Mailbag: 'You have ruined your credibility with this nonsense'
Summer is upon us, and for some readers, the temperature is rising. Here’s a rundown of recent reader emails bearing complaints, comments and a few compliments.
One Indiana resident wrote to say that our Promise Kept rating for President Donald Trump’s pledge to save jobs at a Carrier plant in his state glossed over some important details. While news reports recently noted that the manufacturing giant will lay off 632 Indiana employees as it moves its fan coil operations to Mexico, we noted that these particular job losses were always going to happen and that Carrier made that fact known at the same time it announced the deal.
"As a resident of Indiana, I have to take issue with your rating. The president did not keep a part of Carrier here -- the $7 million in tax incentives did. And guess who pays for the $7 million shortfall in tax revenue? Every taxpayer in Indiana does. The $16 million that Carrier has to invest to get their bonus money is money they intend to spend to modernize their plant, and that only means that more jobs will be lost to automation. Unfortunately the President doesn't understand that the old tactics of bribing corporations to come or stay in your state doesn't guarantee employment opportunities."
Joshua Tauberer -- the founder of GovTrack, a website that tracks legislative action -- wrote us to offer some context to our check of a statement by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer that Trump has "worked with Congress to pass more legislation in his first 100 days than any president since Truman." Given Spicer’s careful phrasing, we rated that statement Mostly True, though in other fact-checks we’ve been more skeptical of how significant that accomplishment is.
"I wanted to alert you to a reason why you're being quite generous with that ruling. President Barack Obama signed into law over 10 times more pages of legislation than Trump did during the same time period in their presidency. If you were rating assertions about ‘more laws,’ that would be defensibly true, if meaningless. But you're rating ‘more legislation,’ which is different, and more meaningless."
Several readers had a strongly negative reaction to our fact-check of a claim by bloggers that "under the House Republican health plan, sexual assault is a pre-existing condition." We rated it Mostly False. "The bill does not change what is or is not a pre-existing condition -- the health insurance companies write those definitions for themselves," we wrote. "The House bill also does not single out sexual assault or any other medical issue as a pre-existing condition."
One reader wrote, "Labeling this story as Mostly False is misleading and dangerously unethical. To say that being TREATED after rape is technically the pre-existing condition makes the sickening implication that rape victims should simply not seek treatment. Whether rape victims are being intentionally targeted or criminally disregarded by this bill is an unimportant distinction."
Another wrote, "Shame on you for engaging in this ridiculous word parsing. You are (apparently willfully) ignoring the obvious real-world effects of this language in favor or nitpicking literalism. I can assure you that no rape victim will appreciate these linguistic games when she's denied insurance coverage after having received needed treatments to prevent pregnancy, HIV infection, or PTSD. You have ruined your credibility with this nonsense."
One reader said he appreciated our article looking into Trump’s remark that the United States had a large trade deficit with Germany. However, the reader wrote us to add an additional point.
The reader wrote, "This was a good article, but you did not mention the difference in the population between the two countries. They have 81.4 million people. We have 321.4 million. The difference means, obviously, that we have more people to purchase imports, no matter where they come from."
One reader offered an addition to our article on whether or not Trump believes in climate change.
The reader wrote, "You included the 2009 advertisement that he signed, and you listed a great deal of his public comments since then. However, you left off one particularly interesting story. It appears that Trump has applied to local Irish zoning authorities to build a coastal wall around his golf course there. The justification he gives in his application concerns climate change."
One reader took issue with our In the Works rating for Trump’s promise not to take a salary. We noted that at the White House press briefing on April 3, press secretary Sean Spicer announced that Trump would be donating his full first-quarter, pre-tax earnings of $78,333 to the National Park Service.
The reader wrote, "There is a difference between taking no salary and taking a salary and donating it to charity. The difference is that he gets a tax deduction for his donation. As such he, does profit from his presidential salary. In addition, the government is still out the amount of his salary plus the tax deduction. As such, the U.S. government will lose more than if he just pocketed his entire salary."
Several readers disagreed with our False rating for commentator and former judge Andrew Napolitano’s statement that United Airlines passenger David Dao, who was forcibly removed from an airplane, "was in his seat, he has every right to stay there."
One wrote, "I'm not a fan of the judge, but he has a point. Your analysis is predicated on the idea that he was making a categorical statement that no one who pays for a seat can ever be removed once they board. That's not what he said, and I don't think it's fair to construe his statement in that way. I think the judge's statement, fairly read, would be once Dao boarded he had a right to be on the plane and couldn't be removed at United's discretion unless one of the removal criteria in the contract of carriage applied. In this case, it's likely that none of the removal provisions did apply, and that Dao was, in fact, entitled to remain in his seat. The contract of carriage permits United to deny boarding to a passenger on an overbooked flight, but it does not speak to removing a passenger once that passenger is boarded and seated. In addition, the flight was not actually overbooked, and the contract of carriage does not address either denying boarding or removing a boarded passenger to make room for United employees who are not working on that flight. I think you blew this one."
One reader took issue with our fact-check of a tweet by the New York Times that used photographs to suggest that turnout for Trump's 2017 ceremony with the New England Patriots was smaller than the turnout for Obama in 2015. While fewer players showed up at this year’s White House ceremony, it wasn’t drastically different than similar situations in prior years. If we’re talking just players, the team has said 34 players visited in 2017, compared to 50 in 2015. We rated the statement Mostly False, and the Times updated their tweet and story and the sports editor apologized.
One "Brit living in Canada" acknowledged having "no especial interest in (American) football," but he added that the ruling struck him as "questionable."
" ‘Drastically’ seems to be the operative word here," the reader wrote. "No, perhaps not ‘drastically different’ -- but seriously significantly different -- it was two-thirds of the number. If I had one limb missing, I would only be down by 25 percent. But it would probably be noticeable. Also, you don't really explain why the staff members were missing in this year's photo. Which would be of interest."
A few readers wrote to share their appreciation for what PolitiFact does.
One wrote, "I am sending this email just to let you know how much of an outstanding work you are doing. I truly believe that fact-checking organizations like yours need to become part of the mainstream media and have a greater impact on voters."
Another wrote, "I really enjoy your website because I feel like I can understand what I'm reading and it feels relatively unbiased. Just wanted to reach out and say thanks!"
A third specifically cited PolitiFact Florida’s Mostly False ruling for Trump’s statement that the House Republican health care bill protects pre-existing conditions.
"I was able to find it fast and prepare myself for my call to my undecided representative. I was ready to counter his aide's argument that all people with pre-existing conditions were covered. The piece was thorough, concise and helpful. Thanks for all you do to make us better informed."