Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

PunditFact fact-checks the Sunday news shows

Renewed talk about the NSA's spying programs gave pundits and politicians the opportunity to revisit history on the Sunday talk shows.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., argued on NBC's Meet the Press that the NSA collection of phone records might have foiled the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks if the program had been in place sooner.

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer noted on Fox News Sunday that new spying techniques may be appropriate because "the threat has changed."

And over on ABC's This Week, conservative pundit Bill Kristol attempted to use President Barack Obama as an example of how knee-jerk reactions against the NSA surveillance program could be misguided.

He said Obama "came into office very concerned about" wiretappings but "then he became president of the United States, he got all the briefings ... (and) he decided ... the balance is probably pretty appropriately struck."

Kristol for the most part gets his history correct, PunditFact found.

Obama was a reliable critic of the post-Sept. 11 surveillance efforts launched by President George W. Bush during Obama's early years in the U.S. Senate. And those concerns certainly dwindled when Obama moved into the White House.

But Obama's opinions shifted, at least to some extent, even before becoming president. In 2008, Obama voted for a bill in the Senate that essentially approved warrantless wiretapping. The shift was so notable that his presidential rival at the time called him a flip-flopper, a claim PolitiFact rated True.

Because of that caveat, we rate Kristol's claim Mostly True.

Of course, like most Sundays, there also was talk about the health care law.

On Fox News Sunday, conservative pundit George Will discussed last week's announcement that people who had their health insurance canceled can now purchase a bare bones plan that only covers major medical expenses without facing the threat of a fine.

It's another change in the rollout of the law, Will said.

"At this point, it's very hard to quantify, (but) perhaps most of the law has already in some sense been waived or otherwise suspended," Will said. "The president said this week that the suspensions of the employer mandate, the individual mandate, etc., etc., etc., do not go to the core of the law. If not that, what is the core of the law?"

Will took it a bit too far, PunditFact found.

There have been a number of modest administrative changes to the law, including giving people an extra week to sign up for coverage to begin in January and giving insurance companies an extra month at the end of next year to set premiums.

In addition to the major change Will mentions, Obama also delayed a requirement that all companies with 50 or more employees provide their workers health care coverage.

While precise data are missing, the combined impact of the two major revisions could affect about 1 million Americans.

On the other side of the ledger, 3.1 million young adults have gained access to coverage through the law, another 18 million people are subject to the individual mandate and tens of millions more have benefited from requirements that health insurance companies spend premiums on care. Plus, there are the people who have enrolled for health care coverage through the expansion of Medicaid or on the federal marketplace.

That tipped the balances away from Will. We rate his claim Mostly False.

Times staff writers Jon Greenberg and Katie Sanders contributed to this report. Aaron Sharockman is the editor of

The statement

Says President Barack Obama "came into office very concerned about" wiretappings "but then he became president of the United States, he got all the briefings ... (and) he decided ... the balance is probably pretty appropriately struck."

Bill Kristol, on ABC's This Week

The ruling

PunditFact ruling: Mostly True

Obama did speak out against wiretapping while in the Senate. But his evolution on the issue started before assuming the presidency. We rate this claim Mostly True.

The statement

"Most of the (Affordable Care Act) has already in some sense been waived or otherwise suspended."

George Will, on Fox News Sunday

The ruling

PunditFact ruling: Mostly False

While there have been two high-profile alterations, it is an exaggeration to say "most" of the law has been waived or suspended. We rate this claim Mostly False.

PunditFact fact-checks the Sunday news shows 12/22/13 [Last modified: Sunday, December 22, 2013 7:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Forecast: Lots of sunshine, low humidity to start Memorial Day weekend


    The start of your long Memorial Day weekend is all sunshine this Saturday, according to WTSP 10Weather meteorologist Rick Kearbey.

    WTSP seven-day forecast on May 27, 2017.
  2. For starters: Rays at Twins, looking for another with Odorizzi starting


    UPDATE, 11:01: No Dickerson today as the Rays go with seven right-handers.

    Here is the lineup:

  3. Global computer outage grounds British flights


    LONDON — British Airways canceled all flights from London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports Saturday as a global IT failure caused severe disruption for travelers on a busy holiday weekend.

    British Airways planes are parked at Heathrow Airport in January. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, file)
  4. Road rage incident leaves uninvolved man, 52, with critical injuries in Pinellas Park


    PINELLAS PARK — A 52-year-old man was critically injured after an apparent road rage incident that shut down the area of a U.S. 19 overpass for nearly six hours on Friday, police said.

    Pinellas Park police say a man has critical injuries after a truck involved in a road rage incident slammed into him after he cut off another vehicle. (Pinellas Park Police Department)
  5. Britain lowers terror threat level to 'severe' as more arrested


    MANCHESTER, England — Britain reduced its terrorism threat level a notch, from "critical" to "severe," as authorities said major progress has been made in unravelling the plot behind the Manchester bombing. More arrests are expected.

    An army bomb disposal team works with members of the police in the Moss Side area of Manchester, England, on Saturday. British police say they are evacuating residents around a house being searched in connection with the Manchester concert bombing. Police are searching a number of properties and have 11 suspects in custody in connection with Monday's explosion at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, which killed more than 20 people and injured dozens. (Jonathan Brady/PA via AP)