Checking the Checkers’ Checking

small business association I’m a fan of reporters doing regular fact checking analyses of claims made by their sources, particularly elected officials. Pat Kessler at WCCO-TV’s Reality Check and Tom Scheck at Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) are among those who do a decent job with that locally, but there should be more of it.

But who is checking the checkers? The University of Minnesota’s Smart Politics blog did an interesting analysis of the fact checking done by the Pulitzer Prize winning Politifact, which is affiliated with the St. Petersburg Times. doing business

Dr. Eric Ostermeier of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance (CSPG) at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs notes that Politifact analyses have found that Republicans lie more often than Democrats or Independents. A lot more.

But Dr. Ostermeier asks a fair question, whether this is because of Politifact’s selection bias. When asked about its selection methodology, Politifact’s Editor told C-Span: small business start up

“We choose to check things we are curious about. If we look at something and we think that an elected official or talk show host is wrong, then we will fact-check it.”

For whatever reason, could it be that Politifact just disproportionately tends to select the cases that make Republicans look worst, and Democrats look best? Could it be that Politifacts’ analysts are tougher on Republicans than Democrats? Or does the current crop of Republican officeholders just lie more?

– Loveland


45 thoughts on “Checking the Checkers’ Checking

  1. Festus says:

    Or, it could be a meaningless exercise in false equivalency.

    What level of policy hypocrisy is reflected in the lie?

    What are the consequences of the lie, say, if you happen to be a (dead) Iraqi?

    How long has it been since the liar in question said exactly the opposite thing? To a different or similar audience?

    What are the chances that a stalwart journalist will call out the liar? To his/her face?


  2. Mike Kennedy says:

    This is why I think this whole exercise is pointless.

    First, we have the guy admitting to exploring only utterences that catch PoltiFact’s fancy. Thanks for highlighting that, Joe.

    Second, how do we define a lie? Did Bush lie about Iraq or was he wrong, believing what he said when he said it?

    Did Obama lie about closing Gitmo or about his economic program reducing unemployment to 8 percent or did he really believe both when he said them?

    Did the weather forecaster on TV lie when she predicted sunny skies and we got rain?

    To qualify as a lie, we must know that the person saying it knew it to be false. Sorry, but the St. Pete Times doesn’t have that prescience.

    1. Festus says:

      “First, we have the guy admitting to exploring only utterences that catch PoltiFact’s fancy.”

      So what. So far as I know, Politifact has never claimed to examine “all lies”, so ipso dipso some selecting is going to go on. That is what editors do.

      “Second, how do we define a lie? Did Bush lie about Iraq or was he wrong, believing what he said when he said it?”

      Below, Mr. Kennedy wants to shy away from claiming knowing what is in the liar’s mind, while here he claims to know Bush’s mind. Secondly, from the limited information available to the general public, it a) sure looked like lying, and b) sure looked like Bush and his team did prescious little to allow for the possibility that they were wrong.

      “Did Obama lie about closing Gitmo or about his economic program reducing unemployment to 8 percent or did he really believe both when he said them?”

      Gitmo is a stinking mess, not of Obama’s making. On unemployment, let’s say I estimate I will make $100 next year but only make $90. A lie? Let’s say I would have made $100 but you did everything possible to prevent me from making the last $10 so I would look bad and you would maybe get my job. A lie?

      “Did the weather forecaster on TV lie when she predicted sunny skies and we got rain?”

      No, it was a prediction of the outcome of a complex system. It would only be fair to measure how close the predictions were how often.

      “To qualify as a lie, we must know that the person saying it knew it to be false. Sorry, but the St. Pete Times doesn’t have that prescience.”

      And neither do you. But we all, being human, have a pretty good idea of when we are being lied to, or fed talking points.

      1. Mike Kennedy says:

        Look, Festus, why don’t you at least read a post before you bang out a response with the first liberal thought that runs through your head?

        Your argument is so full of contradictions I scarcely know where to begin. First you admit that no one can know what’s in someone’s mind (my original point) but by the last paragraph you then claim most people know when they are being lied to.

        Rubbish. Your argument is full of more holes than a liberal’s bedroom target poster of Bush.

        If you were even close to being right that most people know when they are lied to, we wouldn’t have had Tom Petters or Bernie Madeoff or people ripped off by mortgage bankers or wives and husbands cheating on one another while lying about being faithful…….I could go on and on.

