Balance through looking at both sides
The way I figure out bias, is by reading both sides views of something, and then comparing their facts and complaint, sampling each of them (fact checking them), or fact checking their fact-checking, and you can get a good idea of how biased they are.
I tended to follow Newsbusters (MRC) and MediaMatters (same organization) or ThinkProgress and MediaMatters (different organizations) for about a month, comparing their complaints and weighting their arguments for severity of infraction and accuracy. MRC/Newsbusters certain gets a little whiney at times and does the lies of omission (or clipped edits) in parts to prove their point a bit too much. But they do it a tiny fraction of the other side, and have about 4 times the content, 3 times the support for their points, and much more validity if you know the topics than the latter two combined. That gives you a picture.
When you look at Politifact, the picture becomes pretty clear -- they're very partisan, sometimes wrong, and when they are wrong they behave badly by either:
- (a) not fixing errors that are known falsehoods, letting the disinformation remain
- (b) correcting the errors without admission of their mistake (just fixing the article without noting that this was a retraction)
- (c) pretending the earlier errors didn't exist in later articles
- (d) attacking those that point out the errors
None of which instills confidence in their professionalism, or quest to speak truth to power (as they're the power). On top of that, you have the other two common ways of bias:
- Selection bias
- Standards bias (double standard)
Below I offer examples of each of them (and more).
This is too easy, as there are websites dedicated to debunking the bias in fake unbiased places like Politifact. Like the popular:
- Examples of that bias are here: http://www.politifactbias.com/p/research.html
But in the end, if you go through that site, they decimate Politifact facade of not being partisan hacks. If you read any examples of their known falsehoods, or long winded lawyering of issues they don't want to admit are true (because they make a Republican look good), or make excuses for why they soft-pedaled a Democrat who was obviously wrong, then you kind of get the idea. Assuming you're not too partisan to be self-blinded to it.
The simplest example of standards bias is the following example of Politifact's anti-Republican bias:
But there are many examples like that.
MSNBC's Ed Schultz makes an exaggerated claim that's off by at least 33% (and more like 50%) -- and it's "half true". Conservative talk show host Larry Elders is off by less than 25%, and he's "Mostly False".
When Ted Cruz cited a well researched and well known claim that ["most violent criminals are democrats", PolitiFact loses their nut, and picked nits about how the study cited | "didn't differentiate between violent criminals and all criminals", as if that's going to really change the outcome. PolitiFact whined about correlation is not causation, but Cruz's point wasn't that voting democrat will make you a felon, his point was that the reason the DNC is soft on crime, is because violent felons are more of their base. (They are). Then PolitiFact didn't research any of the dozens of other papers, as there have been many, in many states about how felons vote, or what racial/cultural and socio-economic demographic they are (and how those demographics vote) -- and declared something that was completely true, as "mostly false".
For Trump's top 5 lies, like Large Scale Voter Fraud, Not supporting Iraq War, or Obama's birth certificate, they not only use selection bias on what they check (or choosing how it was phrased to make it look worse), and judge it by a harsher standard than Hillary, but they check the same lie 5, 6 and 7 times each. For bigger lies by Hillary like "was named after Sir Edmund Hillary", "Landed Under Sniper fire in Bosnia", or "Did not send classified info in emails", they checked the same lie, 0, 0 and 2 times (the latter having one true and one false).
Then there's how many times you get checked at all (a form of selection bias) -- for example Marco Rubio was fact-checked as many times before he took office than long-time senator and erstwhile Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been checked in his entire career. Ted Cruz was checked more than any Democrat Senator, and Paul Ryan was fact-checked nearly 2:1 as often as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was. Michelle Bachmann was checked about as much as vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine.
Then when scoring who lies most, it's obviously the Republicans, right?
- Federalist: How PolitiFact Slants Its Truth Ratings Against Republicans
A great example of this is take something that's true -- Obamacare (ACA) has clauses where there will be "death panel" -- e.g. government bureaucrats and administrators will be on a board determining what care someone should/shouldn't be entitled to, and is making life and death decisions over patient coverage. Instead of ignoring it, they write long winded distracting articles that try to convince their base that "Death Panel" is the "Lie of year", because it's not a panel that will vote to kill, it's a panel that will vote to deny you coverage and the disease/malady will kill you. e.g. the longer a PolitiFact article is, the more wrong (political) it usually is.
PolitiFact gives themselves lie of the year
Politifact rated Obamacare's 'Keep Your Health Plan' promise as "True" in 2008, and 2013 "Pants on Fire" and "Lie of the Year". And in the latter post they lied about it, and referenced a 2009 or 2012 articles, and they rated it "half true"... which is half true, since they rated it completely true in 2008. So they were wrong (biased) about Obama in 2008, then biased in 2013 by not admitting their bias of 2008 and telling the whole truth about their history of that claim.
