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Steve Contorno, Times Staff Writer

Steve Contorno

Steve Contorno is a staff writer for PolitiFact in the Tampa Bay Times Washington, D.C., bureau. He previously covered Congress and Virginia politics for the Washington Examiner as well as state and local governments in Wisconsin for the Green Bay Press-Gazette. A native of the Chicago suburbs, Steve graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelor's degree in news-editorial journalism and a minor in political science, and holds a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield, where he covered the Illinois legislature for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Phone: (202) 463-0575

Email: scontorno@tampabay.com

The Contorno file: PolitiFact.com

Twitter: @scontorno

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  1. PolitiFact: Fact-checking Ferguson and police issues in 2014

    National

    Perhaps no other news event drew more attention this year than the deadly August shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by former Ferguson, Mo., police Officer Darren Wilson.

    The shooting and ensuing protests — which rekindled in November after a grand jury chose not to charge Wilson — sparked debates about race relations in the United States, the militarization of local law enforcement and officer-involved shootings. They were amplified by several other deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police around the country....

    Marc Morial
  2. PolitiFact: Why most Cubans don't have Internet

    Perspective

    There's a good chance most Cubans won't be able to read this article. And the reason why — lack of Internet access — is a point of contention between President Barack Obama and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

    Obama on Dec. 17 announced sweeping changes to the United States' decades-old isolation policy against Cuba, promising renewed diplomatic relations and an easing of regulations on commerce. Obama said the drastic shift in approach to the Communist-controlled island would help bolster the Cuban people, who he said have suffered from America's cold shoulder....

  3. PolitiFact: Is America younger than its rivals thanks to immigration?

    Politics

    The statement

    "We are younger than our competitors, and this is entirely because of immigration."

    President Barack Obama, in a speech to business leaders

    The ruling

    "Competitors" is a loose term, but judging by the countries Obama listed in a longer excerpt of his speech, he's comparing the United States to other large economies.

    And, for the most part, he has a point. ...

    President Barack Obama answers questions about his recent executive actions on immigration at Casa Azafran in Nashville on Tuesday.
  4. PunditFact: Are 1 in 5 college women sexual assault victims?

    Politics

    Rolling Stone magazine late last week was forced to walk back its bombshell story describing a brutal gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity after intense scrutiny unveiled journalistic lapses in the reporting.

    Conservative and liberal commentators appearing Sunday on ABC's This Week agreed that the fallout from Rolling Stone's blunder would be a setback for victims of sexual assault....

    Rolling Stone backtracked on an article that described a gang rape at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house, on the University of Virginia campus, casting doubt on the alleged victim.
  5. PolitiFact's guide to harmony and accuracy at Thanksgiving dinner

    National

    You just sat down for Thanksgiving dinner, famished from a game of touch football in the back yard with all the cousins. The mashed potatoes are steaming. Your family is going around the table to say what they're thankful for — love, one another and good health aplenty.

    But there's always one person who's just a little too surly for the occasion. This person — maybe he's like Saturday Night Live's Drunk Uncle — falls asleep to cable news and doesn't like what he's learned from "the Facebook." He uses the meal to go on a diatribe about immigration and the do-nothing Congress, and before anyone can stop it, he's roped the entire table into a political debate....

    There's always one person at Thanksgiving dinner who's just a little too surly for the occasion. This person - maybe he's like Saturday Night Live's Drunk Uncle - falls asleep to cable news and doesn't like what he's learned from "the Facebook." He uses the meal to go on a diatribe about immigration and the do-nothing Congress, and before anyone can stop it, he's roped the entire table into a political debate. [NBC]
  6. PolitiFact checks Charlie Crist, Rick Scott statements in final debate

    News

    60,000 jobs for high-speed rail? No

    The statement: Tampa to Orlando high-speed rail would have created 60,000 jobs.

