Friday, May 21, 2021

Andrew Clyde out of context

If Republicans fail to make enough false statements, apparently PolitiFact has to invent them.

Is it to meet a quota?

PolitiFact is on a roll, lately, taking claims out of context to present them as false. Today's example involves Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.).

When PolitiFact gets around to showing what Rep. Clyde actually said, it creates an instant contrast with the sensationalistic presentation above. "Pants on Fire"! Oh, my!

(Bold highlights added to match what PolitiFact highlighted in its above misquotation of Clyde):
"Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall, showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes taking videos and pictures. If you didn't know the TV footage was a video from Jan. 6, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit," Clyde said at a May 12 House hearing.

 In context, Clyde appears to clearly talk about video of protestors passing through Statuary Hall. In other words, video like this:

We think any normal, competent fact checker should have no trouble at all figuring this out.

When PolitiFact repeatedly publishes material in this vein, it makes us suspect PolitiFact is not a normal, competent fact checker.

Would it surprise our readers to learn that PolitiFact awarded Clyde his "Pants on Fire" rating based on evidence that had nothing to do with video from the Statuary Room?

(H)ere is what a normal visit looks like for tourists: They go on guide-led tours of historic areas. They buy souvenirs at the gift shop. They view temporary exhibits. They dine in the restaurant. And they do it all without bringing in weapons (or even water).

Here’s what rioters did on Jan. 6. They forced their way through barricades and past law enforcement to breach the building. They smashed windows and broke doors. They ransacked offices. They chanted "Hang Mike Pence!" They attacked police officers. They caused the House and Senate to shut down for several hours on the day they were certifying the presidential election. One put his feet up on a desk in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office and left her a nasty note. None of these actions are things that tourists normally do at the Capitol.

Here's a list of things we do not see in the Jan. 6, 2021 video from Bloomberg News showing protestors making their way through the Statuary Room:

  • forcing their way past barricades
  • forcing their way past law enforcement
  • smashing windows, breaking doors
  • ransacking offices
  • chanting "Hang Mike Pence!"
  • Attacking police
  • causing any apparent shutdown
  • putting feet on the House Speaker's desk
  • leaving nasty notes

PolitiFact's fact check counts as a ridiculous sham, based on a straw man reading of Rep. Clyde's words. We can imagine legitimate criticism of what Clyde said. For example, one might legitimately claim that by restricting his comments to the Statuary Room video he distracted from things the Capitol mob did elsewhere.

But PolitiFact's fact check succeeded in avoiding any legitimate criticism of Clyde's claim.

Afters I

PolitiFact appears to have handled its headline quotation of Rep. Clyde improperly, using AP Style as the guide:

A longer quotation might span multiple sentences. Use four ellipsis points (rather than three) to indicate any omission between two sentences. The first point indicates the period at the end of the first sentence quoted, and the three spaced ellipsis points follow.

The existing punctuation appears to credit (?) Rep. Clyde with a fragmentary sentence: "Watching the TV footage at the Capitol."  There was no such fragment in the actual quotation. Cutting and pasting the headline material shows a space between the first ellipsis point (probably intended as a period by the PolitiFact team) and the three ellipsis points that followed. Usage of the ellipsis following the AP Style blog instructions would have had four ellipsis points evenly spaced. That was not PolitiFact's approach.

For what it's worth, we're not sure how that supposedly correct format would help the casual reader understand that material was omitted before and after the period.

Afters II

In its concluding paragraphs, PolitiFact informed its readers that taking pictures or capturing video do not count as tourist activities (bold emphasis added):

Clyde’s spokesperson pointed to a few moments of video of people walking through Statuary Hall snapping photos or videos. But those people were not engaged in anything that resembles tourism. They were part of a group who had violently breached the U.S. Capitol. 
Color us skeptical.


  1. " makes us suspect PolitiFact is not a normal, competent fact checker". "Suspect"? Why are you being so kind to them? They're demonstrably outright hacks

    1. Hi Dave!

      Appreciate your comment.

      I was using a figure of speech somewhat related to hyperbole, that of understating the problem to emphasize the problem.

      This is not a "red meat for conservatives" site. We do serious analysis of PolitiFact's shortcomings that is designed to appeal to people in the middle or even Democrats who are inclined to like & trust PolitiFact.

      Calling PolitiFact hacks outright all the time would tend to push those readers away. Using understatement for emphasis allows us to disparage PolitiFact while at the same time sounding acceptably reasonable to visitors who arrive more suspicious of us then they are of PolitiFact.

      So ... are we good?


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