        The fact is, most people do not know when they are being lied to unless they have reason to distrust or can read body language or have facts to the contrary.

        Finally, I claim to know nothing about Bush’s state of mind or anyone else’s.

        That was my point. If you are going to debate with me, please read my points carefully so as to not repeatedly make them for me. It defeats the purpose of debate.

        Oh, and nice try on defending Obama on Gitmo.

        It’s a mess. So what. He promised to close it. However, when idealistic rhetoric meets bare knuckles reality, shit changes, eh?

        And a scores of your beloved liberals in Congress voted for the Iraq War. Liars? Or what excuse will you have? They were lied to? Why didn’t they know it if they were?

      2. Festus says:

        Do chimpanzees know what conspecifics know?

        “We conducted three experiments on social problem solving by chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes. In each experiment a subordinate and a dominant individual competed for food, which was placed in various ways on the subordinate’s side of two opaque barriers. In some conditions dominants had not seen the food hidden, or food they had seen hidden was moved elsewhere when they were not watching (whereas in control conditions they saw the food being hidden or moved). At the same time, subordinates always saw the entire baiting procedure and could monitor the visual access of their dominant competitor as well. If subordinates were sensitive to what dominants did or did not see during baiting, they should have preferentially approached and retrieved the food that dominants had not seen hidden or moved. This is what they did in experiment 1 when dominants were either uninformed or misinformed about the food’s location. In experiment 2 subordinates recognized, and adjusted their behaviour accordingly, when the dominant individual who witnessed the hiding was replaced with another dominant individual who had not witnessed it, thus demonstrating their ability to keep track of precisely who has witnessed what. In experiment 3 subordinates did not choose consistently between two pieces of hidden food, one of which dominants had seen hidden and one of which they had not seen hidden. However, their failure in this experiment was likely to be due to the changed nature of the competition under these circumstances and not to a failure of social-cognitive skills. These findings suggest that at least in some situations (i.e. competition with conspecifics) chimpanzees know what conspecifics have and have not seen (do and do not know), and that they use this information to devise effective social-cognitive strategies. Copyright 2001 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.”

    2. Joe Loveland says:

      Mike, do you really maintain that lies aren’t real or can’t be documented? That assumption makes it pretty hard to have a conversation about truth.

      As for your question about Obama on Gitmo, Politifact’s Obamameter rates Obama’s campaign promise on this issue as “Stalled,” which is between Promises Kept and Promises Broken, and closer to the latter. They then follow up the label with a helpful sourced update on what has and has not happened, and why.

      It’s easy to take snarky potshots at the tool — certainly no such tool can ever be perfect — but it’s among the best journalism out there. Pulitzer agrees with me on that. I think the question about selection bias is a fair one, but your argumentation about things like weather forecasting is the stuff of straw men.

      1. Mike Kennedy says:

        No, it’s not a straw man by any definition.

        PolitiFact, based on no scientific measure, comes up with its own rating system on whether something is truthful or not and to a degree they define.

        As Gary stated, I would disagree on many of their subjective terms. Furthermore, as I clearly stated, some things can be proven to be factually incorrect or correct based on evidence. Others, no.

        That would qualify them as potential lies. If something is a known fact and someone claims otherwise, while shown the contradictory evidence, it is a lie.

        PolitiFact admits it has no objective criteria for searching out statements made by each side — whatever makes them curious.

        What they do, as most of journalism does, is a useful tool. However, it takes much more digging and confirmations to get to the truth than relying on one new organization to deem something fact or not. It’s part of seeking and finding the truth and it sometimes isn’t easy, the awarding of a Pulitzer Prize nonwithstanding.

      2. Mike Kennedy says:

        BTW, Joe, I do agree that facts are facts and some people ignore them and lie.

        But I need proof. Unlike liberals, I don’t run around and call someone a liar without proof (or Hitler or Nazi or Stalin like the Madison protesters. What happened to civil conversation Obama preached about but I digress).

        See, I think calling someone a liar is a serious charge, one that in the days of duels could have gotten you killed.

        However, it is thrown around so often today that political fanatics don’t think twice about invoking it. If Bachmann or Palin or Reid or Pelosi says something they know to be untrue, it is a lie. But saying something that is hyped or exaggerated or can’t be proven? No, I don’t think so.

