Saturday, March 12, 2011

Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion: "PolitiFact Has A Serious Problem, But I Repeat Myself"

Our friend William A. Jacobson over at Legal Insurrection takes on two PolitiFact ratings.

First Jacobson reviews the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's PolitiFact team's distortion of a statement by Republican state senator Scott Fitzgerald that "a mob showed up and busted down the door and took over the Capitol." PolitiFact found that Half-True.

Jacobson notes:
Notice how PolitiFact took a correct statement by Fitzgerald, but then added in a political factor, what caused the mob to act as it did, to find the statement only half-true. The statement by Fitzgerald had nothing to do with policy, it was a simple statement of what happened that night, so PolitiFact injected an irrelevant factor to find the statement only half-true . PolitiFact did not even [give it a] "mostly true" rating, which is defined as "The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information."
The second fact check that drew Jacobson's scrutiny was a piece done by The Providence Journal of Rhode Island. That story rates candidate for chairman of the Rhode Island Republican Party, Kenneth McKay Pants on Fire for claiming Senator Sheldon Whitehouse said "Everybody in Rhode Island who disagrees with me about Obamacare is an Aryan, is a white supremacist"

PolitiFact engages in their all too typical word mincing the come up with its rating. Jacobson exposes the sophistry with ease:
Whitehouse was not just attacking Senators. It may have been hyperbole for McKay to say "everyone" was attacked, but not much of a hyperbole. Additionally, while Whitehouse did not mention Rhode Islanders by name, he also did not excuse Rhode Islanders from his smear of health care protesters. Any of the ratings from half-true to mostly true to true would have been in order. For the ProJo to find "pants on fire" itself deserves a "pants on fire" rating.
Jacobson ends the article with the obvious conclusion:
"PolitiFact, you have a problem."
We couldn't agree more.

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