Fact-checkers tackle Mitt Romney's RNC speech; fact-checker-checkers caution readers
"In considering all rulings where a claim is found untrue (False and Pants on Fire rulings combined), two things are obvious: First, that PolitiFact thinks Republicans are wrong far more often than Democrats and, second, when Republicans are wrong, they're often said to be lying, while Democrats are just mistaken," Jon Cassidy wrote in a lengthy analysis at Human Events.
In one rating, PolitiFact rated whether Romney was right to say, "Our navy is smaller than it's been since 1917. Our air force is smaller and older than any time since 1947." PolitiFact conceded the claim was true but gave Romney a "pants on fire" rating because the claim was "meaningless," "glib" and "preposterous."
"You can believe that Republicans lie more than three times as often as Democrats. Or you can believe that, at a minimum, PolitiFact is engaging in a great deal of selection bias, to say nothing of pushing tendentious arguments of its own," Mark Hemingway posited at The Weekly Standard in 2011. "At the most basic level, the media's new 'fact-checkers' remain obdurately unwilling to let opinions simply be opinions."
The Atlantic's Clive Crook also criticized fact-checkers in 2011, saying, "whether they realize it or not, PolitiFact and other fact-checking outfits rarely confine themselves to checking facts. They're judging claims purportedly based on facts or interpretation of facts. Not the same."
"The giveaway is their grading system," Crook wrote. "You check a fact by asking whether it is true or false. If true or false is not good enough to assess the thing you are checking, then the thing you are checking is not a fact. PolitiFact has a six-point grading system: true, mostly true, half true, mostly false, false, and pants on fire. These are grades you might apply to bundles of facts or claims based (with more or less validity) on bundles of facts, but not to facts."
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