This week, some readers sent us letters saying they won’t visit FactCheck.org anymore, while others said how much they enjoyed the site. Other readers criticized our analysis of President Obama’s record on private-sector jobs and questioned the news media’s trustworthiness.
In the FactCheck Mailbag, we feature some of the email we receive. Readers can send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters may be edited for length.
Confirmation Bias Confirmed
Do not email us anymore. [President] Obama is our hero and we are very well read. That is why he is our hero.
I have been very disappointed in the past months when I turn to your page and see everything, and I mean almost everything, leaning to the left. I thought the most socialist fact-checking type out there was Snopes.com, but you have joined the ranks of the “take care of me for free group” in America.
Sadly, I now have no good place to check out the stories I read, except to go on the Internet in general and read enough stories to get something resembling the truth. You are not the truth. Just go ahead and read the first five stories today, and it is all about the great Pres. Obama, and defending whatever he says or does.
FactCheck.org responds: We have withheld the names of the authors of these messages because we have no wish to embarrass or ridicule any of our readers — or ex-readers.
Both of these readers — one liberal, one conservative — fault us for reporting facts that conflict with their own opinions and biases. Neither of them cites anything in our reporting that is factually incorrect. This is typical of most of the criticism we receive, from both sides.
We post these examples here as evidence of the “confirmation bias” that we wrote about in “Why the Truth Still Matters” (June 14). As we said then:
[H]umans naturally filter out evidence that weighs against what they want to believe. It’s called “confirmation bias,” and we all have it. So candidates tell us what we want to hear.
The Media at Fault, Too
This piece ["Why the Truth Still Matters," June 14] makes clear why I have stopped reading or listening to almost everything that comes from either the Romney or Obama campaigns. While I expect the campaigns to do what they do, what is far more frustrating is how the news media, for all practical purposes, are hardly more trustworthy than the campaigns. Readers’ avoidance of confirmation bias is a lot easier said than done. I also strongly agree with the recent charge of “false equivalence” leveled at the news media by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein in their new book, “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks.” In short, the news media are very much a part of the problem when they should be a part of the solution.
An ‘Unfair’ Comparison
Overall you folks do a good job at some confusing and sometimes overwhelming facts. But in the following article ["Obama’s Economic Sleight of Hand," June 15], I think it would be fair to add that Obama’s record is coming out of a major economic collapse of housing values where the average American lost $100,000 in wealth — something we’ve seen nothing like in our lifetime. Especially, since, in most recoveries, home construction plays such a major role, and also in light of the fact that our economy is 70 percent consumer spending, and home values were behind most of this spending as well. Kind of like telling the story of rising and falling wealth in the past decade but ignoring the housing collapse would not be fair. I think not mentioning this makes it an unfair comparison.
Some Readers Still Like Us
I am so thankful that I have a source of truth to overcome the many lies sent on the Internet. Now, some of my friends who have sent these untruths are checking FactCheck on their own. You are providing one of the most valuable services on the Internet.
I am a Christian who also happens to be a liberal. Yes, there are some, although I believe there are only five in our church. We have to hover together once in a while to silently scream at the affairs of the world. As soon as I see an email that sounds wrong, I check with you and send your report to all on the “sent” list. I imagine pretty soon those who are so narrow-minded about certain people and ideas will stop sending those incendiary emails to me.
I say with all sincerity, God bless you and your wonderful staff.
Newtown Square, Pa.
Please keep up the splendid work. I’m almost 77 and wrote propaganda for a number of years, until I got my first column at the University of Kansas. I thought I was going into a field that promised facts in a Democracy. I’m sure you know the rest of the story.
Kansas City, Mo.