Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Media Trackers (Florida): "PolitiFact Florida Dishonestly Smears Pam Bondi on Obamacare"

Media Trackers of Florida continues to assail the purulent pronouncements of PolitiFact, this time over PolitiFact Florida's "False" ruling for Attorney General Pam Bondi for a statement regarding ObamaCare's effect on business.

Media Trackers:
The numbers cited by Bondi are verifiable and accurate. The Mercer survey found that 61 percent of employers expect costs to rise as a result of Obamacare. As PolitiFact Florida itself noted, “Bondi is correct on the specific numbers she cited.”

Nevertheless, PolitiFact Florida ruled that Bondi’s statement was “false.” How could this be?
It's a good question.  This case involving Bondi creates such a good example of poor journalism that Media Trackers probably distracts readers from appreciating its problems with an abundance of sensationalistic rhetoric, above quotation excepted.

It's hard to see how PolitiFact justifies the ruling in spite of the descriptions.  Take the conclusion, for example:
We don’t doubt there’s anxiety among some businesses over what’s to come under the health care law, and maybe some are talking about whether they’ll have to raise prices or cut jobs. But Bondi didn’t talk about planning, she talked about what’s occuring right now, and we find no studies already showing the negative effects or evidence that businesses are cutting jobs or raising prices now. We rate Bondi’s statement False.
PedantiFact is more like it. 

We often see PolitiFact applying unnecessarily uncharitable interpretations to politicians' statements, with conservatives receiving the greater harm.  Bondi made two main points, that multiple studies showed damage to businesses from ObamaCare and that businesses were responding by cutting hours or laying off workers.  Bondi did not state that studies showed businesses were cutting hours or laying off workers.  PolitiFact drew that inference and graded Bondi in part on that claim.

Given normal charitable interpretation, Bondi was correct in that Mercer conducted more than one study indicating economic damage to business as reflected in employer expectations.  Bondi was likewise correct, based on anecdotal evidence, that businesses are reacting by cutting hours or laying off workers.  The statement of intent is enough to justify Bondi's use of tense.

Here's an analogy:  Suppose a baseball team ended the previous season without hitting a home run.  At the winter meetings the team acquires renowned sluggers Jeff Smith and Alex Weston.  The GM announces the team is solving its power woes with Smith and Weston.

But wait!  The season hasn't started yet, so the team isn't solving anything yet.  Right, PolitiFact?  Smith and Weston might suffer season-ending injuries on their plane ride to join the team.

This type of language is common in English.  A high school senior in California announces she's going to college at Yale.  So what's she still doing in a California high school?  PolitiFact rates the scholarly senior "False."

We applaud Media Trackers for highlighting yet another PolitiGaffe fact check.

We do experience concern that some of Media Trackers' assertions are vulnerable to challenge, such as saying PolitiFact did its reporting "dishonestly."  Also saying that PolitiFact smears Republicans while "bolstering" Democrats oversimplifies a complex record of unfairness to both parties that happens to harm Republicans more than it does Democrats.  Toning down the condemnation will allow such reports to reach and influence a wider audience.

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