Thursday, August 3, 2017

Newsbusters: "PolitiFact's Pretzel Twist for Democrat Gwen Moore: 'Mostly True,' But Not 'Literally Speaking'"

Tim Graham of Newsbusters scores a hit on PolitiFact Wisconsin with his Aug. 2, 2017 item on a rating from PolitiFact Wisconsin.

Rep. Gwen Moore (D--Wis) said, according to PolitiFact, "If you’re killed at 31 years old like Dontre Hamilton, who was shot 14 times by police for resting on a park bench in Milwaukee, nursing home care is not your priority."

PolitiFact Wisconsin admitted Moore's statement was not literally true:
Literally speaking, Hamilton was not killed simply for resting on a bench. He was shot after striking an officer with the officer’s baton.
PolitiFact Wisconsin rated the false statement "Mostly True."

In PolitiFact Wisconsin's defense, it imagined into being a way of viewing Moore's statement as true:
But in making a rhetorical point, Moore is correct that Hamilton had done nothing to attract the attention of police but fall asleep in a park.
Bless PolitiFact's heart for relieving Moore of the responsibility for using appropriate words to make her supposed rhetorical point. Moore did not talk at all about simply "drawing the attention of police." She talked specifically about Hamilton being shot (14 times) "for resting on a park bench."

This case helps illustrate how PolitiFact's "star chamber" feels little constraint from its stated definitions for its "Truth-O-Meter" ratings. PolitiFact defines "Mostly True" as "The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information."

In what manner was Moore's statement accurate without PolitiFact rewriting it to focus on the way Hamilton drew the attention of police?

If PolitiFact's "Truth-O-Meter" definitions were worth anything, then no false statement like Moore's would ever receive a rating of "Mostly True" or better. But it happens often.

Is it any wonder that people do not trust mainstream media fact checkers like PolitiFact?

Update March 24, 2019: Updated URL leading to PolitiFact's statement of principles. PolitiFact changed its statement of principles under a new URL. The old URL redirects to the new one. So we're now using the version from the Internet Archive from August 2017.

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