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FactCheck Mailbag, Week of Aug. 4-Aug. 10

This week, readers sent us comments on Canadian Shona Holmes, employer health care and Nazi symbols.

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.

Canadian Health Care

Thank you for your information on Canadian Shona Holmes ["Canadian Straw Man," July 17, and "Dying on a Wait List?," Aug. 6]. However, everyone seems to have overlooked the most important point in her story: What her story really shows us is the basic fault in the American health care system. The fact is that she could not have received the wonderful American treatment if she had not had enough cash to pay for it. Which shows that the American citizens themselves cannot get the treatment they need without having either good insurance (which, as we all know, a vast number of Americans do not have) or enough money to pay for the treatment themselves. This proves that the system is not set up for anyone except the lucky and/or rich. … The unlucky and/or poor can just hang it up if they get really ill. This is a dreadful system and I do not know how anyone cannot see that it must be changed and that Obama has done more already than anyone else to fix it for us. … We definitely need to back him up in any way possible.

Rita Prescott
Orlando, Fla.


I had the same surgery as Ms. Holmes at a hospital in Toronto, for a large malignant, skull base tumor. It was followed by radiation in the U.S., paid for by provincial health care.

My treatment was timely, and apparently very appropriate, as I am still disease free after seven years. I continue to receive follow up care. When the tumor recurs, as it is sure to do, I will get more treatment.

I have nothing to cry about.

Ann Wood
Toronto, Ontario, Canada


Biased Against Obama?

I read your mailbag letters to the editor. I’m not surprised that critics of the Obama administration are so desperate as to even try to convince you to change what you consider to be the facts, but I wish there was some way to let Mark Rowe from Sebastian, Fla., ["FactCheck Mailbag," Aug. 4] know that he can trust your fact-finding far more than he realizes. Apparently, he has somehow missed all the smear e-mails that you’ve debunked in the past year or so. I, too, am a little disappointed when you find it necessary to correct some of [Obama’s] claims, but, at the same time I realize he’s not perfect and you are doing your job. I have yet to find any of your fact-checking in conflict with the other fact-checking organizations I occasionally turn to for the real truth. Keep up the great work.

Walter Bixby
Hendersonville, Tenn.


Personally, I am surprised that someone would write in and tell you that you are biased and not in favor of Obama. While I think you try to be objective, I have to say that given some of the same information as you, I would probably feel differently. If President Obama stated 6 years ago, plainly and specifically, that he favored a single payer system ["Campaigning on Single Payer?," June 29], then he favors a single payer system. I am also sure that he realizes that in this country he probably would not be able to do that in one fell swoop, rather he will have to go at it through the back door, so to speak. One way is to start by saying he wants a government option. Fine and dandy, but he still favors a single payer system and if he could do it, he would do it. He was either lying then or he is lying now. While you can change your mind on a specific subject, he has not indicated any way so far that he has done so. He is doing what any politician would do and that is to try to build trust in a smaller plan and then slowly but surely tweak it into what you wanted all along. A lot like the frog put in a pot of water on the stove. As the water slowly heats up he becomes used to it and doesn’t realize until too late, that he’s been had.

Michelle Newman
Tallahassee, Fla.


Health Care Questions

I read with interest your take on the abortion issue ["Surgery for Seniors vs. Abortions?," July 31]. It is evidently not by accident that wording to authorize abortion is not in the bill but that the HHS secretary would make that decision, which in essence is the funding of abortion, depending on who is appointed to that position. Thus health care would change from administration to administration depending on who was in power and not by Congress. Thus a congressman or senator can truthfully say to their constituents that he or she did not authorize abortion but in truth they knew it would be authorized by giving the power of decision to someone else. Nice game, but will it fly? We need direct wording in any bill that is passed! It would be a shame if the total health care bill was subjected to this type of inconsistency in wording and as a result health care reform was denied because of an underhanded way of forcing federally funded abortions on the American people. I suspect for passage of the bill this must be clarified. I did not elect the HHS secretary nor did we as Americans.

David Caldwell
Mayfield, Ky.


Pelosi "Right" On Nazi Symbols?

