TV news highlights: visitor logs, voter turnout, China, North Korea, United Airlines

By Katie Dahl

In this week’s look back at TV news highlights that have been fact-checked by our partners, we get a history of the White House policy on releasing visitor logs; a look at how 2016 voter turnout compared to other elections; an examination of whether United Airlines was contractually obliged against removing a ticketed passenger; a comparison of U.S. vs. China on their polluting record; and an analysis of how positively China regards Trump’s recent actions on North Korea.

Claim: In not releasing visitor logs to the public, the White House is following the same policy as every U.S. administration “from the beginning of time” except Obama (true)

Press Secretary Sean Spicer defended the White Houses’s announcement it would not be releasing names of White House visitors to the public, saying, “I think as was noted on Friday, we’re following the same policy that every administration from the beginning of time has used with respect to visitor logs.” Later in that daily press briefing, he refined his statement: “[I]t’s the same policy that every administration had up until the Obama administration.”

Former President Barack Obama’s decision to make visitor logs public was done in the name of transparency–although only after pressure from outside groups, explained Louis Jacobson for PolitiFact. But Spicer is correct that “[h]istorically speaking, the policy under Obama was the exception, rather than the rule.”

Claim: Voter turnout for the 2016 presidential race was the lowest in 20 years (false)

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, D., Vt., talked about his national tour to increase civic participation, citing a statistic on voting turnout: “So many of our people are giving up on the political process. It is very frightening. In the last presidential election, when Trump won, we had the lowest voter turnout over — in 20 years. And in the previous two years before that, in the midterm election, we had the lowest voter turnout in 70 years.”

“In fact, turnout was higher than it was in 2012,” according to Eugene Kiely at FactCheck.org. PolitiFact’s Jacobson confirmed that Sanders was wrong on the claim that 2016 had the “lowest turnout” in the last 20 years, but correct that 2014 saw the lowest turnout in 70 years. Both reporters cited the work of Michael McDonald, a political scientist at the University of Florida.

Claim: United Airlines passenger had a right to stay on the plane (false)

After United Airlines violently removed paying passenger David Dao from a plane to make room for employees, syndicated columnist Andrew Napolitano said on Fox News: “By dislodging this passenger against his will, United violated its contractual obligation. He paid for the ticket, he bought the ticket, he passed the TSA, he was in his seat, he has every right to stay there.”

“False,” wrote Joshua Gillan forPunditFact, a project of PolitiFact. “Napolitano’s blanket assertion is incorrect. Experts told us that airlines, including United, outline dozens of reasons why they might remove a passenger after he has already boarded.”

Claim: China and India pollute more than the United States (four Pinocchios)

During a recent TV interview, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said, “China and India had no obligations under the [Paris Accord] agreement until 2030.” He also claimed that “[Europe, China, India] are polluting way more than we are.”

“[B]oth countries pledge to reach these goals by 2030, meaning they are taking steps now to meet their commitments,” reported Glenn Kessler for The Washington Post’s Fact Checker. “China (but not India) does produce more carbon dioxide than the United States, but it has nearly 1.4 billion people compared to 325 million for the United States. So, on a per capita basis, the United States in 2015 produced more than double the carbon dioxide emissions of China — and eight times more than India.”

Claim: Trump on North Korea: “We’ve never seen such a positive response on our behalf from China” (half true)

Defending his decision to step back from labeling China a currency manipulator, President Donald Trump said he is working with China on a “bigger problem,” North Korea, and that the result is good, claiming, “[N]obody has ever seen such a positive response on our behalf from China.”

PolitiFact’s Jon Greenberg shared results of interviews with several experts as support for his rating of “half true” for the claim: “It is difficult to quantify a ‘positive response.’ Whether the latest moves represent a sea shift that ‘no one has ever seen,’ or the logical conclusion of a longer pattern, probably lies in the eye of the beholder.”

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About Nancy Watzman

Nancy Watzman is Managing Editor, Television Archive.
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