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FactCheck Mailbag, Week of Sept. 21-Sept. 27

This week, readers sent us comments about Rep. Grayson’s "Taliban Dan" ad, President Clinton’s education statistics and the Nevada toss-up race.

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.

Webster’s Beliefs vs. Webster’s Words

The editing of the video is irrelevant to the larger point ["Rep. Grayson Lowers the Bar," Sept. 27]. The main point of the ad was that Webster is a far right religious extremist. That’s true, by the way. Any politician that wants to force rape victims to bear the child of the rapist is a far right religious extremist. That is the most damning part of this ad, and it is 100% true.

Gary Schor
Silver Springs, Fla.

While Daniel Webster was not telling his audience that wives should submit to their husbands, he wasn’t saying the opposite either. The video might be misleading, in that it gives an impression that may not reflect Mr. Webster’s views; that’s only because his views are not actually expressed in the video. He may well believe that wives should submit to their husbands.

The second video you included refutes your claim that he was saying the opposite. If his statement was a repudiation to the idea that wives should submit to their husbands, then his second statement, where he discussed children obeying their parents, and phrased the same way, is a repudiation of the teaching that children should obey their parents. I doubt he meant that, and that casts doubt on his repudiation of women submitting to their husbands.

As to his sponsorship of Covenant marriage bill, if he still believes in that, then the accusation that he would make it harder for women to leave abusive husbands is true, even if only limited to covenant marriages. All Mr. Webster has to do is renounce that sponsorship and announce he came to understand his error. Until then the accusations may be weakly supported, but your claim that he was saying the opposite is not supported at all.

Bob Klahn
Sylvania, Ohio


Not False If Everyone Knows What You Mean

Regarding Sunday Replay and President Clinton’s remarks ["Sunday Replay," Sept. 20] — 

You said:

But it’s not accurate to say that the U.S. is 12th in "the percentage of our people with college degrees." That’s only true for our young people. Adding in the rest of the population up to age 64, the U.S. actually ranks fifth among member and partner countries in percentage of population with degrees, and second in the percentage with bachelor’s degrees. That’s consistent with Clinton’s general point that fewer people are finishing college, since it includes people who earned their degrees back when the U.S. was No. 1. But it contradicts his claim, which was about "our people," not our people between the ages of 25 and 34.

I love FactCheck.org, but the above is an example of exactly what your website fights against every day.

It is obvious from context and Clinton’s use of "fallen" that he’s referring to a relatively recent phenomenon, and since most college graduates are young, of course he is comparing younger people to the older generation. There is no way anyone listening to his comments would assume otherwise. When someone’s intent is that clear to the listener, parsing words to imply otherwise (he said "our people" instead of "people between the ages of 25 and 34") is unfair and misleading. It implies something about Clinton’s knowledge or intent that, in this case, simply isn’t true.

FactCheck.org’s goal is to expose both deliberate misinformation as well as inaccurate comments from sincere people who are misinformed/confused. The Clinton example fits neither of those scenarios. It instead nitpicks to create an example of misinformation when there was none.

Please be more careful in the future. Given the level of deliberate misinformation/propaganda coming from our broadcast media today, your website becomes more important and relevant by the hour. Don’t do anything to damage your credibility.

Ellen Kravitz
Arlington, Mass.


Less Nonpartisanship, Please

Does it really make sense to equate Angle’s outright, pandering falsehoods with Reid’s contention that a) she means what she said originally, and that b) indexing and means testing of the kind Angle supports would make the programs less and less effective and c) that the people who would one day be negatively impacted by the erosion are the old people of the future ["Toss-Ups: Nevada," Sept. 23]? Your argument seems to be that you disagree with his interpretation and she’s a liar and that makes them even. How does that make sense?

Rachel Goldberg
Wheaton, Md.

I greatly value your site, including when you identify inaccuracies by candidates I support, and often tell those who say they "don’t know what to believe!" to read it. I assume there are good reasons (including public and right-wing distrust of intellectuals) for you to so strictly guard against any seeming bias. But I wonder if being overly scrupulous to that end is the reason for your faulty interpretation of this ad about the elderly?

Equally important is avoiding the impression that there are always two points of view to represent and judge. As Bill Maher, writing about climate change, said, "…our obsession with always seeing two sides of every issue … means we have to pretend there are always two truths … On this side of the debate: Every scientist in the world. On the other: Mr. Potato Head."

In the same vein, a neutral stance can fuel public confusion over matters of opinion and fact. The debate over teaching evolution vs. creationism, e.g., is not a matter of opinion; it incorrectly places a religious belief in the same category as that of scientific theory, adding to the fuzzy thinking which today’s tabloid media promulgates. FactCheck’s role of clarification is thus increasingly vital.

I also urge you to further differentiate the inaccuracies you identify: glaring and/or malicious falsehoods (e.g., Obama’s citizenship) should be separated by category (and place) from minor errors and exaggerations (e.g., the rounding off of huge numbers). Although such a process may be at times subjective, false statements which can greatly harm individuals, groups and society need to be identified as having more serious consequences than those of minor errors.

Nikki Longaker
Binghamton, N.Y.


Not Enough Nonpartisanship, Thank You

You are so pathetically left leaning it is ridiculous. Waste any time cutting up the Republican plan ["Fact-Checking ‘The Pledge,’ " Sept. 23]? You can source all you want but you pick and chose just as you blame all others you don’t agree with. Your credibility is zilch.

Edward Brennan
Erie, Pa.