Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Weekly Standard: "Romney to PolitiFact: There You Go Again"

The Weekly Standard's Mark Hemingway was back in PolitiFact's grille back in April.

PolitiFact ruled "Mostly False" a claim from the Mitt Romney campaign that women as a group have suffered 92.3 percent of the net job losses under Obama's presidency.  That ruling brought a swift and stern response from the Romney campaign.

Hemingway filed the battle report:
Given that PolitiFact says Romney's numbers check out, how the heck did PolitiFact then conclude Romney's statement is "mostly false"? Well, they did what fact checkers habitually do whenever they find something factually correct but politically disagreeable—kick up a bunch of irrelevant contextual dirt and lean on some biased sources. Which is why PolitiFact's own language here is absurd: "We found that though the numbers are accurate, their reading of them isn’t" and "The numbers are accurate but quite misleading." I would also note that my friend Glenn Kessler, the fact checker at the Washington Post, evaluated the same claim and deemed it "TRUE BUT FALSE." I do hope that if media fact checkers expect to retain any credibility to evaluate basic empirical claims, they're aware that this kind of Orwellian doublespeak is going to make them a laughingstock.
Read the whole thing, because Hemingway's just warming up with the above. 

The above point, that PolitiFact appears absurd for ruling a true statement "Mostly False" probably can't receive enough emphasis.  PolitiFact's rating system provides no description fitting this type of rating.  If the results make it look like PolitiFact isn't categorizing claims according to whether they fit some type of established objective criteria, it's probably because that's the way it is.

Addendum:

PolitiFact's response to the complaint from the Romney campaign deserves a closer look:
We considered the complaint and interviewed four other economists, none of whom have formal or financial ties to any campaigns. Our additional reporting found no reason to change our ruling, which remains at Mostly False.
Two words:  Fig leaf.

The point is that the original reporting didn't justify the ruling.  If PolitiFact can't see that then it's no surprise that additional reporting fails to sway its made-up mind.

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