PolitiFact

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Revision as of 22:29, 4 June 2019 by Ari (talk | contribs) (Examples of Bias)
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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:

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.

Types of Bias

There are many forms of bias when doing studies or trying to analyze data. When Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers, or the filters we put on what's real, it helps to keep a few of those in mind, like: #Selection Bias (what they pick), #Oversampling Bias (picking the same thing over, or minute variants), #Standards Bias (not holding both sides to the same standard), and so on. If you can show that a site has any of these biases, then you discredit their claims of impartiality or objectivity. If you can show they do all of these, then you wreck their credibility... at least for those who aren't biased themselves. Anyone that refutes that this evidence matters, proves that they are not to be taken seriously (as objective). more...

Standards bias

The simplest example of standards bias is the following example of Politifact's anti-Republican bias:

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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".

Oversampling

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?

Examples

Here are a few examples of their mistakes: 20 items


Racism Claims - Ilhan has had a series of racially insensitive claims, especially against Jews/Israel. Not all of them are up to MY standards of racism (racially insensitive isn't racist, unless the folks believe the entire race is inferior to another) -- but that's not the standard the left uses. By their standards, she'd be racist, so they want to do nothing to censure her, because she's a Democrat and a protected class. A Republican would have been excoriated for a fraction of the following:
  1. saying that the only reason Republicans support Israel is their money and AIPAC.
  2. She supports the anti-semitic BDS (boycott, divest and sanction) movement which wants to destroy Israel
  3. claimed pro-Israel lawmakers hold dual loyalty, twice (touching on an old racist trope, and doubling down when called on it)
  4. claimed that Israel (Jews) "hypnotized the world" and did "evil things", both also old racist dirty-Jew tropes .
  5. If you think people like you are better than everyone else, and those that aren't are inferior, you're a racist. Like she does with constantly bragging about the women of color, and demeaning those who aren't.
  6. If you falsely claim someone else is racist, that's racist. (Assuming you only do that to people who aren't of color). Omar does this to individuals and the entire nation. If you don't agree with her, and aren't of color, you're a racist. (Which means she's a racist to judge everyone by their color and see them through that lens).
  7. In 2018, when asked by Al Jezeera about some people's legitimate concerns about Jihadist terrorism, she dodged and claimed "the country should be more fearful of White Men", and we should be profiling, monitoring and racially profiling, to prevent their radicalization. She might have been trying to flip the attack around, but it was awkward, math challenged and racist. Can you imagine if Trump said something so gosh about Blacks or Muslims? To date, no "journalist" has bothered to ask her to defend/clarify that inflammatory claims, but a few Fake Facts outlets like Politifact tried to carry her water and make excuses for it.

New Jersey and the Economist -
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The Economist ran an oft quoted FakeNews story that any first year economics student should call bullshit on. It was that red states get a surplus of tax benefits, because of subsidies by blue states. The truth is that for each $1.00 New Jersey gets back from the fed, they have to give the fed $1.64 in taxes, they have to pay $.18 in compliance costs, and the government borrows about $.81 of that dollar, and sticks New Jersey with the debt obligation. On top of that, federal work-rules and controls means that dollar is actually only about as effective as $.60 would be if it was under local or private hiring practices. Progressives see the $.60 of real value as a net win. Anyone else, can see that you paid about $2.63 to get it. This isn't as dramatic for some red states, but the only states that come out ahead are West Virginia, Mississippi, New Mexico and Puerto Rico (and D.C.). So if any publication repeats the lie of the Red states mooching off the Blue ones, you know they don't have fact checkers, or are just partisan shills.

Hillary Clinton: Troopergate (1980-1993) -
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Troopergate was where Bill Clinton allegedly used Arkansas state police assigned to his security detail, to keep an eye out for Hillary or ferry women in and out of the Governors mansion for him (as well as keep track of his sexual scoring system). While Hillary was using state troopers to take her to clandestine meetings with Vince Foster at a resort (for an alleged affair). Most of the media ignored the story, as they didn't want to harm their change-agent du jour, but then this lead to Paula Jones and many others, and even they couldn't ignore that much salaciousness.

Despite 4 different troopers corroborating the stories (multiple Women coming forward or being discovered, including Paula Jones and Jennifer Flowers), and writer David Brock documenting many details of times, dates, with corroborating witnesses, he later apologized to Bill Clinton for breaking the story. The troopers had gotten paid for telling their stories, and he considered that a violation of journalistic ethics. Of course, most of the accounts still appear to be true, but that doesn't matter to Clinton supporters.

