Jenna Fischer, the actress best known as Pam on NBC’s The Office, prompted a bit of a Twitter tussle before Christmas.
"I can't stop thinking about how school teachers can no longer deduct the cost of their classroom supplies on their taxes...something they shouldn't have to pay for with their own money in the first place. I mean, imagine if nurses had to go buy their own syringes. #ugh," Fischer tweeted on Dec. 23.
The tweet attracted 66,000 retweets and 223,000 likes. (Fischer has about 750,000 followers.)
But the tweet was wrong, relying on an outdated proposal. (After this fact-check was posted, Fischer deleted the tweet; see "After the Fact" below.)
The tax bill unveiled by House Republicans in November would have scrapped the deduction. But amid an outcry from teachers and their allies -- we wrote about opposition from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., here -- it was stripped before the House and Senate passed identical versions of the bill and President Trump signed it on Dec. 22. (The Senate bill actually would have doubled the deduction, but that idea was rejected too.)
A number of Twitter users pointed this out, including one identified as Matt Rossetto, who snarked later that day that Fischer’s tweet "is 100% wrong, because the final bill KEPT this deduction, but 14,000 RT’s later..."
Fischer noticed Rossetto’s tweet and fired back, "It was capped at $250 which is woefully insufficient especially considering they shouldn't have to go out of pocket at all. #iloveteachers."
Some Twitter users, however, still found fault with Fischer, since $250 was always the limit for that particular deduction -- it was not lowered due to the new law. Rossetto, for instance, tweeted back, "It WAS $250 before the bill and hasn’t changed. If you’re going to grandstand, get it right."
Finally, on Christmas Day, Fischer returned to Twitter to acknowledge her critics.
She tweeted, "Thanks for your tweets! I had some facts wrong. Teachers surveyed by Scholastic in 2016 personally spent an average of $530 on school supplies for students. Teachers who worked at high-poverty schools spent an average of $672. The tax deduction was capped at $250."
Fischer didn’t explicitly acknowledge that the $250 limit existed before the Republican-backed bill, but she was right on the other statistics. They refer to a national survey of 4,721 public school educators for Scholastic by the firm YouGov in July and August 2016.
As of the time this article was published, however, Fischer’s initial correction tweet had garnered far less interest than her original one -- 830 retweets and about 6,600 likes.
Fischer tweeted that after enactment of the Republican tax bill, "school teachers can no longer deduct the cost of their classroom supplies on their taxes."
As numerous Twitter users pointed out, that is incorrect -- the newly signed tax bill does not affect the existing deduction for teacher expenses. Fischer later acknowledged that "I had some facts wrong" and deleted the tweet.
We rate her initial tweet False.
After the Fact
Jenna Fischer deletes tweet, apologizes
Added on Dec. 27, 2017, 5:23 p.m.
A few hours after we published our article, Jenna Fischer tweeted that she was deleting her original, incorrect tweet and apologized. Here’s the text of the statement she tweeted on Dec. 27, 2017.
"I made a mistake and I want to correct it. After reading your feedback and doing additional research I discovered that I tweeted something that was not accurate.
"Last month, the House of Representatives voted for a tax bill that did kill a $250 deduction for teachers to buy classroom supplies, but in the final bill the deduction was restored. I feel genuinely bad about getting my facts wrong and I’m sorry. I did not mean to spread misinformation. I was well-intentioned, but I was behind on my research.
"So, I’ve deleted the tweet. Because, I believe accuracy is important.
"For a minute I thought, ‘Maybe I don’t need to delete my tweet because it started a great dialogue about how teachers shouldn’t have to go out of pocket to pay for school supplies! I love teachers! True, I had a fact wrong about the tax deductions. But, I’ve started a dialogue!’
"Listen, I love a good dialogue. In fact, what I treasure most about our democracy is the dialogue we share with each other, through conversations, social media and the press. But part of having a dialogue means listening and learning and admitting when you’re wrong. Tweet deleted,
"I’m not ashamed to say I was wrong and I’m not ashamed to correct it. I was taught that taking responsibility is the right thing to do. (Thanks Mom and Dad!) Please accept my apology.
"Thanks for listening, for your feedback, and for being kind. And thank you to our teachers who do so much more than we will ever known -- opening their hearts (and often their wallets) to educate our children."
"With love, Jenna."