I could not resist this one. Colleague Bob Stone, better known as “Ethics Bob,” has jousted with me over the Tampa Bay Times’ “fact check” web page, PolitiFact. Though far from the worst of the newspaper fact check features, PolitiFact is routinely biased leftward, and sometimes worse than biased. Bob, and some other worthy visitors here, rise to PolitiFact’s defense whenever I smite it, though it deseves to be smought, or smitten, or whatever. Here is a ringing example of why Politifact drives me crazy, and a ridiculous display of biased reporting.
You may recall that when she was House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi used military aircraft to travel to and from her home district in California, costing taxpayers millions of dollars. This became a Tea Party rallying cry (as well it should have), and was taken as symbolic of the profligate Democratic Congress. John Boehner, the current Speaker, pledged during the 2010 campaign that if he took over, he would fly commercial. He reiterated the pledge after 2010’s red tide gave him the gavel.
PolitiFact decided to check his pledge, and what did they find? He’s kept it. The military has no record of him using military transport, the House disbursement records don’t indicate any use of military flights, and nobody has said that he has. Yup, sure enough, he’s flying commercial. So, naturally and fairly, PolitiFact’s verdict on the question of whether Boehner has kept his promise to the voters is— it’s impossible to tell!
“We will continue to seek more concrete records of Boehner”s travels and follow this pledge. If readers see him flying commercial — or on a military jet — please let us know. For now, the evidence is enough to move the needle to In the Works.”
“In the Works”… as in, ‘”there’s no evidence that he’s been lying yet.” As in…
Q: “Is Mitt Romney beating his wife?”
PolitiFact: “Can’t say so far, but we’re still investigating.”
Q: Is Newt Gingrich an undercover agent of Iran?
PolitiFact: “Nothing yet…the answer is “In the Works.”
Q: Did Dick Cheney conspire to bring down the Twin Towers?
PolitiFact: “Still looking! It’s too early to say.”
Now there’s an objective fact-checking operation that we can all count on for objective, fair, unbiased analysis! A Republican makes a pledge and follows through on it; nobody has suggested that he is cheating and no facts can be found that suggests he is, and PolitiFact:
- Chooses Boehner’s pledge for special scrutiny, inherently raising suspicion, and
- After finding nothing at all to show that Boehner isn’t doing exactly what he said he would do, refuses to state the obvious and unavoidable conclusion, which is that yes, he has kept his pledge to voters;
- Instead, it leaves the matter hanging as if it is still in doubt, calling for independent watchdogs to keep an eye out for the tell-tale smoking gun, and announces that the jury is out. apparently until some evidence incriminating Boehner arrives.
For the record, Fact-Check.Org is a professional, unbiased, independent and reliable fact-checking operation. It is, truth the tell, the only one.
Pointer: Jim Treacher
Graphic: The Average American
Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at firstname.lastname@example.org.