Mar 9, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 25 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Last week National Review’s Jonah Goldberg and Kevin Williamson were left to sort out one of the most inane and idiotic media “fact checker” efforts The Scrapbook has ever seen. And when you consider what has appeared in these pages regarding PolitiFact, that’s saying something (see, among other entries, Mark Hemingway’s “Lies, Damned Lies, and ‘Fact Checking’ ” from our December 19, 2011, issue).
It all started with this line from a Goldberg column: “As my National Review colleague Kevin Williamson notes, ‘Everybody wants to know what Scott Walker and Sarah Palin think about evolution, but almost nobody is asking what Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama think about homeopathy, acupuncture, aromatherapy and the like.’ Even though such remedies have been given elevated legitimacy under the Affordable Care Act.”
PolitiFact examined Goldberg’s contention that Obamacare has given “elevated legitimacy” to quackery and concluded that the statement was “half true.” Suffice to say, this conclusion is half-assed. Here are the facts, as even PolitiFact concedes: “Following a lobbying campaign by alternative-medicine practitioners, and assistance from then-Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, several provisions favorable to non-traditional forms of medicine were inserted into the health care law.”
PolitiFact goes on to note that Obamacare even provides millions in funding to these unproven and unscientific treatments, and that there’s a section of the law that is being interpreted as saying “as long as an alternative-medicine practitioner is fully licensed by a state, insurance companies must reimburse them just as they do medical doctors.” The Department of Health and Human Services later issued a guidance saying, “This provision does not require plans or issuers to accept all types of providers into a network,” which is being contested by “alternative” medicine providers, who would seem to have the text of the law on their side.
So where did Goldberg and Williamson go wrong? According to PolitiFact, “It’s important not to oversell the impact [of Obamacare on alternative medicine]. Most of the provisions in question are modest. . . . The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details, so we rate it half true.”
This is a classic tactic of PolitiFact, hiding behind irrelevant and extraneous context when determining the truth of a binary statement. Does PolitiFact think that mandating taxpayer funding of alternative medicine confers legitimacy or not? And should the law be paying for treatments that don’t heal people?
The truth of the matter is that Goldberg and Williamson’s point is a damning indictment of Obamacare, and rather than admit the law is deeply flawed, PolitiFact wants to leverage its Pulitizer Prize-winning institutional credibility to keep people from paying attention to this inconvenient fact. Otherwise, Americans might start to dislike the liberal health care law, lose respect for the party that passed it, and maybe even want to junk it. PolitiFact, after all, engaged in repeated and credulous defenses of Obama’s “if you like your insurance plan, you can keep your plan” promise. When millions of policies were inevitably canceled, PolitiFact was forced to do a 180 and concede it was the “Lie of the Year” to salvage its reputation.
It’s also telling that PolitiFact is uninterested in having the objects of their criticism defend themselves. Does PolitiFact not have a phone? The author of PolitiFact’s most recent disgrace sent Goldberg an email to a public account he rarely checks, and the sole attempt to contact Williamson was made by sending a tweet in his direction. PolitiFact is standing by its laughable “half true” rating but later conceded that attempts to contact Goldberg and Williamson “didn’t meet our standards.” However, since PolitiFact has no discernible standards to begin with, we suspect it isn’t too concerned when its reporters fail to live up to them.
12:25 PM, Sep 25, 2014 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Rep. Tom Cotton, the Republican nominee in the Arkansas Senate race, is running an ad highlighting his leadership in trying to fix Washington's broken farm bill legislation. The ad isn't particularly controversial ormaking false claims, in any discernible way and yet "fact checkers" at the Washington Post and PolitiFact have pretty savagely attacked it. Once again, the fact checkers are wrong on the merits. But more than that, there's something very fishy about their Cotton critique.
You can watch the whole ad, but here's the supposedly objectionable claim Cotton makes:
“When President Obama hijacked the farm bill, turned it into a food stamp bill, with billions more in spending, I voted no. Career politicians love attaching bad ideas to good ones. Then the bad ideas become law, and you pay for it.”
As far as legislative sausage-making goes, there are few spectacles more off-putting than Capitol Hill's periodic farm bill extravaganza. The farm subsidies are bad enough on their own, but for decades the bill has also included funding for the unrelated Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), aka food stamps. The result is the worst kind of bipartisanship—rural Republicans compromise on bloating the cost of food stamp funding in exchange for Democratic votes to get their farm subsidies.