      3. Joe Loveland says:

        Re: “But I need proof. Unlike liberals, I don’t run around and call someone a liar without proof…”

        Politifacts is all about proof, much more so than fact-free pontification parlors like this.

        If I say legislation calls for X, and it does no such thing, evidence exists to show that I am being inaccurate. Any source that shines a light on that evidence is doing a service, because none of us have sufficient motivation or time to dig through voluminous legislation to learn the truth. And if I keep repeating my claim even after being shown that it is inaccurate, as so many do, then, yep, I am a liar.

        I’m honestly surprised we disagree on this. Politifacts is an outlet that points out that Obama hasn’t kept 75% of his promises – blasts it on its front page, sends out regular press announcements about it — and you still dismiss them as liberal shills. It honestly boggles my petite mind.

      4. Mike Kennedy says:

        Funny. I remember calling it a useful tool. Come on, Joe. You are one of the brightest guys on here. Quit putting words in my mouth or on my posts. I said, quite clearly, that you simply can’t rely on one source to be the definitive answer on what is true or not. That’s lazy.

      5. Joe Loveland says:

        I get confused when “this whole (Politifact) exercise is pointless,” “I need proof (implying Politifact doesn’t supply any proof)” and “Politifact has no scientific measure” is mixed with “useful tool.”

      6. Mike Kennedy says:


        They aren’t mutually exclusive. It is not scientific. They admit that. I was wrong on using the useless exercise. That wasn’t real accurate.

        However, if anyone looks to one source for news, whether it is Fox, CNN, NPR or any other organization for “the truth, he or she might be just engaging in confirmation bias.

        The journalism coverage of the financial blowup was………well, pretty shitty and left a very incomplete picture, with a few exceptions.

        There are many good books on it that gave a much better, more clear and accurate picture. That’s just one case in point.

      7. Mike Kennedy says:

        Also, Joe, when I said I need proof I was referring to any situation in which someone calls someone else a liar. You inferred that I was implying PolitFact in my statement. I wasn’t. I was speaking in general terms.

        I was contrasting my position with liberals who often claim someone is a liar with not a shred of proof. The Bush Lied mantra is but one example.

      8. Joe Loveland says:

        Re: “It (Poltifacts) is not scientific.”

        I’m dizzy. Obviously they aren’t microscope wielding scientists. But on matters of science, they turn to science – NIH, national and international science academies, U.S. Surgeon General, etc.

        Browse examples.

      9. Mike Kennedy says:

        You should be dizzy. You’re obviously reading while spinning or having problems making out the words on the page.

        I referenced PoliFacts lack of scientific measuring in what they choose to “investigate.”

        For the umpteenth time, their own spokesperson said they investigage whatever is said that makes them curious. It doesn’t get any less scientific than that.

        I do marvel at your willingness to put all lock stock and barrel of the truth in one organization — the CBO on budget matters, PolitiFacts on politican’s public statements, etc. etc.

        But hey, whatever floats your boat.

      10. Joe Loveland says:

        Re: “I do marvel at your willingness to put all lock stock and barrel of the truth in one organization”

        You frequently rebut with “I never said that.” Well, in the case of Poltiifact, I plainly never declared them the singular truth. I said “certainly no such tool can ever be perfect — but it’s among the best journalism out there.”

        But it is true that I don’t believe that all information sources are created equal when it comes to being credible and trustworthy. Ideologically information sources like Reason and the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities are simply not as credible for informing policymaking as nonpartisan analysts like CBO, because CBO doesn’t have an explicit mission of promoting one ideological agenda over another. I don’t believe in information monopolies, but I also don’t believe that all groups’ assertions are equally credible.

      11. Festus says:

        Mike Kennedy:
        For the umpteenth time, their own spokesperson said they investigage whatever is said that makes them curious. It doesn’t get any less scientific than that.

        Linus Pauling:
        You have to have a lot of ideas. First, if you want to make discoveries, it’s a good thing to have good ideas. And second, you have to have a sort of sixth sense — the result of judgment and experience — which ideas are worth following up. I seem to have the first thing, a lot of ideas, and I also seem to have good judgment as to which are the bad ideas that I should just ignore, and the good ones, that I’d better follow up.

