Thursday, August 1, 2019

That Time PolitiFact Used Facebook to Amplify a Misleading Message on Fiscal Responsibility


We wrote about PolitiFact's awful fact check of a tweet that used deficit numbers at the start and end of presidential terms in office to show it's wrong to think that Democrats cause deficits.

PolitiFact's FaceBook page took the misleading nature of that fact check and amplified it to the max with a false headline:


Contrary to the headline, the fact check does not tell how the past five presidents affected the deficit. Instead, the fact check pretends to address the accuracy of a tweet that suggests deficit numbers at the start and end of presidential administrations tell us which party causes deficits. That use of deficit numbers serves as an exceptionally poor metric, a fact PolitiFact barely hints at in giving the tweet a "Mostly True" rating.

The tweet falsely suggests those deficit numbers give us a reliable picture of party fiscal responsibility (and the way presidents affect the deficit), and PolitiFact amplifies those misleading messages.

It's almost like they think that's their job.

2 comments:

  1. The tweet that is fact-checked on the website.

    "Reagan took the deficit from $70 billion to $175 billion. Bush 41 took it to $300 billion. Clinton got it to zero. Bush 43 took it from zero to $1.2 trillion. Obama halved it to $600 billion. Trump’s got it back to a trillion."
    These numbers are discussed in the politifact story and basically confirmed.

    The headline with the fact-check of the tweet was,
    "Here's how the deficit performed under Republican and Democratic presidents, from Reagan to Trump"
    This was the content of the tweet.

    The next statement says,
    "A viral post portrays Democrats, not Republicans, as the party of fiscal responsibility, with numbers about the deficit under recent presidents to make the case."
    So right, wrong, or somewhere in between a statement was made with numbers to back up that claim. Politifact said those numbers didn't completely make the case thus a "mostly true"

    Then Politifact said,
    "Our review shows the numbers basically check out, but they don’t tell the full story."

    The story then discusses the amounts of the deficits under each president and shows the numbers posted are basically correct. The article then discusses the amount of impact a president can have on the deficit. The story makes no call on which party is more fiscally responsible. The numbers in the original tweet, which you didn't even post, are correct.
    You then posted,
    "used deficit numbers at the start and end of presidential terms in office to show it's wrong to think that Democrats cause deficits."
    A completely false statement on your part.
    On top of that you offer no proof of any kind that it is right to think democrats cause deficits.

    "Our ruling
    A viral tweet made several claims about how the deficit has grown under Republican presidents and shrunk under Democrats.

    On the whole, the numbers presented for each president are basically accurate. However, it’s worth clarifying that presidents alone are not responsible for the rise and fall of the federal deficit.

    The tweet is accurate but needs additional information. We rate it Mostly True."

    Somehow you ignore the entire article on the politifact website and focus on one word in a facebook headline. The word "Affect".

    "The tweet falsely suggests those deficit numbers give us a reliable picture of party fiscal responsibility (and the way presidents affect the deficit), and PolitiFact amplifies those misleading messages."

    What a bunch of noise. Fact checking, not suggestion checking. The tweet contains facts. Someone seeking to disprove facts fallback position is suggestion. Stop reading into a statement. Accept it at face value.
    Once again, the tweet you haven't even posted,
    "Reagan took the deficit from $70 billion to $175 billion. Bush 41 took it to $300 billion. Clinton got it to zero. Bush 43 took it from zero to $1.2 trillion. Obama halved it to $600 billion. Trump’s got it back to a trillion."

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    Replies
    1. You're reading past PolitiFact's inconsistency. Note the title of our piece emphasizing that inconistency.

      It's common for politicians to make false arguments using true facts. That's what the tweet does. It uses deficit numbers to make the case that Democrats are more fiscally responsible than Republicans. But no sane person uses deficit numbers to make the case for party responsibility, at least not where the control of Congress shifts and the rising deficit is primarily driven by Medicaid and Medicare. But that's exactly the argument in the tweet, and PolitiFact emphasizes that argument while *pretending* to just look at the numbers.

      Look at the lead again:

      "A viral post portrays Democrats, not Republicans, as the party of fiscal responsibility, with numbers about the deficit under recent presidents to make the case."

      In case you missed it, the numbers do not back the claim (it's a stupid argument). We described why that is. Read the post again if you missed it.

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