PolitiFact: The Roundup

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 hours or a few days or even longer, 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 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.

Gov. Nathan Deal, congressional candidate Rick Allen, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and the head of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency all took a ride last week on the AJC Truth-O-Meter, courtesy of PolitiFact and PolitiFact Georgia.

Deal and Charley English, GEMA’s director, were fact-checked on statements they made about Tuesday’s traffic-snarling snowstorm.

We looked at McConnell over a statement he made on the minimum wage, and we examined a claim by Allen, who is trying to unseat U.S. Rep. John Barrow.

Abbreviated versions of our fact checks are below.

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Full versions can be found at www.politifact.com/georgia/.

Gov. Nathan Deal: “We have been confronted with an unexpected storm that has hit the metropolitan area.”

Motorists stuck for hours and hours on ice-covered roads. Cars abandoned on I-285. Children forced to spend the night in schools.

Across metro Atlanta, nearly everyone was saying they had never seen anything like this.

At a late-night news conference just hours after the Tuesday chaos began, Deal offered his initial assessment.

“As you know, we have been confronted with an unexpected storm that has hit the metropolitan area,” the governor said.

Deal is correct that some forecasters predicted metro Atlanta would not get the brunt of the storm. The closer the storm came to the region, the more apparent it was that metro Atlanta would see rough weather.

Deal’s statement contains an element of truth — there were conflicting weather reports as the fast-moving storm approached.

But there is a lot of context necessary here. The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for metro Atlanta before dawn Tuesday.

Ultimately, it is the job of elected leaders to make the correct calls based on the best information available. The governor and other elected officials had that information from some sources hours before the storm struck.

We rated Deal’s statement as Mostly False.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.: “The minimum wage is mostly an entry-level wage for young people.”

To back up McConnell’s statement last week on “Fox News Sunday,” a spokesman referred us to a study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Characterizations of Minimum Wage Workers,” released in February 2013.

According to the report, of the 75 million people making hourly wages in

2012, about 1.6 million earned the minimum wage, while an additional 2 million

earned less than $7.25 an hour.

The underlying data in the report largely back up McConnell’s claim. In fact,

the report even says that minimum-wage workers “tend to be young.”

McConnell goes a bit too far in calling these jobs “entry-level.” For

most young people, these are part-time jobs in the food or retail businesses or

similar industries with little hope for career advancement.

We rated McConnell’s statement as Mostly True.

Republican congressional candidate Rick Allen: “You want to #AuditTheFED? @RepJohnBarrow doesn’t.”

Allen’s statement, made in a tweet, involves a movement to audit the Federal Reserve, commonly called the Fed, that gained momentum in 2009 after the financial crisis a year earlier. Lawmakers wanted to examine the Fed’s emergency lending to financial institutions in the months leading up to and after the crisis. At its peak, the Fed’s lending totaled $1.16 trillion, according to news accounts.

One of the leaders of the Audit the Fed movement was U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, a now-retired House member from Texas who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2008 and 2012. Paul introduced a bill in February 2009 to conduct an audit.

Paul’s legislation had 300 sponsors, including U.S. Rep. John Barrow, a Democrat whose 12th District includes Augusta.

To support his candidate’s claim, Allen spokesman Dan McLagan pointed to a vote by Barrow on the bill on June 30, 2010. Barrow voted against what is described in federal records as “a motion to recommit a conference report with instructions.”

“(Barrow) co-sponsored the bill, then voted against it,” McLagan said. “That is John Barrow in a nutshell — everything is half true because he supports both sides of every issue.”

A Barrow’s spokesman explained the vote by saying the purpose of the motion to recommit was to effectively kill the bill.

Two other bills on the subject have been introduced, and Barrow signed on as co-sponsors.

McLagan insisted his candidate’s Twitter post was correct, citing the 2010 vote.

Barrow, though, has co-sponsored and voted for legislation in favor of an audit.

We rated Allen’s claim False.

Georgia Emergency Management Agency director Charley English: “It still had not gotten terrible on the roads” by 2 to 3 p.m. Tuesday.

English made his comment about road conditions during a briefing for reporters Wednesday following Atlanta’s traffic-snarling snowstorm the day before.

Gov. Nathan Deal didn’t agree with English’s assessment. And he said real-time traffic maps that watch congestion in the city were an unfavorable red at 12:36 p.m.

Although conditions would get much worse — forcing students to stay overnight at schools and thousands to abandon or camp in their cars — it was bad in the time frame English was talking about. Just ask state troopers who worked 91 wrecks in metro Atlanta between noon and 3 p.m. that day.

On Thursday, English said he’d made “some inaccurate and regretful comments at the press conference Wednesday.”

He did attempt to walk back his initial error. That is the only thing that saves him from PolitiFact Georgia’s lowest rating.

We rate English’s initial statement as False.