Thursday, July 25, 2019

Ocasio-Cortez, PolitiFact and the parking lot

My, how PolitiFact beclowns itself.

A number of media outlets have noted PolitiFact's fact check of the claim Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez cried about an empty parking lot. We like the account from Amanda Prestigiacomo at the Daily Wire:
Politifact is at it again! The left-wing fact-checker purporting to be unbiased made a mockery of themselves (again) with their latest rating concerning socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). Politifact, creating their best damage control for the freshman congresswoman, rated the claim that Ocasio-Cortez cried in front of an empty parking lot for a photo-op as "false" because it was, in fact, a "road" with some parked cars, not a parking lot, that the elected Democrat cried in front of.
The hilarity of the story took an exponential leap when PolitiFact Editor Angie Drobnic Holan took to Twitter in defense of PolitiFact:
Holan's defense falls flat because the original story with the "parking lot" language was using humor to make a point. Ocasio-Cortez had nothing to look at that should reasonably produce the emotional response she wore for the camera.There were no children or refugees in view. At most, she would have been able to see signs of the tents set up to house illegal immigrants.

Crying at the sight of distant tents is a little like breaking down upon seeing a hospital. Because of all the suffering that happens in hospitals. But that type of response is uncommon, right?

PolitiFact's reporting leaves doubt as to whether a person at the fence could see tents:
Daniel Borunda, a reporter for the El Paso Times who was at the rally on the same day, told PolitiFact that the tent complex was "visible in the distance several hundred yards away" from the fence.
Certainly PolitiFact's reporting seems intended to produce the impression one could see tents from the entryway fence. But Borunda's quotation is cut off and instead of relying on Borunda we end up relying on PolitiFact for the information. We think it likely PolitiFact fudged the facts.

There's good reason to suspect Borunda did not claim tents were visible from the fence. The Google Maps image, for example, shows great distance and a number of buildings between the entry area and the section of the complex where the tents were set up. Click through to the map and explore for yourself.

There are two buildings that appear round from above to the east of the main ICE building. The tents for the tent city (along with a sloped-roof structure that does not appear in the Google image) occur just south of those buildings in aerial photographs of the time.

It's worth pointing out that photo we just linked shows a line of buildings and a parking lot between the tent city and Ocasio-Cortez's reported location.

This image from later the same year (September 2018) shows the growth of the tent city stretching South and East from its original location--further from Ocasio-Cortez's vantage point and likewise with a view punctuated by intervening buildings and trees. And that was after Ocasio-Cortez made her visit (June 21, 2018).

Did any photographers take pictures of the tent city from outside the fence at Ocasio-Cortez's location? We'd love to see them, if they exist.


We took our analysis one step further. The images of Ocasio-Cortez, along with PolitiFact's reporting, appear to place her between two sections of wall outside the border compound. A road and a sidewalk run between the sections of wall, and it appears the north wall features a sliding fence/gate that officials may use to block the roadway.

If we're correct about the location, that puts the south part of the wall between Ocasio-Cortez and any view of the tent city.

We put a cluster of red dots where we believe Ocasio-Cortez stood.

The fall of the shadows in the photographs of Ocasio-Cortez suggest the pictures were taken in the morning, if we're correct. An image posted at the end of Time Magazine story supports our analysis (showing evidence of the line of trees to the left of the roadway, along with the utility poles). Facing the road leaves the tent city directly to the left of the protesters pictured, behind a wall and out of sight.

Update July 27, 2019: A kind reader pointed out an excess of "not" in the paragraph beginning with "Holan's defense." We took it out. Our thanks to the kind reader.


  1. "Ocasio-Cortez had nothing to look at that should not reasonably produce the emotional response she wore for the camera."

    I think you've got one too many "nots" there.

  2. How much time was spent on your analysis? Did you even look at the whole politifact story?
    The following is very specific about who was there and where they were.

    "Krantz said that Ocasio-Cortez and other protesters who stood at the fencing were gathered at the wall pictured on the right hand side of the toll plaza, where the crowd is located in the June 21 photo above. They were in the area seen in the upper right of this image, just beyond where the three dark vehicles appear to be parked. If you zoom into that June 21 Getty image, you will see the wall and what appears to be the sign for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

    Demonstrators weren’t allowed to pass the fence on June 24, Aguirre and Lisa Krantz, a photographer for the San Antonio Express-News, independently told PolitiFact.

    "I was there, and it was not an empty parking lot," Krantz said. "It was where the Tornillo camp was set up. There was a large demonstration outside that fence and that camp. The congressmen went inside for a tour."

    Krantz also captured Ocasio-Cortez gripping the fence on June 24, 2018, and noted in her caption that Ocasio-Cortez "holds on to a fence outside the tent city." In an interview with PolitiFact, Krantz confirmed that Ocasio-Cortez was facing the facility in the photo, not a parking lot. Krantz said she, Ocasio-Cortez and others had passed through the toll plaza before arriving at the fence.

    Krantz also confirmed the fence in front of Ocasio-Cortez was positioned on a road that led to the facility, and that on either side of the road was a stone wall.

    When looking at Aguirre’s images of Ocasio-Cortez, we see what appears to be a wall on the right side of the frame and, visible at the top of some is barbed wire. Krantz reviewed her own pictures from that day and said that the portion of the wall to the right of the frame (which peeks out from Ocasio-Cortez’ shoulder in this image) bore a sign for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

    We also see that fencing, signage and wall in detail in a photo of Holocaust survivor Margaret Houffelaar, which was taken by photographer Kisha Bari for Cosmopolitan Magazine as well as in this photo from Getty. (Krantz also took a picture of Houffelaar in front of the same wall.)

    But was there a parking lot nearby? Krantz said she remembers a small parking lot that was near the toll plaza that wasn’t fenced in, but many people parked under the toll plaza shelter for shade or alongside the road that led to the toll plaza— which is depicted in a photo from Cosmopolitan Magazine.

    Daniel Borunda, a reporter for the El Paso Times who was at the rally on the same day, told PolitiFact that the tent complex was "visible in the distance several hundred yards away" from the fence.

    Our ruling

    A viral image of Ocasio-Cortez at a 2018 demonstration at a Texas town on the U.S.-Mexico border includes the caption, "AOC weeps over empty parking lot."

    Photographers at the scene who took photos of Ocasio-Cortez say she was not facing a parking lot. Rather she was just beyond the toll plaza for the Tornillo facility, and she standing on a road that led to the Tornillo tent complex, which was in the line of her gaze, as she stood at the fence. Pictures by other outlets also confirm the location."

    1. If our comment interface permitted it, I would edit your post to cut down your use of copyrighted content to an amount that is reasonable under fair use. Warning: Don't do it again or I'll simply delete your post. If you're lucky I'll post the non-copyrighted content crediting it to you.

      I spend considerable time evaluating the mapping of the Tornillo facility. That's why our description makes clear how the road to the facility bends south while PolitiFact's does not. And we make clear that the tents were south (not west) of the entry gate while PolitiFact does not.

      It's not an argument to simply post the text that's at issue. If formatting allowed it, I'd cut and past our article below as an "argument" for you to chew on and ponder that reality.


Thanks to commenters who refuse to honor various requests from the blog administrators, all comments are now moderated. Pseudonymous commenters who do not choose distinctive pseudonyms will not be published, period. No "Anonymous." No "Unknown." Etc.