Friday, July 20, 2012

The Washington Post: "Report: Republicans to hammer PolitiFact units on alleged bias"

Eric Wemple's Washington Post blog brings news via the Washington Examiner of a new GOP effort to engage in an aggressive pushback against PolitiFact in various states:
Via the Washington Examiner comes word that Republican operatives across the land will be targeting state PolitiFact operations. The move draws inspiration from the massive document that the Republican Party of Virginia compiled against PolitiFact Virginia earlier this month, a document covered extensively in this space.
Wemple goes on to give helpful hints to the GOP for the sake of its effort, and the hints double as criticisms of the Republican Party of Virginia's attack on PolitiFact Virginia.  Wemple's key points generally agree with what I published here before taking up this post.  Wemple says the claim that the timing of publication for PolitiFact's ratings harms the GOP is weak.  Wemple also tries to downplay the effect of the study's anecdotes by claiming they need to appear in the company of stories PolitiFact skipped that might have proved damaging to Democrats.  Though we think the latter is a good idea, we don't rate its importance as highly as Wemple does.

We disagree strongly with Wemple's conclusion featuring a quotation from PolitiFact's chief windbag, editor Bill Adair:
The Examiner story furnishes a Champagne-popping pretext for PolitiFact. After all, the brand name has now been attacked furiously from the left — see Rachel Maddow — and furiously from the right. Now they can lay claim to centrism. “This is testament to the fact that we have disrupted the status quo,” says PolitiFact Editor Bill Adair. “We’re holding people accountable for their words and they don’t like it.”
PolitiFact can pop all the Champagne it likes and keep right on chanting the claim that criticism from both sides allows it to lay claim to centrism, but that wouldn't make it true.  Shame on Wemple for not vigorously sticking a pin in that radically overblown idea.

The content of the criticism, as Wemple pointed out earlier, makes all the difference.  The criticism from the Left is weaker than that from the Right.  PolitiFact has always done a shoddy job of fact checking.  Rachel Maddow only started noticing when her ox was gored a few times too often.

As for Adair's claim that PolitiFact has "disrupted the status quo," he's finally right about something: Nobody was expecting PolitiFact do this bad a job of fact checking.  It has truly disrupted the status quo, and the politicians don't like it.  They were okay with reasonably competent fact checking from Annenberg, The Washington Post and the Associated Press.

And therein lies Wemple's apparently unasked follow up question for Adair:  "If you have disrupted the status quo, why do you think Annenberg Fact Check and The Washington Post fact checker did not disrupt the status quo?"

C'mon, Wemple.  Let's see you ask it.

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