Jul
07
2010

Liberals are Liars: More on ABC's Factchecking Failure

Back in May FAIR wrote about the problems with a new factchecking project, where the PolitiFact website evaluates ABC's This Week. As we said then, this is theoretically a fine idea; the problem is that, in practice, what PolitiFact decides to analyze is almost as important as what is said on the show. A completely uncontroversial comment from Bill Clinton, for instance, was determined to be "true," though no one would suggest that it wasn't. Defense Secretary Bob Gates' somewhat tendentious criticism of Wikileaks (for releasing a video of civiliansbeing killed in Iraq by U.S. forces)was determined "Mostly True," though their reasoning was pretty unconvincing.

The right-wing Media Research Center has tallied up PolitiFact's scorecard so far, and theyare pleased with the results:

After nearly three months, the results show far more Democrats and liberals earning a "False" rating, with most of the "True" ratings going to Republicans and conservatives. The discrepancy remains even if you take into account that about two-thirds of the evaluated statements came from Democrats in the first place.

From April 11 through June 20, PolitiFact has handed out seven "False" statements–six to Democrats/liberals, one to a Republican. During that same time, seven "True" labels were handed out–four for Republicans/conservatives, just two for Democrats (one, ironically, going to former President Bill Clinton).

If I were a right-wing media critic, this couldn't be better news: According to a non-partisan study of one Sunday show, liberal and Democrats are more often telling whoppers.

Of course, this only points to the problems inherit in PolitiFact's approach. As FAIR noted in May, George Will has madeclaims that demand some sort of fact-checking–but the site, for whatever reason, doesn't seem to show much interest in evaluating the statements of one of the show's regular panelists.

As Arianna Huffington recently pointed out (7/5/10), during one of her This Week appearances she declared that Halliburton had "defrauded the American taxpayer"–a comment that right-wing panelist Liz Cheney strongly (and unsurprisingly) found objectionable: "Arianna, I don't know what planet you live on,but it's not facts." PolitiFact decided that this was worth a look. After a relatively thorough accounting of Halliburton's problems with overbilling and underperforming on its military contracts, they determined that Huffington's statement was "Half True." The reason? Apparently Huffington was not fair to the company, which may have merely overcharged the government to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars due to "waste and inefficiency."

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.