Most viewed 2018 fact checks by PolitiFact Wisconsin

Friends embrace in tears before the start of a community prayer vigil for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting victims. (Eric Hasert/USA Today Network)
Friends embrace in tears before the start of a community prayer vigil for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting victims. (Eric Hasert/USA Today Network)
First Lady Melania Trump. (AP)
First Lady Melania Trump. (AP)

Perhaps because of the recurrence of mass shootings, fact checks about guns top the list of the most-viewed 2018 fact checks at PolitiFactWisconsin.com.

Indeed, gun-related checks claimed the first three spots.

But the nation’s wealth gap, immigration, a Pants on Fire, a Kanye West claim and attacks on outgoing Gov. Scott Walker also drew many page views.

Here’s a look at our 10 most-clicked.

1. "In the rest of the world, there have been 18 school shootings in the last twenty years. In the U.S., there have been 18 school shootings since January 1."

Our rating: Mostly False.

This statement was made by television journalist and University of Wisconsin-Madison alumnus Jeff Greenfield on Feb. 14, the day 17 people were killed in a shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla.

By one count widely cited in the news media at the time, there had been 18 incidents in which shots were fired inside or outside of a school or university building in the United States to that point in 2018. But only three involved a mass shooting. And the count included two suicides, three accidental shootings and nine incidents in which there were no fatalities or injuries.

As for the rest of the world, Greenfield had no evidence to back up that part of his claim. And an expert relied on by the New York Times for gun violence statistics told us there was no way to know how many school shootings -- using the definition Greenfield relies on -- have occurred outside of the United States over the past 20 years.

2. "If there is a firearm available, it is 17 times more likely to be used either for suicide or for assaulting a friend, relative, an acquaintance than it is to be used in fending off an intruder."

Our rating: Half True.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin made the claim during his failed campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018. He was on point in stating a gun is much more likely to be used for a suicide, assault or homicide than used in self-defense, but was on less solid ground when it comes to stating exactly how many times more likely. That depends on the study, many of which do not differentiate between known and unknown victims. What’s more, recent research is limited.

3. "There are more guns in this country than there are people."

Our rating: Half True.

The claim was made by Kevin Nicholson during his failed campaign for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination in 2018. There is no official count of the number of firearms in the United States. In one estimate, for 2009, the number of guns exceeded the population. But the most recent estimate cited by gun-statistics experts put the figure at 265 million guns as of January 2015, when the population was 320 million.

4. "The three wealthiest people" own "more wealth than the bottom half of the American people."

Our rating: True.

The statement by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., was made during a campaign trip he made to Wisconsin to support the successful re-election effort of U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., in 2018. The wealth of Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett exceeded that of the 160 million at the bottom of the scale, according to a 2017 study. And more recent estimates indicated the wealth of the three had since grown dramatically, widening the gap even more.

5. Says Tammy Baldwin is "more worried about the mastermind of 9/11" than supporting CIA director nominee Gina Haspel.

Our rating: Pants on Fire.

Leah Vukmir made that attack during the U.S. Senate primary campaign, in which she defeated Nicholson for the GOP nomination. She provided no information to back up an extreme claim that Baldwin had serious concern for a terrorist that was motivating her not to support President Donald Trump’s nominee.

6. Says that on the tax reform law, Democratic leaders "are promising to take it all away."

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who is retiring from Congress in January 2019, was referring to the GOP tax reform that was signed into law by Trump in December 2017.

Our rating: Half True.

Democratic leaders in Congress had been harshly critical of the law, and talked about the need to repeal or at least review most of it. But the tax reform law also provides tax benefits to the middle class, which the Democratic leaders indicated they want to keep.

7. Says that despite a recent increase in school funding, Scott Walker "has taken over a billion dollars from the public schools."

Our rating: Mostly False.

The attack on Walker, the Republican governor, was made by Democrat Tony Evers, the state superintendent of schools. Evers defeated Walker in the November 2018 election and takes office in January 2019.

In Walker’s first year as governor, in 2011, he cut school aid by $426.5 million from the previous year. Because it took five years to get school funding back to that base level, it can be argued that Walker "took" a total of $1.17 billion from schools over that period. But since then, Walker increased school funding to the point that the deficit, in comparison to the base year, is $183.6 million.

8. Under "his own legislation," Donald Trump's "own family would not have been allowed into the country."

Our rating: Half True.

That claim was made by Democrat Randy Bryce, who ran unsuccessfully for Ryan’s southern Wisconsin House seat in the 2018 election.

Our analysis found that it seems unlikely, perhaps highly unlikely, that either Trump’s grandfather or his wife would have earned enough points under the legislation to be eligible for immigration. But, particularly with Melania Trump, the first lady, it couldn’t be known for certain.

9. In Wisconsin, Foxconn has "4,000 jobs, people making $53,000 a year."

Our rating: Half True.

Rapper-producer Kanye West, visiting Trump at the White House in October 2018, made that statement about the massive high-tech electronics factory under construction in southern Wisconsin. Foxconn says the plant will initially employ 3,000 people, and eventually 13,000, at an average wage of nearly $54,000 per year. But both figures are plans, albeit connected to a contract Foxconn has signed with the State of Wisconsin.

10. Says Scott Walker "has turned down $1 billion of Medicaid money over the course of his tenure."

Our rating: Mostly True.

The attack came during the 2018 primary campaign for governor by state Rep. Dana Wachs, who was seeking the Democratic nomination.

Leaving aside whether Walker chose good policy or not, his decision not to do a "full expansion" of Medicaid means the state is spending about $1 billion more in state money on Medicaid than if it had accepted additional federal money that would come with a full expansion.

With the caveat that the figure is an estimate from the state’s nonpartisan budget scorekeeper, covering roughly 2014 to 2019, Wachs' statement was accurate.

 

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