Email message to PolitiFact’s Lauren Carroll concerning her Aug. 27, 2016 appearance on MSNBC Live.
Sent Sept. 4, 2016.
Dear Lauren Carroll,
(cc Angie Drobnic Holan)
I’m a fact checking journalist, and I’m preparing a fact check of claims you made about the “Trump Effect” on MSNBC on Aug. 27, 2016.
I’m focusing primarily on the following claim, though the fact check will address the broader context of the segment dealing with the “Trump Effect”:
“They asked about 2,000 K-12 teachers who reported in large part that they were seeing an increase in bullying, especially among immigrants, children of immigrants and Muslim students.”
Our investigation suggests around 20 of the approximately 900 responses to the lone question asking about bullying stated or implied some sort of increase. As the question simply asked teachers to tell about their observations of bullying or biased language associated in some way with campaign rhetoric, it should not surprise that the answers do not provide any real evidence of an increase in bullying. A small number of responses indicated a decrease in bullying, further muddying the water.
We would be grateful if you would consider answering a few questions relating to the issue of the so-called “Trump Effect”.
Q1: When you appeared on MSNBC on Aug. 27, 2016, had you accessed and read at least some of the “Trump Effect” document listing all the answers to the questions?
Q2: If yes, is there a reason why you did not cite for your fact check the document featuring all the answers to the survey questions? What was that reason?
Q3: If your answer to the first question was “no,” have you since found time to read a substantial number of the responses to the open-ended survey questions?
Q4: Why do you think the recorded answers to the open-ended survey questions make any kind of reasonable case for concluding that bullying and harassment have increased at all, let alone that the Trump campaign was somehow the cause?
Q5: Your fact check hinted/suggested that the experts you cited (some or all; it wasn’t clear which) believe the SPLC survey report provided reasonable evidence supporting an increase in bullying and harassment. Yet apart from a vague quotation of Shari Bauman (and not counting the author of the report), your fact check provided no verifiable evidence of such support. If you have clear evidence that the cited experts gave some credence to the idea that the SPLC report supports Clinton’s statement, would you please make it available?
Q6: I’m skeptical that ~20 responses out of about 900 (indicating about 20 people out of almost 2,000 teachers) can justify the claim that “a large part” of the survey group reported an increase in bullying or harassment. What is the correct way to understand that part of your statement?
Q7: Please feel free to send along any comments or information you feel are relevant.