        Who is this Linus Pauling?
        Linus Carl Pauling (February 28, 1901 – August 19, 1994) was an American chemist, peace activist, author, and educator. He was one of the most influential chemists in history and ranks among the most important scientists of the 20th century.[1][2] Pauling was among the first scientists to work in the fields of quantum chemistry and of molecular biology.

        Pauling is one of only four individuals to have won multiple Nobel Prizes.[3] He is one of only two people awarded two Nobel Prizes in different fields (the Chemistry and Peace prizes), the other being Marie Curie (the Chemistry and Physics prizes), and the only person awarded two unshared prizes.[4]

      12. Mike Kennedy says:

        Again, whatever floats your boat.

        You obviously have more trust in the PolitiFact outfit than I do. On that we disagree. The examples they selected of Republicans “lying” (pants on fire seems so, well amatuer) are probably spot on. How they selected them is what I have a problem with.

        My liberal friends are often the first to claim bias and the last to own up to it.

        I believe that part of being a good citizen is constantly weighing the claims to the evidence, when there is such evidence and testing it through a variety of sources — to guard against bias.

        I don’t tend to look at any government arm (CBO) as the final authority (I think most Americans would believe the claim Obamacare won’t add to the deficit is pure fantasy).

        Just because Morningstar is the largest mutual fund rating company in the world and purports to be independent, I’d be an idiot and in fiduciary trouble if I only took its word on where to put client money.

        Everyone tends to be biased, that includes journalists, whether they want to admit it or not.It’s part of being human.

      13. Joe Loveland says:

        Re: “how do we define a lie”

        Yesterday on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, CNN’s Anderson Cooper weighed in on the issue of journalism digging into facts:

        Anderson Cooper: There was a guy in the LA Times, and somebody else on a couple other networks, saying I shouldn’t call Mubarak a liar. I’m not big on calling people names, or I try not to take any political stance. But just based on fact, it is a guy who is lying, and it’s demonstrably untrue.

        Jon Stewart: Is that maybe just a misunderstanding you have with modern journalism, that things are demonstrably untrue. Like you say Mubarak is lying. But we also have someone here who believes he’s not, and also believes that ice cream cures cancer. So let’s have a fair discussion about it.

        Anderson Cooper: Is that an issue? That’s a problem journalism has a lot, of being afraid to say something that is demonstrably not true is not true. There are things which are facts, and I’m not sure why so many people shy away from that.

      14. 1) PolitiFact’s Pulitzer was awarded on the basis of 13 story submissions (OK, a few weren’t individual stories but Web pages referencing other PolitiFact stories). It isn’t a good measure of overall journalistic reliability–journalistic reliability seems to be largely assumed by the Pulitzer folks.

        2) Unscientific: Yes, of course PolitiFact is unscientific. PolitiFact can’t even seem to offer consistent definitions of its rating categories. In the past, PolitiFact described “False” statements as untrue statements and “Pants on Fire” statements as those that are untrue and ridiculous in addition. Lately editor Bill Adair wrote that “Pants on Fire” ratings went to the *most* ridiculous statements.

        PolitiFact set itself up for criticisms like Ostermeier’s by instituting a rating system that employs no obvious objective standard. That’s one big reason why Annenberg has not received the type of criticism PolitiFact has drawn. That and the fact that the average researcher is a better researcher than the above-average journalist.

      15. Joe Loveland says:

        Let’s be clear, Politifact and their ilk aren’t fact generators. They are fact aggregators. That’s what they do, summarize the most credible experts on the subject at hand. So Politifact isn’t an authority; their sources are. Maybe you have time to go out and aggregate and summarize like Politifact analysts do, but I don’t. That’s what I get out of the deal.

        Everything is relative, so when considering the question “is Politifact worth using,” the issue becomes “compared to what?” To be sure, Politifact is not as good as reading everything there is to read about a subject. But it is much better than most mainstream news outlets, almost all pontification parlors like this and almost all gasbag commentary programming on the left and right. There are a lot of people who criticize Politifact imperfections (when it doesn’t support their worldview that is), and then rely on Fox or MSNBC as their source. That’s not an upgrade. I don’t get that.

