Saturday, December 19, 2015

Zebra Fact Check: "PolitiFact vs. Rubio on defense spending"

At my fact check site Zebra Fact Check, I took note of PolitiFact Florida's fact check of Marco Rubio from earlier this year:
Rubio said that the United States "is not building the aircraft, the long-range bombers, the additional aircraft carriers, the nuclear submarines."

The military has programs in place to build the types of equipment Rubio mentioned, including the largest aircraft procurement ever: the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. It will take many years and billions of dollars to complete the procurement, but Rubio’s statement could mislead voters into thinking that the United States has closed up shop in the area of military equipment and isn’t building anything, which isn’t the case.

We rate this claim False.
In PolitiFact Florida's summary Rubio's statement gets shortened--PolitiFact quotes the full sentence earlier in the story (bold emphasis added): "We are the only nation that is not building the aircraft, the long-range bombers, the additional aircraft carriers, the nuclear submarines we need for our nation's defense."

The Zebra Fact Check article points out how PolitiFact Florida carelessly overlooked an alternative understanding of Rubio's words that is consistent with his speeches:
We  find it completely obvious that Rubio was saying the pace of and planning for defense acquisitions falls below what is needed for adequate defense.

What evidence supports our position? Rubio’s own past statements, for starters.
Rubio's speech from September 2014 goes over each of the military acquisition challenges he mentions in the statement PolitiFact gave its "fact check" treatment. How did PolitiFact Florida miss that information? Probably by not knowing the issue and by not bothering to look.

In other words, by allowing bias to influence the outcome of the fact check.

That's the meaning of these accumulated examples of flawed fact checks we highlight and analyze here at PolitiFact Bias. PolitiFact makes plenty of mistakes, and the tendency of those mistakes to more often unfairly harm conservatives and Republicans makes up one of our main evidences of PolitiFact's liberal bias.

No one example is intended to prove PolitiFact's bias. The bias comes through when considering its whole body of work, including the more rare cases where PolitiFact unfairly harms a liberal with its poor fact-checking.

We're finding it harder and harder to find serious criticism of PolitiFact coming from the political left, for what that's worth.

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