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.