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.
The CMPA looked at 100 statements -- 46 by Democrats, 54 by Republicans -- that were fact-checked by PolitiFact between January 20 and May 22.
PolitiFact head Bill Adair was compelled to respond to the new report and sent this statement to Politico:
PolitiFact rates the factual accuracy of specific claims; we do not seek to measure which party tells more falsehoods.
The authors of this press release seem to have counted up a small number of our Truth-O-Meter ratings over a few months, and then drew their own conclusions.
We've rated more than 7,000 statements since we started in 2007. We are journalists, not social scientists. We select statements to fact-check based on our news judgment -- whether a statement is timely, provocative, whether it's been repeated and whether readers would wonder if it is true.
Adair's statement is lawyerly and bordering on dishonest. CMPA did not draw their own conclusions—they simply tallied up all of PolitiFact's ratings during a specific time period to get a representative sample. All the CMPA did was present relevant data, they most certainly did not "draw their own conclusions." (You can read the full release on the study by CMPA here. It's very straightforward.) Ironically, the big problem with PolitiFact is that they claim to make psuedoscientific judgments about the "facts" and frequently end up drawing their own erroneous conclusions. It's both telling and unsurprising that they'd be confronted with raw data about their organization from an academic study and dispute it as being slanted.
This is also not the first academic study that concluded PolitiFact might be putting their thumb on the scale when it comes to selecting and evaluating political statements. Last year, during the height of campaign season, the CMPA tallied up PolitiFact ratings. That study also showed PolitiFact tends to be much harder on Republicans:
The study examined 98 election-related statements by the presidential candidates, their surrogates, and campaign ads fact-checked by PolitiFact.com from June 1 to September 11. Major findings:
PolitiFact checked the assertions of Democrats slightly more often than those of Republicans (54% vs. 46% of all statements).
However, PolitiFact rated Democratic statements as “mostly true” or “entirely true” about twice as often as Republican statements -- 42% true ratings for Democrats vs. 20% for Republicans.
Conversely, statements by Republicans were rated as entirely false about twice as often as Democratic statements – 29% false ratings for GOP statements vs. 15% false ratings for Democrats. (This includes categories labeled “false” and “pants on fire.”)
Further, the University of Minnesota School of Public Affairs looked at over than 500 PolitiFact stories from January 2010 through January 2011. Their conclusion:
Current and former Republican officeholders have been assigned substantially harsher grades by the news organization than their Democratic counterparts. In total, 74 of the 98 statements by political figures judged 'false' or 'pants on fire' over the last 13 months were given to Republicans, or 76 percent, compared to just 22 statements for Democrats (22 percent).
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.
12:52 PM, Jan 20, 2012 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
A lot of people are buzzing about this blog post by Tom Bruschino, assistant professor of history at the U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Bruschino was contacted by PolitiFact and asked to weigh in on Mitt Romney's claim that "Our navy is smaller than it's been since 1917. Our air force is smaller and older than any time since 1947."
1:22 AM, Jan 20, 2012 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
In tonight’s debate, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum both questioned whether Mitt Romney actually governed in a pro-life fashion, even after his public conversion on abortion. Both claimed that Romney’s health care law increased access to taxpayer-subsidized abortion. Romney denied any culpability, replying, “That was done by the courts.” Fortunately, PolitiFact has looked into this matter on more than one occasion.