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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactCheck Mailbag, Week of Oct. 16-22

This week, readers sent us comments about our analysis of the second presidential debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney.

In the FactCheck Mailbag, we feature some of the email we receive. Readers can send comments to editor@factcheck.org. Letters may be edited for length.


A Second Look at Second Debate Claims

A few comments regarding your summary of [“FactChecking the Hofstra Debate,” Oct. 17]:

Regarding the embassy attack and Libya and “get the transcripts”: Nowhere in the transcripts does President Obama call the Benghazi attack an act of terror. Factually, his comment — “No act of terror will dim the light of the values that we proudly shine on the rest of the world, and no act of violence will shake the resolve of the United States of America” — sounds much more like a denial (otherwise his words would have been “This act of terror will …).

Your analysis of Romney’s top 1 percent tax cut needs some math facts added. Romney has repeatedly said he would not change the percentage or portion of taxes the top 1% pay. So, if the percentage or portion contributed by the top 1% stays the same … they must get proportionally the same “cuts” as the average other 99%.

Women’s jobs: Yes, factually Romney was wrong. The factual number should have been 283,00. However, it is not factual that the [Bureau of Labor Statistics] will subtract 190,000 from that number. It might be more … but it might be less, too. Facts are facts; until you get new facts, no speculation on what the new facts might be.

Auto bailouts and bankruptcy: If this is fact-checking, please don’t include reports or opinions that say “may have” or “less certain outcome” or even “most likely.” There are no facts to back up such claims.

Obama says “no” to the pipeline in Canada: Please remind everyone that “no decision” can actually be a decision. It even has a special name when associated with legislation and the president: “pocket veto.” Factually, the effect of Obama delaying the decision is the same as a pocket veto.

Mark Lea
Richmond, Va.


You missed a couple things in the debate and I was surprised.

1) Romney: “Yeah, I’m not in favor of new pieces of legislation on — on guns and taking guns away or making certain guns illegal. We, of course, don’t want to have automatic weapons, and that’s already illegal in this country to have automatic weapons.”

This is false. Class 3 firearms, which includes automatic weapons, can be purchased legally in most states in the U.S. with proper paper work, documentation, background checks, and paying a one-time federal tax stamp on that “item.” I believe there are six states that DO NOT allow automatic weapons.

Here is a good source to start with:


2) President Obama: “And so what I want is a — is a comprehensive strategy. Part of it is seeing if we can get automatic weapons that kill folks in amazing numbers out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill …”

The statement that automatic weapons kill “amazing numbers” of folks is an exaggeration. In the past 10 years, I don’t believe there has been a single case where an automatic weapon has been used in an assault crime, let alone to kill lots of people. As Obama stated earlier in his response, the guns being used are “cheap handguns,” not assault weapons.  When assault weapons (fully-automatic weapons) are used in crimes, they are 100% of the time, according to my research, illegally owned and/or illegally modified. This includes Aurora, Colo. (which was mentioned by the president), which did not involve a single “assault rifle.” The firearm used in this case was a semi-automatic weapon.

Hopefully we can see an update to your fact-check on this debate! I love what you guys do as long as it continues to be non-biased. The truth will set you free!

Lance D. Henze
Cedar Rapids, Iowa


Planned Parenthood and Mammograms

I think you are super picky with that term “rely” [“Planned Parenthood and Mammograms,” Oct. 18]. Just because [Planned Parenthood] does not actually do mammograms on demand in their clinics does not mean women don’t rely on them. I know a woman whose breast cancer was found as a result of a trip to [Planned Parenthood] and then a referral for mammogram and follow-up help to get her into surgery, etc.  I’d say women DO rely on [Planned Parenthood] for mammograms, and more.

Beth Adair
Spokane, Wash.


Missing the Point of FactCheck.org

I enjoy all the letters to the editor that you share that accuse or suppose some kind of bias. The most insidious one I’m seeing these days is fairness bias.

If folks are rating candidates by counting your bullet points, they’ve missed the point. If they claim that FactCheck is biased because you point out that the candidate claimed a 47% something-or-other, when the real number is 46.4%, they’re still missing the point.

We can all take the trouble to notice which facts FactCheck is checking and determine how we think the data affects the candidate’s argument. It’s perfectly fine to decide it doesn’t damage the argument at all. Factual errors, misstatements, and summaries occur in every campaign, and our job as voters is to decide which ones matter to us. You’re not trying to do that for us, and I for one really appreciate it.

Susan Rati Lane
Somerville, Mass.