A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactCheck Mailbag, Week of Jan. 12-Jan. 18

This week, readers sent us comments on a FactCheck curriculum, the Massachusetts race and global cooling. 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.

Teach the Children

It is very disappointing to see just how often the truth is twisted for gain of some kind. Our political system appears to be nothing more than a reflection of a society that has lost its moral and ethical compass. Can you expand operations and develop a curriculum for school children? Maybe the next generation can begin to turn the tide.

Lee Henderson
Ithaca, N.Y.

FactCheck.org responds: Our educational site, FactCheckED.org, provides lesson plans on logic, media analysis and analytical thinking.


Too "Fair and Balanced" on Massachusetts?

It is not required of a political candidate to state every vote that someone made. It IS incumbent on them not to specifically misrepresent an opponent’s position ["Bay State Battle," Jan. 13]. The fact is, Brown INTRODUCED that amendment. It goes to his beliefs about legislating, his beliefs about religion in politics, his support or lack thereof for women’s health issues. The fact that he couldn’t get it passed in no way alters the fact that he introduced it. Coakley is completely entitled to use this in an ad. Brown, on the other hand, misrepresented Coakley’s position. One ad leaves a false impression; the other accurately represents an opponent’s position. So you have created a false equivalence by linking these two items.

It would seem that you are trying to be too "fair and balanced" here, a position which ultimately weakens our democracy by generating the apathy that comes with "they all do it, they’re all the same" thinking. Since I believe your mission is to strengthen democracy by creating a more informed electorate, I’m afraid you have failed your mission in this case, and may want to rethink this approach.

Kevin Courcey
Portland, Ore.


AirTran Truth and Consequence

Your explanation is misleading about the story for AirTran flight 297 ["What Happened on Flight 297?," Dec. 14]. At the conclusion it is implied that the real problem was someone who embellished an account of the facts.

The bigger issue in this story is that AirTran misled the news media and thereby wanted to minimize a security incident. Furthermore TSA and law enforcement at the Atlanta hub appeared lax in their handling and reporting of a security threat.

Public air flight safety was diminished by AirTran’s handling of this incident, and even your research and reporting fell victim to accept that everything was all right when it was not.

The security threat on flight 297 involved 11 Middle Easterners who were most likely Muslims. Had these unruly passengers been 11 students from the University of Georgia, they no doubt would have spent the night confined in a jail cell in downtown Atlanta.

Jerry Chastain
Jasper, Ga.


What’s Climate Consensus Worth?

I enjoy searching your site and reading many of the articles presented by FactCheck, and I recognize the host of sources and inherent problems you have trying to glean the truth out of the cacophony of data available. One tends to trust less and less supposed self-appointed "experts" who appear daily on and in every conceivable form of media to present the "true facts" on the controversial issues of the day. My case in point is "global warming," which has recently begun to morph into "climate change" following a goodly number of recognized world scientists taking a different approach to the "crisis" and offering the view that Earth may actually be in a period of cooling ["‘Climategate,’" Dec. 10]

For me, the essence of all climate change statistics and arguments/conclusions is based on the phrase "warmest [or coldest] year [or decade, etc.] ever recorded." Since records only go back a few hundred years, and readings/studies before space-age technologies were available are notoriously varied in accuracy, almost any scientist or other "expert" can prove any theory about the planet’s climate. For example, you may recall the cover stories of Time (June 1974) and Newsweek (April 1975) that heralded the approach of the next Ice Age, based on "trusted" scientists and scientific observations of the time, in which the word "consensus" was prominently displayed when describing the world scientific community’s predictions. At that time not only was the planet seen to be cooling radically, but this cooling was going to continue into the foreseeable future.

This leads me to the current "crisis" of global warming, a mere 30 years after we were told we had entered an extended era of global cooling. We are now supposed to believe, without question, what a "consensus" of today’s media and scientific "experts" have decreed to be the one and only "inconvenient truth," and that we and the planet are doomed if we do not immediately implement the grand plan laid out by this "consensus." If based on sound data and proven conclusions, this could serve us, and the world, quite well. I would argue that we have not yet arrived at that point, and would hope that FactCheck would take the same approach, instead of referring to the issue as "settled," with supporting evidence from such sources as the United Nations scientific agencies and the Union of Concerned Scientists, who do not currently (and have rarely) taken a centrist position on controversial issues since those organizations were founded.

David Piligian
Ellicott City, Md. 


Bias Accusations Unfounded

I enjoy reading your Web site and I would like to say thank you for the reporting that you do. I am often amused by some of the letters you receive suggesting that you have a liberal bias. As they state, they are upset with the disproportionate number of articles that correct misinformation from the conservatives, and they seem to feel that you are missing, or ignoring many issues that would affect the liberals. I can only assume that they are watching a certain news channel and wondering why no one else is reporting the latest liberal outrages. I have to laugh when I realize that these people can’t and won’t believe what (to me and many others) is blatantly obvious — there is just a lot more misinformation coming from the right.

Mark Ethridge
Allen, Texas

FactCheck.org responds: We invite anyone who believes we have missed a false claim being made by a liberal (or a conservative) to send particulars to editor@factcheck.org. We are always looking for falsehoods and misleading statements to debunk, without regard for which side they come from.