      16. Points well taken, Joe, but you’re better off with Annenberg than with PolitiFact. And if PolitiFact was merely a fact aggregater as you’re presenting it, then they could dispense with the “Truth-O-Meter” graphic. That graphic has nothing to do with aggregating facts. It represents a judgment.

      17. Joe Loveland says:

        I understand the downside of Politifact using the summary labels. But given that the target audience will only use a summary judgement and not a lengthy reading assignment, summary labels seem like a necessary evil.

      18. The situation is worse than you suppose, Joe. You can make an argument that summary labels are necessary (Annenberg does without), but if they’re necessary then they need to be well designed lest using them backfires on the fact checkers. Ostermeier’s study is the first major indication of that that–and it’s going to get worse for PolitiFact.

  3. Gary Pettis says:

    It’s easy to skew the responses from a survey or a poll based on the biased language used within it. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so a person with a predominant political bias can interpret the findings to support his or her bias.

    If Politifact found that Independents lie more than Democrats or Republicans, we wouldn’t be having this discussion today. That’s what makes them Independents. They can’t commit. The results would not have caused any ripples in press. Like, who would care?

    But those bad, conniving and unscrupulous Republicans are real liars, at least that’s what the survey’s responses say. So in this case, the proposed results only confirm pre-existing beliefs. In other words, it could give a person on the Left cause to exclaim “damm it, I was right this whole time!”

    (RE: You’re-Just-Like -Me Social Binding.)

    Joe, you and I swapped a couple emails about surveys and approaches to them. I think that we can agree that there sure are a lot of surveys being conducted purely for entertainment value. And the nice folks conducting the survey are doing the survey just for fun and are not required to tell us that they are doing it just for giggles.

    A survey purist would say that surveying the qualities of a liar would be appropriately handled by psychologists or sociologists, not the folks whose self-assigned job it is to track whether what politicians are saying and doing are accurate or blatantly false.

    Again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder when a biased eye looks at the findings and reports what is found.

    1. Festus says:

      Thanks for playing your survey tape Gary. Would you mind pointing out what surveys have to do with this article?

      1. Gary Pettis says:

        Silly me, I just assumed that there was a pragmatic and seemingly above-board process to ascertain that “Republicans Lie More Than The Others.”

        So I did read the fine print in the post that Joe offered me to a set the record straight.

        Joe Loveland, February 22nd:

        To be honest, I had a great sense of déjà vu reading the page link that Joe provided. The Webpage’s content was hauntingly familiar to the page link Festus supplied on February 11th, a comment on “Olbermann Returns!”

        This Wikipedia page is devoted to John Dominic Crossan and highlights the criticism to the Jesus Seminar.

        Please go back and re-read both links provided by Joe and Festus and respond to the following survey question.

        Tell us, what is your primary opinion regarding the validity of the assumptions and conclusions generated by Politifact and the Jesus Seminar:

        A) Respectively, each one on its own proves that Republicans are liars and Jesus did not perform claimed miracles such as walking on water and raising Lazarus from the dead.

        B) The tools called “the Truth-O-Meter” and “the Bead System” could be both wisely applied to give the U.S. Constitution a makeover and explain once and for all that aliens have visited our planet.

        C) The findings from Politifact and the Jesus Seminar manufacture informational candy that is tasty to faithful disciples but is bitter to doubters and others whose opinions can’t be swayed with lots of sugar but no nutrition.

        D) Frankly, I find all of the conclusions from the Politifact and the Jesus Seminar BS and think we should turn our attention to more meaningful, scientific and non-biased ways to gather and interpret empirical evidence.

      2. Festus says:

        “Conservapedia strives to keep its articles concise, informative, family-friendly, and true to the facts, which often back up conservative ideas more than liberal ones.”

        [I picked an example!]

        “Creation science proves the biblical account, that dinosaurs were created on day 6 of creation[3] approximately 6,000 years ago, along with other land animals, and therefore co-existed with humans, thus debunking the Theory of Evolution and the beliefs of evolutionary scientists about the age of the earth.

        Creation science shows that dinosaurs lived in harmony with other animals, (probably including in the Garden of Eden) eating only plants[4]; that pairs of each dinosaur kind were taken onto Noah’s Ark during the Great Flood and were preserved from drowning[5]; that many of the fossilized dinosaur bones originated during the mass killing of the Flood[6]; and that possibly some descendants of those dinosaurs taken aboard the Ark are still around today.[7] “

      3. Gary Pettis says:

        At this point, are we not just splitting the old dinosaur in two and trying to determine which chunk is mastering the message?

