Tuesday, January 19, 2021

PolitiFact finds Republican's opinion "Pants on Fire" false

PolitiFact says it doesn't fact check opinions.

Republican Pennsylvania senate Majority Leader Jake Corman says he doesn't believe unproven voter fraud claims had any role in (causing) the Capitol riot.

Who is lying?

PolitiFact would have you believe it's Corman making the false claim. But Corman provided perhaps the clearest possible indication that he was giving an opinion.

"Opinion" means someone expressed what they believe, not necessarily what they proffer as established fact.

Note that PolitiFact's headline/deck makes it look like Corman made a statement of fact. But by the fourth paragraph of its fact check, PolitiFact makes an admission against interest:

"House Democrats yesterday called on state Republicans to accept some responsibility for some of the violence that we saw at the U.S. Capitol last week because of unproven voter fraud claims," Maisel said. "What role do you think that played?" 

"I don’t think it played any role," Corman responded.

"I don't think" counts as perhaps the classic introduction to a person's opinion. "In my opinion" might challenge it. 

It ought to astonish that a fact checker could claim it does not fact check opinion and then ignore such an obvious sign that a statement was offered as an opinion. Unfortunately, we cannot register surprise at this, thanks to PolitiFact's track record.

And PolitiFact does not merely make the mistake of fact-checking an opinion. It also apparently equivocates, transforming the role of election fraud claims in motivating the gathering of protesters into a role in causing the violence.

The fact checker interested in staying worthy of the name steers clear of such murky issues of cause and effect.

Hold PolitiFact's beer:

But there’s plenty of evidence that people who traveled to Washington and stormed the Capitol did so because they believed the election was rigged and unfairly stolen from President Donald Trump. He told them so repeatedly. And Corman, like many Republican officials in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, frequently helped advance Trump’s narrative.

There's plenty of evidence that people who traveled to Washington and stormed the Capitol did so because they believed the election was rigged and unfairly stolen from Mr. Trump? Will the fact checker offer evidence that the violence done in association with storming the Capitol stemmed from that motivation?

 Do not hold your breath, gentle reader.

Just before PolitiFact offers its conclusion, we get this:

And the president’s insistence that the election was stolen but could still be reversed with Congress’ help is what rioters cited when asked by reporters why they were there and what they hoped to achieve.

So PolitiFact tells us rioters said the unsupported election claims motivated their actions. And the good news is that PolitiFact provides an embedded supporting link in the paragraph.

The bad news? The link supports the highlighted text, that being "the president's insistence that the election was stolen." It offers no support for the claim the rioters used the unsupported election claims as their motivation.

And that paragraph encapsulates PolitiFact's approach to the fact check. Its proof that unsupported election fraud claims led to the Capitol riot consists of proof that GOP lawmakers made those claims PolitiFact calls unsupported.

To realistically establish a causal link, a fact checker should show that believing unsupported claims about election fraud meaningfully correlates with violent action such as was exhibited at the Capitol.

We should expect the staff at PolitiFact to know that.

PolitiFact's fact check is a disgrace to fact-checking.


Color us surprised that this counts as the first time we have tagged a post with "Jessica Calefati." She's among PolitiFact's worst. And that's really saying something.

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