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Mailbag: Presidential Term Limits, Viral Deception

One reader sent us a comment about the history of the 22nd Amendment, which limits the number of terms an individual can serve as U.S. president, and another forwarded us an email he sent to friends after reading one of our stories about a viral claim being made about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

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.

History of Term Limits for Presidents

While you are accurate regarding the congresswoman from Queens/Bronx misapplication of history [“Ocasio-Cortez Gets FDR History Lesson Wrong,” April 2] your analysis leaves out one very important portion of the amendment.

It did not apply to a president holding the office at the time of its introduction or final ratification and effective date. Therefore, President Truman was not precluded from running for office in 1952. Of course, he chose not to do that. Also, the Republican candidate, Thomas Dewey, the Republican nominee for the presidency in 1944, on October 31, 1944, did publicly endorse the concept, for obvious political reasons – he thought that might swing the vote. Of course, it did not. The Republicans did not have congressional control until January 1947 to move the amendment. In fact, then it was not an easy ratification process since it was not finally ratified until over four years later.

Historically, there were questions regarding [President Franklin D. Roosevelt] running for a third term in 1940. He justified it based upon the conflict in Europe and pledged to keep the United States out of the war. Members of his own party took exception and there were those Democrats that did not support FDR for a third term. The Republican nominee, Wendell Wilkie, also raised the issue. It might be said that this concern about presidential term limits was a bipartisan concern.

There have been subsequent efforts to rescind the 22nd Amendment, however, they have not made it out of committee. Most notably those efforts occurred during the Reagan administration in the hope that he could run for reelection in 1988. One might opine that when you like him you want to keep him and when you do not like him you want him gone.

Kenneth P. Johnson, Lt. Col., USAF (Ret)
Milton, Pennsylvania


A Reader’s ‘Confession’

Editor’s note: Frank Bergen, a reader in Tucson, Arizona, copied us on this email that he sent to his friends. He agreed to allow us to publish it.


I have a confession to make. I was traveling yesterday when I received the FactCheck response to my query regarding AO-C [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] and Daylight Saving Time [“Daylight Saving Time Spoof Story Not Real,” March 27]. I was so delighted to have a rebuttal of the accusation you had discussed at lunch on Thursday that I forwarded it without having read the message from [FactCheck.org Undergraduate Fellow] Catherine Monk all the way through, a terrible thing to do in any instance and especially by me, quick as I am to criticize others for doing anything of the sort.

Now that I have read it, I see how thoroughly FactCheck has factually debunked the satirical piece, providing us with its source, a gentleman who edits a satirical publication and with whom the folks at FactCheck had communicated.

In response to one of your observations I looked for a FactCheck mailing address and discovered that they are indeed based in Philadelphia,  ‘one of those east coast liberal cities’ and are therefore automatically suspect.

You have collectively spurred me to make a small contribution to FactCheck in your collective honor.

Your apologetic and much embarrassed brother in Christ.

Frank Bergen
Tucson, Arizona