Sometimes we bait PolitiFact into giving us examples of its left-leaning tendencies. On November 1, 2017, we noticed a false tweet from President Barack Obama. So we drew PolitiFact's attention to it via the #PolitiFactThis hashtag.
Subsidies for the vast majority of people? 8 in 10 can find plans for $75/month or less? #PolitiFactThis— Bryan W. White (@ZebraFactCheck) November 1, 2017
We didn't need to have PolitiFact look into it to know that what Obama said was false. He presented a circular argument, in effect, using the statistics for people who had chosen an ACA exchange plan to mislead the wider public about their chances of receiving subsidized and inexpensive health insurance.
PolitiFact identified the deceit in its fact check, but used biased supposition to soften it (bold emphasis added):
"It only takes a few minutes and the vast majority of people qualify for financial assistance," Obama says. "Eight in 10 people this year can find plans for $75 a month or less."The video ad appeals to people who are uninsured or who might save money by shopping for health insurance on the government exchange. PolitiFact's wording fudges the truth. It might have accurately said "The statistic is correct for people currently enrolled in HealthCare.gov. but not for the population targeted by the ad."
Can 8 in 10 people get health coverage for $75 a month or less? It depends on who those 10 people are.
The statistic only refers to people currently enrolled in HealthCare.gov.
In the ad, the statistic refers to the ad's target population, not merely to those currently enrolled in HealthCare.gov.
And PolitiFact makes thin and misleading excuses for Obama's deception:
(I)n the absence of statistics on HealthCare.gov visitors, the 8-in-10 figure is the only data point available to those wondering about their eligibility for low-cost plans within the marketplace. What’s more, the website also helps enroll people who might not have otherwise known they were eligible for other government programs.The nonpartisan fact-checker implies that the lack of data helps excuse using data in a misleading way. We reject that type of excuse-making. If Obama does not provide his audience the context allowing it to understand the data point without being misled, then he deserves full blame for the resulting deception.
PolitiFact might as well be saying "Yes, he misled people, but for a noble purpose!"
PolitiFact, in fact, provided other data points in its preceding paragraph that helped contextualize Obama's misleading data point.
We think PolitiFact's excuse-making influences the reasoning it uses when deciding its subjective "Truth-O-Meter" ratings.
HALF TRUE – The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context.In objective terms, what keeps Obama's statement from deserving a "Mostly False" or "False" rating?
MOSTLY FALSE – The statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.
FALSE – The statement is not accurate.
His statement was literally false when taken in context, and his underlying message was likewise false.
About 10 to 12 million are enrolled in HealthCare.Gov ("Obamacare") plans. About 80 percent of those receive the subsidies Obama lauds. About 6 million persons buying insurance outside the exchange fail to qualify for subsidies, according to PolitiFact. Millions among the uninsured likewise fail to qualify for subsidies.
Surely a fact-checker can develop a data point out of numbers like those.
But this is what happens when non-partisan fact checkers lean left.
Correction Nov. 6, 2017: Removed "About 6 million uninsured do not qualify for Medicaid or subsidies" as it was superseded by reporting later in the post).