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Politifact Loses Credibility

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Politifact is a project run by the Tampa Bay Times. Its motto or slogan is, “Sorting out the truth in politics.” It claims to help you find the truth in Washington and the Obama presidency. Politifact is often cited by BlogCritics (BC) commenters in an effort to bolster their opinions and/or claims. They say that Politifact is objective and always correct. Politifact even publishes its “Lie of the Year.” The 2012 “winner” was Governor Mitt Romney’s campaign ad about Jeep (now owned by the Italian auto maker, Fiat) producing Jeeps in China.

The entire episode began with a misquoted and interpreted statement, then grew from there. Romney never said that Jeep production was being moved to China. He said, in Toledo, OH, in October 2012, “I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers in this state, Jeep, now owned by the Italians, is thinking of moving all production to China.”  [emphasis mine]   Thinking and doing are two entirely different actions. But did Politifact let that little FACT stand in its way? To quote John Belushi on SNL, “Nooooooooooooooooo.” Nor would (could?) the MSM make the distinction, as well. Politifact even made the Romney campaign ad its “Lie of the Year.” Politifact said, “It was a lie told in the critical state of Ohio in the final days of a close campaign.” Just in case y’all have forgotten, here is what Romney’s ad said: ”  Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China.” Did Politifact fail, on purpose, to say anything about Romney’s statement? No. Instead it chose to focus on the ad alone.

And, here is how Politifact characterized the entire Romney statement/ad episode:

“The ad miscasts the government’s role in Fiat’s acquisition of Chrysler, and it misrepresents the outcome. Chrysler’s owners had been trying to sell to Italy-based Fiat before Obama took office. The ad ignores the return of American jobs to Chrysler Jeep plants in the United States, and it presents the manufacture of Jeeps in China as a threat, rather than an opportunity to sell cars made in China to Chinese consumers. It strings together facts in a way that presents an wholly inaccurate picture.”  

Politifact even wrote, “Let’s set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China.”

Well, guess what? Fiat announced that it will, indeed, be making Jeeps in China, beginning with the 2014 year models. The deal is a joint venture between GAC Group, Fiat Group Automobiles SpA, and Chrysler Group International LLC. Jeep already sells several imported (made in the US) models in China, but the venture says it will build Jeeps in China for the Chinese market. The Chinese car market is currently the largest in the world. So, instead of increasing Jeep production in the US, Fiat chose to create more jobs in China. Who woulda thunk it? I’m sure the people in Toledo are quite happy about that decision.

And Chrysler, of which Jeep is a part, got a taxpayer funded bailout.

Mark Hemingway of The Weekly Standard said:

“It [Politifact] implies that it would be better for Jeep to create more jobs in the U.S. in the short-term, instead of expanding overseas production. So in the end, PolitiFact’s beef with the Romney ad was an entirely argumentative disagreement about what course of action Jeep should take, not a factual objection to Romney’s true statement [as Politifact and the MSM chose to interpret it] that Jeep was going to start building cars in China.”

Hemmingway also said of Politifact (and other “fact” checkers) that they “aren’t about checking facts so much as they are about a rearguard action to keep inconvenient truths out of the conversation.”

Timing? Nowhere can I find any time line for this deal (perhaps BC readers can help me here), so what immediately follows is supposition on my part. A deal of this magnitude would take two or three (perhaps more) months to put together, including dotting all the “i”s and crossing all the “t”s. What does this mean? The Jeep/China production was in the works (before the election?), but that little fact didn’t stop Politifact from doing what it claims to do best, to check for the truth in politics. Yet that didn’t stop them from naming what Politifact knew to be a true statement from Romney in October as its “Lie of the Year.”

As many BC commenters are quick to point out, once credibility is lost, it can never be regained. This entire article was written by someone who has, according to many BC commenters, no credibility. So, don’t take my word for what has happened to Politifact. I have provided lots of links so that readers/commenters can see for themselves what both Politifact and Chrysler, I mean Fiat, have done.

I wonder if the Pulitzer organization, which awarded a prize to Politifact, will ask for its prize back. I also wonder if BC commenters will be consistent, will cease to cite Politifact as a source. After all, it has lost all credibility. But, then, consistency has never been a big concern of BC commenters.

But that’s just my opinion

About

34 comments

  1. Nothing has changed to spark your article, it was a well established fact at the time regarding the Chinese plant. I also wondered why a technical truth was considered a big lie and warranted the lie of the year as well but it was done into a perfect storm. The ad ran in Ohio, people in Ohio love the auto bailout and hence Obama.

    In general, people love it when you take someone else’s money and give it to them. Newsflash: auto workers love auto bailouts, financial workers love financial bailouts, old people love social security and medicare, poor people love food stamps and medicaid, rich people just like to keep their own money (not really someone else’s money, but it’s the same principle as other people feel they are owed that money hence the push for expropriation in the form of higher taxes).

    The Romney camp knew this, but they were desperate. Another case of Obama’s political genius sending billions in bailout money to a critical swing state (he’s always been a step ahead). Secondly, the ad was placed right before the election into the media frenzy that exists in what was in many ways a pretty boring election cycle. Of course they were going to run with it ad nauseum.

    In context, although it was certainly not the most egregious lie (the ad was actually technically correct), it was the most influential, most discussed, and most important “lie” of the year… perhaps they could change the award to ‘most lisleading truth of the year’ to make you happy.

  2. should read ‘misleading’ above.

    Politifact never had any credibility from the beginning in my mind, not because they bias to one side or the other (although they likely do), but for the fact that there were too many ratings not unlike this one. Too many technical truths were counted as big lies while complete fabrications were brushed off as ‘he meant well’ and given lower ratings. Interesting reads but never much credibility as there seemed to be little rhyme or reason to the actual ratings.

  3. Since I’m bored I’ll provide an example, here’s one I came across after two minutes of searching.

    Alan Grayson – Walmart the largest group of Medicaid and Foodstamp recipients.

    Now, on it’s face this statement is false, single mothers are a larger group that accepts these services. There is no indication of which groups Grayson is speaking a simple reader could be misled into believing Walmart workers were the majority, but of course politifact comes to the rescue conveniently ignoring this little catch, makes an assumption, and immediately compares Walmart only to other employers. Of course, Walmart being by far the largest employer overall in addition to paying low wages is the largest group among employers.

    Politifact rating: Mostly True

    Mitt Romney – Women in Obama white house earn less than men.

    Now, on it’s face this is verifiably true with simple analysis. Unlike the case above politifact set out to prove it untrue by adjusting the data to account for job title. Again after looking at 36 categories of job titles men still held a tiny lead over women. Seems by our previous standard this would be at least mostly true as the statement itself was true and politifact tried to make it not true by adding qualifications that weren’t even there and that was unsuccessful as it was still true… nope it gets a lower rating.

    Politifact rating: Half true.

    *There is almost a perfect reversal of the above Mitt Romney quote where democrats claim that women in general earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn, of course that’s rated ‘mostly true’. How Romney’s statement was any different or would earn a lower rating is hard to identify.

    There you have it, strictly true statements get lower ratings than false statements on a regular basis… indeed they never had any credibility to start.

  4. Why was my comment (that destroyed the main point of Warren’s article) deleted?

  5. I LIVE in Ohio and for 2 two months we couldn’t escape this lie of an ad by romney-in fact there was so much outrage about it, it’s one of the reasons he lost Ohio.

  6. So Romney’s own campaign ad QUOTES him as saying Hussein sold Chrysler to Italians and Will be buying jeeps in China-no as you falsly claim thae he was only thinking about it.

    Stop twisting facts and maybe someone will take you seriously.

    I missed your point
    I didn’t read the article
    this comment has nothing to do with your article

  7. So as Romney’s own ad in the link in comment 5 points out -Romney says Hussein sold Chrysler to the Italians and will now make jeeps in china-not thinking about it-he claimed they will, like it was Obama’s idea.

    I have nerve dammage in my fingers-sorry for the tyyyyppppos.

  8. Exactly what part of this article did you write???? It appears to be almost entirely made up of quotes that you freely admit came from other sources that agree with you, along with a minimal smidgen of your usual slanted and expected commentary thrown in at the end?

    Yawn

    I missed your point…
    I didn’t read the article…
    this comment has nothing to do with your article…

    …or did I?

  9. Lee Roger’s column

    “A blatantly biased operation called PolitiFact accused Mitt Romney of telling the biggest lie of the campaign when he said Chrysler Corporation, owned by Fiat of Italy, was going to move expanded production of Jeeps to China.
    The PolitiFact charge that there was no such plan helped Obama enormously in the swing-state of Ohio, where Jeeps are currently manufactured.
    Notice this item in the news this week? Chrysler announced that it IS moving expanded Jeep production to … China. Those jobs will not be in Ohio or anywhere else in the U.S. “

    Are you sure Clavos knows how to Google???

    “not” should sue!

    I missed your point…
    I didn’t read the article…
    this comment has nothing to do with your article…

    …or did I?

  10. Notice it says E-X-P-A-N-D-E-D production… nothing about jobs moving, just production.

    Just like Americans don’t want to buy chinese cars-Chrysler is building Chinese Jeeps in China because the steering wheel is on the right side of the dashboard-unlike ours.

    “Not” is against a Major corp making a profit???? or is he just pissed about Chrysler paying it’s loan back to the treasury sooner?

    Before you start denying see the link above… you copied the word “the” again-shame on you!

    I missed your point…
    This comment has nothing to do with your article…
    I didn’t read the article…

    …or did I?

  11. To #4, As far as I can see in the comments tool no comment of yours has been deleted, Glenn.

  12. Are you sure Clavos knows how to Google???

    Irrelevant. Until this comment, just now, I hadn’t commented on this article.

    Some of my stocks are named Google. Does that count?

  13. Chris -

    Then I’m going crazy, because I posted a comment and saw it posted after opening up the browser a second time.

  14. Warren –

    If you’d do some actual RESEARCH – like going back to look at the actual Politifact pants-on-fire article – you might see where Romney stated:

    “I saw a story today, that one of the great manufacturers in this state, Jeep, now owned by the Italians, is thinking of moving all production to China. I will fight for every good job in America. I’m going to fight to make sure trade is fair, and if it’s fair, America will win.” (boldface mine)

    You might not know this, but there’s a REALLY BIG DIFFERENCE between “building” Jeeps in China, and “moving production” of Jeeps TO China. He DID say it, and YOU – as I’ve pointed out before – did not do due diligence. You trusted your sources but did not verify your sources…and you once again fell afoul of the Russian maxim that Reagan popularized: “Trust, but verify”.

    THAT, sir, was why it was the Lie of the Year.

  15. #14

    That’s true Glenn, but right at the top of the page, the headline in fact, is “Lie of the Year: the Romney campaign’s ad on Jeeps made in China”

    Here is the money line from the ad “Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China.”

    Was Chrysler not sold to Italians?
    Are Jeeps not going to be built in China?
    Were not GM and Chrysler taken into bankrupty by the administration?

    Like I said, most misleading truth of the year perhaps, but the ad is accurate.

    Another tidbit from Politifact reiterating which statement they’re judging: PolitiFact has selected Romney’s claim that Barack Obama “sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China” at the cost of American jobs

  16. One thing that has occured to me, does anyone know for a fact where the Jeeps sold in China are currently being made? From this article Jeeps are ‘nearly all’ built in factories in the US (but doesn’t specifically mention where Chinese models are made) and currently they are in third place among Jeep buyers, buying a handful less than Canadians at 33,400 units sold last year. The Chinese factory will at a minimum supplant that number reducing the workload at US factories by 33,000+ units. There’s a fair chance they will likely supply nearby countries as well…. Australia, Japan, etc. Next time the budget gets tight we’ll see who gets the axe first: high priced American workers or low wage Chinese. Romney may indeed be vindicated down the line, I don’t think they’ll ever move ‘all production’ to China but in the long run it’s likely to have a negative effect on US jobs. (but then again that’s the overriding trend with most company in most industry, nothing special about Chrysler)

  17. Is #9 in invisible ink? This isn’t “not”‘s article-you should argue with Lee Rodgers…

    …not this hack…

    I missed your point…
    This comment has nothing to do with your article…
    I didn’t read the article…

    …or did I?

  18. #12 – Sorry Clav, you absolutely right-the quote from # has nothing to do with this article.

    You being a part-pwner of Google is very telling…

    …my bad

  19. Doug –

    Nice try, but your defense of Romney doesn’t work. Why? Because of this little thing called “context”. From the ad:

    “Who will do more for the auto industry? Not Barack Obama. Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China. Mitt Romney will fight for every American job.”

    This was an attack ad, remember, in which one politician is telling all the world just how terrible the other politician is. If the ad weren’t deliberately meant to imply that the jobs were going away from Ohio to China, then there would have been no need whatsoever for that last sentence. What was implied was quite clear, particularly to those who were cognizant of the media’s reports of Romney’s earlier statement that Chrysler was MOVING production to China…which statement he never disavowed.

    What you did, Doug, was to play the part of what we senior sailors called a “sea lawyer”, wherein a junior sailor would do his damnedest to hem and haw his way out of a jam, using the small print to try to excuse his actions. It didn’t work for them (or for me when I was young and stupid and tried it), and it won’t work for you.

    Context, sir, context.

  20. I don’t see how Politifact has been disputed.

    Are they thinking of moving all production to China? “Some” and “all” aren’t the same thing.

    Also, if credibility is a concern, consider expanding your culture references beyond SNL

  21. #19

    I still make a distinction between a lie and misleading. If that is your standard virtually every attack ad falls foul of it, I don’t see this one being particularly egregious it just erupted into a media firestorm.

    Smart politicians have their PAC’s release the attack ads anyway (like the Romney killed my wife with cancer ad, talk about misleading), must have been a logistical issue or desperation..

  22. #20

    Because that’s not the statement politifact mentions in their article, that was an off the cuff remark at an event. If that was the lie then I would agree wholeheartedly (although who really knows what all they considered) That was definitely a false statement, and one that Romney never repeated.

    The ad, which is the subject of the politifact article, just says Jeep will build vehicles in China which is undoubtedly the plan. There are no plans to cut the US workforce and as long as there is good economic growth that will be the case. As I pointed out earlier, China buys 33,000 Jeeps a year now and I believe those are currently manufactured in the US so that does mean that US production should take a hit (and the Chinese factory may produce for other regional countries as well… it’s yet to be seen).

    Romney’s ad was misleading but true and his one statement was either a lie or a serious misspeak, but if I was a plant worker I wouldn’t be that excited about my company opening a low cost facility to make the same thing in China. When those rosy growth projections don’t pan out it’s pretty easy to see whose neck will be on the chopping block.

  23. Who the hell cares months after the election except sore losers and people obsessed with the middle name Hussein???

    As #9 clearly shows this article was cribbed from a Rush Limp-baugh wannabe by a Limp-baugh wannabe

  24. #23

    Well, you’re commenting for one. So are you a sore loser or obsessed with Hussein?

  25. thanks for clarification.

  26. Wrong Doug- I care that facts are being misappropriated and twisted to fit opinions and that BC is slowly being turned into the equivelant of a right-wing AM radio talkshow.

  27. Ok, a sore winner then. If your dear leader Obama had been labeled with the ‘lie of the year’ based on a factually accurate ad you (and Glenn, et al.) would be playing the exact opposite role defending him. As it is, since Romney is the enemy you’ll rule the opposite way, that’s the fun of politics as we get to switch position on these things periodically depending on whose ox is being gored.

    I don’t know exactly what you’re talking about with the AM talk radio thing. The comments section seems to have a variety of viewpoints with rational and irrational ones distributed fairly evenly around the spectrum. As for the articles, I’ve generally and consistently been embarassed with the over the top and poorly thought out quality of the right leaning ones over the years on this site. There are a few gems but lots of nonsense… I’m not going to go out of my way to tear them apart, that’s your job. (can’t bitch too much anyway as I’m too lazy to research and write something better myself).

  28. I care that facts are being misappropriated and twisted to fit opinions and that BC is slowly being turned into the equivelant of a right-wing AM radio talkshow

    Well, do something about it; instead of coming on the comment threads and slinging mud in all directions, write some articles from the left wing perspective.

  29. I tried that and was bitched at for never commenting on anyone’s articles but my own…

    damned if I do-Damned if I don’t

  30. Doug –

    Ok, a sore winner then. If your dear leader Obama had been labeled with the ‘lie of the year’ based on a factually accurate ad you (and Glenn, et al.) would be playing the exact opposite role defending him

    And that, sir, is a false equivalency – that is nothing but an assumption. If you’ll look at my articles, I’ve written at least three that criticized Obama for what he said or did. On the other hand, how many BC conservatives have written articles that, say, criticize someone on the Right?

    Not too damned many.

    That, sir, is why the equivalency you just claimed…is false. You assume that we’d do the same thing that you did – and that’s known as projection. You need to learn that just because you did something or would do something given a certain set of circumstances, that does NOT mean that we would do the same thing that you did or would do.

    BTW, that’s probably the single most common denominator of military commanders who lose a battle – they prepare for what they think the enemy would do, but they fail to consider what the enemy could do and do not prepare for what lay within the full range of the enemy’s capabilities.

    So be careful of projection, Doug, and beware of false equivalencies in all walks of life.

  31. #30

    True, but it’s fairly universal that people judge their enemies harsher than their friends as well (a form confirmation bias?). Doesn’t mean they don’t occasionally admit their guy is wrong, just means they tend to hold him to a lower standard… it’s easy to see on political sites in general (although, admittedly it’s a generalization and cannot predict specifically what you would do in a single case).

    Additionally, I know how you like to hone in on facts and if the fact of the matter was that a statement was technically true for your guy was being called the ‘lie of the year’ I could see you finding that relevant. I could imagine your defense being not unlike mine. I have admitted that it is misleading, but with plenty of outright lies why pick this to be the one of the year?

    There are alot of attack ad lies, but most of Obama’s were released by PAC’s so they can’t be pinned directly on him (smart) or I’d provide a counterexample.

  32. #28 if “slinging mud” is pointing out that this-like many of his “articles” is only a reworded version of someone else’s work, then I stand quilty (see #9)

  33. #32

    I gather you like to quilt?

  34. Doug –

    I have admitted that it is misleading, but with plenty of outright lies why pick this to be the one of the year?

    If you’ll read the Politifact article, the reason they chose it was not because of its level of veracity or lack thereof, but of its effect on the presidential election.

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