Thursday, July 6, 2017

PolitiFact Texas uses tongs (2016)

Our "tweezers or tongs" tag applies to cases where PolitiFact had a choice of a narrow focus on one part of a claim or a wider focus on a claim with more than one part.

The tweezers or tongs option allows a fact-check to exercise bias by using the true part of a statement to boost the rating. Or ignoring the true part of the statement to drop the rating.

In this case, from 2016, a Democrat got the benefit of PolitiFact Texas' tongs treatment:

So, it was true that Texas law requires every high school to have a voter registrar.

But it was false that the law requires the registrar to get the children to vote once they're eligible.

PolitiFact averages it out:
Saldaña said a Texas law requires every high school to have a voter registrar "and part of their responsibility is to make sure that when children become 18 and become eligible to vote, that they vote."

A 1983 law requires every high school to have a deputy voter registrar tasked with giving eligible students voter registration applications. Each registrar also must make sure submitted applications are appropriately handled.

However, the law doesn’t require registrars to make every eligible student register; it's up to each student to act or not. Also, as Saldaña acknowledged, registrars aren’t required to ensure that students vote.

We rate this statement Half True.
There are dozens of examples where PolitiFact ignored what was true in favor of emphasizing the false. It's just one more way the PolitiFact system allows bias to creep in.

Here's one for which PolitiFact Pennsylvania breaks out the tweezers:

Sen. Toomey (R-Penn.) correctly says the ACA created a new category of eligibility. That part of his claim does not figure in the "Half True" rating.

We doubt that PolitiFact has ever created an ethical, principled and objective means for deciding when to ignore parts of compound claims.

Certainly we see no evidence of such means in PolitiFact's work.

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