Thursday, August 23, 2018

PolitiFact Not Yet Tired of Using Statements Taken Out Of Context To Boost Fundraising

Remember back when PolitiFact took GOP pollster Neil Newhouse out of context to help coax readers into donating to PolitiFact?

Good times.

Either the technique works well or PolitiFact journalists just plain enjoy using it, for PolitiFact Editor Angie Drobnic Holan's Aug. 21, 2018 appeal to would-be supporters pulls the same type of stunt on Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City and attorney for President Donald Trump.

Let's watch Holan the politician in action (bold emphasis added):
Just this past Sunday, Rudy Giuliani told journalist Chuck Todd that truth isn’t truth.

Todd asked Giuliani, now one of President Donald Trump’s top advisers on an investigation into Russia’s interference with the 2016 election, whether Trump would testify. Giuliani said he didn’t want the president to get caught perjuring himself — in other words, lying under oath.

"It’s somebody’s version of the truth, not the truth," Giuliani said of potential testimony.

Flustered, Todd replied, "Truth is truth."

"No, it isn’t truth. Truth isn’t truth," Giuliani said, going on to explain that Trump’s version of events are his own.

This is an extreme example, but Giuliani isn’t the only one to suggest that truth is whatever you make it. The ability to manufacture what appears to be the truth has reached new heights of sophistication.
Giuliani, contrary to Holan's presentation, was almost certainly not suggesting that truth is whatever you make it.

Rather, Giuliani was almost certainly making the same point about perjury traps that legal expert Andrew McCarthy pointed out in a Aug. 11, 2018 column for National Review (hat tip to Power Line Blog)
The theme the anti-Trump camp is pushing — again, a sweet-sounding political claim that defies real-world experience — is that an honest person has nothing to fear from a prosecutor. If you simply answer the questions truthfully, there is no possibility of a false-statements charge.

But see, for charging purposes, the witness who answers the questions does not get to decide whether they have been answered truthfully. That is up to the prosecutor who asks the questions. The honest person can make his best effort to provide truthful, accurate, and complete responses; but the interrogator’s evaluation, right or wrong, determines whether those responses warrant prosecution.
It's fair to criticize Giuliani for making the point less elegantly than McCarthy did. But it's inexcusable for a supposedly non-partisan fact checker to take a claim out of context to fuel an appeal for cash.

That's what we expect from partisan politicians, not non-partisan journalists.

Unless they're "non-partisan journalists" from The Bubble.


Worth Noting:

For the 2017 version of this Truth Hustle, Holan shared writing credits with PolitiFact's Executive Director Aaron Sharockman.

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