Nov
06
2012

Final Factcheck: Political Lying Perfectly Balanced

Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler had his last election piece in the Sunday edition of the paper (11/4/12)– and it made you glad there won't be any more. The article promised, in the headline at least, "The Best–or Worst?–Pinocchios of This Presidential Race." What it delivered was something else: Eight themes of lying and deception (like "Silliest Blooper" and "Worst Math Skills"), each with one example drawn from each side. In other words, lying was perfect balanced. And the piece closes with this bizarre attempt at "balance": Most complex subject for spinning–bipartisan effort The Obama administration's memo saying it […]

Aug
13
2012

PBS Does 'Both Sides' on Bogus Romney Welfare Attack

Some campaign disputes can be tricky to sort out. Others are not. That's why media coverage that takes the both-sides-have-a-point approach can be so disappointing, if not dangerous. Take Mitt Romney's recent claim that the White House was "gutting" the work requirements in theĀ  1996 welfare "reform" law. As a Romney TV ad put it: "Under Obama's plan, you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check." That charge earned a "Pants on Fire" from PolitiFact (8/7/12), which pointed out that the policy change that is supposedly at issue […]

Feb
10
2012

Professor Gingrich Still Wowing NYT

His campaign might fading, but Newt Gingrich is still wowing the New York Times (2/10/12). Reporter Trip Gabriel writes: Mr. Gingrich is well known as the candidate of big ideas, hatched from a deep knowledge of politics and policy. But he is less recognized for his warehouse of everyday facts, the kind of small-bore knowledge useful in winning bar bets–or in impressing voters and arguing down skeptical reporters. And: Mr. Gingrich appears to have a steel-trap mind and would make a dangerous opponent at Trivial Pursuit. Praising Gingrich's intellect isn't new, but it's a reminder that Gingrich isn't always dazzling […]

Jan
10
2012

'Opinions Differ' Should Be the Start of PolitiFact's Job

There are two ways to approach being evenhanded: You can try to actually be evenhanded, which could mean that you find that one side is right and the other is wrong. Or you can strive for the appearance of being evenhanded, which means that you decide in advance that you're going to find that there's truth on both sides. PolitiFact, a political factchecking project based in St. Petersburg, Florida, has been criticized for taking the latter approach. An item it posted yesterday (1/9/12) is further evidence of its preference for the appearance of evenhandedness over its reality. The item addressed […]

Dec
07
2011

Republicans and the Hezbollah-in-Mexico Menace

Political campaign watchers seem to agree that the election will be about the economy, and that Republicans probably won't have much to say about Obama's foreign policy (partly because it doesn't much differ from what a Republican president might be doing). The New York Times' Richard Oppel has a piece today headlined, "Republican Candidates Aim at Obama Foreign Policy." So what exactly is the Republican case against Obama's foreign policy? That it's too soft on the Hezbollah menace on our southern border. Seriously. Oppel writes: A small but revealing episode unfolded in the closing minutes of the last Republican presidential […]

Nov
29
2011

Newt Gingrich, Smartest Man in the Room

The New York Times today (11/29/11) has a somewhat cheeky piece about Republican candidate Newt Gingrich's background as a historian–which, according to reporter Trip Gabriel, means he's unusually smart: In an election season rife with factual misstatements, deliberate and otherwise, Mr. Gingrich sometimes seems to stand out for exhibiting an excess of knowledge. I don't know whether he really "sometimes seems" to have an "excess of knowledge"–whatever that might be. The point seems to be that he comes across as smarter than, say, Michele Bachmann. Well, sure. But what about Gingrich's misstatements? According to PolitiFact, at one debate Gingrich claimed […]

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 […]

Apr
13
2010

Factchecking: At NBC, That's a Job for the Viewer

In his stint as interim host of ABC's This Week, Jake Tapper has arranged for the fact-checkers at Politifact to review what the guests say on the ABC Sunday morning show.An idea worth applauding, it came to Tapper via NYU's Jay Rosen. The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz asked NBC Meet the Press anchor David Gregory if he'd consider a similar arrangement for his show: An "interesting idea," Gregory allows, but not one the NBC show will be emulating. "People can factcheck Meet the Press every week on their own terms."