A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactCheck Mailbag, Week of June 29 – July 6


This week, readers sent us kudos for what we do, questions about sorting out conflicting health care claims, complaints about our coverage of President Obama’s citizenship, and inquiries about political fundraising.

In the FactCheck Mailbag we feature some of the e-mail we receive. Readers can send comments to editor@factcheck.org. Letters may be edited for length.

 

Beyond Our Mission

I have thanked you before for all the work that you do to check the facts for all of us who don’t have the time. Whenever I get into a political discussion, I, inevitably, end by telling the other person(s) to go to FactCheck and get the facts before they start expressing their opinions. (I, also, advise them to use Polifact and Snopes.) I realize that checking the facts is what you do but now is the time for more than facts. Now is the time for some ideas. Wouldn’t it be nice if we formed some unbiased, intelligent exploratory groups to look at the world’s economic problems and our health care system (including Medicare and Social Security)? Maybe they should even take on the capitalist system and the US auto industry. The world has for so long fought over who has the better system. If the world is going to survive, we need to stop trying to prove who is right and who is wrong and start realizing that everyone has something right and all have something wrong. The world is, indeed, flat. What happens in China can impact our lives just as what we do can impact those living in Russia, Iran, Africa, India, etc. We need to start thinking in terms of the world community and stop thinking with national pride. We need to start solving problems with clear, non-partisan thinking. Facts are good. They keep us honest and help define the problems. They can, also, be used to delineate and support the possible solutions. So, why am I writing you? Because I have no power and no voice, really. You do. Find the funding, encourage the search, enlist the support and let’s find some solutions. Please! Obama wanted to change the world but it has become obvious he can’t do it alone. We all need to support the voices of change to find a vision for a better future for here and around the world. Your facts show us all where we are wrong but they are becoming stale and useless without a path to a plan that will, in fact, work.

Thanks for listening.

Jennifer Polifka
Richmond, Texas

FactCheck.org responds: Unfortunately, we have our hands more than full just trying to keep track of all the misleading claims made by politicians. Finding solutions to all the world’s economic problems will require far more resources and brainpower than our small operation can muster. But we do appreciate the trust you put in us.

 
Health Care Hyperbole

Help! How do I know what is true in the health care debate? It seems like everyone has their own numbers and ‘facts’ completely contradicting the other.

Justin Wilkins
Chattanooga, Tenn.

FactCheck.org responds: We understand the feeling. And we’ve written quite a few articles on misleading claims being made in the great health care debate: The ‘Real’ Uninsured, June 24, 2009; Pushing for a Public Plan, June 23, 2009; Obama’s Health Care Claims, June 18, 2009; More Health Care Scare, June 11, 2009; Government-Run Health Care?, April 30, 2009; Doctor’s Orders?, February 20, 2009.

 

The Anatomy of Fact-Checking

When a very well respected reporter, Helen Thomas sees a growing—and alarming—reluctance among reporters to question the government and probe for the truth. The result has been a wholesale failure by journalists to fulfill what is arguably their most vital role in contemporary American life—to be the watchdogs of democracy.

Fact check my foot.

Patricia Conlon
Delray Beach, Florida

 

Not Buying That Certificate of Live Birth

I found Joe Miller’s article very unconvincing. [See “Born in the U.S.A.”  and “Does Barack Obama Have Kenyan Citizenship?”] He takes it as a given that Obama was born in Hawaii. This despite a massive legal effort to obstruct seeing the original birth certificate and the testimony of his own family, let alone a Kenyan headline.

It is obvious that Obama does not regard the constitution as important as he has fought laying the legitimate question to rest, and he has taken extreme liberties with the constitution ever since.

Fact Check should be just that. FACT-check, not a rehash of Obama’s unconvincing explanation.

John Teets
Horsham, Pa.

 

Pakistan and Passports

Any truth to this Internet circular?

Chain e-mail: More questions, and this time some good questions. While I’ve little interest in getting in the middle of the Obama birth issue, Paul Hollrah over at FSM did so yesterday and believes the issue can be resolved by Obama answering one simple question: What passport did he use when he was shuttling between New York, Jakarta, and Karachi? So how did a young man who arrived in New York in early June 1981, without the price of a hotel room in his pocket, suddenly come up with the price of a round-the-world trip just a month later? And once he was on a plane, shuttling between New York, Jakarta, and Karachi, what passport was he offering when he passed through Customs and Immigration? The American people not only deserve to have answers to these questions, they must have answers. It makes the debate over Obama’s citizenship a rather short and simple one. Q: Did he travel to Pakistan in 1981, at age 20? A: Yes, by his own admission. Q: What passport did he travel under? A: There are only three possibilities. 1) He traveled with a U.S. Passport, 2) He traveled with a British passport, or 3) He traveled with an Indonesia passport. Q: Is it possible that Obama traveled with a U.S. Passport in 1981? A: No. It is not possible. Pakistan was on the U.S. State Department’s "no travel" list in 1981. Conclusion: When Obama went to Pakistan in 1981 he was traveling either with a British passport or an Indonesian passport. If he were traveling with a British passport that would provide proof that he was born in Kenya on August 4, 1961, not in Hawaii as he claims. And if he were traveling with an Indonesian passport that would tend to prove that he relinquished whatever previous citizenship held was British or American, prior to being adopted by his Indonesian stepfather in 1967.

Dave Miller
Chelsea, Mich.

FactCheck.org responds: It’s nonsense. See our Wire post on this false claim.

 

No Signs of Crosses

If you mentioned this in the article, I scanned past it. [See our Ask FactCheck on the ACLU and Military Cemeteries.] Google images of Arlington, Riverside and San Francisco (The Presidio) National Cemeteries. Those are the only names I can think of at the moment.

They don’t even have "cross shaped headstones."

John Wildermuth

FactCheck.org responds: You are correct about Arlington. The headstones have crosses carved in (when appropriate), but are not in the shape of crosses.

But Flanders Field and others overseas do have cross-shaped headstones.

The e-mail we were critiquing referred to "military cross-shaped headstones" in general. It didn’t refer specifically to Arlington, or we would have made the point you raise here.

 

Money Hungry

I just received a phone request for a donation to the DCCC [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee]. The young man told me that the Republicans (Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin) just raised $14M. Is this true? I can’t find it anywhere on the Internet. Thank you.

D. Wallace
Los Angeles, Calif.

FactCheck.org responds: This is a common fundraising ploy: telling potential donors how much the other side has raised. In this case, the DCCC is right. The National Republican Congressional Committee has raised $14.4 million this election cycle. The DCCC, meanwhile, has chalked up substantially more in donations – $23.7 million. Both numbers, and more data on political contributions, are readily available on opensecrets.org, a site operated by the Center for Responsive Politics.