PolitiFact veterans Angie Drobnic Holan and Louis Jacobson, editing and writing for upstart franchise PolitiFact Nevada, give an absolutely sensational example supporting our case.
The political arm of the nation's largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, ran an ad saying Republican candidate Joe Heck voted to "criminalize abortion for rape victims."
The ad's vagueness misleads its audience in two main ways, suggesting:
- Rape victims risk criminal charges for seeking an abortion
- Criminal charges would apply for any abortion sought by a rape victim, regardless of the number of weeks elapsed since the pregnancy started
PolitiFact completely overlooked the other main deception. We would call the second deception the main one. PolitiFact mentioned in its fact check that the abortion bill Heck supported would ban abortion after 20 weeks in nearly all cases, including for rape victims. But PolitiFact penalized Planned Parenthood Votes not a bit for allowing the ad's audience to think Heck was criminalizing abortion for all rape victims.
Note the resounding silence in PolitiFact's summary paragraphs, echoing the silence in the rest of its story:
The Planned Parenthood Votes ad said that "Joe Heck voted to criminalize abortion for rape victims."For some reason, it did not seem important to PolitiFact to point out that abortions after 20 weeks occur rarely. A FactCheck.org fact check cited the Guttmacher Institute in saying abortions after 20 weeks account for 1.2 percent of all U.S. abortions. Unless we assume that rape victims tend to wait longer for their abortions than other women, the statistic means that the law would affect very few rape victims.
The group has a point that a bill Heck voted for and co-sponsored would have criminalized medical professionals from performing abortions after 20 weeks for rape victims who are not at risk of death or significant physical health complications due to pregnancy, at least in Washington, D.C. This would have eliminated all legal abortions for women in that category.
However, the ad blurs the issue of whether medical professionals or the women themselves would be at risk of prosecution. Only medical professionals would face legal consequences under the bill, but the ad’s imagery implies otherwise, using only women as visuals. On balance, we rate the ad Half True.
How does this not draw the attention of a fact checker? It's like meeting Cyrano face to face and failing to notice his nose.
We suggest that mistakes like this favoring a cause dear to the political left make a good evidence of PolitiFact's liberal bias. This is the kind of mistake you look for from a fact checker that has a liberal bias.
This is one of many we've found from PolitiFact. But it's an especially obvious one.
We contacted the writer and editor of the fact check to point out the highly misleading part of the ad they had failed to mention. If we receive any response from the PolitiFact team or a change to the fact check we will update this item.
We note that PolitiFact will not erase the evidence of its bias by changing its fact check days after publishing. A writer got the flawed story past a team of editors. Fixing the story will not change that. If PolitiFact fails to change its story and the rating it gave to Planned Parenthood Votes, it will show something worse than unintentional bias: It will show a lack of integrity.