Saturday, April 20, 2024

PolitiFact says "Biden trial" means orchestrated by President Biden--but why?

 Remember last post I reminded readers that a "False" or "Pants on Fire" rating on the "Truth-O-Meter" serves as a red flag for incompetent fact-checking?

Here we go again:

What does "Biden trial" mean? If it was our fact check (Zebra Fact Check), we'd spend time carefully figuring that out.

For the liberal bloggers who produce PolitiFact fact checks, the answer's so easy it requires no discussion:

"This trial that I have now, that’s a Biden trial," Trump said April 16 in front of a New York City bodega on the second day of jury selection.


"As you witness this Biden trial, I ask all Americans to remember that this is not just about me, this is about our country and this is about you," Trump said in an April 15 video.

These statements are wrong. There is no evidence that Biden orchestrated the charges against Trump. 

See? Easy-peasy.

We should note that just before the section we quoted, PolitiFact said "Trump has made the claim many times in many places." No, PolitiFact's claim includes no hotlink.

On TwiX (X formerly known as Twitter) we asked the author, Amy Sherman, what led her to conclude Trump was saying Biden orchestrated the trial and not merely that the trial was intended to serve Biden's electoral interests. We'll update this post should Sherman offer a reply.

Fact-Checking Without Evidence

Unfortunately it's nothing new for PolitiFact to arbitrarily decide what words and phrases mean.

The meanings left-leaning fact checkers use likely come from the Bubble. People on left understand these things intuitively, therefore they require no explanation. Conservatives and moderates who cannot understand these simple truths are biased or something.

PolitiFact's source list did have a bubbly source, in fact. Daniel Dale, a CNN fact checker, wrote up a fact check: "Fact Check: Trump repeats baseless claims about Biden orchestrating his trials."

Is it fair for us to call Dale's fact check Bubble information? We say yes. Dale took Trump's comments out of context.


Trump claimed that “this is all Biden-run things” and that “these are all Biden trials.” He also claimed that Matthew Colangelo, a former senior Justice Department official who now works for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, had been “put into” the district attorney’s office by Biden.

Readers, when you see short quotation snippets put together like that, suspect funny business. Such cases plead for fact-checking.

And here's what we found (at the Never Trump Bulwark, of all places):

 “Colangelo is a radical left [prosecutor] from the DOJ who was put into the state working for Letitia James and was then put into the District Attorney’s office to run the trial against Trump,” Trump said at a press conference Monday, in the third person. “This is all Biden-run things [sic], meaning Biden and his thugs.”

Trump defined "Biden-run" to refer to "Biden and his thugs." Dale omitted that context, as did PolitiFact. Note also Dale, uh, illuminated the context of Trump's "put into" comment.

It's what one does in the Bubble. It works because those in the Bubble aren't likely to challenge it, and who cares what people think outside the Bubble?

Thursday, April 11, 2024

And, a farcical "Pants on Fire" for Donald J. Trump

 As our "Pants on Fire" bias study regularly points out, PolitiFact's "Pants on Fire" rating counts as substantially if not wholly subjective. Surveying PolitiFact's "Pants on Fire" ratings serves as one of the most direct routes for finding flawed fact checks. And that brings us to April 1, 2024 and Donald J. Trump.

We'll grant that Trump lost the state of Wisconsin to Joe Biden in 2020. That doesn't make PolitiFact's rating or its reasoning correct, however. PolitiFact spent considerable effort trying to lump in Trump's claim that his campaign "did much better" in 2020 than in 2016. 


Let’s tackle the first part of Trump’s claim: That he performed better in Wisconsin in 2020 than he did in 2016. 

That is unequivocally false. And it’s something PolitiFact Wisconsin has checked on multiple occasions, including in 2021. 

Is it "unequivocally false" that Trump did better in Wisconsin in 2020 than he did in 2016?  What's false is that PolitiFact debunked the claim with the article linked in the second sentence. The link leads to a fact check examining whether Trump won Wisconsin in 2020.

