Fact-Checking a Reader – Rebuttal

Since last Friday (Jan. 27), when President Trump signed an executive order banning travel from seven countries for at least the next 90 days, this website has received a higher than usual response rate, largely due to a commentary I wrote last year.


Fact-Checking a Reader (Jan. 20, 2016), was written in response to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s statement “calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

Several readers took me to task saying that the executive order that President Trump signed did not specifically ban Muslims. I did make clear, in the opening sentence, “…GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.” I also reiterated candidate Trump’s original statement in the 12th paragraph.

The commentary began with an examination of the McCarran-Walter Act from 1952. “In 1932,” I wrote, “President Roosevelt and the State Department essentially shut down immigration during the Great Depression.”

Actually, I was incorrect. It was President Herbert Hoover, not Roosevelt who took the immigration action. (I caught the error when I re-examined the links to all citations listed. The original commentary has since been corrected and I apologize for misleading readers.)

Notwithstanding my own lapse, comments from several readers took issue with many of the points made, all of which – except for the Hoover gaffe – were factually correct.

In one of my own responses to readers’ comments, I pointed to one of many legal scholars who weighed-in on then-candidate Trump’s original statement:

“Assessing Trump’s plan, Stanford Law professor Jenny Martinez said ‘Excluding all people of a particular religion from entering the country on the sole basis of their religion would, in my view, clearly violate the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.’

“ ‘To the extent there are precedents for this kind of blanket discrimination,’ she told MSNBC, ‘they are ones, like the Japanese internment camps upheld by the Supreme Court in Korematsu, which all reasonable constitutional experts consider tragic mistakes that we should not repeat.’ ”

Some readers wrote to say that they did not trust the accuracy of NBC News or MSNBC, which carried the original quote.

Okay. Here is Martinez’s quote on the Stanford Law website.

Several readers wrote to remind me that, “The Constitution applies to Americans not aliens.”

Actually, that’s not correct.

“The U.S. Supreme Court,” The Hill, a Washington-based newspaper, writes, “James Madison, the second president of the United States, wrote: ‘that as they [aliens], owe, on the one hand, a temporary obedience, they are entitled, in return, to their [constitutional] protection and advantage.’ ”

Coming after the attacks on 9/11, David Cole of the Georgetown University Law Center wrote a paper on the subject in 2003.

Several readers questioned the veracity of Snopes, a fact-checking website which carried a lengthy story comparing President Jimmy Carter’s actions against Iran to those of then-candidate Donald Trump.

“By citing Snopes,” one reader wrote, “your entire article loses credibility.”

“I remain suspicious,” another reader wrote. “This article references Snopes, which is known to be a husband-wife team that has contributed to the Democratic National Committee and has been discredited before.”

FactCheck.org, a non-profit fact-checker, examined Snopes in 2009 regarding an e-mail that was widely circulated:

“ ‘…it has been learned the Mikkelson’s are very Democratic (party) and extremely liberal,’ adding: ‘There has been much criticism lately over the internet with people pointing out the Mikkelson’s liberalism revealing itself in their website findings.’ The author cites no evidence and no sources for either of these propositions.

“We asked David. He told us that Barbara is a Canadian citizen, and as such isn’t allowed to vote here or contribute money to U.S. candidates. As for him, ‘My sole involvement in politics is on Election Day to go out and vote. I’ve never joined a party, worked for a campaign or donated money to a candidate.’

“We checked online to see if he had given money to any federal candidates, and nothing turned up. Mikkelson even faxed us a copy of his voter registration form. He asked us not to post an image of it here, but we can confirm that it shows he declined to state a party affiliation when he registered last year, and also that when he registered in 2000 he did so as a Republican.

“Do the Snopes.com articles reveal a political bias? We reviewed a sampling of their political offerings, including some on rumors about George W. Bush, Sarah Palin and Barack Obama, and we found them to be utterly poker-faced. David… says, ‘We apply the same debunking standards to both sides.’ ”

In considering commentaries for this website, the first question I ask: is there an ethics-related issue here? At the time, candidate Trump’s comments regarding “a ban on all Muslims” was not only a direct assault on the ethical value of respect, but one of the founding principles of this country: freedom of religion.

Throughout this 2016 election cycle, my purpose has been to hold both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton accountable for the statements they make. In fact, I have written several critical commentaries on Clinton: Those Clinton E-Mails, Part 1 and 2, (Sept. 21, 23 2015); 7 Key Points from the F.B.I. Investigation into Clinton E-Mails (July 6, 2016); Clinton’s Latest E-Mail Battle (Oct. 17, 2016); and FBI Reviewing New Emails Linked to Clinton (Oct. 23, 2016).

Former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said it best: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

If people are going to politicize or willfully ignore facts, we are intellectually returning to a time when heretics were burned at the stake for proposing the earth revolved around the sun.

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5 comments… add one

  • Frank Schiro February 5, 2017, 1:57 pm

    Thanks for correcting the wrong facts as to which President engaged this law, which apparently is still good law, and therefore validates Trumps action, whether one agrees or disagrees emotionally. But, we are a country of laws, not emotions. I would suggest your position is also severely tweaked from your reliance on “liberal” professors, whose agenda wrongly bases their opinions on a ’emotional” narrative -wrongly stating it to be a “Muslim” ban — which is untrue. It is a “country” ban, whose countries also include Christians and no doubt other religions.

  • Jim Lichtman February 5, 2017, 5:44 pm

    All due respect, Frank, in the original commentary (Fact-Checking a Reader) from January 2016, Martinez was commenting on candidate Trump’s original statement: “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” and not the current reading of President Trump’s executive order.
    The purpose of this commentary was to rebut comments made by readers in my original of January 20, 2016.

    • Betty March 23, 2017, 7:23 pm

      When did Trump make this statement?

  • George February 20, 2017, 10:55 pm

    Unless there is another version of Trump’s executive order, the one I have read does not mention religion, or Muslims. Only countries.!

  • Cathy Miller May 10, 2017, 8:32 pm

    “The U.S. Supreme Court,” The Hill, a Washington-based newspaper, writes, “James Madison, the second president of the United States, wrote: ‘that as they [aliens], owe, on the one hand, a temporary obedience, they are entitled, in return, to their [constitutional] protection and advantage.’ ” The statement from James Madison ” ‘that as they [aliens], owe, on the one hand, a temporary obedience,” you should ask yourself just where are these aliens? One would have to assume these aliens are already living in the United States legally. Yes I can see where they would have Constitutional rights being they reside in the United States. But, where in the Constitution does it give Constitutional rights to aliens who are living in their own country. If the Travel Ban was unconstitutional this would mean the entire world and everyone in every country would then have the same rights under the Constitution of America. Our Constitution applies only to those legal aliens living in the United States and not to those who want to come to United States. To say any refugee wanting to enter the United States automatically have Constitutional rights would mean America is a Country without Boarders. We have boarders for the purpose of deciding who we let into our Country and who not to let in.

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