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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


The Contorno file:

Twitter: @scontorno

  1. PolitiFact: Fact-checking U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's new book

    State Roundup

    Sen. Marco Rubio's new book, American Dreams, makes its appearance at a fascinating moment for the Republican Party. The GOP has just taken control of both chambers of Congress, and candidates like Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney are signaling their intentions for 2016 presidential runs.

    Rubio, a potential presidential hopeful himself, argues in his book that now is the time for Republicans to talk about their own big ideas....

    “If (low-income) people work and make more money, they lose more in benefits than they would earn in salary,” Sen. Marco Rubio writes in his new book. PolitiFact investigated that statement and rated it Mostly False.
  2. PolitiFact: What we know about Steve Scalise attending a white power event (w/video)


    How Rep. Steve Scalise, the third-ranking Republican in the House, came to speak at a white supremacist rally in 2002 — or right before it — remained a confusing controversy as Congress returned for its new session.

    Conflicting accounts and the fog of time have all clouded the events of May 2002, when the European-American Unity and Rights Organization held a conference in the New Orleans area. The group, identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group with anti-Semitic and racist writings, was headed by David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and prominent Louisiana politician....

    House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the third-ranking Republican in the House, says he rejects all forms of bigotry. The fog of time makes it hard to establish to whom he did or didn’t speak 13 years ago.
  3. PolitiFact: Fact-checking Ferguson and police issues in 2014


    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....

    Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani gestures towards the family of slain New York City police officer Wenjian Liu, as Liu's wife, Pei Xia Chen, center, and his mother Xiu Yan Li, left, sit with family member Kevin Lee at the Stephen Siller Tunnels to Towers Foundation headquarters on the Staten Island borough of New York, Friday, Dec. 26, 2014.  The Tunnels to Towers Foundation announced they will raise money to pay off the home mortgages for the widows of Liu and NYPD officer Rafael Ramos.  Both officers were killed in Brooklyn by Ismaaiyl Brinsley on Saturday. (AP Photo/The Advance, Anthony DePrimo)  NYC LOCALS OUT NO SALES,  ONLINES OUT,  TV OUT,  MAGS OUT, NYC OUT, MANDATORY CREDITFormer New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani gestures towards the family of slain NYPD Officer Wenjian Liu, as Liu's wife, Pei Xia Chen, center, and his mother Xiu Yan Li, left, sit with family member Kevin Lee Friday, Dec. 26, 2014, after the Stephen Siller Tunnels to Towers Foundation announced they will raise money to pay off the home mortgages for the widows of Liu and his partner Rafael Ramos, in the Staten Island borough of New York. On Dec. 20, Liu and Ramos were sitting in their patrol car on a Brooklyn street when they were gunned down in an ambush shooting by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who later shot himself. Giuliani has pledged a $20,000 donation to the foundation. (AP Photo/Staten Island Advance, Anthony DePrimo)
  4. PolitiFact: Why most Cubans don't have Internet (w/video)


    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....

    Students stand outside a building to find an Internet signal for their phones in Havana, Cuba. In programs revealed by the Associated Press, USAID secretly created a primitive social media program called ZunZuneo.
  5. PolitiFact: Is America younger than its rivals thanks to immigration?


    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.
  6. PunditFact: Are 1 in 5 college women sexual assault victims?


    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.
  7. PolitiFact's guide to harmony and accuracy at Thanksgiving dinner


    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]
  8. PolitiFact checks Charlie Crist, Rick Scott statements in final debate


    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
  9. PunditFact fact-checks the Sept. 21 news shows


    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]

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


    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, an advocacy group for young Americans. 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.
  11. PunditFact: Fact-checking the Sunday news shows


    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
  12. PunditFact fact-checks the Sunday Aug. 31 shows


    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."...

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


    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.
  14. PolitiFact: Clearing the air on coal issues (w/video)


    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.
  15. PolitiFact: Why Clinton, in '75, defended an accused rapist


    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.