        Words like lying, dishonest and counter-factualist solicit emotional responses first because they are nearly impossible to quantify without a lot of serious work to back up the claim (unemotional, boring).

        An alternative of Wikipedia, Conservapedia can run afoul of posting inaccurate, unverifiable and outdated references just like Wikipedia. As someone who tries to track down the facts and cross check references, I’d be careful to be citing Conservapedia just like Wikipedia.

        It’s purpose is to affirm beliefs not persuade a change in them.

        As I said, this is all informational candy offering sweetness to those who savor it. Others will spit it out of their mouths. So it goes during an age when information is overwhelming abundant, and topics and opinions are laid out on a delightful buffet spread.

        It’s up to the individual to determine what he or she should put on his or her plate.

        The challenge and competitiveness between the Left and the Right are centered on who can control the message and sway opinion. It’s important to offer substance, verifiable facts and well-crafted positions to achieve these ends.

        Let’s put that dinosaur on the barbie, and see if we can find any takers among tonight’s group in line for chow.

      4. Gary Pettis says:

        Your reference link here is totally out of context and could be misleading. The Eagle Forum University is part of the Eagle Forum group and Website, both of which are not shy about their conservative positions.

        What’d you think they were going to reference? What are their motives for posting the link to Conservapedia?

        I feel such a sugar rush coming over me after reading your post, but the short-lived energy will lead to a feeling of being burnt out later. Give me something that I can sink my teeth into.

        I bet there are a few Christian Universities that offer classes whose purposes are to poke holes in the Theories of Evolution.

        Next survey question.

        Do you believe that these places of higher learning offer this curriculum because:

        A) Students should know that telling a big lie is more effective than telling a small lie.

        B) Standing up firmly for one’s faith is the cornerstone of affirming personal integrity and values.

        C) All this stuff about dinosaurs is completely ridiculous.

  4. PM says:

    I guess that the fact that this isn’t a representative sample does not bother all that much, because ALL of these cases are examples of people who like to bend the truth (i am being very kind here).

    So the charge is that there might well be other people who also bend the truth, and some of them might even be Democrats (frankly, i doubt that this would be much of a surprise to pretty much anyone).

    I suppose then that the real crime is that there isn’t a group of republican oriented people (assuming that the Politifact people are
    indeed democratically oriented, which may not be the case) who are as enamored of the truth and the importance of truth in political discourse that they would be willing to create a better version of Politifact to find ALL of the untruthy politicians out there.

  5. john sherman says:

    When the strib looked down its editorial nose at people who called Bush a liar as being uncivil, I wrote suggesting a substitute word, “counter-factualist_ but they weren’t buying it.

    There’s also the “if a tree falls in a forest” consideration; Republicans may get caught lying more often because they end up in the media more often. At last count John McCain had been on the Sunday gasbag shows 29 times since he lost the election, but I doubt John Kerry has been on that many shows since he lost his election. How many times has Boehner been on t.v. vs. Pelosi or McConnell vs. Reid? In 2008 the most common guest on gasbag shows was Newt Gingrich, and he’s a guy with no discernible record of accomplishment.

    On the question of lying, one need not go all post-modern and claim that it’s impossible to know the mental disposition of a person so it’s impossible to know whether he or she was lying; there is the quasi-legal criterion of “knew or should have known” a statement was false or uttered it in reckless disregard of the truth.

  6. Mike, I love the dueling reference. That could thin out the political/journalist herd.

    I try not to be biased in looking at issues and facts, although I am plenty biased in my political viewpoint. Bias acknowledged, I do believe that Republicans in the last few years are more shamelessly baldly hypocritical, if not lying, than Democrats. They suffer no penalty for this, unless they sleep poorly, which I doubt. Simple example:blaming the Dems for the deficit, when their God Ronnie doubled the national debt, adding more than all previous presidents combined. Yes, he had Democratic help in spending that money, but he was the leader. But it’s the Democrats who are the big spenders, they say, with nary a tremor of their lips.

    1. Mike Kennedy says:


      You may very well be right about the current crop and they may very well be more hypocritical and some may lie. I don’t doubt any of it.