    Charlie Crist, during a debate Tuesday night

    The ruling

    Gov. Rick Scott refused $2.4 billion in federal funds for a proposed Tampa-to-Orlando high-speed line when he first came into office in 2011, joining several other Republican governors in rejecting federal stimulus money. But would it have created 60,000 jobs? By the Florida Department of Transportation's own estimates, the project would have created about 50,000 jobs — 23,600 direct jobs, like construction, and 26,300 indirect jobs, like those created for equipment suppliers. So right away, claiming 60,000 jobs is highballing the state's estimate. But even the 50,000-job figure is fuzzy. FDOT calculated jobs in "job-years," which refers to the number of jobs that will be funded each year. The best way to look at the rail project is to say that it would have employed directly or indirectly 6,200 workers in 2011, 21,600 workers in 2012, 18,900 workers in 2013, 2,100 workers in 2014. About 600 permanent workers would be needed to keep the rail running and about 500 spinoff jobs would have been created. That's a far cry from 60,000 jobs. We rate the statement False....

    MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 10:  Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott speaks during a debate with former Florida Governor and Democratic candidate Charlie Crist during a televised debate at NBCUniversal/Telemundo 51 on October 10, 2014 in Miramar, Florida.  Governor Scott is facing off against Crist in the November 4, 2014 governors race.   (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) 516243409
  7. PunditFact fact-checks the Sept. 21 news shows

    Politics

    President Barack Obama will have allies if he decides to expand airstrikes against the Islamic State extremist group to targets in Syria, vowed the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, on Sunday.

    Appearing on three network news shows, Power touted international support for Obama's war strategy ahead of his Wednesday address to the U.N. General Assembly. But Power would not say which countries have voiced support for airstrikes in Syria when pressed by moderators like George Stephanopoulos of ABC's This Week, who noted "not even Great Britain has said they're going to join the airstrikes."...

    President Barack Obama greets some of the 1,200 service men and women after his speech at MacDill Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014.  In the speech, Obama reaffirmed his decision not to commit ground troops to the fight and said that the U.S. will not go at it alone as he seeks to destroy ISIS. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]


  8. PolitiFact: Minimum wage means most 2-bedroom apartments are out of reach

    Politics

    What kind of apartment can you afford on a minimum-wage salary?

    Your options may be very limited.

    "There is no state in the U.S. where a 40-hour minimum wage work week is enough to afford a two-bedroom apartment," says a Facebook graphic posted Sept. 11 by OurTime.org, an advocacy group for young Americans.

    OurTime.org cited the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Each year, the National Low Income Housing Coalition publishes a report that calculates what they call the "housing wage," or the hourly wage a full-time worker must earn to afford a decent two-bedroom rental home....

    Truth-O-Meter for PolitiFact with a Mostly True ruling.
  9. PunditFact: Fact-checking the Sunday news shows

    National

    President Barack Obama sat for an interview for Sunday's Meet the Press that served dual purposes: It gave Obama a chance to show resolve against fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and it gave Chuck Todd a newsmaking interview for his debut as the show's new permanent host.

    Obama said the United States will go on "some offense" to confront the terrorist Islamic State, promising to provide details in a speech Wednesday night, the eve of the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. ...

    FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2014 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, before convening a meeting with his national security team on the militant threat in Syria and Iraq. The U.S. and its allies are trying to hammer out a coalition to push back the Islamic State group in Iraq. But any serious attempt to destroy the militants or even seriously degrade their capabilities means targeting their infrastructure in Syria. That, however, is far more complicated. If it launches airstrikes against the group in Syria, the U.S. runs the risk of unintentionally strengthening the hand of President Bashar Assad, whose removal the West has actively sought the past three years. Uprooting the Islamic State, which has seized swaths of territory in both Syria and Iraq, would potentially open the way for the Syrian army to fill the vacuum. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) BEI508
  10. PunditFact fact-checks the Sunday Aug. 31 shows

    Politics

    President Barack Obama's lack of a clear strategy to confront the Islamic State set off resounding frustration among Republicans Sunday.

