Sunday, January 20, 2013

Another Black Knight for PolitiFact

The comedy film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" is justly famous for its fight scene between King Arthur and the mysterious Black Knight who attempts to block his path.

Arthur defeats the Black Knight, first chopping off an arm, then another arm, then a leg and then the other leg.  As the Black Knight suffers each stage of defeat he defiantly continues to challenge Arthur to continue the fight.

PolitiFact's efforts to defend itself from criticism often run parallel to the Black Knight's fighting prowess against Arthur.

The latest duel pits PolitiFact editor Bill Adair against critics who say Fiat's confirmation that it will produce over 100,000 Jeep vehicles annually at a Chinese manufacturing plant undercuts PolitiFact's 2012 choice for "Lie of the Year."  The Romney campaign produced an ad saying Obama sold Jeep to Italians who will build Jeeps in China.  PolitiFact ruled the ad "Pants on Fire" in October before selecting it as the "Lie of the Year" in December.

The original ruling drew plenty of criticism, and the recent confirmation of the deal to produce Jeeps in China produced a renewal of that criticism, perhaps best expressed by Mark Hemingway of The Weekly Standard.

"It's just a flesh wound."

On Jan. 18 Adair responded to the latest round of criticism:
A number of readers emailed us this week about news reports that Chrysler is moving forward with a partnership in China to produce Jeeps. They wondered: Doesn’t that disprove our Lie of the Year -- that Mitt Romney said Barack Obama "sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China" at the cost of American jobs?
No, it doesn’t.
It bears emphasis that Jeep sold about 50,000 American-made Jeeps in China in 2012. Somehow no mention of Jeep exports to China crept into any of PolitiFact's fact checking of the Romney ad.

Adair's right about one thing, at least.  All of PolitiFact's "Lie of the Year" selections contain a significant element of truth, so of course it doesn't matter to PolitiFact if the ad is true.  It can still qualify as "Lie of the Year."  The tough thing for Adair to explain, which he doesn't attempt, is how the ad can be technically true yet receive a "Pants on Fire" rating as election day approached.

It's just another dismal defense of a PolitiFact blunder.

Mark Hemingway, by the way, responded with Arthurian effectiveness to Adair's post the same day it was published.

We'll give away the ending:
PolitiFact has a reputation for alternately being unresponsive or inadequately responding to criticisms. And they haven't done anything to remedy that today.

(The video contains language some may find offensive.  Oh, and there's lots of obviously fake blood.)

Jeff adds (1/30/13):
Adair's most recent CYA/non-response to Hemingway is typically awful of the genre, and PolitiFact has had some stinkers. Chock full of evasions and denials, it would seem that Adair is completely unable to confront the facts that lurk in front of his face. Take a look at the opening paragraph of his nada culpa, and pay special attention to the quotation marks:

[Readers] wondered: Doesn’t that disprove our Lie of the Year -- that Mitt Romney said Barack Obama "sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China" at the cost of American jobs?

No, it doesn’t.
The entire basis for the Pants of Fire rating is something the Romney ad never claimed. If it did, why didn't PolitiFact quote the relevant portion? The portion that Adair quotes is entirely accurate, even by PolitiFact's own admission. The only falsehood here is PolitiFact's invention that the Romney ad claimed it would cost American jobs.

Another comically dishonest diversion from Adair is his assertion that PolitiFact isn't making a value judgement on Obama's policy. He writes:
We should be clear, we are not defending President Obama’s auto policy. As independent fact-checkers, we don’t take positions on policy issues. So whether it was advisable to bail out the auto companies, and or whether the bailout  was done with proper safeguards was beyond the scope of our fact-check.
As I pointed out in our original review of this claim back in November, PolitiFact was much more smitten with the Presidents performance back then (emphasis added):
With Ohio’s 18 electoral votes very much in play, the Mitt Romney campaign aims to blunt one of Barack Obama’s key advantages in that state -- his rescue of the auto industry.
Let me be clear: PolitiFact has determined that Barack Obama single-handedly rescued the entire auto industry...they're just not taking a position it.


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