Then they ignore that for the last 5 years, they dinged Republicans dozens of times as "Half True" (or worse), for pointing out that Obama's claim was proving to be false and likely to get worse. They didn't go back and correct the record for | Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus or Mitt Romney in | June or | October of 2012 -- leaving their "false" claim to impugn the reputation of a politician that was telling the truth they didn't want to hear. Not that it would matter, the harm had been done during an election, which is what was important.
In case the fact that they eventually corrected the record gives you some sense of vindication that at least they can eventually be embarrassed into doing the right thing, remember the context: they didn't even have "if you like your plan" as one of the choices on their poll. But so many readers complained that it was reluctantly added (despite them trying to bury the lede)... and then to their frustration, it won their reader poll, and by so much that they had to add it as their lie of the year. So this wasn't exactly PolitiFact being honest or introspective, it was more a reader revolt holding them accountable.
Here are a few examples of their mistakes: 9 items
- 2019.02.07 Green New Deal - 🍉 The Green New Deal was a program championed by AOC, endorsed by the left, that confirms everything conservatives have been warning about the Watermelon Environmental Movement: their goal is not to save the planet, but use that to enact communism/socialism in the U.S. This $93 Trillion boondoggle admits wanting to destroy the coal, oil, airline industry, and replace planes to Hawaii with trains, and replace every building in the U.S. force everyone to go vegetarian (and eliminate cow-farts), within 10 years. Oh and complete wealth redistribution, 70%+ taxes, and so on. Politifact is of course flagging people as false for pointing this out, because they meant it, "perhaps in jest", even though there was not a scintilla of evidence of that.
- 2018.05 Cagegate - This FakeNews fiasco was the fallacy that Trump's new immigration policy was breaking up families and putting kids in cages. The omitted reality was criminals (border jumpers) have always had the kids separated from the adults, as you aren't sure who are parents, and detaining both in the same place risks harm to children. The media even used faked propaganda images from Obama era to sell it.
- 2017.05.25 NATO - Trump criticized NATO (as he has during his campaign) for bearing the brunt of NATO costs (true), and intimidates them into living up to their obligations and coming up with more money. The leftists, their Press and their fact checkers all pretend this is end of days and proof that:
- Demanding more defense spending (against Russia) makes him a puppet of Russia.
- That him claiming the U.S. pays 70-90% of NATO is a lie. It's true... depending on what you mean.
- He "shoved" Montenegro Prime Minister.
- That he's alienating our allies and going to break up NATO.
- A year+ later, the head of NATO admits that his tough talk got NATO contributions up by over $100B, and it is stronger than ever, thanks to Trump.
- 2017.04.11 Spicer: Hitler didn't use chemical weapons - Sean Spicer (WhiteHouse Press Secretary) while talking about Assad (Syria) use of chemical weapons, misspoke (said something completely true but inartfully worded) and corrected himself (clarified that "as a tool of war" and not talking about gassing civilians) and apologized all in the same news-conference. Far left outfits like CNN, CBS, MSNBC, Snopes, Politifact, all ignored the correction/clarification and used the gaff as a way to attack Spicer and Trump, and spin a non-story into evidence of why they were a bad administration. They also ignored many cases where others on the left had said the same truth. Lies of omission, and sensationalism, are evidence of propaganda/FakeNews.
- 2017.02.28 Sitting for Seal Widow - This is a famous case where the Democrats were remaining seated during Trump's first address to congress in 2017, in protest of his very existence. As Ben Shapiro wrote, the Democrats unfortuitously decided to keep their asses planted for the 2nd standing ovation for a Navy Seal who gave his life (and his widow), and PolitiFact, FactCheck and Snopes misrepresented their stories to not make the Democrats look as bad as their contemptuous partisan behavior had been for the whole night, or to make it look like Ben Shapiro had misrepresented things that he had not.
- 2016.05.06 Birth of Birthers - Fact checkers (CNN, Politifact, Snopes, FactCheck) answered whether Hillary originated the Birther movement, and exonerated her. It was only her top strategists plan and her campaign staffers, but not her personally -- so they pretended that Trump was lying to imply she had anything to do with creating these rumors that her campaign gleefully twisted and spread. So dishonest.
