7:16 AM, Aug 26, 2015 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
For several years now, PolitiFact has been waging war on anyone who points out that America has the smallest Navy it's had in nearly a century. Mitt Romney pointed out this fact in a presidential debate in 2012 and PolitiFact rated his statement "pants on fire" even though the number of ships in the U.S. Navy dropped below 300 in 2003 and the last time the U.S. Navy had fewer than 300 ships was 1916. It would seem Romney got his facts from no less an authoritative source than the secretary of the navy, who said a few years back, "We have 288 today in the battle fleet: the lowest number since 1916, which – during that time, the intervening years, our responsibilities have grown somewhat."
And yet, PolitiFact called Romney's statement "pants on fire" despite the fact that the very military historian PolitiFact consulted to verify Romney's statement was appalled at their ruling:
I did think [Politifact deputy editor Lou Jacobson's] questions to me were leading. Remember, Mr. Jacobson asked "(2) What context does this ignore (changing/more lethal technology, changed geopolitical needs, etc)?," which both assumes and implies to the interviewees that Romney ignored those specific contexts.
In his final few paragraphs, Jacobson refers to Romney's statements as "meaningless," "glib," "preposterous," and "ridiculous." To be frank, I'm a little surprised by that wording, especially in writing for a site that strives for objectivity.
Politico called PolitiFact's ruling here an "epic fail." And yet, both FactCheck.org and the Washington Post fact checker also claimed Romney's statement was dishonest. While there's a certainly a debate to be had about how relevant the number of ships is relative to the capabilities of nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers, it's also true that the threats and responsibilities for protecting commercial shipping lanes have grown considerably in the modern era as well. Flatly declaring this statement false under the rubric that media fact checkers somehow know more about the Navy's capabilities and readiness than the secretary of the navy, who clearly thinks the diminished number of ships is a problem, is incredibly arrogant and misleading.
Apparently not sufficently humbled by his previous "epic fail," just a few weeks ago Lou Jacobson wrote another article for the PolitiFact -- "Anatomy of a talking point: the smallest Navy since 1917" -- that rehashes the same tired and unconvincing arguments. This prompted a lengthy twitter rebuke from John Noonan, a consultant to Jeb Bush's campaign and defense expert:
1:35 PM, Aug 5, 2015 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Planned Parenthood now finds itself being heavily criticized after being caught on tape brokering fetal body parts. Fortunately for them, they have no shortage of allies in the media, including PolitiFact.
Fox Business reporter Sandra Smith recently said on air "Almost 95 percent of all (Planned Parenthood) pregnancy services were abortions." On Tuesday, PunditFact, a division of PolitiFact, rated it false.
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).
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.