PolitiFact Georgia and the AJC Truth-O-Meter kept it relevant this past week and completed four fact checks of timely national and local news and entertainment issues.
We completed a triumvirate of checks of claims made by former President Jimmy Carter, this time about the gender wage gap. We dug into the government surveillance debate and examined laws governing monitoring of Americans’ phone calls. A day before a key state utility vote, we powered through a check linking solar power and higher electricity rates. And to end the week, we checked on a claim linking Paula Deen and Barack Obama.
Abbreviated versions of our fact checks are below. Full versions can be found at: www.politifact.com/georgia/.
U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland: “It is against the law for the NSA to record or monitor Americans’ phone calls without getting a specific FISA warrant to do so.”
Westmoreland, a Republican from Coweta County, made this statement in an online op-ed last month, in an attempt to clarify the federal government’s electronic surveillance powers. He said claims by data leaker Edward Snowden that the government can arbitrarily eavesdrop on Americans’ phone calls were a lie.
Our research found that surveillance of non-U.S. citizens overseas who the government believes may be involved in terrorist activities is allowed without a court order. Updates to Congress are required twice a year for that program.
For surveillance of U.S. citizens inside and outside the country, though, the law requires a court order.
Congressional testimony by intelligence officials and comments from President Barack Obama also supported Westmoreland’s claim. The rules are different if you’re not a U.S. citizen, but the Georgia congressman specifically referenced U.S. citizens.
We rated Westmoreland’s claim True.
Former President Jimmy Carter: Women in the United States are paid about 70 percent of what men earn for the same work.
Carter made this claim during a session of the Carter Center’s conference on women held last month. His statement is similar to several claims about the gender wage gap that PolitiFact has already examined.
In this case, we found that Carter’s main source document provided information on an international, not a national wage gap. And for this country, the figure he used is actually the wage gap between all men and black women.
If we assume Carter misspoke and meant 77 percent — the most widely used wage gap figure from a recent census report — his claim would be incorrect because that figure does not factor in occupations nor compare specific jobs.
Carter did get some credit for his overall theme that a general pay gap persists between men and women for most jobs, a fact that has been proved by various sets of data.
We rated Carter’s claim Mostly False.
Americans for Prosperity, Georgia chapter: Electricity rates are 40 percent higher in states that have required utility companies to use a certain amount of renewable energy such as solar power.
In the time leading up to a vote by the Georgia Public Service Commission on whether to require Georgia Power to increase its use of solar energy, AFP’s state chapter sent this claim out in an email. The chapter does not want Georgia to enact the same guidelines here.
The statement touched off debate among conservatives. Some say renewable energy has created more jobs and diversity in energy sources. Others object to forcing the marketplace to use renewable energy, which some view as too expensive.
Our research found that the claim is based on a study that appears accurate. But there is widespread news coverage that solar prices have fallen significantly in the past five years. It may be premature to make a correlation between the solar market and electricity prices.
Although the claim was based on accurate data, it was missing some important details.
We rated AFP’s claim Half True.
Larry Elder: Paula Deen supported and campaigned for Barack Obama.
In the midst of Savannah cooking maven Paula Deen’s discrimination lawsuit, Elder, a conservative radio talk show host, made this claim in an online Investors Business Daily article. To counter claims that Deen is racist, Elder is among political commentators who have noted her supposed support of President Barack Obama.
The claim has been repeated in various other news outlets, and they all seemed to track back to an Us Weekly Magazine slideshow of celebrities and their political affiliations. Our research into her voting record, Obama campaign contributions and political experts did not find any information to substantiate Deen supporting Obama. The magazine could not provide us any evidence either.
We did find a cooking segment with Deen and Michelle Obama in 2008, but it was not a political endorsement. Cindy McCain and Sarah Palin were invited to cook as well.
We rated Elder’s claim — and Us Weekly’s slideshow information — false.
HOW DOES POLITIFACT GEORGIA’S TRUTH-O-METER WORK?
Our goal is to help you find the truth in American politics. Reporters from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution fact-check statements by local, state and national political leaders, including lobbyists and interest groups. We then rate them on the AJC Truth-O-Meter.
To fact-check the claim, reporters first contact the speaker to verify the statement. Next, the research begins. Reporters consult a variety of sources, including industry and academic experts. This research can take a few hours or a few days, depending on the claim. Reporters then compile the research into story form and include a recommended Truth-O-Meter ruling.
The fact check then moves on to a three-member panel of editors who debate the statement and the reporter’s recommended Truth-O-Meter ruling. The panel votes on a final ruling; majority prevails.