Tuesday, October 29, 2013

More PolitiPundit

We've written before about (former PolitiFact editor) Bill Adair's desire to have it both ways with regard to PolitiFact's ratings. When cornered by skeptics, Adair usually defended himself by saying "PolitiFact rates the factual accuracy of specific claims; we do not seek to measure which party tells more falsehoods." However, when preaching to his flock he would proclaim PolitiFact's ratings create "report cards for each candidate that reveal patterns and trends about their truth-telling." and the tallies of those ratings "provide interesting insights into a candidate's overall record for accuracy."

Either the ratings are scientific measurements or they're not, and they're either revealing patterns or they're not. PolitiFact cannot promote the cumulative results of its ratings as indicative of a person's honesty while simultaneously hiding behind a mask of random curiosity.

Apparently new editor Holan has bought into this contradiction with her eyes wide shut. It also appears Holan has convinced herself and her staff that they can don a magical cloak of objectivity when checking pundits as well as they do with politicians. PolitiFact's selection bias is only poised to be more evident when checking pundits than it is with public servants. Pundits, by definition, deal in nuance and opinion.

But the real howler with this PolitiPundit announcement was the apparent lack of self-awareness in this line (emphasis added):
Although PolitiFact has done occasional fact-checks of pundits and talk show hosts, the new venture will mark the first time that staffers have been dedicated to checking media figures.
I bet the best part of being the Unquestionable Arbiter of Facts is you get to decide what words like "occasional" mean. Are Rush Limbaugh's 17 ratings an occasional event? What about Glenn Beck's 23 ratings, or Rachel Maddow's 16? I suppose Sean Hannity's eight ratings or Bill O'Reilly's 10 count as rare?

It's been common practice for PolitiFact to rate pundits and commentators since its inception. The only thing new here is the devotion of additional resources to its fact checking farce.  I'll go out on a limb and predict PolitiPundit will be an even bigger embarrassment than their flagship site.

Bryan adds: 

Some new readers might wonder:  What's the big deal with PolitiFact being a bit imprecise?  "Occasional" covers a good bit of ground, so what's the big deal?

PolitiFact has often downgraded political figures and pundits for rhetorical imprecision.  It's hypocritical.  To mimic PolitiFact's typical judgmental tone:

PolitiFact left a misleading impression by saying it "occasionally" rates pundits.  The facts show otherwise, so the statement tells a partial truth but leaves out important details.  That meets our definition of "Half True."

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