As an experiment we decided to try to take David Gregory’s advice and fact-check Meet The Press on our “own terms” – not just to look for examples of statements that might not be factual, but to see how difficult it would be for a team of three people, amateurs really, to try to do the job of professional journalists – the job Meet The Press is so far unwilling to do.
We did not fact-check every possible statement, but rather looked at ones we thought important to confirm in the sense that, if false, they would dramatically change the core point the speaker was trying to make.
These statements were chosen and researched non-ideologically. If there was another fact-check organization that covered a same or similar statement we decided to use it as a source, provided that organization showed their work and our analysis of their research reached the same conclusion.
We do not dismiss the possibility of being wrong and encourage others to challenge our conclusions in the comments below. We also welcome additional help to confirm the statements on future shows as we continue our experiment. Please remember we have done this when we were not writing papers, reading assignments, or going to work. Fact-checking is an interesting process, but not an easy one.
Fact Check of Meet The Press – 4/25/2010
(listed in chronological order as they happened on air)
GM Government Payback
Senator Richard Shelby (R – AL)
MR. GREGORY: If the complaint is government’s not up to it, we had regulators before, can they do it this time, and we’re so worried about bailouts, look at the track record of bailouts so far. The president was boasting yesterday that GM and Chrysler have paid off their debts, not completely, but, but, but way ahead of schedule. TARP is now $186 billion back. The overall payment is supposed to be around $87 billion. The record’s been pretty good that the government’s and the taxpayer have done OK so far in bailouts, have they not?
SEN. SHELBY: First of all, the payback by General Motors and Chrysler will never happen, not all of it. That’s misleading, even what the president said there. And they paid back some money that they were already given by the TARP money. They haven’t paid back the other, and they won’t.
Senator Shelby is correct in stating the automakers will never pay back all of the money the government used to assist them, but only partially correct that President Obama’s comments are misleading. According to research done by FactCheck.org, which we have analyzed and concur with, GM has indeed now paid back its straight loan with interest and ahead of schedule. But the government will ultimately take a loss when it sells the GM stock it currently holds. From a March CBO report:
The CBO estimates a subsidy rate of 41 percent on the balance of investments and loans, resulting in a projected cost to the government of close to $34 billion.
And President Obama’s comments might be factually accurate, but they are slightly misleading:
It won’t be too long before the stock the Treasury is holding in GM can be sold, helping to reimburse the American people for their investment.
The key phrase is “helping to” which does not necessarily imply that all of the American people’s investment will be reimbursed.
Arizona’s Immigration Law
David Gregory (NBC)
MR. GREGORY: But the, but the, but the argument, Evan, from the governor is, look, you’re going to be in a situation where if somebody’s being investigated for a crime, then you can ask for documentation. It’s not as if they’re just going to be pulling–I mean it’s–the argument is they would not be pulling people over because they look like they could be an illegal immigrant.
Clearly Mr. Gregory is not implying his own personal belief but rather conveying the argument of Governor Brewer, but we feel it’s important, however, to distinguish that the bill (SB1070) does in fact state that police are empowered to investigate the citizenship of any person they suspect is an unauthorized immigrant:
B. FOR ANY LAWFUL CONTACT MADE BY A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL OR AGENCY OF THIS STATE OR A COUNTY, CITY, TOWN OR OTHER POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THIS STATE WHERE REASONABLE SUSPICION EXISTS THAT THE PERSON IS AN ALIEN WHO IS UNLAWFULLY PRESENT IN THE UNITED STATES, A REASONABLE ATTEMPT SHALL BE MADE, WHEN PRACTICABLE, TO DETERMINE THE IMMIGRATION STATUS OF THE PERSON. THE PERSON’S IMMIGRATION STATUS SHALL BE VERIFIED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PURSUANT TO 8 UNITED STATES CODE SECTION 1373(c).
Regarding the aspect of “pulling over” – this is where Gregory/Brewer’s assertion is partially correct. According to SB1070, in order for an officer to stop a vehicle it must be either in violation of a civil traffic law or one of several new crimes/suspicions related to the possible hiring, hiding, or transporting of unauthorized immigrants while operating a motor vehicle.
