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FactCheck Mailbag, Week of May 18-May 24

This week, readers sent us comments about misinformation burnout, immigration, Sunday shows and the word "gender."

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.

FactCheck Is Depressing

I am beginning to find FactCheck so depressing that I am tempted to unsubscribe (but I won’t). Week after week you expose the lies and distortions being propogated by our politicians. What is so depressing is that this behavior continues nonetheless, week after week.

I think that it should be a felony for a politician (or anyone else for that matter) to deliberately mislead and lie to the American voter. If a lie in a campaign ad isn’t deliberate, I don’t know what is. But in the name of "freedom of speech" politicians are allowed to twist, distort and outright lie with impunity. And it will continue if there are no negative consequences. The reality is that sometimes people win BECAUSE OF their lies and distortions (e.g. remember the Swift Boat campaign?).

Does anyone agree with me? Is there anything that we can do about it? Public exposure doesn’t seem to bother these shameless liers. If this were an honest country, we wouldn’t even need a FactCheck! We could trust that what our officials were telling us was the truth — even if we had to take the "spin" out of it.

Michael Monahan
Yakima, Wash.

FactCheck.org responds: Unfortunately, as we’ve written before, it’s probably not feasible to make laws about honesty in campaigning.


Focus vs. Bias

I would like to comment on the letter submitted by Michael Draut [FactCheck Mailbag, Week of May 11-May 17].

I personally do not believe, as Mr. Draut does, that the article "Does Immigration Cost Jobs?" was created to support a "liberal agenda" (at least on its own). The articles on FactCheck.org, as I have noticed, focus on narrow topics dealing with a specific debated topic, this case being the economic impact of illegal immigration. If the article had ventured into the (virtually indisputable) illegality of illegal immigration, it would have been veering off-topic. Therefore the article in its own right was objective. I have noticed a pattern, however, that the site seems to go against the credibility of conservatives more than liberals. Albeit, though, I can’t be sure whether it is bias on the site’s behalf or if it is simply that conservatives fudge facts more than liberals at this time. If the former is true, I would be appreciative of a more balanced representation of the credibility of both wings of the political spectrum.

Justin Felder
Oceanside, Calif.


Sunday Slips Explained

Bravo on your summary of lies dished up on the Sunday talk shows last week ["Sunday Replay," May 17]. FactCheck is virtually alone in having the courage and integrity to refute what has — no doubt about it — become a national habit — telling whoppers with a straight face, in public, the bigger the venue the better.

This behavior is, as your list of fibbers suggests, predominantly right-wing, and it’s not just the Sunday talk shows — it’s relentless and ubiquitous: Beck, Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Palin (any Fox "News" talking head — take your pick), Michael Savage, columnists like Thomas Sowells and Michael Barone (both of whom last week smeared higher education in their innuendo-loaded attacks on Elena Kagan), and on and on.

The best I can figure, this behavior is grounded in the "conviction" that if lies and character assassination serve what you take to be a higher cause, they — and you — are justified. Or, from the audience’s point of view, if someone lies in the service of positions or issues that you favor, you don’t acknowledge that they have lied, because they’re "right" in the larger, ideological sense (pun very much intended).

I heartily agree with the letter writer who suggested that it’s high time some news networks gave FactCheck’s honest reporting a featured and regular spot in their reporting. What can they be afraid of? Their lapses and biases being undercut?

Keep up the good work.

Charles Quinn
Columbus, Ohio


Gender Trouble

You claim that Harvard Law School has had a requirement since 1979 that recruiters could not discriminate "on the basis of race, gender or sexual orientation" ["Sunday Replay," May 17].

That is wrong.

In 1979, gender still referred to subject/verb agreement and there were three choices. Those three were, and still are, masculine, feminine and neuter. Nobody in 1979 would have known what you were getting at if you discussed gender unless the discussion involved the proper use of the parts of speech.

It was sex discrimination that the recruiters were banned from practicing.

There are three genders and two sexes. You should strive for accuracy in this regard.

If Uncle Maxwell wants to dress up like a girl, act like a girl and call himself Maxine, that is all well and fine but the fact remains that he is still a male. He has a Y chromosome and nothing will ever change that.

Chris Wilson
Portland, Ore.

FactCheck.org responds: The first use of "gender" meaning "sex" appearing in the Oxford English Dictionary dates from 1387 ("No mo genders been there but masculine, and femynyne," Thomas Usk). The first use of "gender" meaning "social presentation of sex" (as distinct from biological sex) dates from 1963.