Fact Checking the Fact Checkers (cont.)
From the Scrapbook.
Oct 1, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 03 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Over the last year or so, the argument has been made many times in these pages that media “fact checking” organizations are a discredit to the journalism profession. Further discrediting the journalism profession at this point is no easy thing to do, yet fact checkers seem more than equal to the task.
There are a lot of sophisticated ways to explain why media fact checkers are bad, but the simplest is just to tally up their rulings. A new study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University examined 98 statements rated by PolitiFact from June 1 to September 11. “A majority of the Obama campaign’s statements (55 percent) were rated as true or mostly true, compared to one out of four statements (26 percent) by the Romney campaign,” concludes the study. “The difference is even greater at the other end of the spectrum, where 26 percent of the Romney campaign’s statements were rated as either false or ‘Pants on Fire,’ compared to only 5 percent of the Obama campaign’s statements.”
This discrepancy is not because the Romney campaign is egregiously truth-challenged—which is no doubt what will be argued by Obama partisans and the mainstream media, but because the “fact checking” enterprise is more often than not partisan. If you read Mark Hemingway’s “Obama’s Palace Guard” on page 24 of this week’s issue, you’ll see that PolitiFact’s two “Pants on Fire” ratings for the Romney campaign regarding welfare reform weren’t just wrong; they demonstrated an adamantine unwillingness to try to understand the issue at hand. Such examples can easily be multiplied.
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