Saturday, May 15, 2021

Tucker Carlson out of context

If  politicians take facts and presents them out of context, PolitiFact uses its "Truth-O-Meter" to punish them.

If PolitiFact takes politicians out of context and issues ratings based on its own bad behavior, that's just part of a day's work for the worst mainstream fact checker in the United States.

Speak of the devil:

We're showing the presentation PolitiFact used on its Facebook page. PolitiFact used the same wording in the deck section of its website.

Immediately one should notice that the claim that a COVID-19 vaccine might not work seems consistent with estimated efficacy rates in the 70 to 96 percent range as estimated the the vaccines' manufacturers. The CDC website comes right out and says "Some people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will still get sick because no vaccine is 100% effective."

PolitiFact gave Carlson's a "Pants on Fire" rating for saying vaccines might not work. Does the CDC get that rating, too?

Let's look to the concluding paragraphs of the fact check to see what PolitiFact said Carlson got wrong.

Carlson said, "Maybe (the COVID-19 vaccine) doesn't work, and they're simply not telling you that."

That claim is countered by clinical trials and real-world studies that show the available vaccines effectively protect against COVID-19 infections and severe symptoms.

PolitiFact makes it sound like vaccines are 100% effective, regardless of the statement from the CDC. Not only do the vaccines protect you from infection, they protect you from severe symptoms after you're infected, by PolitiFact's telling. Without fail? Or is it possible the vaccine might not work?

Maybe PolitiFact simply missed Carlson's point. Perhaps the fact checkers think Carlson believes the vaccines do not work at all even though earlier in the same program he affirmed that they work.

We have two more concluding paragraphs from PolitiFact: 

Carlson based his claim largely on the fact that the CDC still recommends that fully vaccinated people wear masks and keep their distance in public spaces. Carlson said he couldn’t think of a reason why the CDC would do that, but we found some pretty simple explanations. 

Experts said those precautions are advisable because most of the U.S. population remains unprotected and because scientists are still studying to what extent the vaccines stop transmission, among other things.

Carefully note in the last paragraph how PolitiFact justifies the continued use of masks and social distancing for vaccinated people. PolitiFact mentions unprotected people and the possibility of transmission from vaccinated persons. It's two clauses describing one reason, with the reader left to guess at the "other things."

PolitiFact is saying scientists think the vaccine may not work to prevent transmission of the virus from vaccinated people to unprotected people.

Will PolitiFact rate itself or the scientists whose views it touts "Pants on Fire"?

How can fact checkers fire so wide of the mark?

It was and is obvious Carlson was making a point about the rhetoric about the vaccine. Get it, it works, said the government, and we can get back to normal. Later, the government says it's nice you got the vaccine but you can't get back to normal.

Carlson has a legitimate point, and PolitiFact's own reasoning proves it ("scientists are still studying"). Why are the scientists still studying it? Because it might not work to prevent transmission.

Fact checkers should not fail to figure out such basic stuff.

PolitiFact provided a link to Facebook for watching the relevant segment of Carlson's show. Their link didn't work for us, but we found the video independently and found the link matches what PolitiFact posted (huh? yeah). We're providing the same link in hopes that it works better for our readers.

It worked in pre-publication testing, but we shall see.

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