We don't buy it.
Take this example from 2007, which caught our eye while we reviewed PolitiFact's preposterous ruling of "Mostly False" for the idea that France and Germany thought Iraq had WMD.
When Republican Fred Thompson was running for president in 2007, he argued that the "Iraq Study Group" said Iraq was planning to get its nuclear program up and running again despite sanctions.
PolitiFact to the rescue! "False," screamed the trademarked "Truth-O-Meter."
According to PolitiFact, the "Iraq Study Group" (put together by Congress) had made no such finding. So Thompson's claim was false.
Hilariously, unless you were Fred Thompson, PolitiFact bothered to note that the "Iraq Survey Group," the CIA group tasked in Iraq with assessing Iraq's WMD capability, had made a claim that pretty much matched what Thompson said:
So we find Thompson's claim to be False.Gotcha.
It's possible that Thompson was referring to the Iraq Survey Group, a CIA panel that was formed to investigate whether there were weapons of mass destruction or the intent to produce WMDs in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The report found that Saddam did not produce or possess any weapons of mass destruction for more than a decade before the U.S.-led invasion, but that he "aspired to develop a nuclear capability — in an incremental fashion, irrespective of international pressure and the resulting economic risks."
PolitiFact eventually got around to writing up a statement of principles, which it published in February 2011. We would highlight PolitiFact's declaration about "gotcha" journalism.
Is the statement significant? We avoid minor "gotchas"’ on claims that obviously represent a slip of the tongue.Too late for Fred Thompson, unfortunately. Thompson's stuck with that undeserved "False" on his record. Maybe PolitiFact went with it because it was a major "gotcha"?
This is the type of fact check that signaled early on to us that something was wrong with the new fact checker in town.
The worst part? PolitiFact isn't getting better.