GOP strategists review PolitiFact findings, say they ‘back up our argument about media bias’

The Washington Examiner | Republican Party of Virginia | PolitiFact Virginia | VirginiaWatchdog.org | The Washington Post
Republicans are “poring through the backgrounds” and tweets of PolitiFact writers, and “what Republicans are finding would appear to back up our argument about media bias,” an unnamed “top GOP official” tells The Examiner’s Paul Bedard.



PolitiFact is owned by the Tampa Bay Times, which is owned by Poynter.

The Republican Party of Virginia compiled an 86-page report about PolitiFact’s Virginia operation, which is housed at the Richmond Times-Dispatch. PolitiFact Virginia “has ruled disproportionately against Republicans and in favor of Democrats,” the report says. When PolitiFact releases positive ratings of Republicans, the report says, it’s most likely to do so on a Friday afternoon, when few news consumers are paying attention.

In a blog post responding to the report, PolitiFact Virginia’s editor Warren Fiske writes that the disparity is due to Republicans’ overwhelming dominance of Virginia politics:

The governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general belong to the party, as do eight of the 13 members of Virginia’s congressional delegation, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Both houses of the General Assembly are run by Republicans. In addition, the GOP fielded four candidates in its primary for the U.S. Senate this spring and sponsored three debates between them. Democrats, in contrast, handed their nomination to an unopposed Tim Kaine. …

We don’t try to match every Truth-O-Meter item on a Republican with one on a Democrat. And when a Republican gets a False rating, PolitiFact Virginia is not obliged to assign a False rating to a Democrat.

I hate to carry water for the home team, but as a Virginia resident, I’ll go ahead and point out that the state Republican party here includes prominent colorful characters like state delegate Bob Marshall, who PolitiFact has given three false ratings to. Marshall has posited that “nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children” of people who have abortions. He also recently blocked the appointment of a gay judge in part because, he said, “if you have a bar room fight between a homosexual and heterosexual, I’m concerned about possible bias.”

I’m not involved in PolitiFact employees’ performance reviews, but if I were, I’d put Fiske on a performance improvement plan immediately if he ignored such a gift from the Internet traffic gods.

Ohio’s the next stop on the Republicans’ fact-checker-fact-checking express. Bedard writes:

The GOP provided [Bedard] with the rulings record of Cleveland Plain Dealer and PolitiFact reporter Tom Feran that said he has authored twice as many “pants on fire” rulings against Republicans than Democrats. They also reviewed his Twitter account and found an October 9, 2011 tweet in support of OccupyAustin.

For some reason, Virginia GOP officials “declined repeated requests for further comment” from VirginiaWatchdog.org’s Jon Cassidy, who did get SaintPetersblog’s Peter Schorsch and Poynter’s Rick Edmonds to comment. (“It’s also possible that one side is making more outrageous or newsworthy claims that attract attention,” Edmonds told him.) Cassidy in particular focuses on one ruling about Cantor’s economic musings: “Despite empirical evidence supporting Cantor’s position, PolitiFact ruled against him,” Cassidy writes. PolitiFact Creator and Editor Bill Adair deferred comment to Richmond but told The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple that “this is testament to the fact that we have disrupted the status quo.”

Related: PolitiFact walks back second ruling in a month, this time on Rubio claim | Wemple: In 2 of 3 spats, PolitiFact and Maddow are talking past each other

We have made it easy to comment on posts, however we require civility and encourage full names to that end (first initial, last name is OK). Please read our guidelines here before commenting.

  • Anonymous

    Politifact links to sources for which each of their articles is based. For example, in the article that I’m linking below, the author used not one but 17 different sources to make the case that Mitt Romney’s statement about Joe Biden was mostly false.
    http://www.politifact.com/ohio/statements/2012/aug/17/mitt-romney/mitt-romney-says-joe-biden-once-claimed-coal-was-m/

  • http://twitter.com/bayreporta John C. Osborn

    Meh. Just more bullying from the GOP. 

  • http://twitter.com/bayreporta John C. Osborn

    Meh. Just more bullying from the GOP. 

  • Bryan White

     It’s easy to understand.  But what’s the evidence for it if you’re to avoid either arguing in a circle or based on your own subjective impression?

  • http://twitter.com/jaytingle Jay Schiavone

    It will be interesting to see if Politifact’s findings trend the other way.  The dubious quest for “balance” in reporting has allowed Republicans to push the envelope on accepted statements and behavior as journalists and editors struggle valiantly to scrounge and elevate minor Democratic issues to parity with monstrous Republican behavior.  Politifact pushes the phony “balance” meme as strongly as any source and their “Lie of the Year 2011″ was a highly dubious sop to the right.  Chances are, in response to the latest criticism, Politifact will work extra hard to locate some Democrats in Virginia and elevate some of their baggage to the level of the crazier, more dominant party.

  • http://twitter.com/barryhollander Barry Hollander

    The problem isn’t bias.  It’s one party’s candidates and leaders saying more dumb things than the other party’s candidates and leaders.  How difficult is that to understand? 

  • http://twitter.com/barryhollander Barry Hollander

    The problem isn’t bias.  It’s one party’s candidates and leaders saying more dumb things than the other party’s candidates and leaders.  How difficult is that to understand? 

  • Bryan White

    Fiske:  “PolitiFact is not about mathematical balance between the parties in our ratings. We’re about making calls on the accuracy of political claims.”

    Fiske’s defense would work better if PolitiFact didn’t encourage readers to consider its aggregate findings via a PolitiFact “report card.”Once you go the report card route you’re asking for trouble regarding impartiality.  Think about it.  If the ratings aren’t chosen for mathematical fairness then on what basis do you compare a page like George Allen’s at PolitiFact Virginia with those of a political rival?http://www.politifact.com/personalities/george-allen/And after a researcher (Eric Ostermeier) suggests that it looks your organization has a problem with selection bias, it doesn’t look good for your main point man (Bill Adair) to repeatedly describe a story selection process that is essentially subjective.

  • Bryan White

     And, of course, the ultimate proof of PolitiFact’s fairness and objectivity. ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/JasonWilczak Jason Wilczak

    Every time the GOP releases their “report” that Politifact is biased, Politifact should do a truth rating on it and rate it “Pants On Fire”… it would be the ultimate irony, and quite entertaining.

  • Bryan White

    “I’m not involved in PolitiFact employees’ performance reviews, but if I
    were, I’d put Fiske on a performance improvement plan immediately if he
    ignored such a gift from the Internet traffic gods.”

    Presumably the Internet traffic gods are nonpartisan.