Friday, June 9, 2023

PolitiFact vs the strawman version of Nikki Haley's claim about teen girls and suicide

 Strawmen are always in season at PolitiFact, particularly when a Republican speaks.

Broken quotations always count as a red flag worth investigating. PolitiFact's is especially worth investigating because the key part of the blurb doesn't come from Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley: "is a reason why."

So, did Haley say it was a reason?

Here's the relevant part of CNN's transcript of its Haley town hall (bold highlights added)

(APPLAUSE) TAPPER: So, woke, the word woke used to be used by progressives to talk about an awareness of inequities and historical inequities, but obviously it means something else to conservatives criticizing it. What does it mean to you? How do you define woke?

HALEY: There's a lot of things. I mean, you want to start with biological boys playing in girl sports. That's one thing. The fact that we have gender pronoun classes in the military now, I mean, all of these things that are pushing what a small minority want on the majority of Americans, it's too much. It's too much. I mean, the idea that we have biological boys playing in girls' sports, it is the women's issue of our time. My daughter ran track in high school. I don't even know how I would have that conversation with her. How are we supposed to get our girls used to the fact that biological boys are in their locker rooms? And then we wonder why a third of our teenage girls seriously contemplated suicide last year. We should be growing strong girls, confident girls.

Then you go and you talk about building a strong military. How are you going to build the morale in a strong military when you're doing gender pronoun classes? Why is it that --


HALEY: Why is it that you have, you know, kids undergoing critical race theory where if a little girl's in kindergarten if she's -- goes into kindergarten if she's white, you're telling her she's bad. If she's brown or black, you're telling her she's never going to be good enough and she's always going to be a victim. All of these things have gone to where they are pushing, you know, and transgender, the whole issue of the transgender, it's not that people don't think in America you should live the way you want to live. I want everybody to live the way they want to live, but stop pushing your views on everybody else. That's the problem, is there starting to push everything on the rest of us. 

Considering the context, it makes sense to conclude Haley says pushing woke ideology on kids has contributed to the higher suicide rate and that she used biological boys in girls' locker rooms as an example of forcing woke ideology in school.

PolitiFact, however, focuses on its distortion of Haley's argument. Even though Haley did not say that having biological boys with the girls in the girls' locker room caused a higher suicide rate, PolitiFact insists that is what Haley claimed.

PolitiFact asked Haley's campaign to comment, apparently sending a "Have you stopped beating your wife" inquiry to the campaign:

When we asked Haley’s campaign spokesperson to cite research that supported her claim, he sent a statement by Haley that did not answer the question: "We have to grow strong girls, and that is being threatened right now. Whether it’s biological boys going into girls’ locker rooms or playing in girls’ sports, women are being told their voices don’t matter. If you think this kind of aggressive bullying isn’t part of the problem, you're not paying attention."

Note that the campaign's response accords well with our interpretation of Haley's remarks.

But PolitiFact sets its trap, asking for evidence specific to boys in the girls bathroom, with the plan in mind to invoke its fallacious "burden of proof" criterion and find Haley's supposed claim "False."

Teen girls today are experiencing rising rates of suicidal ideation. However, there is no research that suggests this is being caused by the presence of trans athletes in locker rooms.

Research points to other causes, including feelings of isolation or loneliness, feeling like a burden on others, difficulty navigating parental and family relationships and pressures from constant exposure to social media.

Pushing woke ideology on teen girls could not possibly contribute to feeling of isolation or loneliness, feeling like a burden on others, difficulty navigating parental and family relationships and pressures from constant exposure to social media. Right?

Fact checkers have no business putting their own spin on the words of others. Or that would be the case if the modern fact checker weren't in the business of crafting narratives instead of telling the truth.

PolitiFact inventinged a claim for Haley, committing a straw man fallacy, then smacked down its straw man based on the fallacy of appeal to silence. Those two fallacies in PolitiFact's hands add up to a "False" rating for Haley.


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