Politifact: It’s “Mostly True” When Democrats Say It

March 18, 2014 13:00 pm

by Mike Hassinger · 19 comments

I’m old enough to remember when “news” didn’t need to be “fact checked.” Reporters would report what candidates or elected officials said, check the record, and type. An example might be “I paid all my taxes,” candidate X said, although County property tax records show X was delinquent in paying those taxes from 2002 through 2006.”  I’ve been a reporter and it just wasn’t that hard.

But this “fact-checking” fad seems to want to be a “purer” form of reporting the news. Politifact in particular wants to dig into the tiniest detail, parse every claim, diagram every sentence and boil away all context to distill out “the truth.” Consider the utter condescension for the people who still read news that attitude conveys.  Politifact thinks you’re not smart enough to detect when a politician might be optimizing facts for his or her benefit. (Here’s a hint: ALWAYS. It’s what they do.)

Politifact put a recent claim -that Georgia has the lowest taxes per capita of any state in the union- from one of Governor Deal’s campaign flyers under their microscope, and came up with “a Mostly False” rating. That link’s behind the paywall, so click it if you can, but the gist of the “fact-checking” was while Georgia does indeed have the lowest taxes per capita of any state in the union, Deal can’t claim “credit” for that. If that’s the new standard in truth, then Governor Deal’s off the hook for the traffic jam caused by Snowpocalypse I and Georgia’s ranking in education. Those problems are on the Governors who preceded him, right?

DealClaim

Of course not. Governors get just as much credit or blame for stuff they inherit from predecessors as they do for their own accomplishments.

And Georgia DOES have the lowest taxes per capita of any state in the union. I know this because Politifact rated the same claim as “Mostly True” -when State Senator Jason Carter made it.

CarterClaimtrue

Quibble about “context” all you want, but the bottom line is this: When State Senator Jason Carter says Georgia has the lowest per-capita tax rates of any state in the union, it’s true and it’s bad. When Governor Nathan Deal says Georgia has the lowest tax rates of any state in the union, it’s mostly false.

And that tells you more about Politifact than it does about either candidate.

Mike Stucka March 18, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Speaking of missing context.

The ding on Deal wasn’t because of his claim that Georgia had the lowest taxes. The ding on Deal was because he had taken credit for it, when the data covered half a year of Deal’s time in office.

You should work on your reading comprehension before you criticize others’.

Mike Hassinger March 18, 2014 at 1:33 pm

Love ya Mike, but there’s a picture of the flyer in the post for a reason. I don’t see where Deal’s flyer claims “I lowered taxes to the lowest per-capita rate of any state in the union.” Maybe you and Politifact can show me where he claims that. And since you’re so good at reading comprehension, maybe you should read the 3rd and 4th paragraphs of what I wrote.

Mike Stucka March 18, 2014 at 1:48 pm

“Real results … Lowest taxes per capita of any state.”

Whose results? Is he talking about the results of another governor’s work? No. Did his administration have an appreciable effect, in a six-month span, on lowering the tax rate? Arguable, but evidence says no. So he’s taking credit for someone else’s work, no?

Tell me, if he’s not trying to claim “I lowered taxes to the lowest per-capita rate of any state in the union,” can you tell me why he’s advertising the work of Sonny Perdue (or Roy Barnes or … ) in his own re-election bid? Whom are you led to believe got you those “Real Results”?

Mike Hassinger March 18, 2014 at 3:24 pm

I don’t know how much more plain I can possibly make my words. Deal’s flyer doesn’t say HE lowered the rates. The only claim it makes is “As Governor, Nathan Deal encouraged an environment where businesses have the opportunity to thrive.” There are 4 bullet points under “Real Results,” and Politifact picked one, that even you admit, is “arguable.” So can we assume that Politifact rates the other 3 as true? He’s batting .750, even if I concede your argument. And Deal didn’t RAISE the rates either -so he should get at least some credit for Georgia having the lowest per-capita tax rates in the country, right?
If you read the whole thing, the claim is that Deal “encouraged.” The jobs, the increase in the rainy day fund, being #1 for business and having the lowest tax rates are the “Real Results” of that encouragement.

Mike Stucka March 18, 2014 at 3:40 pm

So, again, if you’re saying Nathan Deal didn’t actually do that, why is his own re-election flyer advertising the REAL RESULTS of someone else’s work? Is it not expected that an advertisement for someone’s REAL RESULTS would in fact show that person’s REAL RESULTS? Why is Deal running for re-election based on what his predecessors did?

Perhaps I can run for office and claim as my REAL RESULTS that “Evil empire defeated.” I mean, that happened during my lifetime, too. Would you have a problem with that?

And, no, you can’t argue he’s batting .750 with Politifact. Politifact does not appear to have rated those other three claims. Nor has it ruled on whether I helped defeat the Evil Empire.

Mike Hassinger March 18, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Deal’s only explicit claim is that he “encouraged and environment where businesses have the opportunity to thrive.” Politifact lives by the nit-pick, so they should appreciate being nit-picked.
And while I would have no problem with a campaign flyer that said “Vote Mike Stucka – Evil Empire Defeated, America STILL Nazi-free, and sufficient puppies for every child,” Politifact would call you out if you ran as a Republican.

General Jack D. Ripper March 18, 2014 at 5:14 pm

Given Mike Stucka’s argument, as water was fluoridated before Nathan Deal became Governor, I cannot say that Nathan Deal has continued to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids. I guess being Governor does not allow him to end the Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion, and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.

All of the blame…none of the credit.

Mike Stucka March 19, 2014 at 8:58 am

I think we can both agree we need to drink only pure distilled grain alcohol and fresh rainwater.

georgiahack March 18, 2014 at 1:50 pm

I have to disagree with you Mike H. I love to hate on Politifact. As you pointed out there is no consistency, but that does not go one way. I have seen many Politifact fact checks that are just completely off base. Parsing words out of context and the like. Us dems are often on the wrong side of a Politifact fact check and as often as they are right they are also wrong. Do a simple google search of “Politifact Sucks” and you will find a litany of articles, blogs, etc pointing out the flaws of this claim or that.

Campaigns all use some shaky arguments. Independent fact-checking outlets can play an important part of the political discourse, but the process breaks down when the fact-checkers are themselves wrong, and Politifact is just wrong too often.

Mike Hassinger March 18, 2014 at 3:25 pm

If that’s disagreeing with me, please, continue.

georgiahack March 18, 2014 at 5:26 pm

I am disagreeing with your premise that PolitiFact is politically biased. My premise is that they just suck ass.

Mike Hassinger March 18, 2014 at 10:31 pm

We may disagree about the cause, but not the symptoms.

Harry March 18, 2014 at 2:00 pm
charliemann2 March 18, 2014 at 2:45 pm

I’m going to hang out my own shingle… CHECK MATE! “The only partisan fact-checker you can rely on…take that to the bank” or how about TOHELLWITHOPINIONS “We’re entitled to our own set of facts”

The Last Democrat in Georgia March 18, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Mr. Hassinger, are you trying to say that Politifact has an agenda?

Mike Hassinger March 18, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Yes.

Ellynn March 18, 2014 at 5:42 pm

You should look at some of the reporting that others (both left and right of the aisle) have done on Politifact. The Milwaukee Journal went off on them in 2011 & 2012 on being wrong with what Walker did and what he didn’t do -using their arcticle out of order and context. Politifact even went so far as “fact” checking what Wisconsin Senate leader FitzGerald said, even though it was Wisconsin House leader FitzGerald who said it (their brothers… Politifact was not aware of that at the time.) They mis-quoted Sen Kohl, even went so far as saying he owned the Brewers (it’s the Bucks). They mixed up Marquette MI for Marquette WI. Rachael Maddow has stung them misquoting their own articles. It’s like they have different people writing the same story without even checking what the other writer said.

Gray March 18, 2014 at 5:44 pm

The egregiousness of Politifact finds both sides of the aisle… witness the unnecessary ‘false’ of a Democrat expressing a personal opinion:

http://www.politifact.com/georgia/statements/2010/dec/15/jane-kidd/party-switchers-anger-leaders-dont-have-refund-con/

It’s not personal or partisan. It’s just what they do.

Lea Thrace March 19, 2014 at 10:10 am

Politifact tends to be equal opportunity stupid.

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