Sunday, April 6, 2014

Twitter critic: '(N)ame one of [PolitiFact's] tweets today which is factually incorrect.'

Our would-be Twitter critic, Matthew Chapman, is at it again.  We're addressing some public criticisms owing to the possibility that the critics' thoughts echo those of left-leaning readers who visit this site.

PolitiFact had another bad week fact checking, and @nextinstinct tweaked Chapman (@fawfulfan) about it.  Chapman responded with the following:
I (@ZebraFactCheck) answered with this:
Mine was a specific answer to Chapman's challenge.  He asked for an example of a factually incorrect tweet, and I gave him one.  This is PolitiFact's tweet about Rubio:
What was it Rubio said?  Here's how PolitiFact quoted it in the body of its fact check (bold emphasis added):
"I mean, the purpose of Obamacare was not to get 7 million people or 6 million people, or whatever the number now is, to sign up on a website," Rubio said. "The purpose of Obamacare, according to them, was to get more people insurance. And by all accounts, it's going to fall woefully short. You're still going to have 30-some-odd million people in this country uninsured."

We wanted to know if Rubio’s claim was correct that the health care law was falling short of its goals.
We posit that any intelligent person ought to be able to consider Rubio's statement and see that he does not say that Obamacare is falling short of its 7 million signup goal.  He's saying it's falling short of its goals for lowering the number of uninsured Americans.  PolitiFact's tweet about Rubio is false.

Chapman doesn't see it.

He's posted a fair number of tweets in response.  He said it's true the goal was 7 million and 7.1 million signed up.  He said PolitiFact was simply checking "Rubio's claim that ACA's signup goal was 30 million in 1st yr."  He said I didn't read the article.  He said Rubio was comparing apples to oranges.  He said I confuse the long run with the short run.  It appears he thinks we're somehow moving goalposts.

Chapman said plenty of things, many of which ought to embarrass him.  And he doesn't address the specific problem we identified with PolitiFact's tweet.  We've reminded him that Twitter is a poor venue for debate and have offered him commentary space in response to our post about the dispute.

Our argument is simple.  When Rubio says the purpose of Obamacare was not to get 7 million people to sign up on a website but rather to get more people insured, we say Rubio is distinguishing between the 7 million signups and lowering the number of uninsured Americans.  When Rubio says the ACA will fall short of its goals for lowering the number of uninsured persons, we assert that Rubio is not talking about exchange signups, which reports indicate are mostly people who already had insurance, but rather he's talking about the ACA's goals for lowering the number of uninsured Americans.  We say that when Rubio says "30-some-odd million" will remain uninsured he's talking about the number of uninsured persons, not the total number of exchange signups.  Nor was Rubio referring to any goal of 30 million signups, contrary to Chapman's assertion.

Considering the above, we think it's perfectly obvious that PolitiFact tweeted falsely when it claimed Rubio said the ACA was falling short of its signup goals.  Rubio was saying the 7 million goal for exchange signups is hardly relevant to the ACA's central goal of lowering the number of uninsured Americans.  Therefore, this serves as a good example to offer Chapman when he asks for an April 4 PolitiFact tweet that was factually incorrect.

PolitiFact could have accurately claimed Rubio said the ACA was falling short of its goals for lowering the number of uninsured Americans.  That would have been a fact.  But that's not what PolitiFact tweeted.

We think all of this is pretty obvious, and we stand ready to defend our view with facts and logic against whatever argument Chapman is able to bring.

Reply below, Chapman.

2 comments:

  1. I did indeed err in my earlier assertion that Marco Rubio said the goal was "30 million signups in the first year". But that does not demonstrate an error on PolitiFact's part, because that wasn't what they said either.

    The article's point was that Rubio falsely claimed "30 million uninsured remaining" is a failure to meet ACA's targets. No projection ever said that the ACA would insure every person...some would remain uninsured by choice, and others (including undocumented immigrants) would not qualify for subsidies. He did not get a full "False" because, the article concedes, Rubio is correct to point out there will be some people who are uninsured. He is not, however, correct that this means the ACA "falls short". And considering you have still not--as I challenged you to do--provided any evidence that the ACA's actual targets are not on track to be met, this seems like a massive exercise in pedantry.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for replying.

      "The article's point was that Rubio falsely claimed "30 million uninsured remaining" is a failure to meet ACA's targets."

      If that's the point, then they do a poor job of making. PolitiFact conflates the signup goals with the goal of reducing the number of uninsured. Rubio doesn't. And as for PolitiFact's specific error, it occurs in the Twitter claim that Rubio said the ACA was failing with signup goals. Rubio didn't take issue with the signup goals (exchange). He took issue with the goals for reducing the number of uninsured. Rubio kept apples and oranges separate. PolitiFact mixed them.

      "No projection ever said that the ACA would insure every person"

      Right, but you agree that decreasing the number of uninsured Americans is a primary goal of the ACA. Right? So it's fair for Rubio to point to the remaining number of uninsured persons as a measure of its success. He may be right or he may be wrong--but in either case PolitiFact's tweet was factually inaccurate ("says the Affordable Care Act is falling short of its signup goals"). Rubio did not address whether the exchange signup goals were met. He said the ACA was falling short of its goals for reducing the number of uninsured persons. That's apples and oranges, like you said, but PolitiFact is creating the confusion, not Rubio.

      "He is not, however, correct that this means the ACA "falls short"."

      Explain why not, please (especially if you think this somehow makes PF's tweet accurate).

      "And considering you have still not--as I challenged you to do--provided any evidence that the ACA's actual targets are not on track to be met, this seems like a massive exercise in pedantry."

      If it's an exercise in pedantry, that's probably because you've failed to offer any support for the proposition that Rubio said the ACA is falling short of its signup goals. You asked for an example of an inaccurate tweet from PolitiFact. I gave you one. Now you, while accusing me of moving goalposts, want me to prove that Rubio was right that the ACA isn't achieving its goals for reducing the number of uninsured persons (which wasn't addressed in PF's tweet). Aren't you moving the goalposts?

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