E. NOTWITHSTANDING ANY OTHER LAW, A PEACE OFFICER MAY LAWFULLY STOP ANY PERSON WHO IS OPERATING A MOTOR VEHICLE IF THE OFFICER HAS REASONABLE SUSPICION TO BELIEVE THE PERSON IS IN VIOLATION OF ANY CIVIL TRAFFIC LAW AND THIS SECTION.
A. IT IS UNLAWFUL FOR AN OCCUPANT OF A MOTOR VEHICLE THAT IS STOPPED ON A STREET, ROADWAY OR HIGHWAY TO ATTEMPT TO HIRE OR HIRE AND PICK UP PASSENGERS FOR WORK AT A DIFFERENT LOCATION IF THE MOTOR VEHICLE BLOCKS OR IMPEDES THE NORMAL MOVEMENT OF TRAFFIC.
B. IT IS UNLAWFUL FOR A PERSON TO ENTER A MOTOR VEHICLE THAT IS STOPPED ON A STREET, ROADWAY OR HIGHWAY IN ORDER TO BE HIRED BY AN OCCUPANT OF THE MOTOR VEHICLE AND TO BE TRANSPORTED TO WORK AT A DIFFERENT LOCATION IF THE MOTOR VEHICLE BLOCKS OR IMPEDES THE NORMAL MOVEMENT OF TRAFFIC.
C. IT IS UNLAWFUL FOR A PERSON WHO IS UNLAWFULLY PRESENT IN THE UNITED STATES AND WHO IS AN UNAUTHORIZED ALIEN TO KNOWINGLY APPLY FOR WORK, SOLICIT WORK IN A PUBLIC PLACE OR PERFORM WORK AS AN EMPLOYEE OR INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR IN THIS STATE.
1. TRANSPORT OR MOVE OR ATTEMPT TO TRANSPORT OR MOVE AN ALIEN IN THIS STATE IN A MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION IF THE PERSON KNOWS OR RECKLESSLY DISREGARDS THE FACT THAT THE ALIEN HAS COME TO, HAS ENTERED OR REMAINS IN THE UNITED STATES IN VIOLATION OF LAW.
2. CONCEAL, HARBOR OR SHIELD OR ATTEMPT TO CONCEAL, HARBOR OR SHIELD AN ALIEN FROM DETECTION IN ANY PLACE IN THIS STATE, INCLUDING ANY BUILDING OR ANY MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION, IF THE PERSON KNOWS OR RECKLESSLY DISREGARDS THE FACT THAT THE ALIEN HAS COME TO, HAS ENTERED OR REMAINS IN THE UNITED STATES IN VIOLATION OF LAW.
3. ENCOURAGE OR INDUCE AN ALIEN TO COME TO OR RESIDE IN THIS STATE IF THE PERSON KNOWS OR RECKLESSLY DISREGARDS THE FACT THAT SUCH COMING TO, ENTERING OR RESIDING IN THIS STATE IS OR WILL BE IN VIOLATION OF LAW.
Not being lawyers or law enforcement officers, it is unclear to us whether or not suspicion of transporting an unauthorized immigrant is grounds to stop a vehicle under the bill. More importantly though, what constitutes suspicion of being an unauthorized immigrant is not defined. Considering the law’s language about crimes committed while using a motor vehicle – it seems reasonable to assume that a police officer could not only request identification from an individual who “looks like they could be an illegal immigrant” but also could pull over a car occupying individuals who look the same as well.
In addition the bill makes it a crime of trespassing for an unauthorized immigrant to be “PRESENT ON ANY PUBLIC OR PRIVATE LAND IN THIS STATE” – therefore to indicate as Gregory/Brewer do that “you’re going to be in a situation where if somebody’s being investigated for a crime” is not applicable, because suspicion of being an unauthorized immigrant is essentially the same as suspicion of trespassing.
Therefore the ultimate statement made by Mr. Gregory, even in passing on the argument of another, obscures the facts in a way that might mislead the viewer.
(UPDATE 4/29: PolitiFact agrees)
Number of Unauthorized Immigrants in the United States
Senator Richard Shelby (R – AL)
Erin Burnett (CNBC)
SEN. SHELBY: Well, I agree with that. States are frustrated. People are frustrated because they believe that the federal government, the immigration people, have not enforced the laws. We have 12, 15 million illegal immigrants in this country. You say why? So I think that begets what’s going on in Arizona.
