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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactCheck Mailbag, Week of March 30-April 5

This week, readers sent us comments about the Census, partisan language and context.

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.

On Census, Look to the Past

Regarding the question asking if we have to fill out the Census form and the misinformation regarding the form ["Census Nonsense," March 18], I just filled out our form and wish there were more questions to answer. As someone who is online searching my ancestors, I have been looking at a lot of 1800s and early 1900s Census forms. It is so interesting to see what was asked and to see what the answers were. On some forms they asked how many children the women bore and how many were living. On many they asked where they were born and where their mother and father were born. For most of my ancestors it says Ireland. I wish they asked for city or county along with the country. They asked questions about occupations and schooling and some other odd items as well. When I look at the handwritten Census form of my grandfather’s grandfather, I revel in the tidbits of information. I find it strange that some people would reject this American tradition. Maybe if more people would look at the pre-1930 Census forms, they would feel the excitement that I did when my 2010 Census form arrived in my mailbox.

Linda Crass
Woodbury Heights, N.J.


Partisan Language in 2006 Story

If you are an objective, nonpartisan organization, why do you use such emotionally charged words to criticize Republicans and go into great detail to quote them? Why don’t you just present the facts and let the readers make up their mind. Examples: "Swarm of ads"; "popular campaign issue for Republicans"; "Healthy bi-partisan majority" ["Republican Campaign Theme Debunked: Social Security for Illegal Immigrants," Oct. 10, 2006].

Your information about the nature of the bill may be correct, but it is heavily colored with a negative Republican pen. So they are using the information in ads for election. May be hard ball politics, but that’s not the concern of an organization that claims to be objective and non-partisan. Or do you? I see this all the time when I fact check information. You weren’t partisan when I first started using you years ago.

Ann Coil
Santa Ana, Calif.


More Pro-Context Readers

It appears that others have been critical of you for providing context to the claims that you have factchecked. I believe that it is highly important to provide context to technically true claims that would otherwise give people false impressions. Lies of omission are much more insidious than half truths because they can easily be defended unless someone knows what the missing piece of information is. Without comparing Nancy Pelosi to Dennis Hastert in "Pelosi’s Party Plane," it appears that she spends an absurd amount of taxpayer money to travel. An average reader may conclude that she is corrupt based on the true data that was presented in that article that you factchecked. By comparing Pelosi to Hastert, it changes the issue from "Pelosi spends a ton of money on travel" to "House speakers have been spending a ton of money on travel." While it is each person’s own judgement to determine whether or not this money is being used appropriately, I feel much more enlightened knowing that in this case Pelosi’s expenditures were the rule and not the exception.

Jonathan Lafrenaye
Richmond, Va.



Credulousness and Poll Numbers

It seems to me that any poll of public approval or disapproval of the health care reform law is useless unless it also quantifies how many of the respondents on each side believe the lies that have been debunked by Factcheck.org and other factchecking sites.

Jeffrey E. Salzberg
Montpelier, Vt.