PolitiFact: Roundup for past week

PolitiFact Georgia fact checks heated up the AJC Truth-O-Meter this past week with two claims receiving Pants On Fire ratings.

The first fiery falsehood was a Democratic PAC claim about women that put words in the mouth of U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey. The second claim, completed by our national colleagues, was by President Barack Obama in his attempts to defend government surveillance. We also looked at utility rates paid by Georgia customers. And whether former President Jimmy Carter was correct in his assessment of a Southern Baptist Convention resolution about family hierarchy.

Abbreviated versions of our fact checks are below. Full versions can be found at: www.politifact.com/georgia/.

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Ron Shipman: Says Georgia Power customers pay 10 percent to 15 percent below the national average for electricity.

Shipman, Georgia Power’s vice president of environmental affairs, made this claim earlier this month at a community meeting. Shipman was touting the company’s programs helping low-income Atlanta residents manage their utility costs. In general, the company contended at the meeting, its service is less expensive in comparison to other parts of the country.

Georgia Power based its claim on how much it charges its 2.4 million customers for its services.

Our research found that Georgia Power customers paid 8.7 percent less than the national average, in 2012. In 2011, we found Georgia Power customers paid 2.9 percent below the national average.

Before 2011, Georgia Power customers paid 10 percent less than the national average for eight consecutive years. They paid more than 15 percent below the national average in five of those years.

Shipman was slightly off for 2012, but right for eight of the nine years before that.

We rated Shipman’s claim as Mostly True.

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Lauren Benedict: U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey wants public schools to teach women to “stay in their place.”

Benedict — head of Georgia’s WIN List PAC aimed at helping Democratic women get elected to political office — sent out this “red meat” statement and fundraising plea denouncing Gingrey a day after his comments in support of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Gingrey, an announced Senate Republican candidate, testified last week that maybe there needs to be a class for your students to teach them the things that fathers and mothers do and the talents that each has in certain areas.

Video of Gingrey’s testimony shows he does not include the phrase for women to “stay in their place.” Benedict’s group said their use of the phrase and the quotation marks used with it was for emphasis and not a direct quote from Gingrey.

Gingrey did make statements that some critics found offensive, but Benedict quotes Gingrey as saying words that he did not utter.

We rated Benedict’s statement Pants On Fire.

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President Barack Obama: The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court “is transparent.”

Our national PolitiFact reporters checked out this claim that the president made nearly two weeks ago during a television interview while defending the use of government surveillance.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is a special court that hears government requests for warrants related to national security investigations.

Our research found that all hearings and decisions on requests for surveillance warrants are conducted in secret. Public disclosure of the court’s activities is limited to two sets of data about the requests sent annually in a letter to Congress. The most recent letter showed about 98 percent of the 1,856 applications in 2012 were approved outright. No information is provided about any of the applications.

Experts said there is good reason for the secrecy at the court, but if you’re going to operate a mostly secret court, you also don’t get to crow about how “transparent” it is.

We rated Obama’s claim Pants On Fire.

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Former President Jimmy Carter: The Southern Baptist Convention voted 13 years ago “that women were inferior and had to be subservient to their husbands.”

Carter made this claim in a Time magazine interview, as an example of one way women are ill-treated by the Southern Baptist Convention. Carter, a former Georgia governor, and his wife withdrew from the SBC in 2000.

His statement was based on a resolution that the SBC passed in 1998 that aimed to define the roles of men and women in marriage.

Our research found that Carter was wrong on the “inferior” portion of his statement. The resolution says wives are of equal value before God.

Carter interpreted the line in the resolution about wives submitting themselves to the “servant leadership” of their husbands as tantamount to wives being subservient. That is certainly open to interpretation, given the definition of “servant leadership” (one who “serves” the people he/she “leads”).

Overall, his statement contains some element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.

We rated Carter’s claim Mostly False.

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