann's idealist theorizing about what should be the law, the fact that her claims could lead people into breaking the actual law certainly warrants contradicting her, but I'm not sure it quite qualifies as Pants on Fire."

Rep. Lamar Smith and ABC News

Republican Congressman Lamar Smith wasn't happy that ABC News showcased health care and devoted a town hall to President Obama. The network wouldn't even accept ads from groups that opposed the president's health care plan. We looked into that and found he was right about the network not accepting the ad. In fact, they don't accept any controversial advocacy ads. We rated Smith's statement True . One reader felt that was too generous.

"I have here not a factual disagreement, but a ruling grievance. Mr. Smith's claim, while technically accurate, was intentionally misleading. I don't mean that he ought to get False ruling, but this seems like the sort of area that Mostly True is made to cover. Smith's claim implies that ABC singled out those ads because they criticized the president's position, not because of nonpartisan company policy. It's misleading. If I were to say that Disneyland does not permit Republicans under a certain height to ride Space Mountain, I'd be technically sound, but again misleading - the political affiliation has no bearing on that rule, and neither does it have any bearing on ABC's advocacy ad policy."

Obama and the Peace Corps

We wrestled with how to rate Obama's Promise No. 221, to double the size of the Peace Corps. Obama's budget didn't include enough money to get that done, but Congress is considering a measure to increase the funding anyway. We rated the promise Stalled , but one reader said we're being too wimpy in our rating.

"You aren't calling it a broken promise because other longtime supporters are still fighting the good fight. So!!! He didn't promise to sit back and see what happens. He said he would be in there fighting alongside them. I can't even see where this one is a tough call. So if these longtime supporters actually win a victory, in spite of not getting any help from the President; you going to rate that a Promise Kept???? That is some seriously twisted logic you have going on there."

A bit of praise

Finally, we got a brief note of kudos:

"Thank you for keeping track of all this information! I look at this site very often and appreciate your diligence and tenacity in research and journalism! It is really a lost art!"



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