PolitiFact’s spinmeisters

Avik Roy’s article doesn’t just highlight the fact that PolitiFact isn’t the gold standard in fact-checking, though it certainly does that. This paragraph highlights the most important thing we need to know about Politifact:

On October 9, 2008, Angie Drobnic Holan of PolitiFact published an article using the site’s “Truth-O-Meter” to evaluate this claim: “Under Barack Obama’s health care proposal, ‘if you’ve got a health care plan that you like, you can keep it.’” The article assures us in its headline that “Obama’s plan expands [the] existing system,” and continues that “Obama is accurately describing his health care plan here…It remains to be seen whether Obama’s plan will actually be able to achieve the cost savings it promises for the health care system. But people who want to keep their current insurance should be able to do that under Obama’s plan. His description of his plan is accurate, and we rate his statement True.”

Thanks to Roy’s article, what we can definitively determine is that PolitiFact rates speculation as fact or fiction. It isn’t possible to determine whether then-candidate Obama’s statement was true because the legislation hadn’t been written at that point. Without reading the legislation’s language, it’s impossible to tell whether Obama’s promise was true or false.

That’s quite damning to PolitiFact’s reputation. The statements reviewed by FactCheck.org, by contrast, either note that something is speculative or they’re commenting on promises made by political candidates.

Simply put, PolitiFact is more about playing political favorites than it’s about fact-checking politicians’ statements. That’s why I’ve never taken their statements that seriously. Admittedly, they got President Obama’s lie of the year right. Unfortunately, they didn’t get it right until 5 years after they rated that statement as true. That’s a pretty pathetic record.