Tuesday, January 30, 2018

PolitiFact editor: "Tell me where the fact-check is wrong"

Ever notice how PolitiFact likes to paint its critics as folks who carp about whether the (subjective) Truth-O-Meter rating was correct?

PolitiFact Editor Angie Drobnic Holan gave us another stanza of that song-and-dance in a Jan. 26, 2018 interview with Digital Charlotte. Digital Charlotte's Stephanie Bunao asked Holan whether she sees a partisan difference in the email and commentary PolitiFact receives from readers.

Holan's response (bold emphasis added):
Well, we get, you know, nobody likes it when their team is being criticized, so we get mail a lot of different ways. I think obviously there's a kind of repeated slogan from the conservative side that when they see media reports they don't like, that it's liberal media or fake news. On the left, the criticism is a little different – like they accuse us of having false balance. You know, when we say the Democrats are wrong, they say, ‘Oh, you're only doing that to try to show that you're independent.’ I mean it gets really like a little bit mental, when people say why we're wrong. If they're not dealing with the evidence, my response is like, ‘Well you can say that we're biased all you want, but tell me where the fact-check is wrong. Tell me what evidence we got wrong. Tell me where our logic went wrong. Because I think that's a useful conversation to have about the actual report itself.
Let us count the ways Holan achieves disingenuousness, starting with the big one at the end:

1) "Tell me where the fact-check is wrong"

We've been doing that for years here at PolitiFact Bias, making our point in blog posts, emails and tweets. Our question for Holan? If you think that's a useful conversation to have then why do you avoid having the conversation? On Jan. 25, 2018, we sent Holan an email pointing out a factual problem with one of its fact checks. We received no reply. And on Jan. 26 she tells an interviewer that the conversation she won't have is a useful one?

2) "Every year in December we look at all the things that we fact-check, and we say, ‘What is the most significant lie we fact-checked this year’"

Huh? In 2013, PolitiFact worked hard to make the public believe it had chosen the president's Affordable Care Act promise that people would be able to keep plans they liked under the new health care law as its "Lie of the Year." But PolitiFact did not fact check the claim in 2013. PolitiFact Bias and others exposed PolitiFact's deception at the time, but PolitiFact keeps repeating it.

3) PolitiFact's "extreme transparency"

Asked how the media can regain public trust, Holan mentioned the use of transparency. We agree with her that far. But she used PolitiFact as an example of providing readers "extreme transparency."

That's a laugh.

Perhaps PolitiFact provides more transparency than the average mainstream media outlet, but does that equal "extreme transparency"? We say no. Extreme transparency is admitting your politics (PolitiFail), publishing the texts of expert interviews (PolitiFail, except for PolitiFact Texas), revealing the "Truth-O-Meter" votes of its editorial "star chamber" (PolitiFail) and more.

PolitiFact practices above-average transparency, not "extreme transparency." And the media tend to deliver a poor degree of transparency.

We remain prepared to have that "useful conversation" about PolitiFact's errors of fact and research.

You let us know when you're ready, Angie Drobnic Holan.

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