This week, readers sent us comments about our analysis of President Obama’s State of the Union address.
In the FactCheck Mailbag, we feature some of the email we receive. Readers can send comments to email@example.com. Letters may be edited for length.
The State of Your Facts
I have used FactCheck.org as a political information source for some time now, and have begun to notice a flaw in your “fact-checking” that I would like your thoughts on. Often, you will criticize a politician for not presenting an argument in full or proper context. Yet, when you correct them for not doing so, you still sometimes provide an improper context for their remarks.
Let’s take President Obama’s jobs claim from last night’s speech ["The State of Obama’s Facts," Jan. 25]. You ended the breakdown of his remarks by stating:
But — what the president didn’t mention — total employment in the U.S. remains nearly 1.7 million below where it was the month Obama took office, and more than 6 million below where it was at the best point in the Bush administration, in January 2008.
So, essentially, you are claiming that he omitted some important context from his remarks. Yet, the context that you provide is sorely inadequate. The context you provide seems to assert that the president should be responsible for the jobs lost from the day he took office, when in reality, he took office in the middle of an enormous recession, during a time which we were losing hundreds of thousands of jobs per month.
So, a more proper context would have been something like: “The president was correct in stating that we have added over 3 million private sector jobs in the last 22 months. However, net job creation is still well below pre-recession levels. From the beginning of the recession until we began adding jobs in X month, the country lost X million jobs.”
I hope that you will take the context in which you present your corrections into account more accurately and fairly.
I have been an ardent supporter of FactCheck.org since its inception, and have recommended it to countless others. However, today’s issue disappoints me in terms of the authors’ attempt to offset actual facts with personal fodder. Such laced commentary runs the risk of undoing the many years of credibility for FactCheck.org. Let me cite just a few examples from today’s issue that are alarmingly outside the bounds of professional journalism:
The president said a get-tough tariff on tire imports from China has saved more than 1,000 U.S. jobs. But tire industry officials say Chinese imports have simply been replaced by imports from other countries.
The president’s statement was indeed accurate. You have taken it out of context by overlooking the fact that he indicated we need to crack down on unfair trade practices by taking actions such as he did regarding the tire industry and China. There was really no need to remove his emphasis that we need to do more of this with all countries regarding any relevant industry. Meaning, if the tire problem has moved to other countries, then his statement suggests it will be addressed there as well. The president’s statement was factually correct just as his stated intentions were very clear. You managed to undermine the accomplishment by stripping out the context of his example.
He took credit for putting “more boots on the border than ever before.” That’s true, but the big increase was under George W. Bush.
His statement was true and nothing else was implied, so why attempt to undermine it? Your mission is to state whether a fact is true or false — not to input personal assessment along the way as you have done.
It is this very nitpicking of the facts that has contributed to the divisiveness this country is experiencing now. You have successfully fueled further divide through unnecessary commentary beyond just acknowledging the facts as being true or false.