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.
This unholy union has been in place for decades, and it's getting out of control. The farm subsidies are clearly excessive, and whereas foodstamps were 55 percent of the cost of the farm bill in 2002, they made up 80 percent of the cost of the bill this year. Furthermore, every time Republicans vote for a pork-filled farm bill they get called hypocrites for claiming to oppose unnecessary handouts.
In 2013, Tom Cotton was among a number of House Republicans who tried to change this sorry state of affairs. They broke the farm bill up into two bills—one for farm subisdies and one for food stamps. Republicans would have to own the cost of their farm subsidies, and Democrats would have to justify the ever-increasing cost of the food stamp program. And taken on their own, there would be no perverse incentive to buy votes to pass a comprehensive farm bill. The House passed a farm bill without the food stamp component in July 2013.
Alas, the Democratic-controlled Senate and the White House did not like the idea of having to justify their out-of-control spending and exerted a great deal of pressure to make sure the sorry farm bill status quo continued. President Obama released a statement condemning the House breaking up the farm bill the day after the House passed a stripped-down version. The White House further released a report in November 2013 titled “The Economic Importance of Passing a Comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill.” The farm bill that eventually passed in January recombined the food stamps and farm subsidies, and Cotton was one of 63 Republicans who voted against it. As Dan Holler at the Heritage Foundation tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD, "It should come as no surprise that the food stamp reforms are failing and the new farm programs appear to be more costly than projected."
So what is wrong with Cotton's ad? Here's the crux of Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler's argument:
Look at the dictionary definition of hijacking: “to steal or rob…to subject to extortion or swindling.” Is that what Obama did when he said that Congress should continue to do what it did in the past? Or was breaking up the farm bill the more radical step?
The most problematic aspect of Cotton’s ad is that he suggests that attaching food stamps to the farm bill was a new idea—something that he was fighting against. But that’s invented history. As we have shown, this “bad idea” has been in place since before Cotton, 37, was born.
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.
Bold new fact checking truthiness: "The numbers are accurate but quite misleading" and "TRUE BUT FALSE."5:17 PM, Apr 11, 2012 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
The Romney campaign is none too happy with PolitiFact at the moment, issuing a blistering response to a recent fact checking item on a campaign talking point. As a response to Democrats' "war on women" rehetoric, the presumed GOP presidential nominee's press secretary pointed out that under Obama's presidency, women account for 92.3 percent of the job losses. This kind of statement—a bold claim involving an actual statistic—is catnip to media fact checkers.
11:10 AM, Feb 16, 2012 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Before I explain why PolitiFact is once again being deliberately misleading, grossly incompetent, or some hellbroth of these distinguishing characteristics, you'll have bear with me. Part of the reason PolitiFact gets away with being so shoddy is that it counts on its readers believing that it can be trusted to explain any necessary context to justify its status as judge, jury, and factual executioner. So first, some background.