Monday, April 2, 2018

PolitiFact Bias Fights Fact Checker Falsehoods

A December 2017 project report by former PolitiFact intern Allison Colburn of the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism made a number of misleading statements about PolitiFact Bias. This is our second post addressing that report. Find the first one here.

A blog,, devotes itself to finding specific instances of PolitiFact being unfair to conservatives. The blog does not provide analysis or opinion about fact-checks that give Republicans positive ratings. Rather, it mostly focuses on instances of PolitiFact being too hard on conservatives.
We find all three sentences untrue.

Does PolitiFact Bias devote itself to finding specific instances of PolitiFact being unfair to conservatives?

The PolitiFact Bias banner declares the site's purpose as "Exposing bias, mistakes and flimflammery at the PolitiFact fact check website." Moreover, the claim is specious on its face. After the page break we posted the title of each PolitiFact Bias blog entry from 2017, the year when Colburn published her report. The titles alone provide strong evidence contradicting Colburn's claim.

PolitiFact Bias exists to show the strongest evidence of the left-leaning bias that a plurality of Americans detect in the mainstream media, specific to PolitiFact. As such, we look for any manifestations of bias, including patterns in the use of words, patterns in the application of subjective ratings, biased framing and inconsistent application of principles.

Does PolitiFact Bias not provide analysis or opinion about about fact-checks that give Republicans positive ratings?

PolitiFact Bias focuses its posts on issues that accord with its purpose of exposing PolitiFact's bias, mistakes and flimflammery. Our focus by its nature is technically orthogonal to PolitiFact giving Republicans positive ratings. And, in fact, PolitiFact Bias does analyze cases where Republicans received high ratings. PolitiFact Bias even highlights some criticisms of PolitiFact from the left.

We simply do not find many strong criticisms of PolitiFact from the left. There are plenty of criticisms of PolitiFact from the right that we likewise find weak.

Does PolitiFact Bias "mostly focus" on PolitiFact's harsh treatment of conservatives?

PolitiFact Bias recognizes the subjectivity of PolitiFact's "Truth-O-Meter" ratings. PolitiFact's rating system offers no dependable means of objectively grading the truth value of political statements. For that reason, this site tends to avoid specifically faulting PolitiFact's assigned ratings. Instead, PolitiFact Bias places its emphasis on cases showing PolitiFact inconsistency in applying its ratings. In two similar cases where a Democrat received a positive rating and a Republican received a lower rating it might be the case that PolitiFact went easy on the Democrat.

That said, the list of post titles again shows that PolitiFact Bias produces a great deal of content that is not focused on showing PolitiFact should give conservatives more positive ratings. Holan's statement jibes with Colburn's false statement about the focus at PolitiFact Bias.

Why the misleading claims about PolitiFact Bias?

As far as we can tell, the entire evidence Colburn used in her report's judgment of PolitiFact Bias came from her interview with PolitiFact Editor Angie Drobnic Holan:
I'm just kind of curious, there's the site, What are what are your thoughts on that site?

That seems to be one guy who's been around for a long time, and his complaints just seem to be that we don't have good, that we don't give enough good ratings, positive ratings to conservatives. And then he just kind of looks for whatever evidence he can find to support that point.

Do you guys ever read his stuff? Does it ever worry you?

He's been making the same complaint for so long that it has tended to become background noise, to be honest. I find him just very singularly focused in his complaints, and he very seldom brings up anything that I learn from. But he's very, you know, I give him credit for sticking in there. I mean he used to give us, like when he first started he would give us grades for our reporting and our editing. So it would be like grades for this report: Reporter Angie Holan, editor Bill Adair. And like we could never do better than like a D-minus. So it's just like whatever. What I find is it's hard for me to take critics seriously when they never say we do anything right. Sometimes we can do things right, and you'll never see it on that site.
Note that in Holan's response to Colburn's first question about PolitiFact Bias she suggests the site focuses on PolitiFact not giving enough positive ratings to conservatives.

Are Colburn and Holan lying?

PolitiFact Bias co-editor Jeff D. has used the PolitiFact Bias Twitter account to charge Colburn and Holan with lying.

The charge isn't unreasonable.

Colburn very likely read the PolitiFact Bias site to some extent before asking Holan about it. Even a cursory read ought to have informed a reasonable person that Holan's description of the site was slanted at best. Yet Holan's description apparently underpinned Colburn's description of PolitiFact Bias.

Likewise, Holan's familiarity with the PolitiFact Bias site ought to have informed her that her description of it was wrong and misleading.

When a person knowingly makes a false or misleading statement, it counts as a lie. Colburn and Holan were both very likely to have reason to know their statements were false or misleading.

