PolitiFact Executive Director Aaron Sharockman expounded on the "burden of proof" principle on May 15, 2019 while addressing a gathering at the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia:
If you say something, if you make a factual claim, online, on television, in the newspaper, you should be able to support it with evidence. And if you cannot or will not support that claim with evidence we say you're guilty.As with its other supposed principles, PolitiFact applies "burden of proof" inconsistently. PolitiFact often telegraphs its inconsistency by publishing a 'Splainer or "In Context" article like this May 24, 2019 item:
We'll, we'll rate that claim negatively. Right? Especially if you're a person in power. You make a claim about the economy, or health, or development, you should make the claim with the information in your back pocket and say "Here. Here's why it's true." And if you can't, well, you probably shouldn't be making the claim.
PolitiFact refrains from putting Milano's statement on its cheesy "Truth-O-Meter" because PolitiFact could not figure out if her statement was true.
Now doesn't that sound exactly like a potential application of the "burden of proof" criterion Sharockman discussed?
Why isn't Milano "guilty"?
In this case PolitiFact found evidence Milano was wrong about what the bill said. But the objective and neutral fact-checkers still could not bring themselves to rate Milano's claim negatively.
PolitiFact (bold emphasis added):
Our conclusionWhat's so hard about applying principles consistently? If somebody says the bill states something and "It actually doesn't say that" then the claim is false. Right? It's not even a burden of proof issue.
Milano and others are claiming that a new abortion law in Georgia states that women will be subject to prosecution. It actually doesn’t say that, but that doesn’t mean the opposite — that women can’t be prosecuted for an abortion — is true, either. We’ll have to wait and see how prosecutors and courts interpret the laws before we know which claim is accurate.
And if somebody says the bill will not allow women to be prosecuted, and PolitiFact wants to use its "burden of proof" criterion to fallaciously reach the conclusion that the statement was false, then go right ahead.
Spare us the lilly-livered inconsistency.
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