Consider the evidence.
Back on Nov. 15, 2013, PolitiFact gave Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) a "Mostly False" rating for claiming gun prosecutions were down 30 percent under President Obama from what they were under President Bush. The rationale PolitiFact used to back its rating was crazy.
PolitiFact preferred measuring the trend in prosecutions using "all charges" instead of "lead charges." PolitiFact used data from the Department of Justice's United States Attorneys Office. Fine. We can work with that:
PolitiFact used the third data column, representing the number of defendants against whom firearm charges were filed. That number is higher than the number of cases in the first data column.
PolitiFact then veered into loony land by claiming that the best way to measure the trend in prosecutions was to compare 2002 under Bush to 2012 under Obama. Seriously:
The most reliable number may be the 10.3 percent increase in gun prosecutions between fiscal years 2002 and 2012. This rate actually indicates the trend moving in the opposite direction from what Cruz asserted.Why would comparing the numbers for just two arbitrarily chosen years serve as the best method for measuring a trend over a period of about ten years? We have no idea.
PolitiFact argues that the third column represents the most "inclusive" number. But it doesn't follow that cherry-picking figures from the column representing the most inclusive number will yield the most accurate trend line. Rather, that method would appear to represent arbitrary cherry-picking. After all, why should 2002 serve as a representative year of gun prosecutions under Bush? In fact, the figure from 2002 is nothing other than the lowest number in the series PolitiFact presented to its readers.
Add to that the fact that the 2002 figure is at the very start of the series representing Bush, and one cannot accept the figure as any kind of trend for the Bush administration.
Statistics best show trends when we compare year-to-year changes over time. As with a graph:
A federal fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30. Each two-term president will have complete responsibility for only seven fiscal years. Clinton shared FY 2001 with Bush. Bush shared FY 2009 with Obama. Of Bush's full seven fiscal years, PolitiFact used for its comparison the only one that Obama could have improved on.
PolitiFact finds its most revealing trend in gun prosecutions by comparing Bush's first full fiscal year with Obama's third full fiscal year and ignoring the data from all other fiscal years. PolitiFact's "most inclusive method" excluded most of the data. We can imagine no sensible justifying rationale for that method.
PolitiFact concluded by suggesting Cruz was well off the mark because the best method showed a trend toward increasing gun prosecutions under Obama (bold emphasis added):
Cruz said prosecution of gun crimes under the Bush administration was 30 percent higher than it is under Obama.Examples like this should rightly do tremendous damage to PolitiFact's credibility. Remember, PolitiFact's "star chamber" met to collectively consider this fact check. How can such rotten methodology go unnoticed by fact check professionals?
It’s possible to get a decline that big by cherry-picking the data, but the most inclusive method actually produces an increase. Cruz also overstates the role of the president in determining prosecution rates. We rate Cruz’s claim Mostly False.
This is not the first time PolitiFact has pulled shenanigans with gun statistics.
Odds are it will not be the last.