Does PolitiFact have principles?
Apparently none that represent an obstacle to reaching whatever "Truth-O-Meter" rating is desired.
Today's example comes from PolitiFact Virginia's Aug. 15, 2016 fact check of Democratic Vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine. Kaine said former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi couldn't find a place to stay in New York, so Donald Trump let him put a tent on the Trump Estate.
Before we proceed, let us review PolitiFact's definition of its "True" rating on its trademarked "Truth-O-Meter":
TRUE – The statement is accurate and there’s nothing significant missing.Kaine said nobody would let Gadhafi stay in New York, then said Trump let Gadhafi set up a tent on his estate. So was Kaine saying Gadhafi stayed at the estate in an elaborate tent?
Isn't that Kaine's implication?
PolitiFact apparently thinks so, otherwise the caption under the "Truth-O-Meter" serves no useful purpose: "Gadhafi a no-show." Isn't it significant that Gadhafi did not end up staying at the estate despite the appearance that's what Kaine implied?
Making PolitiFact Virginia look even more incompetent, the "True" rating overlooks Kaine's primary underlying argument, which PolitiFact understood well enough to use as its lead paragraph:
Tim Kaine says Donald Trump has a fondness for dictators, including the late Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi.Kaine's evidence that Trump has a fondness for dictators, including Gadhafi, is Trump renting Gadhafi space at the Trump estate--space that Gadhafi apparently did not visit. PolitiFact Virginia, in fact, reported that Gadhafi found a place to stay in New York, even though Kaine said he could not find a place to stay:
Gadhafi ended up staying at Libya’s U.N. mission in midtown Manhattan.Kaine said Gadhafi could not find a place to stay in New York, implying the Trump estate was the exception. That was false.
Kaine implied Gadhafi stayed at the Trump estate. That was false.
Kaine said Trump allowed Gadhafi to set up a tent at the Trump estate. That was apparently true, but used in a misleading way.
Kaine implied that Trump's arrangement with Gadhafi shows Trump holds an affinity for dictators.
Don't we need stronger evidence than this?
Nah. This is PolitiFact. What Kaine said was "True" and nothing significant was left out.
Perhaps PolitiFact Virginia simply mistakes objectionable fact-checking for objective fact-checking?
Update Sept. 17, 2016: Afters
We're updating this post to add the "tweezers or tongs" tag, with a few words of explanation.
"Tweezers or tongs" denotes stories where PolitiFact has the option of setting a narrow or wide focus on its topic. The nature of the story focus may play a critical role in the final rating. PolitiFact might give a claim a "Mostly False" rating if it contains a "grain of truth." Or, PolitiFact might instead cut the grain of truth like a tiny diamond and present it as a tiny sparkling ring of truth in stories like the one PolitiFact Virginia wrote about Democrat Tim Kaine.
Additional note: We appreciate the prominent link to the story from Newsbusters, which has its own expanded take. It's worth a read.