Thursday, December 3, 2020

TDS symptom: PolitiFact fact checks jokes

 Sure, President Trump says plenty of false things. He truly does.

But that's actually a trap for left-leaning fact checkers who pretend to be nonpartisan. They have a hard time judging when they go too far. Like when they fact check jokes:

PolitiFact's Nov. 1, 2020 item fact-checking President Trump found "Pants on Fire" Trump's claim that his supporters were protecting challenger Joe Biden's campaign bus.

How do we know it was a joke?

We watched video of the Trump appearance where he made the statement. The claim comes in the midst of a segment of a speech done in the style of a classic stand-up comedy routine. Certainly Trump mixed in serious political claims, but many of the lines were intended to provoke laughter, and the one about protecting Biden's bus unquestionably drew laughter. In context, Trump was making a point about the enthusiasm of his supporters, and his story about cars and trucks surrounding the bus emphasized the number of vehicles involved.

PolitiFact played it completely straight:

"You see the way our people, they, you know, they were protecting his bus yesterday," Trump said Nov. 1 during a rally in Michigan. "Because they are nice. They had hundreds of cars."

The FBI’s San Antonio office said Nov. 1 that it is "aware of the incident and investigating."

Trump’s benevolent explanation lacks evidence.

How does a fact checker overlook/omit those contextual clues?

The left-leaning Huffington Post figured it out (bold emphasis added):

President Donald Trump on Sunday mockingly claimed that his supporters were “protecting” a campaign bus belonging to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden when a caravan of vehicles dangerously surrounded it on a Texas highway, leading to a vehicular collision.

“They were protecting their bus yesterday because they’re nice,” Trump said at a rally in Michigan to cheers, laughter and applause.

If PolitiFact noticed the audience laughing and intentionally suppressed evidence Trump was joking, then PolitiFact deceived its audience by omission.

When PolitiFact catches politicians doing that sort of thing a "Half True" rating often results.

PolitiFact does not hold itself to the same standard it applies to Republican politicians.

Correction 12/13/2020: We misspelled "PolitiFact" on the title line, omitting the first of two i's.

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