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Politifact is more Politopinion

February 7, 2017 | 0 Comments

With all the brew ha ha over “fake news” lately a lot of people have been turning to supposedly nonpartisan sites like Politifact to verify the truthiness of statements made by public figures.  The problem with Politifact is that the stories are written by humans with biases, intended or not.  Those biases can mildly or sometime dramatically slant a rating at which Politifact has 6:  true, mostly true, half true, mostly false, false, and pants on fire.  If you only visit their site every so often you would likely not notice the inconsistencies routinely exhibited and one could easily argue that their use of “context” to justify ratings is warranted.

However, when someone makes a statement that is empirical, the context of the statement, unless unrelated to the topic, is mute.  Additionally, many of the statements they rate are from politicians that have only 15-20 seconds to get a soundbite explaining their position into the public domain.

An example that recently stuck in my craw was one in which Rand Paul stated that

The vast majority of people that got insurance under President Obama’s Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, got it through Medicaid.

Politifact provided some statistics showing that 75% of of new enrollees were, in fact, via Medicaid then rated the statement as half true because 75% is not a “vast majority” and further went on to use some “contextual reasoning” to explain that some of the people that signed up for Medicaid after passage of the ACA were previously eligible so they don’t count.  So, Paul’s subjective use of the word vast to describe a confirmed 75% is only half true.

When a Texas judge (Don Willett) made a statement that

The overwhelming majority of America’s elite universities, they no longer require history majors to take a single course in American history.

Politifact rated the statement as mostly true after using some basic math to show that 70% of the colleges ranked highest by U.S. News do not, in fact, require history majors to take a general class in U.S. History.

Well, what is it, Politifact, that makes 70% as an overwhelming majority mostly true yet 75% as a vast majority only half true?  Maybe it’s your author’s subconscious bias against Rand Paul on that particular statement or the Willett story author’s bias on the other.

To Politifact’s credit, they are certainly a better source for a quick fact check than downright partisan echo-box sites like Huffington Post, BiPartisan Report, Blaze, or Breitbart.  Politifact’s questioning of context is certainly different than the vitriolic fiction published on other “news” sites.


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Category: Politics

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