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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactCheck Mailbag, Week of June 22-June 28

This week, readers sent us comments about foreign assistance in the Gulf cleanup, Facebook comments and an informed electorate.

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.

Gulf Spill Cleanup

Many respected newspapers, such as the Wall Street Journal and Canada’s Financial Post, as well as Voice of America News, have stated that the U.S. government rejected some offers of foreign assistance in cleaning up the Gulf oil spill. Canadian environmentalist Lawrence Solomon says the U.S. rejected critically-important Dutch expertise. Moreover, the Obama Administration has issued no general waiver of the Jones Act, which bars foreign crews and ships from working in U.S. waters or moving goods between U.S. ports.

Yet FactCheck.org misleadingly claimed on June 23 that Obama did not "turn down foreign offers of assistance in cleaning up the Gulf oil spill" and did not "refuse to waive Jones Act restrictions on foreign-flag vessels" ["Oil Spill, Foreign Help, and the Jones Act"]. These claims were undercut even by FactCheck.Org’s own explanation for these claims, which conceded that "one offer has been rejected" and that the Jones Act "hasn’t" "been waived now" unlike after Hurricane Katrina.

If such an offer of assistance had already been rejected, as FactCheck concedes, then such offers may well have been viewed as futile, discouraging others from even making them in the first place. Many offers of charity can be deterred by a single well-publicized rejection. That means that much assistance in cleaning up the Gulf may have been blocked even if it was not formally rejected.

If the Jones Act has not been waived, as FactCheck concedes, one would not expect many offers of assistance to be made in the first place, since accepting such offers would generally be forbidden. Does FactCheck.Org really expect a foreign country to hire an American lobbyist or lawyer for big bucks to try and convince the government to waive the Act to accept its help?

Jarrett Wampler
Arlington, Va.

FactCheck.org responds: Our answer to the question was "So far, five offers have been accepted and only one offer has been rejected. Fifteen foreign-flag vessels are working on the cleanup, and none required a waiver."  We also pointed out that the reason no waiver has been needed is that the Jones Act applies to trade delivered between U.S. ports, not to operations in open water such as the Deepwater Horizon site.

Your left leaning is showing. Check out your own reference: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/143488.pdf

It does not look like your answers above to me.

Even when the offers did come with a price, your answers are too spun. The way BP and the Fed are spending money, price is no object.

I have to wonder if things would be different if the oil was hitting Nantucket or Chesapeake Bay. Really I don’t have to wonder much.

I’m not saying that you are always leftist.

Tom Sills
Mobile, Ala.

FactCheck.org responds: That chart backs up our statement that "as of June 23 five offers had been accepted and 50 were under consideration — including multiple offers from a single country or entity. One offer had been declined: France offered a chemical dispersant that is not approved for use in the United States."

In your June 23, 2010 article titled "Oil Spill, Foreign Help and the Jones Act" I felt your author was a little disingenuous in his response. He states that according to the State Department table he lists as evidence only one offer has been declined, how long must an item languish in the "Under Consideration" status before it is considered declined by default? Many of those offers have been on the table for months, more than enough time has passed to evaluate them.

Pete Ivkovic
Pittsburgh, Pa.

We’re 60+ days into it. A private businessman has enough time to engineer, rebuild, equip and test one of the world’s largest ships as a massive oil skimmer and reclamation vessel and we’re still “considering” some 50+ offers of help and technology. Considering the handsome government efficiency on the display with the gulf oil spill disaster, I hope there isn’t some kind of health disaster after the new, shiny health reform gets going. Heck, perhaps just tens of millions people could die in 60 days as our government “considers” whether or not help is needed.

Chip McCoy
Enid, Okla.

Thank you for this article. After reading about the Jones Act I couldn’t see how it applied to this mess, but some people kept referring to it and the need for a waiver. I did not believe the various allegations were true, but you put it all together succinctly and with citations. Your truth-telling is always helpful.

Virginia Klipstein
Glenside, Pa.


You’re Biased And I Won’t Hear Different

You and your website are in bed with the Obama Administration and “We The People” know that. Your website is bogus and not factual. Millions of us refuse to trust your site and for the most part no longer visit it.

We also continue to inform as many other people as we can. Please don’t write back. I will only delete without reading. I have no interest what-so-ever in hearing your rhetoric bull. Nothing you can say will change our minds.


FactCheck.org responds: Sure enough, "Debra" did not reply to our email seeking her last name and city, which we normally require. Nevertheless, we are posting her comment here as an extreme example of the mindset we sometimes encounter in our critics. She says "nothing you can say will change our minds," and we have little doubt that she’s correct about that. We’ve found that extreme partisans — on both sides — tend to accuse us of bias when we report facts that challenge their biases.



You have over 40,000 fans (and growing!) to your Facebook page. There are many interesting comments and there is a lot of intriguing debate, which draws many postings and makes interesting reading along with your FactCheck articles. However, the debate needs to be, as one of your co-factchecking websites puts it, "robust yet civil" especially if you want to keep this number growing.

I bring this to your attention because the debate (comments) on your Facebook page generally devolves into less than civil and robust due to name-calling and inappropriate language, often done by a few posters who dominate the threads. These posters, who some term "trolls," deliberately provoke other posters, continually repeat the same negative message and then verbally abuse the posters who respond. There is one in particular who may be considered dangerous, as he has not only threatened posters (who either block him or stop posting) but has seriously poisoned the discourse. There is even one poster who decided not to block him but has removed personal information from their Facebook page, because this person uses the personal information to make personal attacks.

A moderator would greatly alleviate problems of this type, by monitoring the comments and intervening to warn posters, delete offensive comments and even ban posters of the type mentioned above.

While I do believe in free speech, in this case, I do not believe in using inappropriate language and making ad hominem attacks to intimidate people just for expressing their opinion, leading them to stop posting or even leaving your page, which only serves to corrode and corrupt it.

I am not going to name this poster, because as soon as you begin moderating, he will become quite obvious to you as he continues along this path of destruction.

Thank you for your great website!

Karen S. Street
Grand Blanc, Mich.

FactCheck.org responds: We recognized that some boorish behavior is on display in the comments posted by visitors to our Facebook page, but we do not attempt to moderate what is posted there, partly because it would take too much time away from our main work. Comments that are threatening, racist, or in other ways in violation of the Facebook terms of service can be reported to Facebook directly. And it is easy to "ignore" a Facebook user, which ensures that you will never see their comments.

FactCheck Helps Democracy

I just want to say, I’m glad for FactCheck. The misinformation by each side and even the known lies being used against one another is what causes so many in America to feel what’s the use trying to find out the truth so they can give an informed vote for candidates. These things are so childish… and we are to vote for these to lead and take care of Americans’ safety and well being.

Patricia McIntyre
Highland, Calif.