The least surprising thing about PolitiFact’s 2017 “Lie of the Year” is that it’s uttered by Donald Trump. Their biggest lie was “Russian election interference is a ‘made-up story.’” We’ll get to whether PolitiFact is quoting Trump in context in a minute.
But first, a quick study of that 2017 “Truth-O-Meter” reveals that once again, PolitiFact showed far more aggression in evaluating Trump’s statements than any prominent Democrat. The “independent fact checkers” singled out Trump for 140 evaluations, and 95 of them (68 percent) were Mostly False, False, and Pants on Fire. Just 19 (13.5 percent) were Half True, and 26 (18.5 percent) were Mostly True or True.
Now compare that 140 evaluations to the leading Democrats: Sen. Bernie Sanders (10 verdicts), Sen. Charles Schumer (eight) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (seven). Between them, they were evaluated as True or Mostly True on 11 occasions, False or Mostly False on nine occasions, and Half True on five.
Barack Obama in 2017 drew two Mostly Trues and one half True. Elizabeth Warren? One Mostly True. Kamala Harris? One Mostly True and one True.
By contrast, Vice President Mike Pence drew three False ratings and two Half Trues. Sen. Mitch McConnell drew a True and a Mostly True. House Speaker Paul Ryan had seven Mostly False/False/Pants on Fire ratings, six Half Trues, and just two Mostly Trues. Between these three, they were True or Mostly True on four occasions, False or Mostly False or Pants on Fire on 10 occasions, and 8 Half Trues.
In other words, PolitiFact ends up looking like the rest of the “independent” liberal media. Republicans are hounded as routine liars, while the Democrats are much more likely to be handed the Mostly True.
The “Lie of the Year” was also a “Pants on Fire” ruling back on May 12. Trump was slammed for this typically vague declaration to NBC anchor Lester Holt: “This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.” PolitiFact editor Angie Drobnic Holan summarized their verdict :
A mountain of evidence points to a single fact: Russia meddled in the U.S. presidential election of 2016…. After all this, one man keeps saying it didn’t even happen.
When the nation’s commander-in-chief refuses to acknowledge a threat to U.S. democracy, it makes it all the more difficult to address the problem. For this reason, we name Trump’s claim that the Russia interference is a hoax as our Lie of the Year for 2017.
Readers of PolitiFact also chose the claim as the year’s most significant falsehood by an overwhelming margin.
Both PolitiFact and their liberal fans get angry when Trump calls anything they believe a “hoax.” On Twitter in September, Trump said, “The Russia hoax continues, now it’s ads on Facebook. What about the totally biased and dishonest Media coverage in favor of Crooked Hillary?”
It’s certainly more than “Half True” that the media were biased in favor of electing Hillary Clinton. That’s no hoax. If Russians posted messages on Facebook, that might be foreign “interference.” But so are the American broadcasts and podcasts and websites of Russia Today….or the BBC…or the Guardian (U.K.). But liberals aren’t opposed to “professional media” interference from foreigners. They’re upset with social-media postings by the non-credential information sharers.
One thing that bugs me about “fact checkers” is they pick a vague statement that isn’t quite factual and then slam it as a Lie. The critics at PolitiFact Bias noted that Trump said the “Trump and Russia” part — the “collusion” charge — was lacking evidence:
Did Trump say anything in the winning statement about Russian election interference being a “made-up” story? We’re not seeing it, and PolitiFact does not explain the connection. Maybe in context?…Do we think PolitiFact’s narrative that Trump completely denied Russian election interference stands up to scrutiny? We do not (Reuters, Jan 6, 2017):
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President-elect Donald Trump accepts the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia engaged in cyber attacks during the U.S. presidential election and may take action in response, his incoming chief of staff said on Sunday.
If PolitiFact had any clear statement from Trump denying Russia made any effort to interfere in the U.S. presidential election, PolitiFact would have been smart to include it….
Lacking that evidence, we conclude that PolitiFact has exaggerated, one might even say “made up,” the degree to which President Trump denies Russian election interference.
Like every other liberal media outlet, PolitiFact starts from the center of the Clinton narrative. Russian collusion with the Trump campaign is the most serious narrative imaginable, and anyone mocking its importance or its dearth of evidence is a Journalism Denier.