I’ve enjoyed your site for years, and I do appreciate your efforts to be fair even though I think you lean a little to the left. You were overly kind to Ms. Pelosi with respect to her swastika comment ["Nazi Symbols at Town Halls: The Real Story," Aug. 10]. Her implication seemed to be that the folks going to the town hall meetings were in some way like Nazis, when, in fact, just the opposite was true (i.e., that’s the kind of behavior they were condemning). And how long did it take for some media sleuth to find instances where a swastika was brandished? There appeared to be only one or two isolated incidents, only discovered after a good deal of journalistic recon, and the message was the opposite of what Ms. Pelosi suggested. The media, to my knowledge, never asked Ms. Pelosi (and she never volunteered) which specific incident(s) she was referring to. I felt you should have made this clear in your article. Further, Ms. Pelosi’s comment was broadly condemning of pretty much anyone going to town hall meetings who disagreed with the health plan she’s pushing.

Mark Smith
Pine Mountain, Ga.


I spent a number of years in the journalism, radio news trade and can appreciate how tenuous credibility can be. Here’s where one of your articles went off the rails and opened yourself up to criticism. Viveca Novak’s calmly reasoned piece on Nazi symbols was fairly well put together and seemed to explain what was seen and why Representative Pelosi said what she did. But she was wrong and accused those protesting of "carrying swastikas and symbols" when even as you said, they were symbols with lines through them, the universal symbol for "no." Also, the protesters were not anti-Obama, they were anti-government run health care. A small quibble but that’s how you lose credibility.

David Pundt
Baxter, Minn.

FactCheck.org responds: Pelosi’s comment was that opponents were "carrying swastikas and symbols like that to a town meeting on health care." The fact is, some did just that, and those who claimed that Pelosi was fabricating the claim were wrong.

"Eliminating" Employer Health Care

In an August 5 article "White House Fact-Checking" you wrote:

The video claims that the clip shows "Obama admitting his plan will ELIMINATE private insurance." But that’s not what he said.

In the clip, Obama said: "But I don’t think we’re going to be able to eliminate employer coverage immediately. There’s going to be potentially some transition process. I can envision a decade out or 15 years out or 20 years out …"

 "But that’s not what he said??" Are you kidding me??

You need to clean your glasses professor. … The phrase you don’t seem to understand is "I don’t think we’re going to be able to eliminate employer coverage immediately." But this phrase admits that he wants to. That will be in the future which could be anytime with the complete dominance of the Democrats rule.

Larry Whitaker
Magalia, Calif.

FactCheck.org responds: The reader misses our point. Obama was not talking about eliminating private health insurance. The partial quote he cites was taken out of its full context. Obama was speaking of setting up a system in which individuals may buy their private insurance through a pool that allows a wide variety of choices, making their insurance portable when they change employers. It’s worth noting that portability was a key element of Sen. John McCain’s health care plan as well.

Here’s the full context of Obama’s remark:

As I indicated before, I think that we’re going to have to have some system where people can buy into a larger pool. Right now their pool typically is the employer, but there are other ways of doing it. I would like to – I would hope that we could set up a system that allows those who can go through their employer to access a federal system or a state pool of some sort. But I don’t think we’re going to be able to eliminate employer coverage immediately. There’s going to be potentially some transition process. I can envision a decade out or 15 years out or 20 years out where we’ve got a much more portable system. Employers still have the option of providing coverage, but many people may find that they get better coverage, or at least coverage that gives them more for health care dollars than they spend outside of their employer. And I think we’ve got to facilitate that and let individuals make that choice to transition out of employer coverage.


Praise for FactCheck

I appreciate your response to my questions regarding e-mails that seemed to contain lots of questionable material. Your response clears up many things, validating most of my thinking and challenging the rest.

My experience has been always, that you are thorough and diligent in your goal of finding facts, validating or invalidating statements that are made in the political arena. And I thank and trust you for this.

BJ Peters
Lexington, Ky.


Thank you so much for your articles! I watch the news every day, read the newspapers, check CNN and do what can be reasonably expected of a citizen to stay informed, but your Web site is by far my best source for unbiased clarity in issues large and small.

Ben Tibbetts
Windsor, Maine