Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Left Jab: PolitiFact National vs. PF New Hampshire on per capita health care spending

I was hunting for some liberal criticism of PolitiFact associated with Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, one associated with polling numbers. I found a pretty good item aside from the one I sought.

Reddit commenter "wittenbunk" offered the following observation:
Yesterday Politifact published a rating of Bernie's often repeated claim that "We spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as do the people of any other country". They rated the claim false.

The issue is that on April 30th Politifact rated a nearly identical claim by Ben Carson Carson was quoted as "We spent twice as much per capita for health care in this country as the next closest nation". Politifact rated the claim Mostly False.

Despite the fact that Carson's wording allowed for much less interpretation, Politifact gave his quote a more truthful rating.
Wittenbunk went on to say that his example qualifies as a rare clear example of media bias. The post was solid up through that point. PolitiFact clearly used inconsistent standards in achieving the two different ratings for Sanders and Carson. But single cases of inconsistency make poor examples of media bias.

That's why we've always said the appropriate way to look for media bias at PolitiFact is to look for trends in unfair harm. Sen. Sanders was hit with unfair harm in this case. I've documented a separate case of unfair harm to Sanders at Zebra Fact Check. There may well be others.

This case does feature some special circumstances. It's a rating from a state operation, PolitiFact New Hampshire, conflicting with the rating from PolitiFact National. PolitiFact National published the rating that's probably harder to justify. We'll note that the story was written by intern Will Cabaniss, but since PolitiFact's "star chamber" of editors decides the rating we're not inclined to blame Cabaniss.

Note to liberal critics of PolitiFact: Open your eyes. This type of inconsistency is normal at PolitiFact.

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