Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Again: PolitiFact vs PolitiFact

In 2013, PolitiFact strongly implied (it might opine that it "declared") that President Obama's promise that people could keep the plans they liked according to his health care overhaul, the Affordable Care Act, received its "Lie of the Year" award.

In 2018, PolitiFact Missouri (with editing help from longtime PolitiFacter Louis Jacobson) suffered acute amnesia about its 2013 "Lie of the Year" pronouncements.

PolitiFact Missouri rates "Mostly False" Republican Josh Hawley's claim that millions of Americans lost their health care plans.

Yet in 2013 it was precisely the loss of millions of health care plans that PolitiFact advertised as its reason for giving Mr. Obama its "Lie of the Year" award (bold emphasis added):
It was a catchy political pitch and a chance to calm nerves about his dramatic and complicated plan to bring historic change to America’s health insurance system.

"If you like your health care plan, you can keep it," President Barack Obama said -- many times -- of his landmark new law.

But the promise was impossible to keep.

So this fall, as cancellation letters were going out to approximately 4 million Americans, the public realized Obama’s breezy assurances were wrong.
Hawley tried to use PolitiFact's finding against his election opponent, incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) (bold emphasis added):
"McCaskill told us that if we liked our healthcare plans, we could keep them. She said the cost of health insurance would go down. She said prescription drug prices would fall. She lied. Since then, millions of Americans have lost their health care plans."

Because of the contradiction between Hawley’s assertion and the promises of the ACA to insure more Americans, we decided to take a closer look.
So, despite the fact that PolitiFact says millions lost their health care plans and the breezy assurance to the contrary was wrong, PolitiFact says it gave Hawley's claim a closer look because it contradicts assurances that the ACA would insure more Americans.

Apparently it doesn't matter to PolitiFact that Hawley was specifically talking about losing health care plans and not losing health insurance completely. In effect, PolitiFact Missouri disavows any knowledge that the promise "if we liked our healthcare plans, we could keep them" was a false promise. The fact checkers substitute loss of health insurance for the loss of health care plans and give Hawley a "Mostly False" rating based on their own fallacy of equivocation (ambiguity).

A consistent PolitiFact could have performed this fact check easily. It could have looked at whether McCaskill made the same promise Obama made. And after that it could have remembered that it claimed to have found Obama's promise false along with the reasoning it used to justify that ruling.

Instead, PolitiFact Missouri delivers yet another outstanding example of PolitiFact inconsistency.


Do we cut PolitiFact Missouri a break because it was not around in 2013?

No we do not.

Exhibit 1: Louis Jacobson, who has been with PolitiFact for over 10 years, is listed as an editor.

Exhibit 2: Jacobson, beyond a research credit on the "Lie of the Year" article we linked above, wrote a related fact check on the Obama administration's attempt to explain its failed promise.

There's no excuse for this type of inconsistency. But bias offers a reasonable explanation for this type of inconsistency.


  1. The recent scott and nelson debate article needs to be fact checked.
    The one by politifact florida

  2. Alas, PolitiFact could take a team of fact checkers busy policing its mistakes and distortions. Even though half our team of two is based in Florida and thus has a particular interest in Florida politics we simply can't get to all the material simply for lack of time.

    Thanks for the tip just the same! And thanks for reading.


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