Hillary Clinton: Travelgate (1993) -
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Clinton friend Harry Thompson (and his TRM charter company) had wanted to do some charter business with the WhiteHouse Travel office, but was rebuffed (they were a relatively new company, and their only client the year before had been the Clinton Campaign).
  • Hillary got involved, spread some lies about the travel office, she pressured the FBI to investigate them, and 7 people were fired (and smeared in the Press) because of it.
  • The investigations into the fired staff resulted in one employee (Billy Dale) being charged with mixing personal and White House funds, and a jury acquitted him of any crime (in less than two hours). So he got audited by the IRS (completely coincidentally, I'm sure). Nothing came of that either.
  • Then with the help of Bill Clinton's 25 year old cousin (Catherine Cornelius), Clinton cronies WWT (World Wide Travel) took over the business, and Harry Thompson's TRM got a $500K no-bid contract.

At least this one caused a media field day, on the abuse of FBI, investigation, firing, cronies and so on. WWT was so embarrassed they stepped down (and let American Express take over the business). And it lead to NYT writer, William Safire to describe Hillary Clinton as "a congenital liar". (When the NYT speaks truth about a Clinton, you know it's bad).


Hillary Clinton: Lootergate (2001) -
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After leaving the White House, Hillary was forced to return an estimated $190,000 in White House furniture, china, and artwork that she had taken. Again, there's a lot of "weeds" as to whether gifts were given to them personally or the Whitehouse, how big personal gifts are allowed to be, but the end result is always that nothing like this ever happened to any President before, even the classless ones. And the Clintons water carriers in the media fake "Fact Checked" this and tried to exonerate the Clintons by word parsing or misleading the public on what happened.

Hillary Clinton: Cattlegate: Futures Trading Miracle (1978) -
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Without any experience, as a first time Cattle Futures trader (and wife of Governor), she gets a 9,987% return on investment in a few months, after, according to her, "reading the Wall Street Journal" (a paper that doesn't talk about Cattle Futures). With results like that, she decides to never trade stocks/commodities again. Suspicious? So we're to believe that under the guidance of a few "friends" (her account being run by a lawyer for state poultry interests, through a disreputable broker) she turns $6,300 investment into $100K (a nice even number) in a few months, with shoddy and lost records, questionable trades, not enough money in her account to cover some of the $1.5M positions she bought/sold in the same day (anyone else would have had margin calls), and other eyebrow raising anomalies. Then her two partners in this (Bone and Refco) were suspended and fined respectively for improper records keeping. But nothing to see here, move along -- we're not supposed to question her integrity, or think that this might have been a payoff?

Death Panels -
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Republicans (and Sarah Palin) started using the term "Death Panels" to describe part of the ACA, where a panel of 15 (called IPAB) could make life and death decisions over what treatments would be covered or not (which would control costs). Of course the left all called that untrue, but accounted for the savings these panels would bring by denying care, and far left places like Politifact called this the lie of the year in 2009. Then they screamed again when those panels that never existed were eliminated in 2018.

2019.04.02 Misleading Teacher Salary claims - Harris put out a completely deceptive and dishonest claim, "that teachers pay is falling short of living wage in 30 states" and we need the fed to help. FakeNews Politifact backed her up, because completely misleading, if you parse everything she said in a way that most of her readers won't, then she's technically not wrong, so they mislabelled it as mostly true. Something they'd never do for a conservative.

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.

2016.05.02 Hillary and the Rapist - One complaint was against Hillary for laughing about getting a child rapist off when she was a defense lawyer. This was true. Even lefty-FactCheck admitted it was true. But Snopes, WaPo and Politifact parsed words, inferred intent (It was just a nervous laugh), and went beyond fact checking into water-carrier status. The truth is she did defend a rapist, she did laugh about getting him off, and she helped get him off by attacking the victim.

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 -
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When Republican Politician (Jim Rubens) used a shoddy study (that used only 10 examples) that claimed armed civilians drastically reduce casualties during mass shootings, PolitiFact slammed it as false.... by using a worse study to refute it: their "expert" could only find 3 cases of a DGU's (Defensive Gun Uses) stopping a mass shooting? I show dozens in my 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.

2013.12.12 Obama and Politifact share lie of the year - From 2008-2013 Politifact rated Obamacare's "If you like your plan, you can keep your Health Plan" (or Doctor) promises as true, and rated everyone who called it untrue, as a liar (on their truth-o-meter). In 2013, they added a reader poll for "lie of the year", and while they didn't put that as one of the choices, so many readers wrote it in that they had to finally admit that it was a lie all along... and it was given the lie of the year (4 years late). But they didn't fix all the times they called anyone else a liar who had said it was false: in fact, they mislead people (lied) by linking back to some select articles where they had called other people a liar, by rating it as only partly true -- and didn't fix those articles. So they lied, then admitting the truth when it was too late, then lied about lying in the first place. And the only reason they admitted the truth (despite trying to bury it) was because of reader revolt making them admit it.

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.

2009.12.18 Death Panels - A great example of carrying Obama's water, is to take something that's true like 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 you, it's a panel that will vote to deny you coverage and the disease/malady will kill you. The longer a PolitiFact article is, the more wrong (political) it usually is.


General bias

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.

Retractions

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.

Conclusion

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):

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.

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📚 References

Examples of Bias