Monday, May 23, 2011

Caught making stuff up, PolitiFact hopes nobody else notices

On May 16, 2011 PolitiFact published a fact check of Laura Ingraham's claim that RomneyCare is "wildly unpopular" in Massachusetts.

Just one problem.  Ingraham didn't say it.

Ingraham was on the O'Reilly Factor for her regular "Week in Review" segment.  O'Reilly brought up Romney's May 12 speech defending his RomneyCare plan, a state health care reform in Massachusetts notable for its similarities to the Democrat-supported PPACA.

Look, I like Mitt Romney. I think he's a really smart guy and I think he would be a good president. I think a lot of the people who might be running would be a good president.

On this, I don't get it though Bill. I mean costs have gone up. It's wildly unpopular.
PolitiFact assumed Ingraham was talking about the program's popularity in Massachusetts.  But that doesn't fit the context.  Romney's concern is RomneyCare's popularity with Republican primary voters.  If Romney doesn't win the Republican nomination then he has no realistic shot at the presidency, period.

Not only did PolitiFact fail to figure that out from the context, PolitiFact has failed to respond to the call to revisit the issue.

It isn't a close issue.  Does the need to protect the brand from admissions of error so easily supersede the desire to tell the truth?  Or is ideological bias the better explanation for the reluctance to correct or clarify?

Jeff adds:

It's important to note how subtle PolitiFact's tomfoolery is. In this case, simply adding two words ("in Massachusetts") changes the entire standard used to rate Ingraham's statement. (Actually PolitiFact used four-"in the Bay State"). Sleights-of-hand like this give PolitiFact an appearance of honest and authoritative fact checking when in reality they're creating a statement out of thin air. It's unlikely a casual reader would catch these additional words that incorrectly frame Ingraham's comment. They've created an amazingly lifelike straw man.

Of course, it's not the first time that PolitiFact has rated a statement that was never said. And while adding words to reframe a fact check is misleading, the same goes for ignoring words that actually were said.

Update: 5/25/11

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