Tuesday, September 27, 2016

PolitiFact doubles down on deception

Back in May 2016 we pointed out a particularly deceptive fact check from PolitiFact, calling it "Mostly True" that Donald Trump had hoped for the housing crisis that led to the "Great Recession."

Recycled garbage, courtesy of PolitiFact:

It's no surprise to see PolitiFact's deception recycled, as Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton used a similar version of the same line during the first presidential debate, inviting PolitiFact to give her another nearly glowing "Mostly True" rating:
In the opening skirmish of the first presidential debate, Hillary Clinton cast her rival as a man who put his own business interests ahead of the welfare of average Americans."Donald was one of the people who rooted for the housing crisis," Clinton said. "He said back in 2006, ‘Gee, I hope it does collapse because then I can go in and buy some and make some money.’["]
As we explained in our earlier post, Clinton was committing a fallacy of equivocation. The deflation of a housing bubble is not the same thing as a "housing crisis." Clinton erases the distinction between the two to create the appearance Trump hoped for bad times for millions of Americans. Clinton surely knows the difference, so her knowing deception would qualify as a "lie" in the worst sense of the word.

Such a lie PolitiFact rates as "Mostly True." More than once.

Our capture of part of a PolitiFact video shows PolitiFact repeating a similar fallacy of equivocation. What is "the situation"? When Trump was speaking in 2006, "the situation" was the potential for a deflation of the housing bubble. The housing market inflates and deflates in a way parallel to the rise and fall of the stock market. Lower prices attract investors in both cases. But in the video, PolitiFact allows "the situation" to refer to the housing crisis, not the mere deflation of the housing bubble.

What good is a fact checker that cannot sniff out so obvious a lie?

Not much, we would say.


  1. Trump himself, during the debate, not only admitted it but said it's good business. Here's the exact quote:

    Hilary Clinton: In fact, Donald was one of the people who rooted for the housing crisis. He said back in 2006, “Gee, I hope it does collapse because then I can go in and buy some and make some money.” Well, it did collapse.

    Donald Trump: That’s called business, by the way.

  2. When you say Trump "admitted to it but also said it's good business" could you please clarify specifically what you mean by "it"?

    I suspect our disagreement depends upon what the meaning of the word 'it' is.

    (Deleted first comment for typo)

  3. I understand your concerns and am curious which fact checking sites you think are more reputable and non-partisan. Thanks.

    1. Ken, that's a tough question.

      We pick on PolitiFact because it is the worst, but they all stink.

      The best of the so-called "elite three" is FactCheck.org. It refuses to use a cheesy rating system and as a result avoids PolitiFact's sin of constantly pointing to meaningless "report cards" and graphs. But that isn't to say it is unbiased.

      New fact checkers Verbatim (where I worked for a time early on) and "Truthiness Check" may hold some promise. "Truthiness Check" looks to employ crowd sourcing, which we tend to distrust, but we don't wish to discount the possibility of achieving positive results with some type of crowd-sourced element to fact-checking.

      My own site, Zebra Fact Check, brings a fresh approach to the grading system idea. Time and money constraints keep a limit on how much I can publish. It's a good place to visit for a deeper look at fact-checking in general, as well as fact checks of fact checkers.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting.