Politifact or Politifraud?

Dave Emanuel

PolitiFact claims, “Our only agenda is to publish the truth so you can be an informed participant in democracy.” In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth. It would seem that “PolitiFraud” would be a much
more accurate name.

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PolitiFact is claimed to be a “fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others on its Truth-O-Meter”. Functionally, that’s correct, but the website’s stock in trade appears to be selectively
choosing facts to check and ratings to apply as a means of promoting a decided liberal agenda.

As an example, the Washington Post (which is hardly a conservative-friendly publication) stated in an April 26, 2021 article that during his first 100 days in office, Joe Biden made 78 false or misleading statements. Among those was one in June, for which the Post fact checker awarded Biden four Pinocchios for his statement about the 2nd Amendment. In
August, the Post’s fact checker awarded Biden three Pinocchios for his statement about Afghanistan. (The Post fact checkers use from one to four Pinocchios to rate false statements.)

I sent an email to Angie Holan, PolitiFact’s editor, pointing out the Washington Post’s ratings and that PolitiFact had not addressed either statement. Her response was, “We may not do the factchecks you prefer on your timetable, though.” She also stated, “If you prefer the Post fact-checks, you should read the Post.” She apparently had no interest in
checking facts that would portray Biden in a negative light. Ironically, a fact check of Biden’s August statement about Afghanistan showed up two days after my email to Holan.

Another tactic used by PolitiFact to promote what appears to be a biased agenda is the selective application of its “truth-o-meter” ratings. A statement made by a liberal that earns a “False” rating would typically be rated as “Pants-On-Fire” if made by a conservative. Biden hasn’t been given a “Pants-on-Fire” rating since September of 2020, and is typically treated very charitably by PolitiFact, earning a “Half True” or “Half False” rating for statements that are often more fiction than fact; reading through an entire “Half True” fact check often reveals statements that are
completely false.

But what is most laughable for an organization that claims its only agenda is to publish the truth, is PolitiFact resorting to fact-checking social media posts. Their gambit here is to select posts that disparage a liberal political position, or the politician promoting it, and label it false. Mind you, many of these posts are from individuals expressing their OPINION, but nevertheless they are fact checked as a means of supporting PolitiFact’s liberal agenda.

To be fair, PolitiFact does a good bit of legitimate fact checking. Such checks are useful in separating fact from fiction, but I have to believe that their primary purpose is to bring an air of legitimacy to the PolitiFact ratings that are biased or less severe than they should be, given the actual level of inaccuracy in the statement being checked.

PolitiFact is owned by the Poynter Institute, which bills itself as, “a global leader in journalism”. Its website further states, “It is the world’s leading instructor, innovator, convener and resource for anyone who aspires to
engage and inform citizens.”

However, one has to question the orientation of the journalism Poynter promotes. Among Poynter’s supporters (as listed on its website are AARP, Democracy Fund, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, National Endowment for
Democracy, Omidyar Network-Luminate, TikTok and WhatsApp. Some of these organizations demonstrate a legitimate concern for honest, non-partisan journalism, others have demonstrated an obvious bias that appears to be strongly aligned with PolitiFact’s left-leaning fact-checking orientation.

Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the veracity of the written word is in the eye of the reader. Much of the previous paragraphs is based on my evaluation of what I’ve read. The opinions I’ve expressed here are not
intended to convince anyone to agree with me, (in fact, I encourage you to fact check what I’ve written above) but to invite you do your own fact checking. I’m sure you’ll find that many self-proclaimed fact checkers often
color their fact checks to suit their own agenda.

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Featured screenshot via Politifact

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