PolitiFact itself provides the evidence that Trump's claim is not unequivocally false (bold emphasis added):

We noted then, and we’ll repeat here, that President Joe Biden won Wisconsin in 2020. Biden took 1,630,866 votes compared to Trump’s 1,610,184 in the state, so Trump lost by 20,682 votes. 

Trump did win the state in 2016, taking more than 22,000 votes over Democrat Hillary Clinton. He netted 1,405,284 votes in Wisconsin in 2016.

So, according to PolitiFact, Trump received 1.4 million votes in Wisconsin in 2016 and 1.6 million votes in 2020 but he "unequivocally" did not do better in 2020 than in 2016.

That's 2+2=5 level logic.

Trump's vote total in Wisconsin was better in 2020 than in 2016. That means that in a real sense Trump did better in Wisconsin in 2020 than in 2016 even if he lost the state in 2020. By analogy, it's like a sprinter winning the 100 meter dash at one meet with a time of 9.99 seconds but subsequently losing the event with a time of 9.97 seconds. The runner performed better in terms of time but worse in terms of the competition.

The runner did not "unequivocally" perform worse in the second meet.

If PolitiFact wanted to fairly call Trump's claim false, let alone "Pants on Fire," it should have stuck with the claim Trump won Wisconsin in 2020.

How does a fair and objective fact checker make an error like that?

We say it doesn't.

PolitiFact isn't fair and objective.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

PolitiFact's farcical "Pants on Fire" for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (Updated)

Robert F. Kennedy's presidential bid has taken its toll on our "Pants on Fire" bias study.

Kennedy claimed half the two "Pants on Fire" ratings given to Democrats in 2023 and just received the only one so far awarded in 2024. It distorts the bias numbers.

This April 5, 2024 rating of Kennedy, by the way, is ridiculous:

It's just another instance of the liberal bloggers at PolitiFact elevating narrative way above facts.

Kennedy was making a point about the protests not counting as an insurrection. PolitiFact narrowed its focus down to "protestors carried no weapons" and broadened "weapons" to count things not all that helpful in taking over the government of a superpower. PolitiFact also (again) ignored the principle established by founding editor Bill Adair that the most important aspect of a numbers claim is its underlying point.


Kennedy’s statement goes further than Trump, because he said protesters "carried no weapons." A weapon doesn’t have to be a gun.

Sure, PolitiFact, but insurrectionists armed with flagpoles and fire extinguishers aren't going to be able to take and hold the United States government.  PolitiFact did offer evidence of protesters charged with possession of firearms, but none of them were used to threaten or harm police or security forces. In other words, the firearms weren't used to carry out any "insurrection."

Imagine the headline:

Insurrectionists using flagpoles, bear spray and fire extinguishers take over federal government

It's completely absurd.

Here's what Kennedy said, via PolitiFact:
"I have not examined the evidence in detail, but reasonable people, including Trump opponents, tell me there is little evidence of a true insurrection," Kennedy said in his April 5 statement. "They observe that the protestors carried no weapons, had no plans or ability to seize the reins of government, and that (former President Donald) Trump himself had urged them to protest ‘peacefully.’"
The obvious point is the protesters were not armed befitting a serious attempt to overthrown the government. PolitiFact cites one person charged with firing a gun into the air twice before packing it away again. Other gun charges were related to possession.

Here's PolitiFact's fact check in terms of X's Community Notes:

In terms of our "Pants on Fire" bias study, this "Pants on Fire" given to a Democrat is actually attacking a conservative viewpoint. We kept this data point in the study at face value, but it actually deserves an asterisk.

Strikethrough explanation April 9, 2024: We neglected to note that Kennedy is now listed as an Independent at PolitiFact. So, Kennedy does throw a spanner in the 2023 PoF percentages, but our chart now removes him from consideration for his one PoF in 2024, as a Democrat anyway.