Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Doocy-Goddard update

On June 30 we posted about a PunditFact fact check that drew a response from Steven Goddard, the pseudonymous climate science blogger who runs "Real Science."  Goddard pointed out a number of problems with PunditFact's fact check.  We considered it unlikely PunditFact would revisit the issue.

We were only half right.

PunditFact did not change its original article, as we expected.  Instead, it added an article ("After the Fact") underneath the original article under the title "The man behind the science Fox quoted responds."  The article links to Goddard's response but does not quote from it at all.  Goddard lambasted the original fact check pretty thoroughly, but PunditFact just teased out one of the criticisms via paraphrase:
He noted that one of the experts we quoted in our initial piece has since revised his views of Heller’s research.
It's true Goddard (Heller) pointed out statement of reversal from Anthony Watt, the expert in question.  But that was the least of Goddard's criticisms.  It was the least of Goddard's criticisms because PunditFact quoted Watt on a different subject than the one it was fact checking.  Yet PunditFact gives its "After the Fact" update without addressing or even explicitly acknowledging Goddard's other criticisms.  There's no admission that PunditFact conflated two different issues in its fact check.

PolitiFact's response represents a pretense that there was nothing wrong with its original article.

Goddard made his central point the fact that the raw temperature data make the 1930s the hottest decade.  Fox's Steve Doocy turned that fact into a compound claim, attaching the adjustments to the data into a willful deception.  In terms of logic, there's some foundation for rating Doocy's entire compound statement as one claim--but that's not the usual practice we see from PolitiFact/PunditFact.  As PolitiFact says in its statement of principles:
Statements can be right and wrong – We sometimes rate compound statements that contain two or more factual assertions. In these cases, we rate the overall accuracy after looking at the individual pieces.
Or not. It depends on what PolitiFact feels like doing on any given day.

Consistent with PunditFact's principles, Doocy is more correct than not that the raw data need an adjustment to make 1998 hotter than peak temperatures from the 1930s.  And after that PunditFact might have considered what it would take to fact check whether the adjustments were done to intentionally overstate global warming.

PunditFact's response to Goddard lacks the needed correction. Nor does it do much to clarify the misleading aspects of the original fact check.


We've run across another PolitiFact story that helps illustrate how PolitiFact treated Doocy's claim unfairly compared to the alternative practice PolitiFact applies for compound statements.  Look for a story on that later this week. That post can be found here.

Edit 7/5/2014: Added links to PFB posts in first and last sentences and one link to original PolitiFact article- Jeff

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