Thursday, May 26, 2016

Surreal: PolitiFact gives Clinton "Mostly True" rating for deliberate deceit

Though we're used to seeing PolitiFact publish some of the worst and most biased fact checks of all time, PolitiFact's May 26, 2016 fact check of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton still counts as surreal.

It's surreal because we can hardly imagine anybody outside of the PolitiFact offices not seeing that it's ridiculously biased.

Here's what the top of it looks like:

This almost makes for a classic tweezers or tongs case. Should PolitiFact pick out the true nugget from the false boulder? Or focus on the boulder while giving some credit for the true nugget?

That subjective choice is, of course, one of the things that makes PolitiFact's claims of nonpartisanship ring resoundingly hollow. But in this case PolitiFact went way beyond its normal exercise of subjective discretion. Read on.

Note at the top of the image we clipped that PolitiFact uses a quotation from Clinton: "In 2006, Donald Trump was hoping for a real estate crash." If that was all there was to it, then Clinton could earn a "Mostly True." Donald Trump did hope the real estate bubble would burst (which ordinarily just means that overpriced real estate receives a correction). So penalize Clinton a little for exaggerating hoping the bubble would burst into hoping for a "crash," and okay. Maybe it's a little easy on Clinton, but okay.

But that isn't what PolitiFact did at all. No sirree.

PolitiFact gave Clinton the grade that might have been justified after tweezing out the nugget of truth from her ad. But PolitiFact associated the positive rating for the true-ish nugget with what can only be called a deliberate deception. A lie, if you will. A statement made with the intent to deceive.

Yes, it's right there in the same image capture up above: "Hillary Clinton faults Donald Trump for hoping for real estate crash that led to the Great Recession." Up from the headline and to the right a smidgen and the "Truth-O-Meter" blares its helpful "Mostly True" next to Clinton's gross untruth.

In context, the ad is even more blatant in sending the false message that Trump hoped for the Great Recession. PolitiFact recognizes it, even though the blatant deception fails to figure in the final rating:
He said on more than one occasion that he welcomed a downturn in the real estate market because it would give him a chance to buy properties at a bargain and sell them at a higher price later. That's the essence of profitable investing.

What's far less clear is whether Trump was rooting for something on the scale of the Great Recession, a suggestion made in the Clinton ad.
Got that? It not completely clear to PolitiFact that Trump wasn't hoping for a crash along the lines of the Great Recession. But Clinton's ad suggested as much. So what can you do? You just have to give Clinton the benefit of the doubt, right? It's mostly true that Trump was hoping for the Great Recession. It's a mostly true fact. It's right there in the name PolitiFact.

It's not at all plausible that Trump was hoping for the Great Recession, and Clinton knows it. There's no real evidence to support it except for a quotation taken out of context. The quotation is out of context because there was no Great Recession when he made the statement, and Trump doubted the housing bubble would burst. Should Trump have nonetheless predicted the depth of the recession along with the sluggish recovery engineered by the Obama administration?

Clinton's ad tells a lie, and PolitiFact grants its seal of mostly approval. Disgusting.

PolitiFact has turned out a ton of stinkers in its history. This one reeks with the worst of them.


  1. I know this is late, but I'm a little behind...

    Anyway I think the distortion is even worse than you have indicated. Note that Trump's comment was from 2006. Recall also that the great recession wasn't as bad as it was because there was a real estate downturn, but because there was a real estate bubble that burst. The definition of a bubble is a period of overvaluation followed by a rapid correction. Without the overvaluation, instead of a bubble you have a correction. A correction comes with some pain, but nothing like the great recession. Indeed the name says it all - correction.

    So it could be argued that the single thing that made the 2007 correction into the great recession is the fact that there was NOT a downturn earlier.

    Put another way, even the most damning interpretation of Trump's comment can only be described as rooting AGAINST the great recession.

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