According to the most recent number we could find, from a Department of Homeland Security report released in February, as of 2009 the population of unauthorized immigrants in the United States was 10.8 million, while an April 2009 Pew Hispanic Center report indicated the number was then 11.9 million. So save the high end of his remark we’ll give Shelby a “TRUE” on this one. However:
MR. GREGORY: You have–you–Erin, a debate over the merits of this, whether there should be comprehensive reform. Senator Mitch McConnell is saying the time is not right to pursue this kind of reform. And you heard Senator Shelby say, well, maybe it might be right. What’s interesting for Democrats is do they want immigration reform when, if you have a lot more people who are here legally, that could have an impact on healthcare reform. If you’re trying to make the numbers work and you have all these people who could get additional health insurance benefits from the government, doesn’t that make it hard to rein in costs?
MS. ERIN BURNETT: Oh, it certainly does. I mean, it comes right to the heart of the healthcare issue. I mean, when you look at the numbers here, what are the numbers we always hear, 20 million people are in this country illegally and that would, according to a lot of insurance executives, that’s really the lion’s share of the, the people who are currently uninsured. So there is a clear link to be made on that front.
The only place we could find the 20 million number was a quite out-of-date 2005 Bear Sterns report, thus we give a “FALSE” to Ms. Burnett here. Then there is also:
Percentage of Uninsured who are Unauthorized Immigrants
Erin Burnett (CNBC)
Regarding the same above quote from Ms. Burnett, keeping in mind that she appears to be passing along the opinions of insurance executives: according to a March CBO report, only 2% of the “post-policy” 50 million non-elderly uninsured are unauthorized immigrants. A March 2009 FactCheck.org piece put the number at 21%. Either way neither could be called a “lions share” and so we also give this one a “LIKELY FALSE”.
Clarification of whether anti-Too Big to Fail was present in Sunday’s version of the “Dodd Bill”
Senator Christopher Dodd (D – CT)
This was a tricky one because Dodd never explicitly said that ending Too Big to Fail was already in the bill as much as he said that it would be. There certainly seemed to be implications though, Dodd talking about how “tight” the bill was in regards to the issue, etc. That being so we wanted to point to PolitiFact’s excellent analysis of somewhat similar (and party line) statements that Senator Sherrod Brown (D – OH) made on Sunday’s This Week:
However, despite some differences in wording, Brown’s exchange mirrors a statement we analyzed four days earlier and rated Barely True. In that comment, we looked at what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in an April 19, 2010, floor speech — that the bill “will end taxpayer bailouts.” Bailouts have become a special focus of attention because they are especially unpopular among Americans today. Republican pollster Frank Luntz has advised opponents of regulation that “the single best way to kill any legislation is to link it to the Big Bank Bailout.” And when lawmakers talk about firms that are “too big to fail,” they are referring to the risk that the government — and therefore the taxpayers — could be on the hook for bailing them out if things turn bad.
We rated Reid’s statement Barely True because while the bill’s provisions are designed to reduce the likelihood of future bailouts, the bill does not include a provision that actually bars future bailouts. As a result, we concluded that despite taking significant strides to curb future bailouts, Reid’s use of the term “end” was too definitive to be accurate.
Make sure you read the whole analysis from PolitiFact here – and while they gave Brown a “Barely True” we are forced to stick with “HALF TRUE” because of the lack of any direct statement of Dodd’s that we can specifically take on.
Once again this was an experiment and we welcome your feedback. We had not planned for Meet The Facts to be a project that actually fact-checked Meet The Press, but it seemed a logical step in the midst of what was a very successful opening week for this effort. Having now had our first taste of this process, done as Mr. Gregory insists all viewers must – on our own – it has only reinforced for us how ridiculous it is to expect viewers to do this work themselves. Please consider encouraging others to take action so that we can go back to passing our classes and paying attention to our girlfriends.
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Special thanks to Jonah Ogles who was our ace-in-the-hole volunteer on this (and hopefully next) week’s fact-check.