      True, on Reagan, as well. He did many good things, but he did sign a big tax increase (again idealism coming face to face with brutish political reality and compromise) and the debt was piled on his watch.

      Mr. Obama will face history’s judgment on debt and spending, as well. Yes, Reagan inherited a brutal recession and so did Obama. Neither will be excused for what they did — just a prediction.

      Here is my problem: I just get tired of the fanatics: “Republicans All Lie.” Now there is some mature, critical, adult thinking there — like the nitwit in Madison who kept yelling “Fox Lies” every time someone tried to do a camera report.

      Why don’t you try: “My Daddy Can Beat Up Your Daddy.” Let’s unpin our diapers, wipe our behinds and put our big boy pants on.

      But that would presume that some people have actually grown up and matured — a dangerous assumption.

    1. Joe Loveland says:

      I’m not sure if you’re joking or not Rob. But if you are serious, I see it differently.

      Politifacts is finding that the current crop of Republicans are inaccurate more than the current crop of Democrats, and that squares with my unscientific observation of the last few years. But I have to say, I didn’t feel that way in the 80s and 90s. To be sure, I thought Republicans were misguided then, but I didn’t see them as frequently repeating things that were proven to be untrue. Sure it happened a fair amount, but it seems to be that he difference between Republicans and Democrats on this front has grown in recent years. My unscientific obervation: Democrats have gotten worse about inaccuracy too, but Republicans have gotten much worserer.

      It feels like a big driver behind that is that contemporary Republicans are much more dismissive of historically trusted fact sources than they were in the 80s and 90s. CBO, NIH, Joint Tax Committee, international science academies, the Surgeon General, Congressional Research Service (CRS) are now characterized as elitist junk scientists, at least when their findings don’t fit the political message need. That really didn’t happen nearly as much in the 80s and 90s, at least that I recall. Fox and talk radio probably have a lot to do with that.

      What I worry about is that when no evidence source is mutually considered valid, then there is no way to have a logical policy debate. It becomes all about raw political power, rather than facts, logic and science. That problem has gotten much worse in the last decade.

      1. Joe Loveland says:

        Point taken, Festus. But if Watergate happened today, I bet the President’s party and supportive talking heads would circle the wagons, launch an all out assault characterizing the Post as propagandist thugs, and refuse to step down. Times have changed.

      2. Actually, I do mean it. There is a fundamental difference between Republican and Democratic politics (not that I support the Dems). Republicans are run by Social Dominators and Authoritarians (read Bob Altemeyer). Republican politicians will say whatever they think they can get away with. How can there be a serious discourse on the right about how Obama is a socialist or communist? That’s like calling Mao a capitalist. Not that Obama isn’t a liar – he is – a very smooth liar.

  7. Joe Loveland says:

    For those who are convinced Politifact is a liberal boogeyman, these are some of it’s most recent ratings:

    Libertarian Senator Rand Paul: True
    Liberal commenator Rachel Maddow: False
    Rep. Lena Taylor (D-Miwaukee): Pants of fire
    President Barrack Obama: False
    Conservative commentator George Will: True

  8. Gary Pettis says:


    You can investigate a Big Fat Claim to determine if it’s the truth or if it’s a lie, and with concrete evidence, report your finding. It’s another matter to lump a group of Big Fat Claims together and determine with any credibility and certainty that there are quantifiable trends within them. Like, what would be the scientific methodology to confirm beyond reasonable doubt that the trend analysis is valid?

    Your list here carries the weight of a straw poll based on personal perceptions of the perceived trending; otherwise known as “my porridge is too hot, my porridge is too cold, and my my porridge is just fine” in response to a query about whether or not the porridge satisfies hunger.

    1. Joe Loveland says:

      You make a fair point about lumping all of the findings together to judge a truthiness TREND. I feel very comfortable consuming Politifact on an analysis-by-analysis basis, much more than I do about making a conclusion based on a summing of the analyses, as Dr. Ostermeier did (not Politifact). Dr. Ostermeier makes a good point that there is an unknowable selection bias inherent in the claims Politifact chooses to analyze.

      By the way, I made some comments above about my sense that Republicans are more inaccurate now than they were in the first 20 years of my adult life. But that is just a personal observation…not a formal analysis.

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