Fact-checking the fact-checkers: is Politifact reliable or biased?

Politifact is a web site run by some left-wing journalists at the Tampa Bay Times. As you might expect from academic studies of media bias, their content might as well be written by the Democrat Party. But it’s not enough to just declare Politifact a Democrat propaganda operation – I need to actually give you details and examples. And so I will, in the rest of this post.

Let’s start with two recent examples, then I’ll show you the worst example of media bias I have ever seen from Politifact.

Missouri Senate Race

Here’s one analysis from the Daily Wire:

On Tuesday, Politifact, which purports to be a neutral fact-checking website but in fact leans heavily to the left, got caught protecting a member of the Democratic Party: Democratic Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill.

Politifact took issue with the ad from The Senate Leadership Fund, a pro-Republican super PAC, that claimed that McCaskill said “normal people” could afford private planes.

[…]After they were corrected, Politifact acknowledged the mistake, writing,

Initially, we published this fact-check with a rating of False, because based on the video available, it did not appear that McCaskill was talking about private planes. After publication, we received more complete video of the question-and-answer session between McCaskill and a constituent that showed she was in fact responding to a question about private planes, as well as a report describing the meeting. We re-assessed the evidence, archived the original version here, and published the version you see here with a new rating of Half True. We apologize for the error.

Daily wire also linked to some more failed Politifact “fact checks”:  herehere, and here.

Arizona Senate Race

Politifact also screwed up their fact-check for the Arizona Senate race.

The Daily Caller explains:

PolitiFact incorrectly labeled it “mostly false” that Democratic Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema “protested troops in a pink tutu” during its live fact-check of the Arizona Senate debate Monday night.

It’s an established fact that Sinema, a former Green Party activist who co-founded an anti-war group, wore a pink tutu at one of the multiple anti-war protests she attended in 2003.

“While we were in harm’s way, she was protesting our troops in a pink tutu,” Republican candidate Martha McSally, a former Air Force fighter pilot, said during Monday night’s debate.

Here’s their Politifact’s evaluation of McSally’s claim:

Who are you going to believe? Politifact, or your own eyes?
Who are you going to believe? Politifact, or your own eyes?

And here’s the photo of Kyrsten Sinema, protesting the troops, in a pink tutu:

Anti-war Democrat Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema
Anti-war Democrat Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema in a pink tutu

The Daily Caller notes:

A 2003 Arizona State University news article at the time described Sinema wearing “something resembling a pink tutu” at one of the protests.

[…]Sinema openly associated with fringe elements of the far-left during her anti-war activism.

She promoted an appearance by Lynne Stewart, a lawyer who was convicted of aiding an Islamic terrorist organization, in 2003.

Sinema also reportedly partnered with anarchists and witches in her anti-war activism and said she did “not care” if Americans wanted to join the Taliban.

Colonel Martha McSally, as I’ve blogged about before, is a former U.S. Air Force A-10 fighter pilot, and squadron commander. She logged a lot of hours leading actual combat missions against America’s enemies – the sorts of people who sell and rape Yazidi girls. She fought them.

And now for the big one: Politifact’s fact-checking of Obamacare.

Obama’s claims about Obamacare

Avik Roy, health care policy expert at Forbes magazine, wrote about Politifact’s assessment of Obama’s promise to Americans about keeping their health plans after Obamacare.

In 2008, before the presidential election, PolitiFact rated Obama’s claims about Obamacare “True”:

Roy writes: (links removed)

On October 9, 2008, Angie Drobnic Holan of PolitiFact published an article using the site’s “Truth-O-Meter” to evaluate this claim: “Under Barack Obama’s health care proposal, ‘if you’ve got a health care plan that you like, you can keep it.’”

And she concluded:

[…]…people who want to keep their current insurance should be able to do that under Obama’s plan. His description of his plan is accurate, and we rate his statement True.”

Roy notes:

PolitiFact’s pronouncements about Obamacare were widely repeated by pro-Obama reporters and pundits, and had a meaningful impact on the outcome of the election. Indeed, in 2009, PolitiFact won the Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the 2008 campaign.

Here’s the screen capture from 2008:

Politifact caught with its pants on fire
Politifact says that everyone who likes their health care plan can keep it

Before the election, it’s true! And Obama got re-elected, because people believed that. But what happened after the election?

In 2013, after the 2012 election, PolitiFact rated Obama’s claims about Obamacare “Pants On Fire”:

Roy writes: (links removed)

On December 12, [2013] the self-appointed guardians of truth and justice at PolitiFact named President Obama’s infamous promise—that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it”—its 2013 “Lie of the Year.”

[…][N]one of the key facts that made that promise “impossible” in 2008 had changed by 2013. The President’s plan had always required major disruption of the health insurance market; the Obamacare bill contained the key elements of that plan; the Obamacare law did as well. The only thing that had changed was the actual first-hand accounts of millions of Americans who were losing their plans now that Obamacare was live.

And the screen capture from 2013:

Politifact says: we were just kidding! Kidding!
Politifact said one thing before the election, and the opposite afterwards

So when Politifact rates a statement by a Democrat as true, what they really mean is that it’s pants-on-fire-false, but it’s election time so they don’t say that. It’s not like the critical assessments of Obamacare from health policy experts were not out there between 2007-2012. I know, because I blogged on every study and report on the predicted effects of the law that I could find. But the intellectually lazy journalism-major clowns at Politifact couldn’t be bothered to read those studies and reports.

2 thoughts on “Fact-checking the fact-checkers: is Politifact reliable or biased?”

  1. And the left and media wonder why people agree that much of the media is even more of a l false narrative.

    It used to be they were biased and condescending to the right in many media forms and less time was given to less left views. But now even an attempt to pretend the other view even has anything worthy of stating is ignored.

    Liked by 1 person

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