11:30 PM, May 21, 2014 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
As is well established, I have been less than impressed by the efforts of media "fact checking" organizations. Of these organizations, however, PolitiFact deserves special consideration.
3:34 PM, Oct 28, 2013 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
PolitiFact has a pretty terrible and rather partisan history of Obamacare fact checks. However, there's one, in particular, about Obamacare that remains especially puzzling. It's the "half-true" rating the organization gave when President Obama promised that, If you like your health insurance, you can keep your health insurance under Obamacare. This was not a casually tossed-off statement by the president, either.
1:42 PM, May 31, 2013 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
The Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) at George Mason University is out with a new study on media fact checkers, and unsurprisingly, their results suggest that PolitiFact has it out for Republicans. Dylan Byers at Politico summarized CMPA's findings:
The fact-checking organization PolitiFact has found Republicans to be less trustworthy than Democrats, according to a new study.
Fifty-two percent of Republican claims reviewed by the Tampa Bay Times fact-checking operation were rated "mostly false," “false” or “pants on fire,” versus just 24 percent of Democratic statements, according to George Mason University's Center for Media and Public Affairs. By the same token, 54 percent of Democratic statements were rated as "mostly true" or "true," compared to just 18 percent of Republican statements.
6:38 PM, Jan 18, 2013 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Earlier today, I wrote a lengthy critique pointing out the inconvenient fact that PolitiFact's Lie of the Year -- "The Romney campaign's ad on Jeeps made in China" -- turns out to be true. It involves a lot of complicated back and forth, so I encouage you to read that post if you're not familiar with what's going on. But the thrust of the matter is that the Romney campaign ran an ad saying that Jeep, the recipient of a taxpayer bailout, was going to start producing cars in China.
12:25 PM, Jan 18, 2013 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Last month, PolitiFact selected its "Lie of the Year." Given PolitiFact's dubious record of singling out Republicans for lying far more often than Democrats, you probably could have guessed the winner of this particular sweepstakes was a Mitt Romney campaign ad:
2:50 PM, Oct 23, 2012 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
The Tampa Bay Times, the paper that puts out (and funds) the supposedly unbiased PolitiFact, has just enthusiastically endorsed President Obama for a second term. The Times writes that “[w]ithout hesitation” it “recommends Barack Obama for re-election as president.” The paper cites Obama’s “steady leadership.” It’s no wonder the Times is backing Obama.
9:45 AM, Oct 5, 2012 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
After staring in some amazement at PolitiFact’s ostensibly unbiased rulings on the truthfulness of various statements made during Wednesday night’s presidential debate, I finally realized what the problem is: PolitiFact’s self-described Truth-O-Meter is clearly broken. Thankfully, however, it’s broken in a way that’s both predictable and fixable. You see, if you simply turn the Truth-O-Meter two notches to the right for any claim made by a Republican, and two notches to the left for any claim made by a Democrat, its reading actually becomes surprisingly accurate.
Asked about evidence of partisan bias, fact checkers struggle to defend themselves.1:19 PM, Sep 27, 2012 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Yesterday, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. the heads of all of the major media "fact checking" organizations convened for a panel discussion. On the panel were PolitiFact editor Bill Adair, Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler, the Associated Press's Jim Drinkard, and it was moderated by Brooks Jackson of FactCheck.org.
3:23 PM, Aug 28, 2012 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Yesterday, I wrote a lengthy blog post taking PolitiFact to task for their shamelessly skewed "fact checks" on the Romney-Ryan health care plans. And as it happens, I woke up today and National Review has an excellent editorial on the same topic. It's worth reading in full, but this part was as amusing as it was discrediting:
3:32 PM, Aug 27, 2012 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Perhaps if we all ignore PolitiFact, they'll go away. But for the time being, the supposedly independent organization continues to crank out skewed and partisan work. There's no better example of this than the the current jihad the "fact checking" organization is waging against the Romney-Ryan health care plan.
10:40 AM, Aug 17, 2012 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
I know those of you masochistic enough to pay close attention to media fact checkers aren't going to be surprised by this, but Media Trackers, a nonpartisan watchdog, combed through the personal Twitter feed of PolitiFact Ohio writer Tom Feran and found he's a pretty vocal liberal. You can review the evidence here, but it turns out that he's not a fan of George W. Bush, refers to conservatives as "wingnuts" and "yahoos," and tweets out links to blog postings on the "The Cancer of Conservatism." On the other hand, Feran is an enthusiastic Obama supporter—"Go-bama!"—and supporter of Occupy Wall Street.