Email messages to PolitiFact’s Lauren Carroll and Aaron Sharockman

Aug. 28, 2016 email message addressed to the PolitiFact writer/editor team of Lauren Carroll and Aaron Sharockman

Dear Lauren Carroll, Aaron Sharockman,

Your fact check of Hillary Clinton’s claim about the rise of bullying in our schools was filled with problems, but there’s one that I expect you ought to care deeply about, so I’m writing to point it out.

Your article parroted the line in Maureen Costello’s report stating that one in five of the 5,000 responses received mentioned Trump by name. In the context that was presented, it implies that the report collected roughly 1,000 reports of Trump-inspired abuse or harassment.

Respondents gave a total of 5,000 comments. Of those, one in five mentioned Trump. All other candidates were mentioned fewer than 200 times combined.

If you looked at the list of comments, then it should occur on your list of sources. I did not see it there. So I hunted it down and went over it.

Guess how many of the “Trump” mentions have to do with bullying or harassment (regardless of who received it)?

On second thought, don’t guess. Do some fact-checking.

If the great bulk of the estimated 1,000 Trump comments had nothing to do with harassment or bullying, then what relevance does the statistic carry in your fact check, other than to help mislead your audience?


We will update this page if any representative of PolitiFact responds to the message.

Second Aug. 28, 2016 email message to Lauren Carroll and Aaron Sharockman:

Dear Lauren Carroll, Aaron Sharockman

You wrote:

Teachers surveyed by the Southern Poverty Law Center study reported an increase in bullying and harassment, particularly involving anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments. Many of these teachers, unsolicited, cited Trump’s campaign rhetoric and the accompanying discourse as the likely reason for this behavior.


This paragraph is false, unless <50 out of 5,000 (or whatever denominator you try to legitimately use) counts as “many.” To my recollection, PolitiFact sets the bar for “many” higher than that when it grades the statements of politicians (one recent example). The SPLC report was a fishing expedition looking for campaign-inspired bullying and harassment. This is one of the questions asked of those taking the survey:

If you have witnessed bullying or biased language at your school—from adults or students—that mimics the rhetoric of the campaign, please tell us about it.


How can you claim that responses to this that mention Trump were unsolicited? Just because respondents weren’t asked about Trump specifically? That’s a thin distinction, isn’t it?


As with the first message, we will update this page if any representative of PolitiFact responds to the message.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.