A PolitiFact fact check of Michelle Obama's speech to the Democratic National Convention supplies yet another strong example.
One could easily read Obama's statement to mean that the White House was built exclusively with slave labor. That was not the case, as the text of the fact check concedes. Not telling a significant part of the story often leads to PolitiFact rating a true claim "Mostly True" or worse.
Not this time (bold emphasis added):
Obama said the White House "was built by slaves." Strictly speaking, the White House was not exclusively built by slaves; it was built by a combination of slaves, free blacks and whites. But slaves were significantly involved in the construction of the White House, so we have no quarrel with the way Obama worded her claim. We rate it True.Obama's claim was imprecise and people might be misled by it. However, PolitiFact has no problem with the way she worded her claim.
That's tossing principles on the scrap head, not that PolitiFact is consistent enough in applying its principles that they deserve the term "principles."
Need a comparison? There are many. How about this one?
PolitiFact's summary draws the perfect contrast:
Trump has a point here, but he should have used different words to make it. We rate his claim Mostly False.PolitiFact has no problem with Obama's word choice. But Trump should have used different words to make his valid point.
These two political figures are not being judged according to the same standard.
Fact-checking. This is why so many cannot take PolitiFact's brand of fact-checking seriously. The great mystery is why the folks at PolitiFact think it is okay to check facts this way.
If they know it is not okay and yet do it anyway, well, that puts the problem in a different light.
We often hear the excuse from PolitiFact's defenders that PolitiFact always justifies its ratings.
To those people, we ask if you would have accepted this explanation from PolitiFact:
Trump said Chevrolet in Japan "does not exist." Strictly speaking, there are some Chevrolet vehicles in Japan though the number is relatively small compared to the more popular makes. Since the number of Chevrolets is so small we have no problem with the hyperbolic way Trump worded his claim. We rate it True.Always justifying the rating does not help if the justifications do not follow consistent principles.