- 2014.08.06 VoterID Fraud - NYU: Justin Levitt did a "Study" that found only 31 convictions of voter fraud. Thus he started the myth that since we don't have a way to catch people doing it (without VoterID), then the problem must not exist. This study was first published, without any logical counter-balance, in WaPo, and is regurgitated and quoted in all far left outlets (like Politifact). Only it's bullshit, been debunked and refuted, and lots of studies show the opposite. WaPo has never corrected it, and in fact, recycles it every 2 years around election time. They are either incompetent and don't know the basics of the topic, or they are intentionally and maliciously deceiving their rubes (readers), or both.
- 2014.06.06 DGU Disinformation - Mass shootings stopped by armed civilians article, without even trying. So while the issue is complex, and no one is going to agree on an exact number reduced, there's zero doubt (to the informed) that civilians with guns have reduced casualties in mass shootings. Claiming that as completely false, is completely dishonest. The only debate is how "drastically" it has helped.
- 2013.05.16 Open Border Hillary - Wikileaks leaked the text of private, paid speech to a Brazilian bank where Clinton said: “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders..." 3 years later, Politifact, FactCheck and CNN were claiming that Hillary never said or meant it, and spent their energies defending her reputation instead of communicating what was said and leaving it up to their readers.
Tom Feran as editor of Politifact Ohio caught doing multiple "Gobama!" and "evil conservatives" tweets. Sure, and Sean Hannity would make a non-partisan fact-checker as well:
Louis Jacobson of PolitiFact reported that (a) one of Kevin D. Williamson (of National Review) had made an erroneous claim (that ACA covered things like acupuncture and naturopathic medicine), because it did (b) that the reporter had tried to reach Kevin for comment, but was unable to get to him. (This reach out was by tweeting, instead of email or a phone call). Instead of owning their mistakes, they pretended the original claim was half true, but first straw-manning Kevin's claims.
I know of exactly one retraction PolitiFact has made. Back in 2014 John Kerry made the laughable claim that the Obama administration had helped broker a deal that successfully removed "100 percent" of chemical weapons from Syria, that they rated as "Mostly True". When 3 years later Syria used chemical weapons to kill up to 100 civilians, and human rights workers are pointing out Syria still has at least 12 chemical weapon production facilities, that claim isn't holding water. Of course, I expect there are hundreds or thousands of citations of that fact check, or other fact checks that were based on it for the last 3 years, which all made out the Obama/Kerry administration to be honest when they were lying, and anyone that questioned them was called a liar, when they were telling the truth.
My problem isn't just with the rampant bias, it's with the media that celebrates and quotes from PolitiFact freely when they're making obvious partisan mistakes (like the ones mentioned), but then rarely offers retractions or corrections when PolitiFact is eating crow. If you don't remember widespread discussions on talk shows and the news about PolitiFact's failures, or they still get cited as a reputable source for non-partisan fact checking, or anyone uses them as a "fact check" site, then it proves my point.
Just wander the Hillary Clinton many scandals, scams, or gasslightings, and see how PolitiFact handles them. They seem more like a DNC PAC, than objective journalism, both on issues they touch, and how they handle them. (Especially when you contrast them with how they handle unsupported claims against Trump). (People whine that makes me a Trump supporter, but I just care about using the same yardstick):
- Hillary Clinton: Lootergate (2001)
- Hillary Clinton: Healthcare Reform debacle
- "Fact Checking" her book and being unable to find any lies
Remember, PolitiFact was given the Pulitzer Prize for exceptional dishonesty and lack of objectivity in Journalism -- which reflects more on how politically embarrassing Pulitzer has become, than any honorific deserved by PolitiFact, just because it's the most widely quoted "Fact Checkers" popular among the left leaning media. And it's not just PolitiFact (though they're the focus of this article), the AP, FactCheck, and the other sources are just as bad, or worse. But again, that doesn't prove PolitiFact's journalistic standards, it just proves the medias bias.
- PolitiFact is given the Pulitzer Prize for exceptional dishonesty and lack of objectivity in Journalism
- At least one place (US News) notes that's most likely because of PolitFacts biases, and shows we need someone fact checking the fact checkers.
- HotAir/Townhall Posts a summary of Politifacts bias, and Politifact doesn't admit their mistakes or ignore it, their executive director attacks the author on Twitter instead:
- Rachel Maddow lost it over Politifact for doing the right thing for once -- they say a claim by Rubio that most Americans were Conservative is mostly true, since 40% + said they associated conservative, and if you divide the 35% that say they're moderates as either leans conservative or leans liberal, it was likely to put Rubio's statement over the top and true.
- Liberal front CMPA (Center for Media and Public Affairs) did a "Study" that found Republicans lie more than Democrats, based on PolitiFacts bias:
- If you want to see the quality of their staff, read up on their hiring of Alan Grayson:
- Fact Checking the Fact Checkers: https://www.justfactsdaily.com/?s=PolitiFact&submit=Search