Sam Rothenberg wrote:
Where's your post on PolitiFact's "liberal bias" in giving Democrat Harry Reid a "pants on fire" for saying that Mitt Romney hasn't paid taxes for at least 10 years?1) We won't have a post about a "liberal bias" associated with Reid receiving the lowest possible rating from PolitiFact. That wouldn't make any sense, for Reid is a liberal. We think all "Pants on Fire" ratings are unfair since PolitiFact lists only a subjective criterion for applying the ruling. The current post will offer our assessment of the Reid situation.
2) PolitiFact Bias does not exist primarily to feature the work of its proprietors. We try to spotlight the work of others. Consequently, our response time often has a lag with breaking news, particularly if we find ourselves busy with other things.
What about that "Pants on Fire" for Reid?
Again, we think all "Pants on Fire" ratings are unfair. The definition PolitiFact offers is subjective, so it makes sense to conclude that all such ratings represent an opinion judgment from PolitiFact. That said, there's at least one positive aspect to the Reid rating: PolitiFact has as one of its principles a "burden of proof" criterion that we expected would force a harsh PolitiFact rating if PolitiFact elected to rate Reid's statement. PolitiFact acted consistently with its principles in rating Reid harshly.
When Democrats made Reid's claim a central issue of the election, it tended to force PolitiFact's hand.
On the downside, PolitiFact often misapplies its burden of proof criterion. The misapplication does not serve properly as a fact-checking tool. Rather, it is a helpful principle in argument or debate. When a party concludes, as PolitiFact does, that a statement is true or false based simply on a lack of evidence, the conclusion represents the fallacy of argumentum ad ignorantiam--the fallacy of argument from ignorance. When PolitiFact bases a ruling on its burden of proof criterion it is not engaged in fact checking. It is acting as the self-appointed rhetoric police.
There are times, of course, when one can make a good case for the truth or falsehood of a claim if the lack of evidence concerns something that we reasonably expect to find.
Did PolitiFact follow that principle?
PolitiFact arguably did follow that principle.
The article cites tax experts who find it very unlikely that Romney could avoid tax liability for 10 straight years. But all that does is provide a reasonable justification for a "False" rating. The "Pants on Fire" rating remains subjective.
As of today, Republicans are about 68 percent more likely than Democrats to receive a (subjective) "Pants on Fire" rating from PolitiFact for a false claim since it started in 2007. Democrats tend not to notice the unfairness as much since it affects Democrats much less frequently.
The bias is anti-Republican. It just happens that PolitiFact's methods damage members of both parties.