By Katie Dahl
This week’s highlight reel of TV News moments fact-checked by our partners at PolitiFact, FactCheck.org, and The Washington Post’s Fact Checker feature the presidential tweet during the congressional hearing about Russian influence on the election, what Germany does and doesn’t owe to NATO and the U.S., what a coal miner and single mom do and don’t pay in taxes, whether GOP amendments were included in Obamacare, and a breakdown of the statistics we’ve been hearing about the 9th Circuit.
Claim: Germany owes money to NATO and the U.S. for defense (false)
After a face-to-face meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House, President Donald Trump tweeted: “Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!” The tweet was featured on “BBC World News Today.”
PolitiFact’s Allison Graves’ analysis was that “Trump is misunderstanding how NATO’s joint defense is paid for, and that Germany doesn’t owe anything.” She explained that “[a]s of 2014, NATO’s collective agreement directed members to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense spending by 2024… Trump likely was alluding to the fact Germany has not yet met the NATO target commitment for overall defense funding… Germany only pays 1.2 percent of their GDP on defense spending.” The misunderstanding was that “Germany doesn’t pay that money to NATO or the United States… [t]he United States decides what level of military spending it wants to have, as do all other NATO members.”
Laicie Heeley, a military budget expert at the Stimson Center, a defense policy think tank, told Graves, “‘Trump seems to represent the NATO alliance as a licensing deal — one in which countries like Germany pay the United States for its power and influence…This is not the case.’”
Claim: NSA, FBI said ‘Russia did not influence electoral process’ (false)
During a House Intelligence Committee hearing on March 20, FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency (NSA) Director Michael S. Rogers were asked questions about Russian influence in the U.S. presidential election. While the hearing was still going on, President Trump tweeted, “NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process.”
According to Eugene Kiely and Robert Farley of FactCheck.org, “that’s not what Comey or Rogers told the committee.” Lauren Carroll wrote for PolitiFact: “Comey and Rogers said they believe Russia meddled in the race leading up to Election Day, chiefly by cyber-infiltrating the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations. Contrary to Trump’s tweet, they also said the intelligence community did not assess whether Russia’s actions actually had a measurable impact on the election outcome or public opinion.”
The president’s tweet itself became part of the hearing: “When later asked about the presidential tweet, Comey said it did not reflect what he and Rogers had said: ‘It certainly wasn’t our intention to say that today,’” reported Glenn Kessler from The Washington Post’s Fact Checker.
Claim: Coal miners and single moms pay for public broadcasting (it’s $.20 and $0)
While talking about the president’s proposed budget cuts, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney asked, “can we really continue to ask a coal miner in West Virginia or a single mom in Detroit to pay for these programs? The answer was no. We can ask them to pay for defense, and we will, but we can’t ask them to continue to pay for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.”
By asking the question, he seemed to insinuate that coal miners and single moms pay for public broadcasting now. Kessler looked at the numbers using the H&R Block tax calculator and the Bureau of Labor Statistics and found that “single mothers in Detroit, most of whom are living in poverty, likely pay no taxes at all and instead would be receiving funds from the U.S. government via the Earned Income Tax Credit.” And in three examples of coal mining jobs, Kessler reported that a coal miner “owed no income taxes,” a loading machine operator “paid about 20 cents of his taxes to the CPB,” and supervisors of production workers “paid 60 cents.”
Claim: Hundreds of Republican amendments were adopted in Obamacare (half true)
During a conversation about political maneuvering and obstructionism related to the proposed American Health Care Act, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D., Ill., defended the actions of Democrats offering amendments and said “hundreds of Republican amendments were adopted in the ACA.”
Reporting for PolitiFact, Gabrielle Healy found “788 amendments were submitted during the ACA’s markup in the Senate Committee for Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee (HELP). Three quarters of them were filed by the committee’s Republican members… Of those, 161 were adopted in whole or revised form.” She also noted that many of the Republican amendments were “technical in nature.” An expert, “Timothy Jost, emeritus professor of law at Washington and Lee University School of Law,” told her that ‘the basic statement that hundreds were adopted is wrong.’”
Claim: less than 1/10 of 1 percent of 9th Circuit decisions are overturned by the Supreme Court (not very helpful)
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has been in the news recently because of its decision to halt the president’s travel ban executive order. President Trump said in a news conference last month that “80 percent” of the court’s decisions are overturned. Then more recently, Rep. John Conyers Jr., D., Mich., used a very different figure, saying “less than one-tenth of one percent of 9th Circuit decisions are overturned.”
Michelle Ye Hee Lee reported “it’s more complicated than that… Most cases reviewed by the Supreme Court get reversed, so the number or rate of reversals is not necessarily reflective of the court’s performance.” The Washington Post’s Fact Checker also reported that in: “the 2014-2015 term, the 9th Circuit’s reversal rate was about 60 percent, below the average rate of 72 percent. In the 2015-2016 term, the latest year of data available, the 9th Circuit court’s reversal rate was 80 percent, and the average rate was 67 percent. This is the figure that Trump cites. …But the 80 percent figure represents a small fraction of the cases that the 9th Circuit hears in a given term — roughly one-tenth of 1 percent. This is the figure that Conyers cites.” In the end, Lee wrote, the statistics both Trump and Conyers used “[do] not add much to the debate,” because they “lack context.”
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