    U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., lamented Obama's reluctance compared to tough talk from British Prime Minister David Cameron, who raised his country's terrorism threat level to "severe" and announced new plans to seize jihadists' passports.

    "What is President Obama waiting for?" King said on CBS' Face the Nation. "It was a year ago this all started. I remember being in the White House with (White House Chief of Staff) Denis McDonough talking about the importance of air attacks in Syria, and we had allies lined up and then the president pulled the rug out. And those allies are going to be very hard now to get back into a coalition."...

  11. PunditFact: Checking Ferguson shooting comments from the Sunday news shows

    Politics

    The killing of an unarmed black teen by a white police officer in a St. Louis suburb is raising questions about the makeup of the police department and its response to the Aug. 9 shooting.

    In some cases, answers are hard to come by.

    On Sunday, actor and civil rights activist Jesse Williams appeared on CNN's State of the Union to discuss the shooting. Williams, right, best known for his role as a doctor on Grey's Anatomy, emphasized that journalists should not sensationalize findings that don't answer questions about why 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot by police — like a security video Ferguson authorities released of Brown allegedly robbing a convenience store minutes before he was killed....

    Ferguson, Mo., police Chief Thomas Jackson is shown Saturday leaving the parking lot of a gas station, which was burned during protests, after he announced the name of the police officer responsible for the Aug. 9 shooting death of teenager Michael Brown. The officer was identified as Darren Wilson, a six-year veteran of the police force. Brown’s killing sparked several days of violent protests in the city.
  12. PolitiFact: Clearing the air on coal issues (w/video)

    Perspective

    President Barack Obama's second-term promise to tackle climate change has clashed with election-year politics.

    Much of the political debate has focused on the Environmental Protection Agency's newly proposed regulations on existing power plants. If enacted, the rules would curb carbon emissions that scientists say cause global warming.

    Misinformation about these new regulations started even before the EPA released them. ...

    In coal-rich Appalachia, Republicans — and even some Democrats — have lashed out at the Obama administration, saying in ads that a “war on coal” will close down mines and power plants across the region.
  13. PolitiFact: Why Clinton, in '75, defended an accused rapist

    National

    How Hillary Clinton at age 27 came to defend an accused rapist in rural Arkansas has suddenly become a contested piece of history in a case otherwise decided 40 years ago.

    The case resurfaced in June when the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news outlet, published a previously unreleased interview with Clinton from the 1980s. Back then, Clinton discussed her early work at a University of Arkansas legal aid clinic, where she took on the case of an indigent man charged with raping a 12-year-old girl. ...

    Evidence shows there was significant pressure on Clinton to take the case.
  14. PolitiFact: Statement on Obama's executive orders relies on incorrect premise

    National

    The statement

    "In the last three years alone, 13 times, the Supreme Court, unanimously, 9-0, including all of the president's liberal picks, have struck down the president's executive orders."

    Sean Spicer, RNC spokesman, July 6 on CNN's State of the Union

    The ruling

    This was a bit of deja vu for us. Just one week earlier, we heard a very similar claim from Rep. Bob Goodlatte. We rated it False....

  15. 'Hard Choices' not a page-turner, but mostly factual

    Perspective

    WASHINGTON

    Will she? Won't she?

    For more than a decade, Hillary Clinton's presidential aspirations have lingered around the political rumor mill. Would she take on President George W. Bush in 2004? Would 2008 be her year? Would she dare leave the State Department to mount a primary challenge to President Barack Obama in 2012? Is she ready to run again in 2016?

    Publication of Hard Choices, Clinton's memoir of her time as secretary of state, will only feed the speculation about her 2016 plans. In it, she portrays herself as a shrewd but pragmatic diplomat, and she responds sharply to Republican criticisms of her time at the State Department. ...

    Publication of Hard Choices, Clinton’s memoir of her time as secretary of state, will only feed the speculation about her 2016 plans. In it, she portrays herself as a shrewd but pragmatic diplomat, and she responds sharply to Republican criticisms of her time at the State Department.