Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Washington Free Beacon: "PolitiFact Retracts Fact Check ..."

Full title:

PolitiFact Retracts Fact Check After Erroneously Ruling Anti-Claire McCaskill Ad ‘False’

We were preparing to post about PolitiFact's crashed-and-burned fact check of  the (Republican) Senate Leadership Fund's Claire McCaskill attack ad. But we noticed that Alex Griswold did a fine job of telling the story for the Washington Free Beacon.

In the revised fact check published Wednesday, PolitiFact announced that "after publication, we received more complete video of the question-and-answer session between McCaskill and a constituent that showed she was in fact responding to a question about private planes, as well as a report describing the meeting … We apologize for the error."

PolitiFact still only ruled the ad was "Half True," arguing that the Senate Leadership Fund "exaggerated" McCaskill's remarks by showing them in isolation. In full context, the fact checker wrote, McCaskill's remarks "seem to refer to ‘normal' users of private planes, not to ‘normal' Americans more generally."
Griswold's article managed to hit many of the points we made about the PolitiFact story on Twitter.

For example:

New evidence to PolitiFact, maybe. The evidence was on the World Wide Web since 2017.

PolitiFact claimed it was "clear" from the short version of the town hall video that the discussion concerned commercial aviation in the broad sense, not private aircraft. Somehow that supposed clarity vanished with the appearance of a more complete video.

Read the whole article at the Washington Free Beacon.

We also used Twitter to slam PolitiFact for its policy of unpublishing when it notices a fact check has failed. Given that PolitiFact, as a matter of stated policy, archives the old fact check and embeds the URL in the new version of the fact check. No good reason appears to exist to delay availability of the archived version. It's as easy as updating the original URL for the bad fact check to redirect to the archive URL.

In another failure of transparency, PolitiFact's archived/unpublished fact checks eliminate bylines and editing or research credits along with source lists and hotlinks. In short, the archived version of PolitiFact's fact checks loses a hefty amount of transparency on the way to the archive.

PolitiFact can and should do better both with its fact-checking and its policies on transparency.

Exit question: Has PolitiFact ever unpublished a fact check that was too easy on a conservative or too tough on a liberal?

There's another potential bias measure waiting for evaluation.

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