Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A vintage PolitiFact "gotcha" fact check

When was PolitiFact anything other than a horrible, left-leaning fact check organization?

We don't buy it.

Take this example from 2007, which caught our eye while we reviewed PolitiFact's preposterous ruling of "Mostly False" for the idea that France and Germany thought Iraq had WMD.

When Republican Fred Thompson was running for president in 2007, he argued that the "Iraq Study Group" said Iraq was planning to get its nuclear program up and running again despite sanctions.

PolitiFact to the rescue! "False," screamed the trademarked "Truth-O-Meter."

According to PolitiFact, the "Iraq Study Group" (put together by Congress) had made no such finding. So Thompson's claim was false.

Hilariously, unless you were Fred Thompson, PolitiFact bothered to note that the "Iraq Survey Group," the CIA group tasked in Iraq with assessing Iraq's WMD capability, had made a claim that pretty much matched what Thompson said:
So we find Thompson's claim to be False.

It's possible that Thompson was referring to the Iraq Survey Group, a CIA panel that was formed to investigate whether there were weapons of mass destruction or the intent to produce WMDs in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The report found that Saddam did not produce or possess any weapons of mass destruction for more than a decade before the U.S.-led invasion, but that he "aspired to develop a nuclear capability — in an incremental fashion, irrespective of international pressure and the resulting economic risks."
Gotcha. 

PolitiFact eventually got around to writing up a statement of principles, which it published in February 2011. We would highlight PolitiFact's declaration about "gotcha" journalism.
Is the statement significant? We avoid minor "gotchas"’ on claims that obviously represent a slip of the tongue.
Too late for Fred Thompson, unfortunately. Thompson's stuck with that undeserved "False" on his record. Maybe PolitiFact went with it because it was a major "gotcha"?

This is the type of fact check that signaled early on to us that something was wrong with the new fact checker in town.

The worst part? PolitiFact isn't getting better.

4 comments:

  1. The Iraq study group and Iraq survey group were two separate groups. One made up of a CIA panel, and one made up of members from different countries. The latter of the two, which they were discussing in the debate, did not discuss Saddams plans to restart the nuclear program. So his statement WAS false.

    A presidential candidate should know the difference between the two groups. It appears you aren't a fan of details. I however, find them important when debating and fact checking.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sorrynotsorry bravely and pseudonymously wrote:

    **The Iraq study group and Iraq survey group were two separate groups. One made up of a CIA panel, and one made up of members from different countries.**

    Which one do you think was made up of members of different countries? We embedded links in our post to help keep people from encountering such confusion.

    **The latter of the two, which they were discussing in the debate, did not discuss Saddams plans to restart the nuclear program.**

    No, there was no lead-in about the Iraq Study Group during the debate where Thompson made his statement. Check the transcript.

    https://votesmart.org/public-statement/296874/cnbc-republican-presidential-candidate-debate#.V-lGryTmjJ0

    **So his statement WAS false.**

    Obviously his statement was false, since he named the wrong entity. But PolitiFact claims to take the underlying point into account. Such a policy is inappropriate if applied inconsistently.

    **A presidential candidate should know the difference between the two groups.**

    A fair point, but making a slip of the tongue during a speech does not necessarily reflect that a candidate does not understand the difference between the two.

    On the other hand, slavish attention to the words used can result in the type of "gotcha" journalism PolitiFact says it avoids.

    **It appears you aren't a fan of details.**

    That doesn't follow.

    **I however, find them important when debating and fact checking.**

    Great. So next time you post here to argue something about fact-checking, come prepared.

    You made two false statements in the course of your argument, and you ignored the detail we pointed out about PolitiFact's self-described policy of avoiding minor "gotchas."

    We value consistency as well as detail. You appear to have a problem with both.

    No worries. Just post your arguments under a fake name. That's one detail you've got covered.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The bottom line and point he was making was that Iraq was planning to get its nuclear program up and running again despite sanctions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That seems about right, The Garden Master. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

      Delete