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.

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