Editor's note: David Jolly is PolitiFact's Republican guest columnist and a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives serving Florida's 13th congressional district from 2014-17. Read more about the guest columnist position here.
In this critique, Jolly is writing about a fact-check of a claim made by President Donald Trump about the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting, which you can read here. His post has been edited only for style and grammar.
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As the nation continues to debate which gun policies might provide for the safety of our schools and communities, PolitiFact demonstrated in a single column the critical importance fact-checkers serve in both informing the American public as well as holding politicians and advocates on both sides of the debate accountable for their assertions.
Donald Trump has repeatedly maintained that some school teachers should be armed and that gun free zones create an environment more vulnerable to deadly violence. To make his case, the president has cited at least twice the June 2016 incident at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., as proof that having personnel with firepower within a building could prevent a mass shooting -- or as firearm advocates often say, 'a good guy with a gun could have stopped the bad guy with a gun.'
"You take Pulse nightclub," Trump said. "If you had one person in that room that could carry a gun and knew how to use it, it wouldn’t have happened, or certainly to the extent that it did."
The problem for both the president and his theory is that an armed officer and 15-year veteran of the Orlando Police Department, Adam Gruler, was actually working security at Pulse that fateful night, and indeed engaged the shooter directly with gunfire. Forty-nine people still lost their lives.
PolitiFact rightly rated as False
the president's statement that an armed security guard could have saved those 49 victims.
Mark Twain once wrote, "A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes." So to in politics, lies can seemingly fully inform public policy reactions before the facts are even fairly considered. Case in point, politicians in Washington, D.C., and Tallahassee, Fla., have moved to consider proposals similar to the president's suggestion that more school personnel should be armed.
Facts are important. We know today that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. President Barack Obama was never going to close Guantanamo in the first year of his presidency. Climate change is real. The meaning of 'is' is always is. And, no, the Trojan Horse was not a victory trophy offered up by the Greeks.
How politicians use and interpret true facts to influence their policy decisions is rightly a matter of their own personal judgment, for which they are ultimately held accountable by voters.
But whether those politicians are actually offering facts or mere falsehoods in justifying their proposals is increasingly a matter for which fact-checking organizations are necessary to provide accountability in our political debates.
In this case, President Trump's statement on a matter of critical public safety and national gun policy misinformed the American people because it was contemptuously false. PolitiFact was correct to rate it as such.