Mailbag: ‘I rate your service as Scorched Pantyhose’
Here’s a selection of emailed comments, complaints, and compliments we’ve received from PolitiFact readers since January, edited for length and clarity.
One reader thought we should have added additional context to our rating of President Donald Trump’s statement that "the United States has a massive trade deficit with Japan. It's anywhere from $69 billion to a $100 billion a year." We rated that Half True.
"The United States isn't being picked on by other countries. You need to stop letting this slide. At some point, someone needs to explain that an expectation of equal trade levels with a country the size of California and a population of 127 million would be crazy. Canada, Mexico, and Japan combined are still 30 million people smaller than the United States. Countries with large populations like Indonesia, Pakistan, Brazil and Nigeria could be great trade partners if they could become stable and develop out of poverty. President Trump doesn't seem to appreciate that poor people can't buy our stuff. What is he doing to make things better for these countries?"
Another reader thought we were too harsh on Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., when he said, "Republicans in Congress are plotting to take away Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security." We rated that False.
"You seem to have a continuing blind spot on this issue. Major cuts to any program are a way to do away with it by stages. As the program covers fewer people or fewer cases, it becomes less relevant to the majority so so that further cuts become easier, and the final cut surprises everyone who thought the program was already dead. House Speaker Paul Ryan, among others, has made it clear that the reduction and elimination of entitlement programs is a major goal for him."
Several readers complained about some additional information we provided when checking a statement by Parkland, Fla., school-shooting survivor David Hogg. He had said, "Ninety-six people die every day from guns in our country." We had no quarrel with the number, but we noted that a majority of those deaths were suicides.
"You're implying that it is something that should have been said to specify about suicides. Why? Don’t we want to prevent suicides, in addition to murders or unintentional deaths?"
One reader argued that we used the wrong standard in rating a comment by Trump that American aluminum and steel "are vital to our national security. ... They are the bedrock of our defense industrial base." We rated that Half True.
"The national-security aspects of steel and aluminum are not based on what we use today. They are based on what we would need in time of war. The easiest way to think about this is World War II. How could we have built that many planes, ships, tanks, etc. without huge amounts of steel and aluminum? Remember Pearl Harbor, where we lost a huge amount of steel right up front? Remember reading about the scrap drives, and rationing of anything that wasn’t war goods? What about railroad needs, because we don’t have any other way to efficiently move 70-ton tanks? What about rebuilding? I’m sure you get the point."
One reader thought we were too generous to Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel when we rated her statement that the Census "for years and years and years, decades, has asked, ‘Are you a citizen of the United States of America?’" We rated that Mostly True.
"Your rating is undeserving and unwarranted. As was explained, the last time the census asked a citizenship question of all households was 1950. The fact that only about one in six households received a long-form questionnaire that included a question on citizenship does not make McDaniel's statement Mostly True. It was clearly intended to be misleading and would only be true with respect to the 17 percent of households that received the long-form questionnaire."
One reader knowledgeable about London neighborhoods said we didn’t provide a full enough critique of Trump’s assertion that the Obama administration "sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London ... only to build a new one in an off location for 1.2 billion dollars." We rated that Mostly False.
"While highlighting the point that this was not on Obama’s watch, you missed additional unsupportable assertions -- for instance, that this was ‘perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London.’ Grosvenor Square is definitely not the best location for an embassy. It is, from a visitor’s perspective, off the beaten track. Canada and South Africa share the honors for the best embassy location -- on either side of Trafalgar Square -- because Trafalgar Square is on almost every central London bus route and serviced by several nearby Underground stations. As for ‘finest,’ this is entirely subjective, but the old U.S. embassy was a brutalist concrete eyesore with a gaudy eagle perched on top. Compare it to Canada House and take a straw poll: I’ll bet Canada House wins the laurels for looking ‘finer.’"
One reader felt the Half True rating for Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., was "egregiously generous." In a social media meme, Mullin had unfavorably compared the economic record under Obama to that of Trump.
"The motive behind that meme is to deliberately distort the numbers so it looks like Obama was an economic failure while Trump is some kind of economic genius. While the Obama first-year numbers may be correct, the intent behind that meme is either willful ignorance or calculated deception. Obama inherited a recession that took a full year to begin improving, after which the economy grew for seven years straight, allowing Trump to preside over a strong economy in his first year. The comparison is not at all valid."
Meanwhile, one reader offered a general comment on our coverage of Trump, particularly in the weekly emails we send out to readers.
"I couldn’t bring myself to vote for Donald Trump — though I couldn't vote for Hillary Clinton either — so I have nothing invested in his performance. However, your disgust with him is clear in every email. Because of this, I rate your service as Scorched Pantyhose, because your claim to being objective is so nauseatingly, self-preeningly bogus. Please take Polonius’ advice from Hamlet: Be true to yourself and stop pretending. More importantly, stop trying to fool your readers."
A few readers shared their thoughts on our fact-check of a Snapple bottle cap that said, "There are only 18 minutes of total action in an average baseball game." We rated that Mostly True.
The fact-check, said one reader, was "silly. What’s the point? As a fan, I am engaged even between batters, wondering about the next pitch, considering the options for hits or bunts, wondering if a pinch hitter will be brought in, or considering the statistics. That’s all baseball action. I don’t want to speed up the game — a lot of baseball action would be lost."
And one longtime fan wrote to say, "You wrote that according to the Wall Street Journal study, ‘Since 1901, baseball has mandated that a pitcher must deliver the ball to a batter within 20 seconds after receiving it from the catcher.’ The current rule says that a pitcher has 12 seconds to deliver the ball. In any case, you failed to note that this only applies when the bases are empty. A quick look at data from www.baseball-reference.com indicates that in recent years, the bases have been empty in 55 percent to 58 percent of all plate appearances. I've been saying for some time that Major League Baseball’s efforts to cut game times is farcical. With approximately 300 pitches per game, cutting the average time per pitch by five seconds would cut a game's time five 25 minutes while speeding up the pace of play."
Finally, some readers wrote in to thank us for what we do. One said:
"I just started using your website. Fantastic work, and super important in today’s day of ‘fake news’ proclamations. It’s hard to keep the facts straight without having to do a bunch of research with every claim."