The Magazine

Pants on (three-alarm) Fire

From The Scrapbook

Feb 6, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 20 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

In recent weeks, these pages have contained thousands of words on the laughable bias and general incompetence of the mainstream media’s cherished “fact checking” columns. We’ve gone back to the well so many times we risk becoming the Baby Jessica of media criticism. Alas, it’s hard to ignore these pompous gatekeepers.

Picture of a truth-o-meter on the setting "pants on fire"

In last week’s issue, Mark Hemingway noted that there is a special congressional election in -Oregon’s 1st District being held on January 31, thanks to the resignation of disgraced Democrat David Wu. It’s a surprisingly close race, and Democrat Suzanne Bonamici and Republican Rob Cornilles have been making rather pointed accusations against each other.

So PolitiFact Oregon—which works in partnership with the state’s most influential media outlet, the -Oregonian—has been trying and failing to play referee in the race by evaluating the candidates’ statements. First, PolitiFact gave Cornilles its “Pants on Fire” rating for an ad claiming that Bonamici, a state legislator, voted to raise taxes 60 times. Now depending on how broadly you define “tax,” the claim is defensible. But if you want to split hairs—and boy, does PolitiFact ever like to do that—then you would say not that Bonamici has raised taxes 60 times, but that she has raised taxes and fees 60 times.

Even if you accept that Cornilles may not have been 100 percent accurate, it’s still hard to argue he deserved a “Pants on Fire” rating—the acme of dishonesty on PolitiFact’s scale. His underlying message that Bonamici has raised taxes and generally made life more expensive for people in a state where the tax rate tops out at a whopping 11 percent strikes us as far from misleading. In any event, Cornilles modified his line of attack in a later campaign ad, claiming that Bonamici “voted for higher taxes and fees on the middle class and small business,” which would be deemed accurate by the criteria PolitiFact had laid out.

But not content that PolitiFact was, as usual, playing fast and loose to make Republican rhetoric appear false, Bonamici doubled down. She responded to Cornilles’s revised advertising with an ad of her own, claiming that “Oregonian’s PolitiFact found this attack to be so FALSE that it was rated ‘Pants on Fire.’ ”

This in turn prompted PolitiFact to give Bonamici’s ad a “Pants on Fire” rating for saying that Cornilles’s second ad had been given a “Pants on Fire” rating, when the truth was Cornilles had been given that unfair rating for a substantively similar claim that was phrased differently in his previous ad.

If you find sorting that all out bewildering, we don’t blame you. We have no idea whether the people writing Bonamici’s ad were themselves confused about which “Pants on Fire” referred to which. Perhaps they were hoping to hide Bonamici’s record on taxes and fees behind the smokescreen PolitiFact created by wantonly incinerating all those trousers. Either way, it’s “Pants on Fire” all the way down.

We’d ask that God have mercy on the souls of Oregon’s needlessly confused voters, but PolitiFact is adamant there is no higher authority to appeal to. We’re not kidding. In its latest declaration that Bonamici’s britches are burning, PolitiFact’s website admonishes the candidate: “Do not take PolitiFact Oregon’s name in campaign vain.”

The Scrapbook is unsure why PolitiFact is so arrogant when it’s obvious to all they’ve (again) eviscerated their credibility by mucking up a pretty simple debate. We can only assume their casual blasphemy was an attempt at humor. But frankly, who cares whether their tongue is in cheek when their head is so far up their own incendiary posterior?

39 Years Too Many

Last week marked the 39th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. One of the most distressing things about observing this annual disgrace is how liberal America uses the occasion to pay obeisance to the court’s reasoning. One may argue abortion should be legal; in that case, the answer is legislation. As many pro-choice scholars have been forced to concede, the Roe majority tortured the Constitution to make it say what they wanted. As a piece of legal reasoning, Roe’s finding of a “right to privacy” in the “emanations” and “penumbras” of the Constitution was an embarrassment.

This latest anniversary The Scrapbook found itself marveling at how inconsistent Roe’s liberal cheerleaders are in celebrating this alleged “right to privacy.” Our ruminations were prompted by the gloved finger of a federal employee inserted in the waistband of our pants. Of course, The Scrapbook had it coming. We were guilty of the crime of being present at an airport with intent to travel. 

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 19 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers