Wemple: In 2 of 3 spats, PolitiFact and Maddow are talking past each other

The Washington Post
Rachel Maddow was once a champion of PolitiFact: She trumpeted its rulings on “death panels” and kidnappings in Phoenix. But those days are but bittersweet memories; Erik Wemple reports on how the relationship curdled. (Disclosures for all! PolitiFact is a project of Poynter’s Tampa Bay Times; I used to work with Wemple.)

His piece dissects the conflict and also lifts the veil on PolitiFact’s operation: “Every single PolitiFact item gets reviewed by a small panel consisting of the original editor plus two others who come in with fresh eyes. They all look at the fact-gathering, the conclusions and the Truth-O-Meter rating. No lie: This review group is known to PolitiFacters as the ‘Star Chamber.’ “

This organizational prowess is no comfort to Maddow: “So when PolitiFact fails, again and again — when they prove themselves to be truly, recklessly awful — they are not just failing alone on the Internet, they’re undermining something that we need as a country,” she writes to Wemple. That duty they’re spurning? Fact-checking.

Wemple also digs in on how PolitiFact arrived at the rulings that so infuriated the MSNBC host. “PolitiFact erred most egregiously” in l’affair Marco Rubio, he writes, but “on at least two of the other public spats, Maddow and PolitiFact are clearly talking past each other.” || Related: If Dave Mustaine ran for president, would PolitiFact fact-check Megadeth? | Fact from fiction: PolitiFact draws ire for checking ‘Glee’ | Additional Poynter posts on PolitiFact and fact-checking journalism

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  • Anonymous

    I find Politifact’s resort to some “implicit argument” as a justification for their analyses specious at best and cynically manipulative at worst. Especially when they explicitly reject such an argument when convenient. For example: 

    “The White House said the president deviated from the text in Milwaukee, and it turns out he did the same thing in Washington state.

    It may have been a misstatement, but it was what many news outlets focused on from his remarks, and what many at home heard as well.

    The manufacturing uptick of the last two years is small – a 3 percent jump after a 35 percent drop the prior 12 years. Employment is still down compared to the start of Obama’s term. But the numbers have been in the plus column since January 2010.

    So, in the end, the president got it wrong after he had it right.

    And we’re rating what he said, not what he was supposed to say.

    We rate the president’s claim False.”


    That’s some Star Chamber they got there.