Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Guest post: PolitiFact rescues Juan Williams’ misplay of the race card

Politifact recently focused its attention on a statement made by self-proclaimed liberal and Fox News contributor Juan Williams on Fox News Sunday last weekend. Williams was asked if Republican opposition to Obama was based on race or policy. Williams chose not to answer the question directly and decided instead to use a false argument to insinuate that the lawsuit and the opposition to the President’s actions were in fact racially motivated.
PolitiFact evaluated a statistic Williams used, completely ignoring the point he was making.
Williams introduced the race issue to the panel discussion when he said many people see opposition to Obama’s executive actions as an attack on the first black president.  Chris Wallace, the Fox News Sunday moderator, followed up:

WALLACE: Wait a second, I want to pick up on exactly that point. Do you think that the Republican opposition to this president, you heard Hakeem Jeffries talk about hatred, is racial, or do you think it is based on principles and policies?
WILLIAMS: Well, all I can do is look at the numbers. If you look at the core constituency, the people who are in let's say Tea Party opposition, support of impeachment, there's no diversity, it's a white, older group of people. As to whether or not it's racial, look, President Obama and others have said there are some people who don't like him because of his race; some people who do like him. But I would say if you just break it down as a matter of political analysis and say who is this group, it reminds me that the Republican Party has become almost a completely white party.

Williams later added:

WILLIAMS: The people who want him impeached, they are almost all white and they are all older and guess what, they are all in the far right wing of the Republican Party.

PolitiFact does not address the meat and potatoes of Williams’ argument, namely implying conservatives are racist.  Instead, PolitiFact evaluates the flimsy statistical support Williams offered in his argument--with a twist.

Whereas Williams said “all” support for impeachment came from old, white, conservative Republicans, PolitiFact decided Williams was making a point more along the lines that many old, white, conservative Republicans support impeachment.
PolitiFact includes the context showing Williams was responding to the question of whether he thought opposition to Obama was based on race or policy.  But PolitiFact drops the context for purposes of its fact check, failing to even consider grading the implied racism charge as part of the “Truth-O-Meter” rating.
PolitiFact found so much support in the poll data that it rated Williams “Mostly True” despite his unfortunate use of the word “all.”
What did the main poll actually show?
1. Republicans oppose the actions of a Democratic president more than Democrats do.
2. Forty-one percent of whites wanted Obama impeached compared to just 17 percent of non-whites.
3. Forty-nine percent of whites supported suing the president compared to just 23 percent of non-whites.
The considerable support for impeaching and suing Obama among non-whites severely undercuts Williams’ playing of the race card.  Fortunately for Williams, PunditFact’s fact check makes it easy to ignore where he went wrong.  Likewise, PolitiFact's factual massage makes it easy for misled readers to stick with the bogus reasoning Williams used to imply conservatives are racist in their opposition to Obama.

Liberal bias, anyone?


Bryan adds:

For much more on the way the mass media and academia try to pin the racist tail on the tea party (and the elephant), see my article "Fact checking Bill Maher and tea party racism" over at Zebra Fact Check.

It's perhaps the most in-depth journalistic treatment of the subject to date.

Update: Added Link to original PunditFact article at "Mostly True" at 2133PST 8-5-14 - Jeff


  1. Since when is 17% or 23% a considerable amount. Both would mean that less than one in four non-whites support either impeachment or the law suit. I believe you help prove his point, dumbass.

  2. It's worth considering 17 percent or 23 percent of non-whites supporting two types of opposition to President Obama when one is testing the claim that all such opposition comes from whites.

    We're glad we were here to help you.


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