We're pondering a second post pressing the issue still further in Holan's case.

PolitiFact Bias posts January 2017 through October 2017 (Colburn interviewed Holan in October 2017) in reverse chronological order

 By our reckoning, this list of posts shows a focus on PolitiFact's mistakes, deceptions and inconsistency, not its lack of positive ratings for conservatives.

PolitiFact's Evangelism & Revival Tour III

The PolitiFact Evangelism & Revival Tour II

PolitiFact and the principle of inconsistency

Fact-checking the president

Surprise! Another way PolitiFact rates claims inconsistently

Can you trust what "Media Bias/Fact Check" says about PolitiFact?

PolitiFact: LeBron James is Colin Kaepernick

Yet more sweet PolitiLies

PolitiFact defends itself for money

Was Obamacare a government takeover of health care?

PolitiFact does racial profiling (Updated)

A mainstream media fact-checking scandal continues

Miami New Times: "How PolitiFact Got Its "Fake News" Tag Wrong on Occupy Democrats"

Joy Behar lies 100 percent of the time. It's from PolitiFact.

PolitiFact's hypocrisy

"Not a lot of reader confusion" V

PolitiFact & Roy Moore: A smorgasbord of problems

PolitiFact disallows Trump's underlying point?

PolitiFact: "There are no sharks swimming in the streets of Houston or anywhere else"

Speaking hearsay to power: Joy Reid & PolitiFact

National Review: "PolitiFact, Wrong Again on Health Care"

PolitiFact editor: Principles developed "through sheer repetition"

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

Attack of the PolitiFact Twitterbots?

"Not a lot of reader confusion" IV

When PolitiFacts contradict

PolitiFact's facts outpace the truth

Video embed, Sen. Bill Nelson

The ongoing stupidity of PolitiFact California

A "Half True" update

PolitiFact Georgia's kid gloves for Democratic candidate

PolitiFact avoids snarky commentary?

PolitiFact helps Bernie Sanders with tweezers and imbalance

PolitiFact's evolution on the ACA's Medicare cuts

PolitiFact California: Watching Democrats like a hawk

PolitiFact, Lauren Carroll, pathetic CYA

Transparency, Facebook and PolitiFact

PolitiFact Texas uses tongs (2016)

PolitiFact revises its own history

PolitiFact's top 16 myths about Obamacare skips its 2013 "Lie of the Year"

How to fact check like a partisan, featuring PolitiFact

PolitiFact absurdly keeps "True" rating on false statement from Hillary Clinton

Ben Shapiro on Trump and fewer insurance options

The unquotable Judith Curry

The collapse of PolitiFact's favorite claim to neutrality

PolitiFact: Gays (and lesbians!) most frequent victims of hate crimes

PolitiFact New York: Facts be damned, what we think the Democrat was trying to say was true

Incompetent PolitiFact engages in Facebook mission creep, false reporting

PolitiLies at PolitiFact Wisconsin II (Updated: PolitiFact amends)

PolitiLies at PolitiFact Wisconsin I (Updated: PolitiFact amends)

An objective deception: "neutral" PolitiFact

What does the "Partisan Selective Sharing" study say about PolitiFact?

What if we lived in a world where PolitiFact applied to itself the standards it applies to others?

What "Checking How Fact Checkers Check" says about PolitiFact

PolitiFact and robots.txt (updated)

PolitiFact fixes fact check on Syrian chemical weapons

Angie Drobnic Holan: "Find news organizations that have a demonstrated commitment to the ethical principles of truthfulness, fairness, independence and transparency."

Hewitt v. PolitiFact: Two facts clearly favor Hewitt

Hugh Hewitt v. PolitiFact (Power Line Blog)

Rorschach context

There You Go Again: PolitiFact Florida makes a hash of another gender wage gap ruling

Daily Caller: "Politifact Says Trump Is Right, But Rates His Remark ‘Mostly False'"

Another nugget from the Hollyfield interview

PolitiFact's "Truth-O-Meter": Floor wax, or dessert topping?

Power Line: "Trump 4, PolitiFact 1"

PolitiFact: That was then, this is now

PolitiFact California "fact": Undocumented immigrants count as Americans

PolitiFact misleads its "Truth Squad"

PolitiFact continues its campaign of misinformation on waterboarding

Hans Bader: "The Strange Ignorance of PolitiFact"

Thought-Checkers: Protecting against Fakethink

Not a fact checker's argument, but PolitiFact went there

Evidence of PolitiFact's bias? The Paradox Project II

CPRC: "Is Politifact really the organization that should be fact checking Facebook on gun related facts?"

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