PolitiFact Has Sucked for a Good Long Time

I gave up on PolitiFact a couple of years ago—long before the recent ridiculousness about the claim that House Republicans voted to end Medicare was named their Lie of the Year. The truth is that if you go to PolitiFact (I don’t recommend it, so I won’t provide a link), you will see that in general, the Republicans do worse than the Democrats. But even still, this greatly understates how much more lying goes on amongst conservatives than liberals. The biggest problem has to do with what PolitiFact chooses to fact check. For example, George Will’s constant stream of lies and misinformation about climate change never seem to interest PolitiFact.

Today, PolitiFact checked a number of things in the President’s State of the Union speech. In particular, they found his claim that businesses had created three million jobs in the last 22 months “half true.” Why? What was wrong with that claim? Nothing. So why did they say it was half true? Because PolitiFact had divined that Obama implied that government policy had something to do with it. Hence: half true. Apparently, the people at PolitiFact have never seen Dragnet; Just the facts, Ma’am.

This morning, Paul Krugman wrote about when facts aren’t facts about the half true designation. He was one of many. So PolitiFact, showed, in addition to being useless, they have no backbone; they changed the “half true” into “mostly true.” This did not help matters, because what the President said was in fact true. Krugman wrote again on finding the truth. He wrote

[F]act-checking should be about checking facts—not about trying to impose some sort of Marquess of Queensbury rules on how you’re allowed to use facts. Aside from undermining the mission, this makes the whole thing subjective—notice that Politifact wasn’t even analyzing what Obama said, they were analyzing their impression about what he might have been trying to imply. Leave that for the talking heads!

Rachel Maddow provides an excellent summary. And she ends it properly: “You’re fired!” Better late than never, everyone. Welcome to my world!

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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