Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sublime Bloviations: Grading PolitiFact (Florida): Is U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Bill Nelson ad accurate?

PFB editor Bryan White takes an in-depth look at a recent PolitiFact rating that is a good example of the Pulitzer winners' habit of inventing a claim to check. It's a tad too lengthy to crosspost here, but Bryan's post is well worth the read.

The issue is a U.S. Chamber of Commerce ad critical of Democratic Senator Bill Nelson. The ad highlights Nelsons support for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and reminds viewers of the CBO estimate that 20 million people could lose their current coverage:
PolitiFact focuses on a would-be broader context where the ad supposedly implies that 20 million Medicare beneficiaries will lose their current insurance:
Here, we’re checking whether "20 million people could lose their current coverage," and whether those people are older Americans on Medicare as the ad strongly suggests.
Don't hold your breath waiting for PolitiFact to substantiate its claim that the ad "strongly suggests" that 20 million Medicare beneficiaries will lose their current coverage. It never happens.
Bryan goes on to list four "shenanigans" PolitiFact employs in order to end up with the rating they want. Here's my favorite:
Shenanigan C:
Second, some portion of that (20 million) number are people voluntarily switching to other, better coverage -- not being forced out of coverage against their will.
Ah, the old "conjecture as evidence" ploy. "Are" suggests a fact in evidence. But the consequences of the law foretold in the CBO report are not yet in evidence. As chronicled in an earlier "Grading PolitiFact" entry, PolitiFact invented its evidence on this point. Is it possible that a person will voluntarily leave employer-provided coverage for coverage under an exchange? Sure, barely. But subsidized exchange coverage under the health care reform act is not available to those forsaking employer-offered coverage.
Bryan also highlights yet another example of PolitiFact asking leading questions to its sources. That's a problem we've pointed out before

Bryan spares little in his critique. It's difficult to believe PolitiFact is this inept at following basic journalistic guidelines. The more likely excuse for their failures is a political bias that goes unchecked by the editors. Bryan lays out his case in detail, and this short review does not give readers the full depth of PolitiFact's flaws. Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.

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